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Collapsing

It seems a rather appropriate metaphor for the United Kingdom, doesn't it? The fact that, as the autumn/winter term is supposed to start, hundreds of schools are either entirely or partially closed because they have been deemed at risk of imminent collapse.

The reason for this, if you are a non-Brit, is because back in the '60s through to the '80s (more or less), a lot of public buildings (so this will include hospitals, courts, libraries, etc) were constructed using a type of "concrete" known as RAAC, or "Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete". What this means is that it's a type of aerated concrete which is reinforced with, typically steel bars. Unlike traditional concrete that is poured, this stuff is cured under heat and pressure in an autoclave and shipped as panels for walls, roofing, etc. In order to keep the weight and costs down, the aerated part means that while it might look sort of like concrete on the outside, on the inside it is full of bubbles. Like an Aero bar, or French bread. This also helps it to be a good insulator, keeping buildings cool in the summer and trapping heat in the winter.

The problem with this is that it allows water to enter and get trapped, which can cause rusting of the reinforcements. This, unfortunately, cannot usually be detected. Normal concrete typically flakes and breaks around rusted rebar, but aerated concrete doesn't because as the rust causes the metal to swell, the bubbles break allowing it to silently expand inside.

Now, it should be stated that the main cause of this is not the RAAC itself, it's problems with the maintenance or structure surrounding it. RAAC isn't waterproof, so it needs good maintenance and upkeep of the waterproofing above it, if used as a roof. In buildings of this age, it's frequently a set of bitumen sheets tarred to each other to make a waterproof layer, but one that has a tendency to warp and crack in the sun. We're only talking little cracks here, big holes would likely cause water to start to go right through the roof and that would be noticed. But little cracks would be enough to keep the concrete wet enough to cause damage to the metalwork inside.

With a stated service life of "around thirty years", buildings constructed in, say, the '70s are already getting on to fifty years old.

In the 1990s, it was already known that RAAC has limited structural integrity in 40 to 50 year old roof panels, which means it is liable to fail without warning with no visible signs of deterioration that might indicate an imminent failure. Concerns were raised in 1995 following inspections of cracked school roofing, and signs of corrosion were observed in 1996.
Concerns were raised again following the collapse of a roof of a primary school in Kent in 2018. In August last year, the UK's Government Property Agency said that "RAAC is now life-expired and liable to collapse".

Of course, successive governments not only ignored these warning, but they also kept cutting back funding for education year on year.
Thankfully no school roofs have collapsed with people actually underneath them, but given that Rish! said that he thinks 95% of schools are safe, implying 5% aren't, and that's maybe a thousand schools... and about a hundred have closed, well, you do the maths.

Even worse, yesterday for a soundbite, the Chancellor (Jeremy Hunt) said on Sunday that the government would "spend what it takes" to fix the problems in schools.
Yesterday, he clarified that to actually mean "spend what it takes, from the existing education budget".
What a wanker.
It's thinking like that which has largely been the cause of these problems. Schools, yes, of course they should have been keeping up with maintenance, but when you have ever diminishing budgets and even good teachers aides leaving to stack shelves because it pays better, who is going to be thinking about looking at the roof when there isn't even enough money to buy as many textbooks as there are children that need them?

Yesterday the Education Secretary was caught on camera expressing her frustration for others sitting on their arses and suggesting that the government should be thanked for their response.
Absolutely not.
Sure, it wasn't specifically Gillian's (Ed.Sec.) fault that this happened, but note that she assumed her position in October 2022. The previous (Kit Malthouse) was Ed.Sec. from 6th September 2022 to 25th October 2022, the brief tenure of Liz Truss. Before that, James Cleverly, from 7th July to 6th September. Before that, Michelle Donelan who was Ed.Sec. from the 5th to the 7th of July. Yes, two days. Before that, Nadhim Zahawi from 15th September 2021 until 5th July 2022.
And so on. I mean, recent British politics has been such a ridiculous joke that it's utterly inconceivable to wrap our heads around how many people have been Secretary of State for Education in the span of the past two years. So, really, it isn't Gillian's fault.
But, sorry Gillian, the bunch of arseholes known as the Tories have been the governing party since 2010. That's thirteen years in which the government that Gillian thinks should be thanked did nothing. Not only that, but when Rish! was the Chancellor, he further cut back spending on education.

It's part and parcel of the same problem. Nearly a decade and a half of Tory "leadership" (note the scare quotes) and sod all investment on infrastructure. Unless you count failed IT contracts and pissing away money on HS2 that might or might not ever actually happen. A decade and a half of light touch regulation where water companies are now in a position where it's easier/cheaper to dump untreated sewerage into public waterways than to actually do something with it (all those years of pay bonuses instead of investing in infrastructure). All those years of light touch tax regulation to benefit the rich (read: most of the cabinet) instead of spending money on keeping public buildings in good nick.
And, of course, like much of the rest of Europe, Britain is sharing the same delusion of forcing everybody to electric cars.
Uh-hu. You really think the grid is up to that?

The government shouldn't be thanked. They should be held responsible. I trust, when the next election rolls around, you'll do exactly that and vote in... hell, Jonathan Pie could run the country better and he's a fictious character!

 

Heatwave

They said that the heatwave at the end of August was unusual. Records were broken, etc etc.

I didn't think I'd be setting up the shutters into "sun screen" mode in the beginning of September. It went up to 31.8°C today. A far cry from last year's "nearly freaking forty", but still pretty hot. I was working in Little Plonge because the newbie bloke that started yesterday didn't come in today. The woman who trained him wasn't surprised given he was like "it's too hot" and "it's too cold" and "put gloves on, take them off". Apparently he seemed to have difficulties with the concept of putting on a hair net and face mask. I mean, really?

But, in my inconsiderable experience, men suck when it comes to people working in Plonge. I can name a few who have been good. I could name dozens and dozens who were useless, if they hung around long enough for me to even remember their names.

Anyway, I was working there. Hot, steamy, and the ventilation system was trying to push out the damp air and replace it with filtered air from outside. Which, as it got hotter outside... you can see where this is going, right?

So I came home, tied the hosepipe to the small Oak out front and stood under it. Which was bliss for about five seconds until it became quite clear that the water pumped up from the well was bloody cold. So I sort of leaned into the spray and gave my hair a wash. That was quite refreshing, even if my hair does rather resemble if I had licked my fingers and shoved them into the three-phase.

I then took my clothes off and put them into the washing machine on the 15 minute Chrono cycle, with a small amount of handwashing powder. This cycle says under the description that it will wash clothes in fifteen minutes at 30°C, and on the other side of the chart suggests that it actually heats to about 20°C. Uh-hu.
Well, the water came out feeling cold. I think there was a suggestion of warm rather than any actual heating. It mostly just tossed the clothes around for a while.
Notably, it went straight from spitting out the wash water to filling for the rinse with no spin in between. Seems odd that it wouldn't have, at least, given a quick whizz to push out more water. That would add maybe thirty seconds and give a better level of rinse.
As for rinse, there was only one. Took in water, sloshed it around, then spat it out before going into psycho-spin mode for about five whole minutes.

The clothes came out pretty dry (compared to previous machines) and I hung them on the line. They're mostly dry now. So, I guess, the heatwave was useful for something.
But, on the other hand, if it wasn't so hot I wouldn't have been sweating like a stuffed pig so wouldn't have had to do any of that. I could have come in, sat down, and... I dunno. Something...

 

 

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Anon, 5th September 2023, 22:59
As someone with a working knowledge of building practices (and no, I don't work as a trade, I was involved with health and safety inspections, building codes etc, at some point in the past) I would find the whole RAAC situation laughable if it wasn't for the potential to flatten a whole bunch of schoolkids. 
 
Back when I was at school in the 1980s and early 1990s, the upkeep of the buildings was considered low priority even then. Not just in the state school system. I spent the first 4 years of compulsory education at a private school. Strategically placed buckets were just the norm, as was a freezing cold classroom (a prefabricated 'Terrapin' style building with inadequate insulation and four electric convector heaters trying to keep the air temperature up to something where we wouldn't get hypothermia). 
 
There was a difference between private and state-run education. In a state-run primary school, there's no money to fix anything because the local authority has cut the budgets. Whereas in a private school, the money is there, they just choose not to spend it until the point where the roof collapses. Or until some little scroat gets sick of not being able to feel their fingers and decides to start a small fire. Which ends up going out of control and burning down said classroom... 
 
This didn't actually happen. There was a fire that burnt down the classroom in question, but it happened over a holiday and according to the fire service investigation was caused by damp getting into the electrics, causing arcing and starting a fire in a highly flammable temporary structure. 
 
Of course at this point the private school was able to claim off their insurance (with embellishments) and a brand new classroom block was built, which served until the school eventually moved to a new site over 20 years later. 
 
But even through secondary and upper school, buckets in corridors and classrooms were just something we came to expect. At least by the 1990s there were some official standards regarding heating and ventilation which had to be met. 
 
No idea what it's like now. I left school in the 90s - happiest day of my life when I drove off (in parents' car of course, I didn't have a licence then) metaphorically sticking two fingers up at the establishment that I'd hated for the entire time I was forced to attend. 
 
Now onto the second part of today's entry. Earlier today I was driving home and noticed the outside temperature display was showing well over 30 degrees. It's been like that for the past 2-3 days. The air con in the car was doing its job (a nice comfortable 20 degrees), the only problem being that when I got home and opened the car door, it was like walking into an oven. 
 
Not sure what temperature you got over in France, but here in Blighty it hit 34.5 degrees (according to the car) around lunchtime.
VinceH, 5th September 2023, 23:34
“We just need to keep the lid on this for two years and then it’s someone else’s problem.“ 
 
It's alleged she said that back in Februay, supposedly tongue in cheek, but with this government...🤷‍♂️ 
 
https://eastangliabylines.co.uk/keegan -keeps-the-lid-on-raac/ 
 
 
On the temp, my car was very toasty when I got in it to drive home today. It does have a display of the outside temp, but I didn't look at it. It also has air-con, but I don't use that - even after four (?) years, I'm still accustomed to not having it, so I just wind down the window. 
 
But the first thing I did when I got home was open every window in the flat and close the curtains! 
Anon, 8th September 2023, 19:59
You do know that driving with the window down actually knocks your fuel economy far more than turning on the air con? (It's also far safer to drive with the air con turned on as the squidgy lump of organic matter sat behind the wheel is more able to make safe decisions when not drowning in their own sweat.) 
 
I have fully automatic climate control (standard on that make and model since the mid-90s). You set the temperature (20 degrees C in my case) and set it to Auto. It'll then either blow in warm, ambient or chilled air to keep the cabin temperature at that level. I just leave it on all year round, it's not going to start the compressor in the winter when it wants warm air.
Rick, 8th September 2023, 20:27
It depends upon the car and the road conditions. 
 
More modern cars are designed to be more aerodynamic than some older cars (because, roughly, doubling the speed quadruples the drag) and in these sorts of cars you may find that drag is either negligible or only becomes a factor at high speeds. 
But, then, who drives at 70mph with the windows wide open? It would be like a hurricane in the car! So at faster speeds, windows are likely to be open less, reducing drag. 
 
As for road conditions, it takes power to run an air- con, so if you're on speed restricted roads, 30 zones, a lot of stop and starts, then the air-con will be a lot more effective than the windows (lack of air, etc) but you'll pay for it at the pump. 
 
I don't have air conditioning in my car (it's an option, but I wonder how well the little engine really copes with it). The only time I missed it was last year's heatwave when it was damn near forty. The air coming in was so hot I could feel it literally drying my eyeballs. 😱 
So I took it slow, didn't want to wreck my eyes or the engine, made it home. 
But in the current not-as-insane heatwave? Yeah, it's 30-something. I just drive with the windows open and Avantasia on the SD card and enjoy the journey home. When it's hot my day is done, so there's nothing to dislike about that commute.
VinceH, 8th September 2023, 23:25
Anon: please note the reason I don't use it; it's not because of fuel economy. This being the first car I've ever had with it means I'm *used* to cars without it. It's pretty much a case of "Oh, yeah, I could've used the air-con. Oh well, too late now, maybe I will next time." And next time, it's a case of "Oh, yeah, I could've used..." 
 
FWIW, my regular journeys are mostly on roads with a 20mph limit, so what Rick pointed out applies. 
 
Tomorrow I'll be on a rare motorway trip - and as Rick says, at motorway speeds obviously the window won't be down. If it's hot I will put the fans on, and that does mean the air-con because that comes on automatically with the fans unless I deliberately turn it off. (If it was the other way around - turning on the fans didn't automatically turn on the air-con and it needed to be switched on separately* - I'd forget (not used to cars with it, remember) and I'd therefore be using the fans only. 
 
* This is my first car with it, as I said, so I don't know if it's usually an automatic or separate thing; I have a sample of one to go on. 
J.G.Harston, 9th September 2023, 16:39
The RAAC debacle just emphasises the problem with a lot of "modern" construction techniques in that the deterioration happens on the inside before any visible deterioration is visible. 
 
With bricks and stone, the outside flakes and looks "crappy" well before the structural integretity starts to fail. With all these things from cladding to "siding" to internally-reenforced structures, by the time the structure is cosmetically "crappy" it has gone far beyond being structurally useless.

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