NEW technology is being used at Airedale Hospital to help monitor high-risk crumbling concrete panels.

More than 80 per cent of floors, walls and ceilings at the Steeton site are made of RAAC, or reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, which has a lifespan of around 30 years.

The hospital, built in the late 1960s, is being replaced in the next six years. But meantime a rolling programme is inspecting, and where necessary repairing, the building's 20,000-or-so RAAC panels.

An innovative geospatial system has now been deployed which uses software to identify the highest risk areas and helps determine what works are required, such as temporary propping or steel reinforcements.

Before the introduction of the software, the inspection process relied on handwritten surveys to record defects. The information was then transferred into Excel, photos uploaded and separate paper floor plans updated to show changes to risk across each ward.

Hospital bosses say the new system has led to 50 per cent efficiency savings in the surveying process, and improved data accuracy.

Richard Burgin, the hospital's estates project manager, says: "The manual survey process was not capable of dealing with the sheer volume of work involved.

"It had become obvious we needed a single, joined-up view of RAAC risk to generate the required inspection frequencies and maintain the ongoing programme of remediation works. The new system has given us a more robust and resilient process, which instantly shows different levels of risk so we know where to focus.

"RAAC has a major operational impact, so surveys and mitigation work need to be accurate and fast."

Known as Geographic Information System – or GIS – the software is from Esri UK and was developed by its partner, BIS Consult.

Mike Atherton – managing director of AGH Solutions, the estates and facilities subsidiary of Airedale NHS Foundation Trust – says: "The new geospatial system helps us take every step possible to maintain a safe environment to provide high-quality health services for our community. By pinpointing priority locations, it helps us focus resources to deal with the immediate issue but also assists in planning the ongoing operation of the hospital."

Duncan Booth, for Esri UK, says: "BIS Consult has worked with Airedale to create what we believe is the first-ever geospatial system to help manage the risk from RAAC."

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