England’s growing buildings crisis could expand beyond schools to other public buildings such as hospitals and courts, experts have said.

More than 100 schools were forced to partially or fully close this week after a dramatic escalation of the government’s approach towards crumbling concrete.

Labour has demanded an urgent audit of the government’s handling of longstanding concerns about reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac).

The Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the public accounts committee, said Raac was “the tip of the iceberg” of maintenance issues within the school estate.

Writing for the Times, she said the state of some public buildings was “jaw-dropping”.

She questioned why the situation had been “left to deteriorate for so long”, telling Times Radio: “In both schools and hospitals, there hasn’t been enough money going into buildings and equipment.”

She said the costs of working around the problems – using props to support existing structures and conducting surveys on affected areas – were “eye-watering and wasteful when you think about the problems in the NHS at the moment”.

“The cost of doing it is enormous. We’re talking millions of pounds to survey a roof in a corridor in order to make sure they know where the problems are,” she said. “Every time another problem arises, they have to go back and do another survey.”

Newsnight revealed on Friday that it had seen reports from as far back as 1961 about aerated concrete concerns.

Raac, a lightweight building material, was commonly used in panel-form in public building construction from the 1950s to mid-1990s. It is estimated to have a lifespan of 30 years, and many structures have now passed that age.

Chris Goodier, a professor of construction engineering and materials at Loughborough University, said “the scale of the problem is much bigger than schools”.

Matthew Byatt, the head of the Institution of Structural Engineers, said any high-rise buildings with flat roofs constructed between the late 1960s and early 1990s could contain Raac.

Ministers have so far refused to publish the names of the affected schools or 34 other public buildings identified as containing Raac.

They include 24 hospitals, seven court buildings and four Department for Work and Pensions facilities. Harrow crown court was reportedly forced to close last week because of the presence of Raac.

There have been repeated calls for action, including from councils, on the material after a primary school roof collapsed in Kent in 2018.

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The Office of Government Property sent out a formal warning notice about Raac in 2021, underlining that it was “now life-expired and liable to collapse”.

The Department for Education (DfE) has been preparing contingency plans for schools since then, including surveying facilities where the material was thought to be present. Government-commissioned surveyors rated the risk of identified Raac panels in schools from critical to low. Only those deemed critical were immediately closed for remedial work.

The DfE’s U-turn – which means all buildings or areas with Raac must close – follows instances where the material collapsed despite it being considered low risk.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, the schools minister, Nick Gibb, said the department had discovered a “number of instances” over the summer.

This included a beam collapsing at one school, with no sign “that it was a critical risk”.

Gibb has said the tally of 154 schools so far identified with the material is sure to rise.

The DfE received widespread criticism over the timing of its announcement, days before the start of a new academic year.

Sarah Skinner, the chief executive of Penrose Learning Trust, which has three affected schools, told the Today programme on Saturday that the notification on Thursday seemed “very late in the day”.

“That’s what’s created the problem, to now be trying to find temporary accommodation, temporary toilets, potential marquees on fields, free school meals if our kitchens are out of action,” she said.

Across the schools operated by the trust – Claydon primary school, Hadleigh high school and East Bergholt high school in Suffolk – nearly 40 rooms were out of bounds, as well as a toilet block and a gym.

While temporary building hire and capital costs would be covered by the DfE, Skinner said she understood the trust would need to pay for desks, chairs and IT facilities in temporary classrooms.

Government guidance to schools with identified Raac says it expects schools, councils and academy trusts to “cover additional revenue costs”.

Skinner said: “We are unsure at this point whether those costs would be recovered because they wouldn’t be deemed a capital cost.”

Roger Gough, the Tory leader of Kent county council and the planning and infrastructure spokesperson for the County Councils Network, told the programme there could be “all sorts of costs that arise” for local authorities and schools due to closures and he urged the government to provide “clarity” on what would be funded.