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An External Wall Fire Review has become something evermore important following the preventable disaster that occurred at the Glenfell Tower, North Kensington in the UK in June 2017. It, unfortunately, raised the issue of fire safety in the building industry and the way in which it is regulated.

Following reviews changes had to be made to avoid another future disaster. Part of the changes was brought about due to assessments by the fire service, leaders in the construction industry, and architects amongst other professional organizations. The BSA (Building Societies Associations), RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), and UK Finances all agreed on an industry-standard known as the External Wall Fire Review. Qualified assessors are required to follow the guidelines of the EWFR.

When conducting a survey the independent contractor will have to assess a wide range of safety issues. The EWS1 survey is designed to study the following:

  • Buildings that exceed 18 meters in height where they are concerns over external wall systems.

  • Buildings with external balconies can pose a fire risk.

  • High occupancy buildings and multi-story fire safety concerns, external cladding systems are a high priority. 

The complexity of the building plays a large role also the size of the structure has a large part in the implementation of the external wall system. Whilst every building only requires one assessment the EWS1 survey is valid for 5 years only.

EWS1 Form Explained

The EWS1 form is a record of the results of the External Wall Fire Review. A survey is conducted on the external structure of new buildings ensuring that they meet stringent guidelines, surveys must also be conducted with an older building that may be of concern. The form has been designed to help expert fire safety surveyors consistently record the results with the industry and government guidelines.

The form is only used to record the data of the combustibility of the external wall, specifically buildings over 18 meters in height, apartment blocks, or high-rise residential buildings. Also taken into account is the proximity of combustibles in the surrounding area of the building.

The results of the survey undertaken by qualified and experienced professionals will give confidence to the potential or current residence of the building. Whilst also providing assurance to the sellers and valuers of the building fire safety credentials. During any valuation of the property, an ESW1 survey form completed by a qualified professional will ensure that the current fire safety is met, in accordance with government and the safety industry guidelines.

The External Wall Fire Review Process 

The EWS1 can only be completed once a review and thorough inspection has been completed by qualified and preferably experienced professionals. The results will influence the potential resident’s decision on occupancy, lenders, mortgage providers, and future investors.

Upon starting an External Fire Wall Review an assessor will make a comprehensive onsite inspection of the building checking for combustibility issues. After an inspection has been completed and the results have been examined an EWS1 form will be completed with the findings being signed by the assessor. Both positive and negative results will be reflected in the EWS1 form.

The Costs And Time Involved

Unfortunately obtaining an EWS1 form can be an expensive process depending on the property size the completed review can typically range from 10,000 to 50,000 pounds and could exceed this valuation.

Due to the lack of qualified experts currently employed to carry out this essential work, it could take up to 40 months but typically less than a year. If you are thinking of investing or selling a survey should be one of the first things you arrange. Buyers and potential investors will take the EWS1 survey and form seriously.

Zero Valuations And ESW1 Surveys  

With an ESW1 survey not being a government requirement, many people are unaware of the importance until they try to sell their existing property only to be told by the potential buyer that the lender or mortgage provider requires the EWS1 survey to be completed to industry standards. This essentially gives the owner a zero valuation on the property.

Currently, not all financial institutions require an EWS1 form but that is rapidly changing within the industry.

Fireproof Cladding

When applying cladding to the outer walls it is very important to understand the material being used and its resistance to fire and to ensure that it does not contribute to a fire providing fuel. The European standard EN 13501-01 is a system designed to rate the combustibility of the materials used in cladding. Ratings are put into these categories, A1 is the lowest risk and down to F being the highest risk materials used. 

The rating system compares the flame spread, smoke production, the heat released, the potential for producing particles, and flaming droplets. Typically the best type of cladding used is made of metal and not the plastics often used in many homes, residential buildings, and places of work. Whilst often more expensive to install metal cladding offers the best protection and has the highest safety grade of all the options available. Equal to a lightweight cladding such as sheet metals, bricks, and concrete are highly resistant to fire and heat, often plastics are used and are not very resistant to flames and heat due to them being made with fossil fuels.

Summary

Obtaining an ESW1 completed survey can be a long-drawn-out process that can leave you frustrated whilst trying to either invest or sell a building, with only a handful of qualified fire inspectors available it would be wise to arrange a survey sooner rather than later. Although it is not required by law to have the ESW1 form completed before transactions are made it is advisable due to many mortgage lenders and insurance companies requiring the survey and form to be completed by qualified professionals before they will proceed with business.

Whilst, not law currently the government has been reviewing the procedure along with industry experts, and changes to existing regulations may be updated. Your estate agent or landlord will be able to give advice on any changes to the regulations.

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