What is the EWS1 form and what’s it for?
First and foremost, the EWS1 process is the result of heightened scrutiny of external cladding in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy.It is intended to provide a means of assessing the External Wall System (EWS)of all types of multiple-occupancy properties, from blocks of flats through to assisted living housing.
The EWS1 process was first agreed in December 2019, and was described as an “industry-wide valuation process which will help people buy and sell homes and re-mortgage in buildings above 18 metres (six storeys).” Its development was the output of a cross-industry working group, led by the RoyalInstitution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), considering best practice in the reporting and valuation of tall buildings within the secured lending arena.
Changes in Government advice in January 2020 brought all residential buildings into scope, which means that some residential buildings below 18m may now need an EWS1 form.
The RICS is at pains to make clear that the EWS1 is not a life safety certificate. Its intention is for valuation purposes, for the use of a valuer and lender in determining if remediation costs affect value. While the outcome of the assessment can provide reassurance for occupants, it is not primarily intended for that.
Who can complete an EWS1 form and what are the potential outcomes?
An EWS1 form must be completed by a suitably qualified professional from a relevant body within the construction industry. A list of such bodies is available for download on the RICS website, and it includes such organisations as the Institute of Fire Engineers (IFE), Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE), Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and the Society of Façade Engineers (SFE).
Within the EWS1 process, there are two potential outcomes that the assessor can conclude:
A. External wall materials are unlikely to support combustion
B. Combustible materials are present in an external wall, with sub options of:
i. fire risk is sufficiently low that no remedial works are required
ii. fire risk is high enough that remedial works are required
Where combustible materials are present, it may require a specialist fire assessor to confirm the status of those materials.
What does each EWS1 form cover and for how long?
An EWS1 assessment lasts for five years and applies to a whole building. Individual tenants do not have to apply for an EWS1 assessment– it is the responsibility of the building owner to commission one. If significant works are undertaken on a property within the five-year span, a new EWS1 assessment may need to be completed.
What are the next steps if a building is found to have unsafe cladding?
It is a building owner’s responsibility to address unsafe cladding on a property and instruct remedial works. The Government has made funding available to support owners with this, through the Building Safety Fund scheme. Envoy is an experienced operator within this scheme.
While a building remains implicated under the EWS1 scheme, it can be difficult for tenants to sell their apartments or re-mortgage where required – an issue which the Government is being regularly made aware of.