The External Wall Fire Review process (EWFR) was developed by collaboration of stakeholders that have an interest in the fire safety of buildings, including fire engineers, surveyors and lenders. Certain steps are part of the process, and include:Following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 there has been a focus on removing aluminium composite material (ACM) from buildings over 18 metres. In 2018 the Government issued Advice Note 14 containing advice for building overs to tackle ACM materials on the external walls of high rise buildings. In response, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) led a cross-industry working group to consider best practice in the reporting and valuation of tall buildings. The EWS1 process was agreed by the industry in December 2019 – it is described as an “industry-wide valuation process which will help people buy and sell homes and re-mortgage in buildings above 18 metres
What is the EWS process?
After its introduction, flat owners seeking to sell or re-mortgage their homes found that lenders asked for an EWS1 form. EWS1 forms are not a statutory requirement. Lenders may refuse a mortgage application where one cannot be produced – this is a commercial decision.
The EWS process involves a fire safety assessment by a suitably qualified professional who completes the EWS1 form. Full information is on the RICS website.
EWS1 forms are valid for five years. Where buildings are altered a new form may be needed.
RICS’ guidance says the process applies to residential buildings in scope above 18m in height. Not all high-rise blocks need an EWS1 form “only those with some form of combustible cladding or combustible material on balconies.” RICS advises that some lower buildings may be in scope if there are specific concerns about combustible materials/balconies which represent “a clear and obvious danger to life safety”.
What happens after the EWS1 is completed?
There are five possible results from an EWS assessment. Category A applies where buildings have external wall materials that are unlikely to be combustible. RICS states that A1 and A2 findings “are not likely to lead to any further action.” An A3 finding means that remedial work may be needed on attachments to the external wall, such as balconies. Category B applies where combustible materials are clearly present. A B1 rating means the engineer has decided that the fire risk is low, and no remedial work is required. A B2 finding means that there isn’t an adequate standard of fire safety and remedial work/interim measures are required.
The first step in the process is that the assessor, who is both qualified and experienced, will visit the site.
Inspection Of Building
At the site, the assessor will inspect the outer wall coverings including brick slips, PVCu, wood and metal cladding. Sometimes invasive work is required to obtain samples for testing the outer cladding and inner insulation.
The EWS1 Form will be completed with a summary report of the findings and signed.