EWS1 Fact Sheet
All you need to know about EWS1 Surveys and Inspections of External Cladding
Following the Grenfell fire disaster and the issue of the Hackitt Report (Building a Safer Future) the safety of high rise buildings, particularly residential, has come under increasing scrutiny amid a drive to confirm their safety or to remediate those buildings.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) developed the External Wall Fire Review form (EWS1). This came into use in December 2019. The EWS1 process was developed by the RICS and is endorsed by UK Finance and the Building Society Association.
In March 2020 the government responded by announcing a £1 billion Building Safety Fund to support the removal of unsafe cladding from high rise buildings.
However, the Housing Communities and Local Government Committee has warned that this will be insufficient. It is estimated to only cover a third of the 1,700 buildings requiring remediation. It is possible that the true cost could reach more than £15 billion over the next 10 years.
The new EWS1 Survey process provides an industry standard approach to assess fire cladding safety. However, there has been some confusion around its application and validity.
What is an EWS1 Form?
EWS stands for ‘External Wall Survey’. The external wall consists of the outside wall of a residential building, including any cladding, insulation, and fire break systems.
An EWS1 Survey Form records in a consistent and universal manner the assessments that have been carried out on the external wall construction of residential buildings of 18 metres or more above ground level, or where specific concerns exist.
The assessment must be conducted by a qualified and competent professional, such as a Chartered Construction Professional as defined on the RICS guidance.
A single assessment is needed per building and once the EWS1 form has been completed it will be valid for five years, subject to significant use changes or any refurbishments.
Which buildings does the EWS1 Form apply to?
The EWS1 form applies to individual residential buildings over 18 metres tall. Updated government advice in the future may see this height restriction change and mortgage companies also want protection in case of new legislation.
While the EWS1 form does not apply for properties below 18 metres, lenders and investors are increasingly requesting the same level of comfort across their entire portfolio. The lack of official guidance is creating issues for building owners, leasehold occupiers, managing agents, building insurers and mortgage providers.
Who should undertake an EWS1 Survey?
An External Wall Fire Review assessment must be conducted by a qualified and competent professional, such as a Chartered Construction Professional as defined in the RICS guidance.
In our experience we have seen even qualified professionals carrying out inaccurate assessments. It is very important to have a robust review process in place to ensure that the correct supporting information and a detailed condition report accompanies an EWS1 form.
What does a completed EWS1 Form certify?
The form has two options :
- Option A
This is for buildings where the external wall materials are unlikely to support combustion.
- Option B
This is for buildings where combustible materials are present. It means that a higher level of fire expertise is required to undertake a more detailed review.
Who can sign off an EWS1 form?
The signatory for Option A would need the expertise to identify the relevant materials within the external wall and attachments and whether fire resisting cavity barriers and fire stopping have been installed correctly.
However, this would not necessarily include the need for expertise in fire engineering. The signatory should be a member of a relevant professional body within the construction industry, such as an RICS Chartered Surveyor or a member of the Chartered Institute of Building.
The signatory for Option B would need expertise in the assessment of the fire risk presented by external materials and should be a member of a relevant professional body that deals with fire safety in the built environment. This could be a Chartered Engineer with the Institution of Fire Engineers or equivalent.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of suitable experts in the industry who can review and sign off EWS1 forms. Together with a high level of demand this can lead to significant delays in the assessment process.
What else is involved in the process?
Documentation evidencing the type of materials included in the construction of the external walls will need to be reviewed. A review of design drawings may assist but on their own would not be sufficient, and a ‘desktop study’ would not comply with the EWS1 process.
Photographic or other evidence should be gathered from a physical inspection of the site to satisfy the requirements of the EWS1 form. We have set out the various routes to obtain an EWS1 Certificate here
Intrusive tests may be required if insufficient or inconclusive documentation is available. This could include opening up works to the external walls and cladding to check the make up of construction and the quality of installation.
How can Anstey Horne help?
Anstey Horne can assess existing buildings to review where there may be potential issues to consider. We can help you understand how these can be repaired in line with your own obligations and government guidelines including how much it will cost and how long it will take.
The team can also advise on how you can access the Government’s £400 million fund for remediation of ACM cladding, and the £1 billion Building Safety Fund.
Our experts understand the EWS1 assessment process including what information is needed and at what stages. Our specialist service includes the procurement of a specialist design team of fire engineers, cladding engineers and cost consultants to advice on the full remediation of the external façade.
For further help or to commission an EWS1 Survey please contact:-
Alex Parry-Jones, Senior Director
Head of Building Consultancy
DDI: 020 7947 0974
Details of the routes to obtain an EWS1 Certificate are here