EWS1 Surveys – FAQs
Here are a selection of EWS1 Survey FAQs that we are frequently asked about the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) EWS1 process and the completion of 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 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.
Prior to the Grenfell tragedy compliance with building regulations was regarded as sufficient evidence that a building was safe. Buildings were signed off as compliant with regulations at the time of construction by either a local authority buildings inspector or a private inspector under the approved inspectors scheme.
Subsequently the government created an independent expert panel to advise on building safety. Its advice sought to shift responsibility away from approval under building regulations to the ‘building owner’. The government published Advice Note 14 in December 2018, intended to provide clear guidance to building owners that it was their responsibility to check the safety of all buildings of more than 18 metres.
The safety panel issued no guidance on how this safety should be evidenced. Mortgage lenders became worried that they now had no means to verify that a building was safe. An ordinary valuer does not have the skills necessary, nor would they be in a position to carry out the level of work required to make this assessment. They could not assign a value to a flat for the purposes of a loan without some other form of evidence.
As a result of this the EWS form and process was developed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). It was intended to provide a consistent method of assessing and recording the external wall construction of residential buildings.
The form has two options :
This is for buildings where the external wall materials are unlikely to support combustion.
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.
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.
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, so 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.
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, which together with a high level of demand across the industry can lead to significant delays in the assessment process.
An EWS1 form must be completed by a member of one of 21 professional bodies specified by the government, such as the Royal institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
A consultant completing an EWS1 form will owe a duty of care to the recipient that it has been completed correctly. An error could lead to a claim for negligence, the risk of which is covered by Professional indemnity insurance.
With effect from May 2020 the RICS Minimum Terms of Insurance underwent material change. Cover for EWS1 survey work was removed by all insurers on the RICS panel. To obtain cover a consultant must seek insurers agreement that such activity will be covered prior to inception of the policy.
With the insurance market increasingly concerned about potential risk appropriate cover has become much harder to obtain, which has left many consultants unable to undertake EWS1 surveys. Due to our specialist expertise Anstey Horne have Professional Indemnity cover for EWS1 survey work.
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 ‘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.
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.
We 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. We 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 3848 9142