EWS1 Survey FAQs

EWS1 FAQs – Update 2021

Here is a selection of questions we are frequently asked about the EWS1 process.

We have updated our EWS1 FAQs for March 2021 following the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) publication of updated guidance on EWS Surveys.

The new EWS guidance ‘Cladding for Surveyors, 1st Edition March 2021’ is available to download here.

EWS1 FAQs Update March 2021

  • What does EWS stand for?

    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.

     

  • What is an EWS1 Form?

    The EWS1 form is designed to be used for residential properties such as blocks of flats (including those owned by housing associations and social housing providers as well as privately owned), student accommodation, dormitories, assisted living, care homes and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

    The EWS1 form is not specifically designed for use of short-term accommodation such as hotels. EWS1 does, however, apply to an entire building or block so where required, may also be relevant to mixed use.

    An EWS1 Form records in a consistent and universal manner the fire safety assessments that have been carried out on the external wall construction of residential buildings.

    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.

     

  • Why do you need an EWS1?

    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 was originally designed following Government advice regarding external wall systems on buildings above 18m and was created to ensure residential buildings over 18m tall could be assessed for safety to allow lenders to offer mortgages. Changes in Government advice in January 2020, brought all residential buildings potentially within scope.

    However not every building will require an EWS1 form. RICS published updated guidance for valuers on 8 March 2021 and will be working with UK government and other stakeholders to ensure the guidance is implemented by 5 April 2021. This guidance includes criteria that will be used to help decide whether a particular building should need an EWS1 form.

     

  • Does the publication of a revised EWS1 form in March 2021, render existing completed EWS1 forms obsolete?

    No, they remain valid until such time as a new EWS1 form is completed.

     

  • 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. There are sub options to certify that either fire risk is sufficiently low that no remedial works are required, or fire risk is high enough that remedial works are required.

    It is also important to note what the form does not do. It is not a fire safety certificate. It is only for the use of a valuer and lender in determining if remediation costs affect value. Where a building is found to need remedial works this will need to be carried out by the building owner, to ensure safety of the building, before a mortgage can proceed unless the lender agrees otherwise.

     

  • Which buildings does the EWS1 Form apply to?

    The EWS1 form is designed to be used for residential properties such as blocks of flats (including those owned by housing associations and social housing providers as well as privately owned), student accommodation, dormitories, assisted living, care homes and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

    The EWS1 form is not specifically designed for use of short-term accommodation such as hotels. EWS1 does, however, apply to an entire building or block so where required, may also be relevant to mixed use.

    However not every building will require an EWS1 form. RICS published guidance for valuers on 8 March 2021 and will be working with UK government and other stakeholders to ensure the guidance is implemented by 5 April 2021 and this guidance includes criteria that will be used to help decide whether a particular building should need an EWS1 form.

    The criteria considers the height of the building, the type of cladding and (in some circumstances) how much of it there is on the building. There are also criteria relating to balconies and combustible material

    The new guidance includes removing the need for EWS checks on buildings of four storeys or below, as long as they are not clad in aluminium composite material (ACM), other metal composite materials (MCM) or high-pressure laminate (HPL). In the past lenders and investors have increasingly sought the same level of EWS verification across their entire portfolio. It remains to be seen what effect the new RICS guidance will have on requests for EWS1 forms. Determining that a building does not contain ACM, MCM, or HPL cladding requires a survey of the property in any event, whether or not an EWS1 Form is produced. 

     

  • 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, 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.

     

  • 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. 

    In January 2021, RICS launched a new training programme for chartered building surveyors and chartered building control surveyors, to enable them to undertake external wall system assessments for low to medium rise residential buildings. The newly qualified professionals will help increase the number of professionals qualified to carry out such assessments and support the current market demand. Buildings over 18m or those which are high risk and require specialist testing will still require a qualified fire safety engineer.

    There have been reports that unqualified people may be signing off EWS1 forms. If an RICS member is completing your EWS1 form, you can check their membership on the RICS website. The RICS has published a list of suggested bodies to contact to source fire experts. This list is not exhaustive, nor does it constitute an endorsement or approval from RICS, UKF or BSA, and other bodies with relevant expertise may be able to assist. Anybody instructing an EWS1 form must be satisfied that the signatory meets the requirements as described above. 

     

  • Does the EWS assessment cover general fire safety measures?

    The EWS1 form assessment is to be carried out for valuation purposes only. It’s about the safety of different types of external wall systems used in residential buildings located across the UK and will determine whether or not remedial works are required, thereby affecting value. It is not designed to assess other fire safety features or risks and should never be used to determine the overall risk of fire to a building. It is not a fire safety certificate.

    The person responsible for the building (Responsible Person under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005) should have a fire risk assessment (FRA) for the building as this is an independent legal requirement that is already in place and does not commonly incorporate assessment of external wall materials. Note this will change with the Fire Safety Bill coming into force in England and FRAs will then need to cover the external cladding.

     

  • Why is there a shortage of consultants to complete EWS1 surveys?

    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.

     

  • What else is involved in the EWS 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 ‘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.

     

  • How can Anstey Horne help?

    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.

     

Contact

We hope that our EWS1 FAQs Update for March 2021 answers many of the questions about the EWS process.

To commission an EWS1 Survey please call 020 4534 3130.

To request a call back from a member of the EWS Survey team, please fill in our Contact Us form here.

For further help and information please contact :

Alex Parry-Jones

Senior Director

Head of Building Consultancy

DD: 020 7947 0915


Sally Redfearn

Senior Associate Director

DD : 020 7947 0964


For the latest RICS guidance note ‘Cladding for Surveyors, 1 Edition, March 2021‘ click here

Also see our EWS1 Fact Sheet for further information.

To understand the routes to securing an EWS1 Certificate, see our EWS1 flow chart

For the latest on the Fire Safety Bill, see our News article.

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