Grenfell: changing the way we manage property

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Major building safety reform has been announced in response to the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, has made a series of updates this week concerning the Building Safety Programme, including the Government’s response to the Building a Safer Future consultation. The Government’s view is that the work to remove unsafe cladding from buildings is critical to public safety and so must remain a top priority.

Therefore, this week the Government has announced that:

• Dr David Hancock, the Government’s construction expert has been appointed to review ACM remediation,

• Faithful & Gould, expert construction consultants, have been appointed to provide additional programme management capability. This is to identify blockers and work with those responsible for remediation to support individual projects.

Last month, the Government announced a £1 billion fund through 2020/21 to support the remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding materials on high rise buildings. It is working to make this funding available as quickly as possible and aims to publish the prospectus in May, opening for registrations soon after.

The Government is still working on 5 areas:

New legislation is coming – The Government’s response to the Building a Safer Future consultation and a new, national Building Safety Regulator are coming. The Government will legislate for these reforms through the Building Safety Bill, which puts residents safety at its heart and aims to deliver the biggest change in building safety for a generation

Building Regulations will change – Updates to Approved Document B and the increased fire safety measures for high-rise flats are complete. Sprinkler systems and clear wayfinding signage will be compulsory in all new high-rise flats over 11 metres (that is four storeys and, depending on design, some three-storey buildings too).

The latest results of tests into non-ACM cladding are published –The tests have improved understanding of how materials react when burnt. Different types of high-pressure laminate (HPL) and timber cladding were tested; the results confirmed the non-ACM materials all showed greater resistance to heat than their ACM counterparts.

EWS1 forms (EWS means ‘External Wall System’). It is now impossible to get a mortgage on a building over 18 metres (around five to six floors) without an EWS1 form. The government is asking lenders to agree a rational approach to lending on building less than 18 metres, which means depending on your lender it may be impossible to get a mortgage on a building without an EWS1 form too. The Government is now supporting an online industry-led portal through the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to database these EWS1 forms making conveyancing simpler in future. The online portal will hold completed EWS1 forms and both lenders and leaseholders will be able to access this information in due course.

Lender roundtable – The Secretary of State intends to host a lender roundtable to further explain its new focus on high-rise residential buildings above 18 metres and to agree on a rational lending approach to buildings under 18 metres.

At Ringley we have been arranging EWS1 forms on all our buildings over the winter months and are coming to the end of the buildings that either we believe needed them, or where an owner trying to sell needed help. We have prioritised these inspections based on buildings with owners trying to sell. We are continuing this critical fire safety work as government guidelines state that building safety remains a priority and this type of work should continue.

To get an EWS1 form is a team effort: first, samples for testing of materials (cladding, insulation, glue, fixings and compartmentation) have to be arranged, often incorporating access at high level. Second, we have to await samples coming back from the test laboratory. Third, to get the EWS1 form signed, a suitably qualified Level 4 Fire Inspector has to interpret the test results and decree that the building is either safe or any adverse impact of the external wall system is tolerable, or that the building is not safe and full remediation needs to take place. Often we also have to gather product datasheets on new build developments, from the developer, Construction Design & Management Manuals and/or 3rd parties such as Fire Design Companies or Building Control where available, design drawings and photos of wall systems being fitted. So it is not an easy feat.

The good news is that while expensive, this is not an annual exercise. The new information on how the wall system is made up then has to be fed back into routine Fire Risk Assessments which continue annually. The good news is that the cost of obtaining the EWS1 form is a service charge expense.

For those who want to read more…. the full government update is HERE

IF you are having trouble selling because you need an EWS1 form please email fm-helpdesk@ringley.co.uk