UKAA Roundtable – raising awareness around EWS1 forms for high rise residential buildings
Mary-Anne Bowring, managing director at Ringley Group
On Thursday 23rd January Mary-Anne Bowring, managing director at Ringley Group, hosted the UKAA Roundtable on the Hackitt Review, which was introduced following the Grenfell Tower tragedy that saw the deaths of at least 72 people in one of modern Britain’s worse residential fires.
The event – attended by a mixture of property managers, investors, lawyers and consultants – provided a detailed overview of the Hackitt Review and what the implications would be for the industry.
Known formally as The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, Dame Judith Hackitt’s investigation outlined a series of recommendations to ensure the industry has a sufficiently robust regulatory system for the future, and to reassure residents the buildings they live in are either safe or will be made so.
The review analyses current building and fire safety regulations and related compliance and enforcement, with a focus on high rise residential buildings (HRRB).
The review outlines the regulatory approach that the Joint Competent Authority (JCA) – made up of Local Authority Building Standards, fire and rescue authorities and the Health and Safety Executive – will take. ‘So far as is reasonably practicable’ (SFAIRP) is the outcome-based approach, which will allow the JCA to effectively regulate by placing the responsibility on duty holders to exercise their judgment when making the safety case to the regulator.
However, the recent announcement from housing secretary Robert Jenrick, states that it is solely down to the Health and Safety Executive to establish the new regulatory body.
Following the Hackitt Review, The Building Societies Association, RICS and UK Finance developed and introduced the External Wall System (EWS1) certificate. The process requires a suitably qualified expert to assess the composition of a high rise building’s walls. The form will be valid for five years and only needs to be completed once per building or block.
“We find out now three years later that the External Wall System (EWS1) form requires us to understand the full system of the cladding, i.e. the cladding, the brackets, the fixing, the insulation behind the walls, etc,” explained Mary-Anne.
“It’s about the total combustibility of the system. When the Building Research Establishment (BRE) were testing these buildings for free, it was just about the cladding, so we’ve now moved on from that. It’s quite important to understand this because a lot of us have to retest these buildings that have already been tested, even though we know the cladding on the outside is fine. Now we have to go back and retest the insulation in these buildings.”
The challenges faced in these assessments come from the difference in what is specified to be put on a building, – or materials used in construction – and what is actually put on a building
Mary-Anne warned that some lenders won’t provide a mortgage on a high rise residential building that doesn’t have the correct EWS1 form in place. However, different mortgage lenders have adopted different approaches, but some high street banks are known for this type of practice. “For those of you that don’t know what the EWS1 certificate is, it’s required by mortgage lenders on any high rise residential building, and they won’t give you a mortgage unless you’ve got that form.
“And if you’re already living in those buildings, and can’t produce the certificate, the lender will put your mortgage interest rates up until you can produce it. That’s the reality. We have leaseholders that are paying upwards of 100 pounds extra interest a month while waiting for these forms.
“The journey from applying for an EWS1 form to getting it probably takes around two and a half months. In the meantime, you will be paying penalty interest. Re-mortgaging on high rise residential buildings without a signed EWS1 form is also being denied by high street banks.”
The second phase of the Grenfell Inquiry has now started, and hearings will be heard until at least April 2021, with 200,000 pages of evidence due to be disclosed and reviewed during the period. The inquiry will consider how the high rise block came to be wrapped in flammable cladding, which was deemed the reason in phase one for the rapid spread of flames in the block.
If you are interested in reading the full report from the Hackitt Review, you can read it on the government website.