What is an EWS1 Survey?
An EWS1 survey is an investigation into the exterior walls of a building to ensure that they do not present a fire risk – it is purely for the benefit of valuers who use the results as part of a mortgage valuation process and is not a government or official requirement. The process was formulated in 2018 when The External Wall Fire Review process (EWFR) was created and became industry-wide with the backing of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), UK finances, and the Building Societies Associations (BSA).
How do you get an EWS1 survey done?
You cannot instruct anyone to carry out an EWS1 survey unless you are the building owner. It can’t be initiated by valuers and lenders either, even though the EWS1 certificate is for their benefit. The survey must be carried out by a qualified fire safety assessor.
What does an EWS1 survey look at?
When an EWS1 survey is undertaken, the assessor will closely inspect the outer walls of a building along with its cladding system and attachments such as balconies. It’s an intrusive survey and can’t be done using drawings and information – the surveyor must physically inspect the building. An EWS1 certificate will be issued once the assessment has been undertaken. Once signed, this certificate will cover the entire building, although, in Scotland, each individual flat will need one.
When do I need an EWS1 survey?
You may need to ask the building owner to instigate an EWS1 survey if you’re a leaseholder or freeholder looking to sell or remortgage your home. It is not a legal requirement, but you may find that the mortgage provider won’t lend to you without it as it helps valuers to estimate the worth of the property. You can download an example of an EWS1 form from the RICS website. It will need to be completed by a chartered fire engineer following an intrusive survey.
What type of buildings require an EWS1 survey?
The RICS recommends that only buildings with cladding present should have an EWS1 survey. Any building of more than six storeys with cladding, curtain wall glazing, or balconies stacked above each other that are constructed using combustible materials should have an EWS1 survey carried out for valuers along with buildings of five or six storeys with a significant amount of cladding or with ACM (Aluminium Composite Materials), MCM (Metal Composite Materials) or HPL(High-Pressure Laminate) panels or balconies stacked vertically where balustrades and decking are constructed with combustible materials or directly linked by them.
For buildings of four storeys and fewer, an EWS1 survey is required if there are ACM, MCM, or HPL panels.
Who can arrange an EWS1 survey?
Only the building owner can arrange a fire safety assessment and EWS1 certificate – you can’t initiate the procedure if you are a leaseholder and valuers and lenders cannot do so either. It is the owner’s duty to ensure that the building has an up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment. If your building has an EWS1 certificate, you should be able to get a copy from the owner.
Do I need an EWS1 survey?
Since fire safety in high-rise buildings has become a major concern in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, most mortgage providers will ask for an EWS1 certificate before they will lend.
What will the EWS1 certificate tell me?
An EWS1 certificate has five different grades. A covers external wall materials that are unlikely to be a fire risk and B covers cladding that contains combustible materials:
- A1 – there is no cladding or balconies that contain significant quantities of combustible material
- A2 – a risk assessment of cladding and attachments (such as balconies) has been done and found no remedial action is needed
- A3 – cladding and/or balconies are unlikely to be combustible, but remedial works may be required
- B1 – there are combustible materials, but the risk is sufficiently low not to require remediation work
- B2- the fire risk is such that remediation is required
Do I need a FRAEW and an EWS1 survey?
Fire Risk Appraisal of External Walls is an assessment of a building to see if there are life-safety fire risks. These must be done by competent fire engineers following the methodology of PAS 9980. You do not need a FRAEW when submitting an EWS1 form, but it can be useful to include one. If you already have an EWS1 form already, it can be updated in line with PAS 9980 and the risk rating may be improved as the fire engineer can look at the building holistically, rather than at specific materials. If this is a new survey, it should be carried out in accordance with PAS 9980’s methodology. The purpose of a FRAEW is to assess the risk to occupants from a fire spreading over or within the external walls of a building. It is used to find out if remediation or other mitigating works need to be carried out.
What is PAS 9980?
PAS stands for Public Availability Specification and PAS 9980 outlines comprehensive instructions on how to complete a comprehensive FRAEW. It is a much more holistic approach to assessing buildings making it much more proportionate to the risk of fire than was previously the case, when the presence of combustible materials may have warranted remediation. PAS 9980 takes all risk factors into account, including means of escape and the location of any combustible materials, etc.
EWS1 surveys and the Developer Pledge
The costs of an EWS1 survey may be covered by the Developer Pledge, which is a pledge signed by 49 developers making a legal commitment to remediation works on any life-critical safety defects on properties they have developed or refurbished in England over the past 30 years. The government is currently working on plans to assist leaseholders with unsafe cladding on lower-rise buildings.
If the building is 18m plus and has unsafe cladding, it may be covered by the Building Safety Fund.
If you want to know more about EWS1 surveys and any other matters relating to life-critical safety remediation work and funding options, contact Cladding Consulting. If you are eligible for funding, our fee will be covered by it and our expert team can support you through the entire process, from start to finish.