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Cladding and the External Wall Survey (EWS)

The External Wall System (EWS) issue has been a major concern in the UK housing market for high-rise flat owners. The issue relates to the safety of high-rise buildings that have external cladding, insulation and render systems. After the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the government introduced new regulations requiring building owners to provide an EWS1 form before selling or re-mortgaging properties.

The EWS1 form is a document signed by a qualified professional, such as a chartered surveyor, which confirms that the external wall system on a building meets safety standards. However, the demand for EWS1 forms has far outstripped the supply of qualified professionals, leading to delays in property sales and re-mortgages.

The EWS1 issue has had a significant impact on homeowners, particularly those living in high-rise buildings. Many have been unable to sell or re-mortgage their properties due to the lack of EWS1 forms. This has left some trapped in unsuitable homes or facing financial hardship.

Once an EWS1 is carried out on the building the survey will assess the safety of the building and provide an assessment of the overall safety of the building; there are five possible outcomes;

Category A applies where buildings have external wall materials that are unlikely to be combustible

A1 and A2 – Findings are not likely to lead to any further action

A3 assessment means remedial work may be needed on attachments to the external wall, such as balconies

Category B applies where combustible materials are clearly present.

B1 assessment means the engineer has decided the fire risk is low, and no remedial work is required.

B2 assessment means there isn’t an adequate standard of fire safety and remedial work/interim measures are required.

Furthermore, the cost of obtaining an EWS1 form can be prohibitively expensive, with some estimates suggesting it could cost up to £10,000 per building. This cost has often been passed on to leaseholders, who may already be struggling to pay for other remedial works required on their buildings.

Resolving the EWS1 issue is a complex challenge that requires collaboration between multiple stakeholders. Building owners, developers, lenders, surveyors and government regulators all have a role to play in ensuring that high-rise buildings are safe and meet regulatory requirements.

However, there are several challenges that need to be addressed, including the shortage of qualified professionals who can sign off on EWS1 forms, the lack of clarity around what constitutes a safe external wall system, and the cost of remedial works required to bring buildings up to standard.

There are several potential solutions to the EWS1 issue that could help to speed up the process of obtaining EWS1 forms and ensure that high-rise buildings are safe. One solution is to increase the number of qualified professionals who can sign off on EWS1 forms by providing training and accreditation programs.

Another solution is to establish clearer guidelines and standards for what constitutes a safe external wall system. This would help to reduce confusion and ensure that all stakeholders are working towards the same goal. Finally, the government could provide financial support to building owners and leaseholders to help cover the costs of remedial works.

For more information, you can review the links below;

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) FAQ’s on EWS1

House of Commons EWS Library

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