If your company manages residential buildings, there is a good chance you will need to fill in EWS1 forms from time to time. Introduced in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, EWS1 forms help building owners prove that external wall systems have been assessed for fire risk by an expert.
Although the intention behind EWS1 forms is laudable, there has been a lot of confusion around exactly what they are for, how they should be used, and who needs to complete one. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), who worked with the government to produce EWS1 forms, has a comprehensive guide on the process. Below, we have summarised the most important points for building owners and looked at how you can use EWS1 forms.
What is an EWS1 form?
An EWS1 form shows that a qualified professional has inspected the external wall system of a residential property. It applies to multiple-occupancy buildings over 18m tall. Following the inspection of the building’s cladding, as well as materials used in external wall cavities, the inspector may conclude:
- There are no combustible materials on the external walls of the building
- There are some combustible materials in the external wall system, but the fire risk is negligible
- Combustible materials in the external wall system could pose a fire hazard and require remedial work
Most often, lenders request an EWS1 form when deciding if they want to provide mortgages for residential properties. If a block doesn’t have an up-to-date EWS1 form, lenders may see this as a risk, and refuse mortgages to potential buyers of flats in the building.
Important: EWS1 forms are not fire safety certificates
An EWS1 certificate is not a fire safety assessment. Building fire safety assessments are carried out by a responsible person who will inspect multiple aspects of the entire building. EWS1 forms do not assess any other fire safety features besides external wall systems.
Related: Strategies for fire safety in construction
Are EWS1 forms related to PAS 9980:2022?
PAS 9980:2022 offers fire engineers and other building experts a standard methodology for the fire risk appraisal of external wall construction and cladding of multi-storey and multi-occupied residential buildings. In some ways, the standard supports EWS1 forms, in that it also seeks to improve the thoroughness of those inspecting external wall systems for their fire safety. It also helps experts to identify when a building will need remedial work.
However, the PAS 9980:2022 is not intended to replace EWS1 forms. EWS1 forms are for valuations and specifically target external wall systems only. Meanwhile, PAS 9980:2022 offers standards for a significant part of a building’s broader fire risk assessment. It can also be used to train new fire engineers and building experts on the particular requirements for external wall construction and cladding.
When do you need to complete an EWS1 form?
Residents, insurers and mortgage lenders can all request property owners or managers to provide an EWS1 certificate. EWS1 forms are usually required for:
- Blocks of flats
- Student accommodation
- Care homes
- Houses in multiple occupation structures
- Some mixed-use buildings (e.g. hotels that also have flats for permanent residents)
EWS1 forms are designed to assess external wall systems on buildings that are 18 metres tall or higher. Some lenders had requested EWS1 forms on buildings that were below 18 metres, however, in July 2021 the government confirmed that they were not required for buildings below this height.
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Who can complete an EWS1 certificate?
There are two types of people who can complete this paperwork. When you open up an EWS1 form, you will notice that there are two options – option A and option B.
- Option A is where the cladding material and insulation in the building’s external wall system are already known to be of limited combustibility. In this case, the person who signs the EWS1 certificate must be a building professional who has a good understanding of fire risk and is a member of any relevant professional body in the construction industry.
- Option B is where combustible material (e.g. timber) is in use as cladding. The person who signs the EWS1 certificate must have advanced expertise when assessing fire risk in external wall systems. They should be a member of a recognised body, such as the Institute of Fire Engineers or similar.
There is currently a serious shortage of experts available to conduct option B inspections, and this is causing a backlog in the market because many homeowners still haven’t had their blocks inspected.
What does completing an EWS1 form involve?
For any residential building over 18 metres tall, it is likely that you will need a completed EWS1 form. The exact assessment process will depend on a variety of factors, but normally includes the following steps:
- Reviewing paperwork submitted by the original developer
- Reviewing the building plan
- Checking photo evidence of any cladding
- Conducting a physical inspection
- Conducting intrusive tests to inspect materials in wall cavities
- Comparing any renovations against the original plans
An EWS1 certificate is valid for five years, so you must repeat the process periodically. This is especially important if you have made any changes to the cladding or external wall systems.
Who pays for remedial work?
This is arguably the most debated part of the guidance that followed the Grenfell Fire inquest. With millions of pounds of remedial work estimated, the financial burden of fixing problems is significant. However, in January 2022, the UK government announced their intention that “no leaseholder living in their own flat will have to pay a penny to fix unsafe cladding.” A new team is also being established to discover and pursue the companies at fault and to give them the financial burden of covering remedial work. However, as the team has not yet been launched, it is still unclear where funding will come from. In principle, however, leaseholders should have support and won’t be left with the bill.
Automate the process of completing EWS1 forms
For building owners that manage multiple properties, producing EWS1 forms for your residents – as well as lenders, valuers, insurers and buyers – is a vital service. However, since the EWS1 certificate was first introduced, there has been plenty of confusion about how to complete and generate these forms in a consistent manner.
However, by using software like PlanRadar, the process of completing, filing and sharing EWS1 forms becomes a lot smoother. From within the platform, you can rapidly build out inspection forms, which allow your fire safety experts to call them up at different sites when inspecting external wall systems. They can automatically pull all information collected into a PDF report which they can share with stakeholders.
Case study: See how one fire protection contractor uses PlanRadar
To make the process of generating EWS1 forms across your estate smoother and more efficient, choose PlanRadar’s building inspection software. To find out more, contact us today.