The introduction of the EWS1 Form has made a huge impact on the UK property market and residents across the nation. For many lessees requiring an EWS1 Form to complete a sale, remortgage or insure a property, familiarising themselves with the Form, its purpose and the process of obtaining one is essential.
As experienced consultants in the EWS1 process, the team at FRC have compiled a list of common questions concerning the EWS1 Form.
What is an EWS1 Form?
It is a document designed to allow residential building owners to confirm that an external wall system has been assessed by a suitable expert, providing assurance for lenders, valuers, residents, buyers and sellers.
Once an External Wall System has been assessed by a suitably accredited and competent expert, they can complete either option A or option B of the Form, depending on their findings.
Option A is completed where the building does not contain materials likely to support combustion or does contain materials likely to support combustion, but only to an attachment (such as a balcony).
Option B is to be completed where there are known combustible primary materials in the external wall system, which includes any external cladding, insulation, support framework or sub-structure.
Both options have specific sub-categories that clarify the risk associated with the competent person’s findings.
What is an External Wall System?
The entire construction which makes up the outer wall of a building is the external wall system. Rather than just those parts that are visible, the external wall system is also comprised of any insulation materials, compartmentation (fire or cavity barriers), support framework, membranes, sub-bases (the inner leaf), as well as any attachments, such as balconies.
Who is suitably qualified to sign off an EWS1 Form?
It is a stipulation that the EWS1 Form must be completed by a suitably qualified and competent professional, otherwise the Form will be rendered invalid. It is essential for those who are commissioning EWS surveys with the aim of obtaining an EWS1 Form to perform due diligence to confirm that their chosen professional meets the required criteria. A recent report by Which? revealed that a number of EWS1 Form forgeries have been uncovered, emphasising the point that only reputable contractors should be instructed to undertake such works.
To complete option A of the EWS1 Form, the signatory must meet the following criteria:
- Hold full membership status with a relevant professional body within the construction industry (not associate membership, student membership etc…)
- Have sufficient expertise to identify the materials within the external wall and attachments and establish whether fire-resisting cavity barriers and fire-stopping have been installed correctly
Below is a list provided by RICS that names some of the bodies noted as operating within the built environment sector. RICS mention that the list is not an endorsement of any of these bodies, nor is it exhaustive.
- Architects Registration Board (ARB)
- Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI)
- Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE)
- Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT)
- Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)
- Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE)
- Construction Industry Council Approver Inspectors Register (CICAIR)
- Institute of Clerks of Works and Construction Inspectorate (ICWCI)
- Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)
- Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE)
- Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE)
- Local Authority Building Control (LABC)
- Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
- Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- Society of Façade Engineers (SFE)
To complete option B of the EWS1 Form, a more detailed review and therefore a higher level of fire expertise is necessary. For this option, the signatory would need to meet the following criteria:
- Possess specific expertise in the assessment of the fire risk presented by the external wall materials
- Hold full membership status with a relevant professional body that deals with fire safety in the built environment sector
RICS suggests that this could be a Chartered Engineer with the Institution of Fire Engineers or equivalent, and again mentions that this is not an endorsement and that other bodies with relevant expertise may be able to assist.
Is the EWS1 Form a legal requirement?
The Form is not a legal requirement and is only needed at the request of an insurer or lender to provide them with assurance.
However, RICS and the wider built environment industry encourage owners of buildings within scope to proactively pursue independent testing of external wall materials to safely speed up the process, rather than waiting until a request is made.
Although an EWS1 Form is not a legal requirement, it is a legal requirement that Responsible Persons must ensure the safety of buildings and residents alike. With this in mind, there is likely to be some overlap between the health and safety related and financial drivers.
Do I need an EWS1 Form?
The EWS1 Form was originally intended for ‘high risk’ buildings above 18 metres in height, or where specific concerns exist. However, the MHCLG’s (Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government) consolidated advice note, released in January this year, has eliminated height stipulations where the checking of external walls is concerned. This has led to lenders and insurers are increasingly requesting EWS1 Forms for buildings under 18 metres.
An EWS1 Form is usually valid for an entire block/building and is not applicable to individual flats and apartments.
How do I get a signed EWS1 Form?
To obtain a correctly signed EWS1 Form, an independent, intrusive survey of the external wall system is necessary. This is the only way to ascertain the actual materials used during construction (these can vary from plans), as well as the appropriate compartmentation in the form of fire and cavity barriers, along with the correct installation method and standard of workmanship have been adhered to. Evidence of the investigation of each of these aspects is required to sign the EWS1 Form. Review of design drawings alone is not sufficient to facilitate the signing of an EWS1 Form (although may be helpful to the surveying process).
AILOTs (Assessment in Lieu of Test) were often used to establish compliance during the construction phase of projects and have contributed to the many issues that have come to light over the last few years. As such, they should not be carried out to obtain an EWS1 Form.
How much does an EWS1 Form cost?
There is no set cost for an EWS1 Form. To sign an EWS1 Form, an independent investigation must be carried out by a qualified and competent professional, who possesses a suitable level of Professional Indemnity insurance. Given the nature of external walls this would typically involve investigations to several areas of the external wall to establish combustibility of the materials used in the construction of the external wall, as well as establish the presence of appropriate cavity and fire barriers.
The cost to do this can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors, such as the size and scale of the building, the number of external wall systems that need to be sampled, whether access machinery is needed to achieve this etc.
How long is an EWS1 Form valid for?
An EWS1 Form is valid for up to 5 years. The building will need to be reassessed following any significant changes to the external wall or attachments of the building or when this time period has elapsed.
FR Consultants is the UK’s leading façade consultancy, offering a unique end-to-end solution to building fire safety and compliance. Through our alliance with trusted technical partners, Cardinus, we are making Britain’s Buildings safer.
We are fully qualified and suitably insured to complete both sections of the EWS1 Form, and as a Chartered Building Consultancy, our clients are assured that we uphold the highest business and ethical practices.
If you require assistance with obtaining an EWS1 Form, please get in touch.
📧 [email protected]
📞 01794 332 456