RICS sets out new EWS1 Form Guidance
The RICS has launched its updated EWS 1 form for all buildings regardless of height and has provided its guidance notes to support valuers and a supplementary information paper (not termed as Guidance) termed “Cladding for Surveyors”. The effective date for this is 5th April, but with earlier adoption “encouraged”
".....EWS1 form is for the external wall system only".
Throughout their documents, the RICS continually references the MHCLG “Advice for Building Owners of Multistorey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings”. This is trying to align to the governments road map of building safety and in doing so is creating some confusion……….. The EWS 1 form states… “….EWS1 form is for the external wall system only. It is not a life safety certificate. It should not be taken as confirmation that other works relating to fire safety in other parts of the building are not required. Independent advice on the fire risk assessment of the entire building should always be obtained.”
The new Building safety Regieme which is being consulted upon through the building safety Bill and the Fire safety bill is not to be confused with the RICS EWS 1 process, however the MHCLG advice notes are being used as a framework by the building safety and fire safety bills as well as the RICS EWS 1 process. Therefore a distinction needs to be highlighted to building owners that having an EWS 1 form will NOT form part of a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) process. The Fire Safety Bill requires a Fire Risk Assessment and Appraisal of the external wall to inform the FRA, this is NOT the EWS 1 form.
As the RICS Supplementary note states: “The EWS1 form is not intended to be a life safety certificate nor a fire risk assessment, and should not be relied upon as either. It is produced purely for lenders and valuers determination of remedial works affecting value”
The guidance note for “Valuation of properties in multi-storey, multi-occupancy residential buildings with cladding” is supposed to provide a valuer with the rationale to justify the request for an EWS 1 form. However the guidance falls short of this and the view of the lender and valuer takes precedence over the guidance. The Guidance goes onto say that “It is important to note that a decision by a valuer not to request an EWS1 form during the valuation process provides no assurance that there are no fire or life safety risks, but only considers whether there is a likelihood that remediation work affecting value will be needed, based on the presence or absence of cladding and other attachments to the building. Buyers should always be advised to seek a copy of the existing fire risk assessment for the building before purchasing.” While this is trying to distance the valuer from making a decision around the buildings fire safety attributes, I do not believe that there is any incentive for a valuer or lender not to request such a form.
It is understandable that there is some confusion as to the point of the EWS 1 form, as the form itself refers to an “assessment of fire risk”.
The RICS clarifies that the external wall system “fire risk appraisal and assessment” (FRAA) informs the Fire Risk Assessment. So what is the framework for a FRA on an EWS?.....The BSI PAS 9980 Fire risk appraisal and assessment of external wall construction and cladding of existing blocks of flats – Code of Practice has been cited as the document to be used, however it has not been published yet and the current PAS 79 – 2 has now been withdrawn by the BSI owing to a judicial challenge.
To compliment the FRA process and to provide a standard method of validating the FRA the industry is waiting on BS 8644-1, which is currently only in draft and due for public consultation in April 21. This will be an important document to provide some standardisation of building information in order to provide the Building Safety Regulator with the assurance that the building information is validated as correct and compliant in order to obtain a building safety certificate (which the EWS 1 form is not).
Therefore at present the EWS 1 form process, although “NOT a fire risk assessment”, is the only recognised process by which an “assessment of fire risk” in an external wall system can be reasonably conducted. This is where the industry and government needs to speed up the process of providing free of charge, guidance on the FRA of an external wall and the digital record requirements to validate the assessment.