Briefing: EWS1 and London
EWS1 (External Wall Safety 1) forms were introduced in December 2019. They are designed to speed up the housing market by providing a standardised process to evaluate the safety of external cladding etc. on buildings above 18m. Where buildings above 18m are identified with dangerous cladding then a detailed description of what is needed to fix it will be provided.
- mortgage providers have been using EWS1 forms for buildings of all sizes where external cladding or other features are present.
- ESW1 forms have to be completed by a qualified chartered fire engineer, of whom there are fewer than 300 in the country. This has led to a backlog in completion of EWS1 forms, with some housing associations informing leaseholders that EWS1 forms maybe not be completed for several years.
- Those in buildings found to have dangerous cladding find themselves being refused mortgages and insurance due to the findings of their EWS1 forms. It has been reported than nine out of 10 EWS-checked buildings require remediation work.
- The pace of remediation work is slow and in the meantime leaseholders can be left with high costs for necessary safety measures to address the risk of the cladding (ie waking watches)
Data on buildings with dangerous cladding:
Data on buildings over 18m in height with ACM cladding is kept by the Government. This shows that in London:
- There are 249 residential or publicly owned identified with ACM cladding.
- 53 of these have had remediation work completed
- 104 have had remediation work started
Data on other buildings with dangerous cladding (either those with other kinds of cladding or buildings under 18m) is not kept on record, so data on them is more difficult to access easily.
Within London, MHCLG have identified in excess of 72,000 premises that they consider may fall within ‘higher risk’ categories. These may be designated as within scope of the new building safety regulator. They include care homes, sheltered housing blocks, and hospitals where the vulnerability of the residents is a crucial factor.
According to LFB over 420 premises in London are currently operating a waking watch or simultaneous evacuation (where ‘stay put’ would be expected). Many have this in place due to failures in fire resisting compartmentation.
G15 is a group of the larger housing association landlords in London. They have collated data on buildings in the capital and their estimates suggest:
- Over 2000 buildings in London are in need of remediation work
- The total cost for works will be £4billion
This would mean that in London there are more than 8 times as many buildings in need of remediation than those currently recorded. In addition the Government’s £1bn national remediation fund is only 25% of the funding needed to address cladding in London alone.
Their records also show that 1250 mortgage applications for leasehold units in their London freehold properties have been put on hold due to EWS1 issues.
Building safety regulations are a significant failing that contributed to outcomes at Grenfell. Dame Judith Hackitt described the building regulations system as being broken in her report and there are likely to be many buildings (from residential to commercial) that have not been built to the required standards and may for example, be missing cavity barriers or other measures designed to prevent fire spread.
The focus on high rise residential buildings currently excludes buildings with other forms of combustible cladding such as High Pressure Laminate (HPL) or Expanded Polystyrene Systems (EPS) the numbers of which are as yet unknown.
There remain the many food outlets, restaurants and takeaways, with residential accommodation above or where staff sleep at the end of shift in store rooms or basements; and of course there are the many licensed premises where there are similar circumstances. In both cases over the years there have been many serious fires in premises of these types.
The use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) appear to be increasing, which includes examples such as ‘modular construction’ and ‘cross-laminated timber’. MMCs provide advantages in areas such as speed of build and off-site construction, but there need to be appropriate research and/or testing to ensure that designs are safe.
There are lower rise buildings which are below the 18m threshold height (sometimes only marginally) with ACM of a higher risk category.
Issues of slow remediation
- Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, 249 buildings over 18m in height and in need of remediation have been identified in London.
- Of these high-rise buildings, 173 have had remediation work either started or completed.
- 76 (31%) high-rise buildings have had no remediation work.
- An unknown amount of buildings under 18m are also in need of remediation work.
Well-Being and leaseholders:
A survey in June this year found that the impact on mental well-being for those stuck in unremediated buildings is huge. This includes:
- 90% of those surveyed said their mental health had deteriorated
- Over 25% had been diagnosed with new mental health conditions
- 23% had considered self-harm or suicide.
- Anxiety related to the financial impact of paying for remediation and/or additional safety measures
- Stress relating to not being able to move on with their lives- for example a family of four living in a one-bedroom flat that they cannot sell or couples forced to live together post-separation or divorce as they cannot sell their property
- Fear that their property is dangerous to live in without remediation
- Lockdown has heightened the stresses and fears of people living in remediated properties
 Inside Housing, ‘EWS Crisis: nine in ten EWS-checked blocks require remediation’ [Date accessed 02.10.20]
 Gov.uk, ‘Building Safety Programme: monthly data release – July 2020’ [Date accessed 02.10.20]
 BBC.co.uk, ‘Replacing unsafe cladding in London will “cost £4 Bn” ’ [Date accessed 02.10.20]
 Inside Housing, ‘More than 1,250 housing association mortgages in London on hold as EWS1 falters’ [Date accessed 02.10.20]
 Gov.uk, ‘Building safety programme monthly release- August 2020’ [Date accessed 25.09.20]
 Inside Housing ‘The hidden mental health crisis of the cladding scandal’ [Date accessed 25.09.20]