External Wall Systems (EWS)

What's an external wall system?

A building’s external wall system (EWS) includes, but isn’t limited to brickwork, cladding, insulation, balconies, external walkways and fire break systems.

Before changes in guidance and legislation, we carried out EWS surveys on some of our buildings as part of the Fire Risk Assessments (FRA) we’re legally required to carry out on all our properties. In line with new legislation, we now have to carry out a Fire Risk Appraisal of the External Wall (FRAEW), which covers everything the previous EWS investigation did. We take a risk-based approach to prioritising these surveys, generally starting with our tallest buildings with the most cladding. We have a programme of buildings that we’re going to carry out an FRAEW on this year.

If you’d like to know if your building is in the programme, please email us at [email protected].

New Legislation and how it changes the approach to Fire Safety

Our EWS1 approach was previously based on the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ (previously MHCLG) Consolidated Advice Note 2020. This guidance stated buildings should have their external walls assessed but didn’t give a method for these assessments, causing a negative impact on the sector. As a result of this, we’ve seen three key changes to guidance and legislation:

  • A new code of practice has been introduced - PAS9980 2022 - Fire risk appraisal of external wall construction and cladding of existing blocks of flats. PAS 9980 provides guidance on the risk of fire spread via external wall construction.
  • ‘The Fire Safety Act’ has also changed to clarify the requirement for building owners to assess the risk of external walls. This applies to all buildings
  • The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has updated the guidance around EWS1 forms, making it clear when buildings require the lender from and when they don't.

The PAS9980 method produces a Fire Risk Appraisal of the External Wall (FRAEW), that meets the Fire Safety Act requirement. If needed, an EWS1 form can be made using the information from the FRAEW with no further assessments/inspections.

As a result of these three key changes, we’ve reassessed our procedure for managing the risk from external walls to make sure we’re meeting the requirements of the Fire Safety Act, PAS9980 and EWS1.

We're carrying out our FRAEW programme in line with these changes.

What’s an EWS1 form?

The EWS1 form was developed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) as a way of assessing fire safety risk of buildings more than 18m high (typically six or seven storeys).

Some lenders ask for an EWS1 form for buildings before they’ll offer mortgages to home buyers, allow leaseholders to re-mortgage or allow shared owners to ‘staircase’ (increase how much of their home they own). The EWS1 form is a lender requirement, not a legal one, and results from an EWS1 survey, which must be carried out by a qualified EWS1 assessor. An EWS1 will now be provided as part of the FRAEW surveys where the RICS guidance indicates that one is required for the building. Upon completion of the FRAEW and any associated works, an EWS1 will be issued – if still required at that point.

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Our position on Fire Safety, EWS1 forms and our responsibilities as a building owner, and social landlord

We can't provide an EWS1 form on demand or guarantee to do so in the future.

  • All of our buildings are safe: We're legally required to have fire risk assessments (FRA – which is different from an FRAEW) for all of our buildings, which are available on request. Our tall towers have adequate layers of fire protection. We're confident that customers are safe in their homes.
  • The EWS1 form isn't a legal requirement: Despite some lenders insisting on an EWS1 form, based on Government advice, building owners aren't legally required to provide one. So, while we’ll carry out an FRAEW on all of our buildings, these aren't the same as EWS1 surveys. An EWS1 form is however produced as a by-product of the FRAEW and its associated works.
  • Having an EWS1 form doesn't necessarily mean it will be accepted by a lender: The EWS1 assessor may recommend further investigation or remedial works, which may be needed before a lender accepts the form.
  • We may have to pass the cost of EWS1 forms onto homeowners:  Hyde is a housing association and a not-for-profit and charitable organisation, which means we're bound by Charity Commission rules and laws governing how charitable funds can be used. This means we may have to pass on the cost of carrying out an EWS1 assessment to homeowners.
  • There's a severe shortage of qualified EWS1 assessors: Lenders will only accept an EWS1 form from an approved EWS1 assessor. Demand for EWS1 forms is very high and there aren't enough qualified assessors in the UK, which is leading to delays of months, and potentially years. This is currently the same for Fire Engineers who are carrying out our FRAEW’s.

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What we're doing

Keeping customers safe in their homes

Our priority is, and always has been, the safety of our customers – whether they're social tenants or homeowners. All our buildings have current fire risk assessments and we carry out all remedial safety work within the recommended timescales. We're confident everyone is safe in their homes.

External wall system surveys

We’re carrying out FRAEW surveys as part of our ongoing programme of intrusive fire risk assessments. These appraisals will provide us with additional information on our properties to further enhance our approach to making them safe.

Appointing Fire Engineers

We have now procured reputable Fire Engineers who will carrying out FRAEW’s on our properties in line with the new PAS9980 guidance. This will enable us to carry out FRAEW’s in line with our new programme.

Working with Government and other housing associations

We understand this is a hugely frustrating time for homeowners, and we’re sorry for the impact this is having, but this is a national crisis that’s largely out of our control. It can only be resolved by the Government. We continue to work with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and others in the social housing sector, to resolve this issue.

External Wall Systems FAQs

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External links

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

The RICS website has a lot of information about EWS assessments and answers to frequently asked questions about the process.

UK Government (GOV.UK)

Visit the Government’s website for advice on the following:

Leaseholder groups and campaigns

While we’re not involved in, nor do we endorse in any way, the following leaseholder groups, they do have more information on fire safety and advice to homeowners:

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