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Hot Topic Highlight – Fire Safety Update (2021)



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What is this week's blog about?


In this week’s blog, we take a look at a variety of hot topics relating to fire safety. These include the EWS1 forms, International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS), PAS 79-1 and 2:2020 and changes to Approved Document B.


This is essential reading for all RICS APC and AssocRICS candidates in relation to the Health & Safety mandatory competency, as well as any candidates undertaking Fire Safety as a technical competency.



Why is fire safety so important?


Every year, a significant number of deaths and injuries are caused due to fires. This means that high standards of fire safety are essential to keeping residents and occupiers of property safe. This is especially important for domestic properties, where residents will sleep in properties at night.


Candidates should read the RICS guide to Fire Safety (Version 3) to learn more about the common causes of fires, forward planning, fire escape basics, owner-occupied property and rented or shared accommodation. Candidates should also refer back to our first fire safety blog, to find out more about other key legislation and standards.

What is the EWS process and what are EWS1 forms?


An External Wall System (EWS) encompasses the outside wall of a residential building, including cladding, insulation and fire break systems.


Buildings included within the scope of the EWS process include blocks of flats, student accommodation, care homes and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). It does not include hotels.


The EWS1 form process was introduced to ensure that buildings over 18m in height with combustible EWS construction could be assessed for fire safety and then approved for mortgage lending by lenders. Some residential buildings below 18m will also require an EWS1 form, for example if they are 4-6 storeys high with combustible EWS construction.


The EWS process is a method for residential building owners to confirm that the EWS has had a fire safety assessment carried out by a ‘qualified professional’. After the assessment is carried out, the ‘qualified professional’ must sign an EWS1 form which is valid for 5 years and covers the entire building. The EWS1 will either confirm that no combustible materials are present or will make recommendations for remedial works.


Generally, if remedial works are required, they must be carried out before a mortgage will be agreed, unless the lender confirms otherwise.


Further information on the EWS process can be found on the RICS website. Valuers should also read the RICS Practice Alert relating to fire safety in residential valuation.

What are the International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS)?


The IFSS were launched in November 2020 by a coalition of over 80 organisations, including RICS. The aim is to improve public confidence around the regulation and control of fire safety measures and to work towards globally consistent fire safety standards.


The common principles for fire safety applying to the building life cycle are; prevention, detection and communication, occupant protection, containment and extinguishment.


The full standards can be downloaded on the IFSS website.

What is PAS 79-1 and 2:2020?


PAS 79 provides best practice guidance for how to carry out fire risk assessments. It is published by the British Standards Institution. PAS stands for Publicly Available Specification; a ‘fast-track standardisation document’ developed by a steering group of key stakeholders.


PAS 79-1:2020 Code of practice fire risk assessment premises other than housing and PAS 79-2:2020 Code of practice fire risk assessment housing replace the former PAS 79:2012.


The former PAS 79:2012 provided generic fire risk assessment guidance, without housing-sector specific recommendations. The updated PAS 79-1 and 2 have been developed to provide guidance on the non-domestic and domestic sectors separately. The documents now have code of practice status and include guidance relating to external wall construction and cladding.


Both standards can be accessed on the BAFE website.

What changes have been made to Approved Document B?


Amendments to Approved Document B (Fire Safety) of the Building Regulations took effect from 26 November 2020.


The key changes are:

  • Sprinklers must be provided in buildings over 11m in height, previously this was a minimum of 30m in height. Individual flats should have sprinklers installed;

  • BS9251 or BS EN 12845 are recommended when specifying sprinkler systems in flats;

  • Sprinklers are not required in fire sterile (i.e. there are no combustible materials) common areas

  • Consistent wayfinding signage should be provided for the fire service in flats with a top floor 11m above ground level. This should include floor level identification and information about the flats accessible from each floor;

  • If a building is being extended, the provisions above apply so that sprinkler protection and wayfinding signage are required in newly formed accommodation in buildings with a floor 11m or above from ground level


The full text of Approved Document B can be accessed on the Government website.


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Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you.

N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, professional or financial advice.