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Homeowners trapped by EWS1 process, combustible balconies causing survey failures
An attempt to unblock the high-rise and leasehold housing market following renewed scrutiny with regards fire safety has hit problems, leading to potentially millions of people in the UK being trapped in unmortgageable homes. With many of the issues caused by relatively minor combustible balcony elements, the solution can be simple and involves replacing flammable materials with non-combustible alternatives.
Following the Grenfell tragedy, various building regulation updates and Government initiatives attempted to resolve the flammable cladding issue by outlawing combustible materials and mandating its replacement in existing buildings with non-combustible alternatives.
Progress, however, has been slow and there remain many high-rise buildings still clad in the same or similar material as that used on Grenfell Tower.
Major upheaval was caused in the property market as lenders became reluctant to provide mortgages for properties within buildings suspected to have combustible cladding on their external walls. Thousands of homeowners across the country found that their homes were now unsellable and effectively valueless.
The External Wall Fire Review/EWS1 process was developed as a solution to this issue via a cross-industry working group consisting of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Building Societies Association (BSA), and UK Finance. Launched in December 2019, this process was intended to provide a framework by which mortgage lenders could be assured that the risk on their loans was suitably mitigated, unblocking the logjam and allowing homeowners to sell their properties.
Unfortunately, the reality has been far removed from the hope.
Issues plague External Wall Fire Review/EWS1
The EWS1 process was, without doubt, developed with the best of intentions but there are clearly gaps in its executions through which many homeowners will continue to fall, including;
A major emerging issue, however, is the impact that combustible materials on balconies are having. Buildings with no flammable cladding or any other fire safety issues are failing EWS1 inspection when the balconies have timber or composite materials in their construction, leading to lenders refusing to provide mortgages for any properties in the block.
The solution is to replace combustible materials immediately
The clearest solution to the issue of buildings failing to pass EWS1 surveys is for building owners to replace all combustible materials in the external envelope with non-combustible alternatives in advance of EWS1 surveys.
Combustible timber and composite decking materials are able to be directly replaced with non-combustible aluminium decking options.
Richard Izzard, Managing Director of aluminium decking manufacturer AliDeck, said “It is distressing to see the turmoil and upset that homeowners are going through as a result of the EWS1 process. Achieving fire safety is, of course, absolutely essential for new and existing buildings but the impact on people trapped in unsellable homes, potentially for years to come, is unacceptable.”
“With many EWS1 failures arising due to issues with combustible materials on balconies rather than any cladding on the building, it is frustrating to see a continuing lack of action to remove and replace timber or composite materials from balcony elements. Doing so would solve much of the EWS1 problem at a stroke and allow these trapped homeowners to sell their flats and move on in their lives.”
A-Rated for fire-safety, aluminium decking provides no contribution to fire and will help building owners achieve compliance for their balconies, which in turn would help ensure the successful completion of the EWS1 process and allow homeowners to sell their flats and move forward in their lives.
Notes to Editors
AliDeck is a manufacturer of aluminium decking products, based in Rochester, Kent. Part of the Milwood Group of aluminium extrusion specialist companies, the founders of AliDeck have decades of experience in the outdoors living structures industry.
The AliDeck executive team are available for comment and reaction to issues relating to fire safety in the external envelope of high-rise buildings and post-Grenfell building regulations and legislation, particularly pertaining to issues involving balconies, their construction, and the non-combustible requirements of balcony materials.
Contact: Steve Cole, AliDeck Marketing Manager / firstname.lastname@example.org / 01622 427 706