Fire safety can be confusing, with many conflicting views and opinions.
Here are answers to some of the questions we're often asked.
What is fire engineering?
Whether you're constructing a new building or making alterations, the design must afford a reasonable standard of health and safety in the event of fire. One way of achieving this is to follow prescriptive rules, which have largely been formed from subjective judgements over many years. These rules can be inefficient and restrictive, and may not actually reflect the risks presented by the building.
An alternative approach is to apply engineering techniques to develop a solution which is bespoke to your building. These solutions can be more cost-effective, less restrictive and will often result in a higher level of safety than a traditional approach.
What is a fire strategy?
A fire strategy is a document which sets out the main features which are key to achieving a safe and compliant building.
Who should complete a fire strategy?
A fire strategy should be completed by a competent professional who has sufficient knowledge, experience and qualifications to deal with the particular risks involved. In most cases this should be a fully qualified Fire Engineer.
External Wall Review
What is an EWS1 form?
The EWS1 form has been developed by lenders in order to standardise the reporting of External Wall Fire Reviews. It sets requirements for the extent of such reviews, and details who should complete those reviews.
Most lenders require a 'satisfactory' EWS1 form to be completed before they will release funds for the purchase or remortgage of a residential property.
Does the EWS1 form apply current standards to older buildings?
No. If the external walls of a building contain combustible materials then a risk assessment should be completed to determine if there is a reasonable standard of health and safety in the event of fire. Like any fire risk assessment, this should take account of the building standards which applied at the time of the building's construction.
Is an EWS1 form required by law?
No. The EWS1 form has been developed by lenders and there is no legal requirement to have one.
However, government are making changes to fire safety legislation which will mean that external walls should be included in the fire risk assessment of a building.
My building is less than 18m in height. Do I need an EWS1 form?
An EWS1 form is intended for buildings more than 18m height, or for lower buildings where "specific concern" exists. In reality, we have found that many lenders require an EWS1 form for buildings of any height if there is some form of cladding.
However, just because an EWS1 form is required for low-rise buildings, it doesn't mean the same standards apply as they would for high-rise buildings. There are usually fewer restrictions for low-rise buildings, and this can be reflected in the outcome of the EWS1 form.
Does an EWS1 form require a building inspection?
Anyone completing an EWS1 form must have a good understanding of the construction of the external walls of the building in question. This is not just the external finish, but includes the various internal components of the wall, including insulation and cavity barriers.
In order to get sufficient detail it will nearly always be necessary to make invasive inspections of the external walls.
Who can complete an EWS1 form?
The EWS1 Form is split in to two sections - A and B.
Section A is for buildings where the materials used in the external wall would be unlikely to support combustion; in this case the signatory would need only the expertise to identify the relevant materials and confirm that details such as cavity barriers have been installed correctly.
Section B is for buildings where Option A does not apply. In this case, a risk assessment must be completed by a Chartered Fire Engineer (or equivalent), in order to determine if there is a reasonable standard of health and safety for people in and around the building.
Fraigneux has the in-house expertise to complete any section of an EWS1 Form.
How do I get an EWS1 form for my building?
An EWS1 Form may look simple, but completing the form requires a high level of understanding of a building's external wall construction.
For a new building, we will review the design and then periodically inspect the site during construction to ensure that the wall materials are correct and are being installed appropriately.
For an existing building, we will review any relevant documentary information and then inspect the building in order to determine the 'as-built' construction.
Fire Risk Assessment
What is a Fire Risk Assessment?
A fire risk assessment is a process for identifying the fire precautions which should be taken to protect people in and around a building. It is required by law for almost all buildings, with the main exception being domestic premises, e.g. houses and single flats.
Who can complete a Fire Risk Assessment?
In theory, a fire risk assessment can be completed by anyone, and the government have published a range of guidance documents to help people do this. However, fire safety rules are often confusing and contradictory, and the consequences of completing an inadequate risk assessment can be catastrophic. We therefore recommend that a fire risk assessment is always completed by a competent fire professional.
Do I need a written Fire Risk Assessment?
Fire risk assessment itself is an activity. However, in many cases the significant findings of the assessment need to be recorded. This applies where you employ five or more people and in some other instances.