No one ever wants a fire to start in their home or apartment. This can be a horrific thought if you live in a high-rise as fire disrupts elevators and going downstairs in smoke can be dangerous as well as scary.
Making buildings more fireproof is the aim of new legislation in the U.K. to prevent fires from starting and spreading in tall buildings. It was determined that one of the problems over the past decade was combustible cladding used in building construction.
Beginning this year, all developers must prove they implemented fire safety into their high-rise residential building construction plans. A fire engineer or someone similar is now required to check on fire safety in the pre-planning stage before designs and construction gain approval.
New rules affect buildings in England that are 18m or more and those in Scotland that is 11m or more.
Those who are moving to, or live, in tall buildings should be aware of documents and standards all architects and developers must abide by so you can fireproof your future and keep yourself and your family safe.
While these are targeting new construction, these new laws also affect older buildings as many will need to be updated to get a loan or proper insurance before purchase.
What Should I Ask for If I’m Buying an Apartment?
Those considering buying an apartment in tower blocks should ask the owner for an External Wall Review Form (also called an EWS1). This form proves the building is designated as safe.
It also details how residential buildings outside walls are built, especially those over 18 meters or that have unique concerns.
The form must be completed by an authorized person approved by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Building Societies Association, and UK Finance. Any other signature is not accepted and the form isn’t valid unless it is completed by an approved person.
The form won’t be made available if the cladding doesn’t meet new safety standards, which means older buildings will need to be renovated before residences can be sold as the form is required for sale.
It is vitally important to get this form for an apartment purchase because lenders require it to lend money.
What Was Wrong with The Cladding?
The cladding used before the new rules contained plastic, which was proven by investigations to be highly flammable. It caused many problems with fires spreading over the years.
New regulations provide for other materials to be used that are much safer and meet the A1 and A1 fire rating requirements.
- Foamglas Insulation
- Fibre Cement Cladding
- Brick Slips System
- Porcelain Cladding
- GRC Cladding
- Aluminum Cladding
These products not only meet new standards for fire protection but are also considered to be high-quality products.
As a potential buyer, you should ask what composes the cladding in a possible purchase. These are the types of things you should be aware of to make sure you are protected from a future fire.
Differences in the New Cladding
Each cladding product has its advantages. Some, like the Foamglas Insulation, has minimal maintenance while providing excellent insulation. It is made with cellular glass and produces no toxic gases or flaming droplets.
The Fibre Cement Cladding is a weatherboard that utilizes cellulose-fibre and cement. It is extremely durable, attractive, and weather-resistant.
The Brick Slips Systems has a traditional look but provides wonderful insulation performance. It’s easy to install, can be used for both homes and commercial buildings, and is incredibly cost-effective.
Porcelain Cladding has two formats it comes in and those are the large format and technical format. Both are used in different ways but are attractive and create an upscale look. Both are waterproof and eco-friendly.
GRC Cladding is made from glass fibre and concrete. These lightweight panels have weatherproofing, are eco-friendly, and are highly versatile.
Aluminum Cladding is unique in that it’s an aluminum substrate that has a timber-coated veneer. This makes it look like real timber but reduces wood production by 98 percent when compared to solid timber cladding. People love it for its natural appearance.
One advantage of this product is it is also resistant to fungal decay and rot.
What Are Gateway Controls?
Residential and educational buildings taller than 18m in England and 11m in Scotland also have new Gateway controls they must abide by. These controls are to ensure proof of safety is demonstrated through the process from planning to technical design and construction to building control and final certificate.
Potential buyers of a residence in these taller buildings have every right to ask about proof available during this process and look at documents showing the builder complied with Gateway controls.
What Should I Know About Insurance?
Indemnity insurance is a sticky subject because of the cost and exclusions for fire. However, architects are required to take out professional indemnity insurance that will sufficiently cover a claim.
The problem is fire exclusions come with cheaper insurance options and full coverage insurance has a high premium that many can’t afford. This is something you need to not only ask about but research the type of policy available on your building of interest.
Fire insurance is a must-have and can be a deal-breaker in a purchase. Any insurance by the architect must include coverage for fire and cladding. Unfortunately, many architects are taking on policies with exclusions for both out-of-cost concerns and that would be detrimental to you in case of a fire.
It is your right to know exactly what type of insurance the architect has and what it covers before you agree to a purchase.
Additionally, insurers are now requiring that a building have at least an A2 rating to insure it. Knowing this should give you pause to make sure a residence in a building you are considering can be properly insured.
Understanding the new legislation and what it requires will help you ask the right questions of someone selling their high-rise residence or offering apartments in new buildings. This will ensure you will garner a loan to buy your dream residence and feel secure knowing you are safe and covered with the right insurance. This is how you fireproof your future.
More information on the full range of fire safe insulation and cladding can be found on the Dalply website.