Grenfell and Building Safety: What next for UK high-rise? | Fieldfisher
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Grenfell and Building Safety: What next for UK high-rise?

Alex Delin
Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2016, there has been a much greater focus on the fire safety of high-rise buildings, primarily in the residential sector, creating problems for owners of properties in tall buildings found to have combustible cladding. As set out in Alex Badel's recent post, 2020 is expected to see both a new Building Safety Bill and a Fire Safety Bill in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
It is also anticipated that the recommendations of Phase One of the public inquiry into the Grenfell disaster will be implemented.
Phase Two of the inquiry has been suspended until at least 24 February, pending a decision on the admissibility of evidence from witnesses in future prosecutions.
The government published an advice note on 20 January 2020 calling for investigations to be carried out on external wall systems for tall buildings (over 18 metres – a cut off height which is linked to the reach of fire and rescue service equipment).
It is likely that the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 will be amended to enshrine such investigations in law.
In preparation, it has been reported that results of investigations carried out by freeholders of tall buildings continue to reveal concerns about the use of combustible cladding, insulation and defective cavity barriers.
This has caused reticence among lenders to finance (or re-finance) purchases of apartments in tall buildings without confirmation of the façade build up.
In December 2019, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Building Societies Association (BSA) and UK Finance agreed a new process to alleviate such concerns and facilitate movement with the creation of form EWS1.
This new certification process intended for recording assessments carried out to ensure materials are of limited combustibility and that fire-stopping measures meet appropriate standards.
However, the form expressly states "any lender who may see the review during the process through which they come to make a loan secured on any part of the subject address" is unable to rely on the representations made in the form.
Early signs are that EWS1 has done little do dissipate concern among lenders (as discussed in this article by Fieldfisher partner, Helen Andrews, published by PBC Today).
High-rise residential and office space continues to be a desirable option for many residents and investors, and new high-rise buildings must pass very stringent legal approvals and inspections irrespective of whether or not they undergo the EWS1 certification process.
However, the fallout from Grenfell has refocused debate on how design and construction practices can be employed to ensure that tower blocks remain a safe and sustainable housing solution.

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