Finally, there is a stand-off between building owners and mortgage lenders when it comes to the provision of External Wall System 1 (EWS1) forms. Some building owners now refuse to provide the forms on buildings shorter than 18m, because it is not clear in the government guidelines that this is a requirement.
But this does not stop lenders seeking the forms as a precaution before they agree to lend. The government must clarify the regulations and get off the fence.
Until the rules around cladding are properly clarified, building managers must take it upon themselves to be as vigilant as possible about fire safety.
Some cladding doesn’t even look like cladding, such as certain render systems or slip bricks. So perhaps the lenders are right, as without the EWS1 form tests, many valuers may not get it correct.
“If the past has taught us anything, it is that tragic accidents can and will happen up until the point that building materials are made safe”
At Ringley, we now require developers to provide Section 38 fire regulation information to us as part of the handover of a new building and for this to be put in place for older buildings, too. This details all the fire safety provisions and how they are managed, maintained and tested.
We have learned the hard way that building warranty providers cannot always be relied upon and installer’s certificates are not always enough to satisfy our stringent safety requirements.
We find it is better to work with developers to meet new requirements quickly when they have recalls on their sub-contractors – nobody wants to find out later when those responsible are off the hook.
Ultimately, the only real way of knowing whether a building is safe is invasive testing – going forward and of all existing stock.
If the government really wants to make sure a tragedy like Grenfell is never repeated, it needs to make that happen. Simply expecting a management strategy to prevent smoking on balconies is not an option.
Mary Anne Bowring, founder and group managing director, Ringley