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DLUHC turns attentions towards fire risk appraisals of external walls

11 July 2022

THE DEPARTMENT for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced the launch of an initial Market Engagement exercise, which seeks to ascertain the market capacity, demand and capability for carrying out fire risk appraisals of external walls (otherwise known as EWS-1 assessments).

There’s also a need to meet the Building Safety Fund’s interim PAS 9980:2022 assessor requirements (which may also be used for the 11 metres and higher building schemes over the short term) and receive market feedback on the longer-term proposals for working with the market in line with Homes England’s model of delivery for the Mid-Rise Programme.

The remit of the Market Engagement covers the delivery of fire risk appraisals of external walls in accordance with PAS 9980:2022 for buildings which will be seeking to access Government funding for addressing life-critical fire safety risks posed by cladding systems.

This Market Engagement seeks to work with the market to consider a range of commercial and operational models designed to increase the market's capacity and capability to deliver the necessary assessments to this standard. As part of this, the Government welcomes the sharing of views and insights.

In essence, the exercise has been commissioned to initially support building owners applying to the Building Safety Fund for buildings over 18 metres tall in England only when it opens for new applications, as well as the forthcoming opening of the Mid-Rise Programme for buildings of between 11 metres and 18 metres high delivered by Homes England. For both funds, the recommendations provided by a PAS 9980:2022 fire risk assessment for external walls will be required to enable funding decisions to be taken.

The requirements of these schemes will generate a significant increase in demand for such risk assessments over several years and the Department for Levelling Up. Housing and Communities is considering how the demand can be supported. The level of demand will depend on the response to the schemes. For the Building Safety Fund, there’s an expectation of approximately 300-500 applications being received for buildings between now and March 2023. The opening of the Mid-Rise Programme is fully expected to exert a “further significant impact” on demand. 

Accordingly, the capability of the market to deliver on these volumes will help facilitate applications for both the Building Safety Fund and the Mid-Rise Scheme, thereby supporting the objective of making residents safe.

Extensive market research

Extensive market research has been undertaken by central Government. This has also included engagement with a range of external organisations, representative bodies such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and fire engineers to discuss the current position in respect of the external wall fire risk assessment market and the challenges it faces.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is now seeking to progress this initial market research and establish a series of options for optimally supporting the successful delivery of fire risk appraisals for external walls and increasing market capacity.

A range of commercial and operational models are being developed by Government to support the Building Safety Fund programme up to the end of the 2022-2023 financial year. These are intended to capture the full range of options available, considering factors such as potential scope for direct intervention, accreditation requirements and insurance challenges.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is proposing to launch a series of Market Engagement exercises over the coming months to discuss the options available to the Building Safety Fund and is also keen to seek feedback on the proposed delivery model. A core part of this will be to discuss how the Department for Levelling Up works with the industry to boost risk appraisal capacity for buildings benefiting from Government funds and also to meet the needs of the wider marketplace, which may need to conduct these assessments.

Potential for participation

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities would like to understand whether organisations would be interested in participating in this current Market Engagement exercise. The ‘Expression of Interest’ registration form can be accessed here.

As part of the ‘Expression of Interest’, there’s a request for the provision of some basic information. The information provided will help the Government to shape its approach, better understand priorities and also gain better insight into current market capacity for the delivery of these specialist appraisals.

‘Expression of Interest’ responses should be returned to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on or before Friday 15 July. This will enable the Government to review all submissions, analyse the feedback and inform its approach, while also continuing to meet proposed timelines. Following the receipt and collation of all responses, the Government issue invitations to a series of webinars to be held in late July.

The RICS believes that the implementation of PAS 9980:2022 represents a real opportunity to ensure that fire safety remediation decisions will be underpinned by professional and consistent assessments made by qualified fire risk assessors.