Building owners and leaseholders across the country are facing major challenges regarding the external elements of their properties, including their balconies, terraces and walkways.
Following the Grenfell tragedy, a root and branch change was demanded in the UK’s approach to building safety and fire regulations to help prevent such an event occurring again. Regulations were amended in 2018 to ban combustible materials on buildings above 18m and, with new legislation currently before Parliament, further restrictions are expected to soon be written into law.
The end result of this will be the increasing requirement for the use of non-combustible materials in both newly built properties and existing buildings, with the potential for the banning of combustible materials at any height, including at ground level. Clearly, this presents a major challenge for all stakeholders.
While architects and developers are able to relatively easily transition to the specification of non-combustible materials as they design new-build projects, owners and leaseholders of existing buildings are faced with the mammoth task of removing and replacing combustible elements from their properties.
A consequence of these rapid changes in building regulations and legislation has been the chaos caused firstly by lenders becoming increasingly risk-averse with regards to high-rise multi-occupancy buildings and then further compounded by debacle of the EWS1/External Wall Fire Review scheme.
EWS1 was launched in December 2019 and was intended to solve the issue of lenders being unwilling to take the risk of offering mortgages on properties in high rise buildings. The scheme was derailed almost immediately by the Government’s Consolidated Advice Note, issued in January 2020, which required buildings of all heights to be considered for fire safety defects.