External Façade Assessment

There are different types of façade fire risk assessment. The type of risk assessment approach will dictate the level of applied scrutiny to a façade during the assessment.

Where a façade(s) has already been the subject of a detailed assessment, then a visual inspection is generally sufficient. This applies unless there have been alterations carried out since the façade was last inspected. Where there is no existing documentation or knowledge of the façade(s) make-up, an invasive inspection will be necessary.

Where there are reliable and accurate operating manuals available for a building it might be possible to avoid invasive investigations but this cannot be guaranteed. Even when operating manuals are available it is often the case that invasive investigations will be necessary. This is particularly the case where no previous inspections have been carried out and/or where there is insufficient knowledge of the façade and / or where the documentation is of poor quality and deemed unreliable.

Where invasive inspections are necessary, there will be a requirement for sample areas of the façade(s) to be drilled or cut so that the façade system can be fully identified. In some circumstances, independent testing might be required to inform and corroborate the inspection’s findings. If remote testing is required, then the affected areas of the façade will be either replaced or repaired after the inspection(s) has taken place.

For all inspections, access to each elevation of a building is required so as to ensure that the inspections are effective and reasonably encompassing. Access is usually arranged via mechanical access, access towers, rope access or ladders.

For all invasive investigations, the inspections include the determination of the façade make-up by drilling the façade and using cameras. The output reports assess the exterior against the most recent issuance of Approved Document B. The assessments also consider the window sealing and anything else which may penetrate the external façades. In order to assess the actual risk of a fire, an inspection of the base of the building would also be carried out. A commentary would usually be provided on any hazards or risks which could impact on the likelihood of a fire in relation to the structure (e.g. car parking, refuge and arson). In addition to the regulations, the facade assessments consider the building envelope in the context of the guidance notes which have been issued supplementing the Approved Document (including the latest MHCLG Guidance as issued in January 2020).

If the full invasive services are carried out the requirements in relation to the EWS form would also be satisfied in that the form(s) could be signed. For more information please contact Shaun Harris.