The Mid Rise Challenge
The residential block sector has witnessed unprecedented change over the last 12 months. The code of practice (PAS 9980) for appraising fire safety risks of external walls in existing buildings has really taken hold, nearly fifty major developers have committed contractually to put right cladding-related failures, and the reach and impact of the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 and the Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA), have started to hit home.
2023 will also be a pivotal year in the context of government funding. We are on the verge of a new government fund, referred to as the Mid Rise Scheme or the Cladding Safety Scheme (CSS), aimed at medium-rise buildings (storey heights between 11 and 18 metres). The CSS will provide funding for remediating unsafe external wall systems but is not intended to cover costs of non-cladding defects, such as internal compartmentation, nor interim measures such as waking watch.
The fund will cover works for eligible medium-rise buildings where a responsible developer cannot be identified. Establishing that there is no developer or related responsible party which can contribute financially or carry out remediation, will be key to accessing the CSS.
The fund will cover works where a Fire Risk Appraisal of the External Wall (FRAEW) following the PAS 9980 methodology has recommended remediation action. The view of the government is that PAS 9980 appraisals can find that a tolerable risk can be reached without extensive and expensive remediation. The idea is that wholesale façade and cladding replacement can be avoided.
So is this the route to widespread compliance and sector satisfaction? It will certainly play a major role in delivering remediation solutions to thousands of properties. But there will be exceptions and limitations to PAS 9980 and the CSS.
PAS 9980 is a code of practice and sets out guidance in relation to the risk of external fire spread and a framework methodology of how to assess the risk with an emphasis on proportionality. PAS 9980 is concerned with critical life safety matters and is not concerned with warranties or whether the building in question satisfied the original design, nor is it focused on Building Regulations compliance.
Building Regulations are a statutory instrument (the law) and set precise standards for the design and construction of buildings, including minimum standards for fire safety.
Insurance providers will have terms and conditions and when it comes to building insurance, they are increasingly concerned with total asset loss scenarios and will look at regulatory compliance, materials & risk.
It is not so difficult to envisage a building receiving a PAS 9980 with a medium risk rating, with no remediation required, but where aspects of the Building Regulations were not met, warranties invalidated and insurance premiums remaining high due to the presence of combustible materials. In short PAS 9980 is not the only show in town and even where PAS 9980 assessments are considered the most relevant benchmark, the risk approach nature of PAS 9980 could lead to differing opinions, for example between an original developer and a current building owner. We are already seeing these scenarios play out on buildings and developments of all shapes and sizes.
One of the many significant impacts of the BSA has been the extension of the Defects Liability Period (under the Defective Premises Act 1972) to 30 years and the enactment of S38 of the Building Act, both providing additional/alternative routes to engaging with the original development parties to remediate where a building is considered defective, non-compliant or where warranties are invalidated due to construction shortcomings.
In summary, the route to compliance and remediation via the CSS could be relatively straightforward if not a little lengthy. Where eligibility for the CSS is not achieved but where defects remain, the course to remediation is likely to be significantly more complex, layered and altogether much more of a challenge.
Harris Associates has its own in-house façade team, comprising technicians, engineers, and project managers. We have overseen sixty-plus remediation schemes and we advise on compliance matters, carry out investigations, compliance reviews, and EWS1 work and coordinate and deliver PAS 9980 assessments.
For further information, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written By Shaun Harris
Telephone: 0161 615 3679