After the Grenfell Tower catastrophe, cladding on tower blocks was pulled down across the UK for fear of contributing to another tragic disaster.
Here’s all you need to know about the UK’s approach to cladding in construction after the Grenfell tower fire incident.
What exactly is cladding?
Cladding is a material covered around a building’s exterior to enhance its beauty, energy efficiency and structural integrity. Thus, finding a quality cladding supply company in the UK is not hard.
Green and blue panels are designed to enhance insulation and improve the brutalist concrete block’s appearance.
They were installed as part of a £9 million refurbishment at Grenfell Tower in Kensington, West London, in May 2017.
The 24-story tower, which contained 120 flats and at least 500 occupants, was covered with thick foam panels coated in zinc waterproof sheets and spaced 30mm apart.
The substance and its role in the fire are being investigated by a public inquiry that began in September.
In October, firefighters who battled the deadly inferno were celebrated at the Pride of Britain Awards.
What role did cladding play in the fire incident?
The 2017 Grenfell Tower fire brought attention to cladding and its effect on fire safety. Despite the structure’s compliance with building codes, it was evident that the cladding was dangerous and raised the likelihood of a fire spreading. According to investigations conducted after the catastrophe, the Grenfell Tower fire was fuelled by flammable plastic cladding. The authorities have presented new legislation in an attempt to avert another disaster.
How have the rules changed?
The government recommended that owners of all multi-storey residential properties assess the risk of flammable cladding in January 2020. The Fire Safety Bill is now being deliberated for amendments in the House of Commons. The bill reaffirms that building owners and control agencies are responsible for addressing cladding issues.
External Wall System 1 (form ESW1) was codified in December of last year as a certificate of compliance to make sure that building codes are obeyed.
The government has declared that owners of flats and buildings without cladding would no longer be required to complete an EWS1 form (an external wall fire evaluation process) when selling off or paying off their home mortgage, much to the delight of many. This will bring great relief to property owners for whom the demand for EWS1 has caused complications, delays, and “undue stress,” as stated in the government release.
To this end, a joint agreement was made on November 21st 2020, involving government representatives, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Britain’s Finance and the Building Societies Association (BSA) (BSA).
The government has agreed to spend roughly £700,000 to train an additional 2000 building inspectors to expedite the process for homeowners of buildings with cladding. This should help with the massive backlog that has arisen.
In the future, the government will continue to look into new ways to tackle concerns about the lack of professional indemnity insurance. The good news is that initiatives are being taken within the sector to create a portal where lenders, valuers, and leaseholders can verify if a building already has an EWS1, avoiding the need for duplicate forms.
The landlord is responsible for maintaining and repairing the building’s exterior and structural parts in many leases. Landlords must also conduct essential risk assessments and follow all applicable health and fire safety requirements.
Who do these changes affect?
If cladding needs to be changed, unless the property has council homes or is managed by the local government, it is possible that landlords will seek to recover the costs of remediation via the service fee, which might result in a large bill for many leaseholders.
In most circumstances, this will be the topic of necessary statutory consultation with the Leaseholders, using the 3 stage section 20 consultation procedure. If a leaseholder receives a section 20 notice, they should seek legal assistance.
According to government guidance to property owners, service fee funding should be considered a last option, and insurers and developers should be solicited for finance.
In addition, the government has set aside £1 million in the Building Safety Fund for 2020-2021 to help the rehabilitation of hazardous non-ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding systems on residential structures 18 metres and more in both the private and public sectors. This might be viewed as a new source of funding.
Leaseholders should, in any case, engage with freeholders and management companies to verify cost agreements.
Aside from the potential financial repercussions, obtaining mortgages for high-rise residences has grown increasingly difficult. The presence of cladding in a building is determined by the mortgage lender’s valuations.
If the cladding fails to satisfy the required standards, it could seriously influence appraisals.
If you live in a building with dangerous cladding, it may negatively impact your property’s sale value or ability to remortgage as a seller. Your lawyer will be able to find out if the cladding was present during the inquiry stage of a real estate deal. If you’re looking to buy a property with cladding, you should request a copy of the fire safety certificate and a Fire Risk Assessment.