Fire Risk Assessments - The latest developments

Published on 31 January 2022

The British Standards Institution has published PAS 9980:2022, the new code of practice for fire risk appraisals of external wall construction and cladding of existing blocks of flats.

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Government established a Building Safety Programme to ensure that residents of high-rise residential buildings are safe, and feel safe, from the risk of fire now and in the future.  The Building Safety Programme is aimed at ensuring the removal of potentially unsafe cladding from high rise buildings.

As part of the Building Safety Programme, the Government’s Independent Expert Advisory Panel (the Expert Panel) issued advice on the measures that building owners should take to review ACM and other cladding systems to assess and assure their fire safety and the potential risks to residents of external fire spread. This was published as a Consolidated Advice Note (CAN) bringing the Expert Panel’s advice together in a single document.

The Government has now withdrawn the CAN with the publication of a new code of practice, PAS 9980:2022 (generally referred to as PAS9980). This will be welcomed by those who felt the CAN affected lender's requirements and prevented a large number of owners from selling properties without certain fire risk assessments being undertaken.

PAS 9880 is intended for use by fire engineers and other competent building professionals when undertaking a fire risk appraisal of external wall construction and cladding of existing multi-storey and multi-occupancy residential buildings. It provides a methodology for carrying out such appraisals. It is intended to support the upcoming changes to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, which will confirm that the fire performance of external cladding systems is a material consideration.  It is not intended as an alternative to the EWS1 form, which will continue to be used for valuation purposes.

PAS 9880 applies where a risk is known, or suspected, to arise from the form of construction used for the external wall build up, such as the presence of combustible materials.  Where homeowners and building owners are faced with external wall construction that does not meet the expected standards, PAS 9980 provides recommendations and guidance for undertaking appraisals to assess the level of safety.  Such appraisals will involve a risk assessment to the occupants from a fire spreading over or within the external walls of the building.   A decision will then be made as to whether remediation or other mitigating measures to address the risk are considered necessary.

Recommendations and guidance are also provided in relation to the competence of professionals completing fire risk appraisals of external walls.  The aim is to assist with the ongoing efforts to increase the number of competent professionals, by providing knowledge on fire risk arising from various aspects of external wall construction.  

It is hoped that the key outputs of future PAS 9880 appraisals will be useful for those who make decisions based upon the outcome of the appraisals, including insurers, valuers, mortgage lenders, building surveyors and building control bodies, when assessing the fire risk of particular buildings.

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