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Jun03

So How Do I know if my Building is 18m High or Not?

AdobeStock 55224559 smallThis may seem a strange question to ask but not when it came to measuring the height of the buildings in relation to the recent Advice Notes issued by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government(MHCLG) following the establishment of the Independent Expert Advisory Panel (the Expert Panel).

It is also an important question in relation to the application of particular sections of the Building Regulations.

And in relation to external wall surveys and the EWS1 form as published by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in December 2019 the question was also applicable up until 8 March 2021 when Version 2 of the EWS1 form was published.

 

 

To provide context and background, following the tragedy of Grenfell Tower when a fire broke out on14 June 2017 and 80 lives were lost, The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government(MHCLG) established the Building Safety Programme to make sure that buildings are safe, and that people feel safe now, and in the future.

The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published a series of Advice

Notes.

Advice Note 14 published by the MHCLG states that the Advice Note is for the attention of anyone responsible for, or advising on, the fire safety of external wall systems of residential buildings 18m or above in height.

Advice Note 14 was supposed to give building owners clear advice on non-aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding systems but resulted in confusion for many leaseholders across the country.

 

It is my opinion that it also resulted in confusion because it did not state how the 18m in relation to a building was measured.

 

Advice Note 14 required that building owners were required to check that external wall systems to residential buildings over 18m are safe.

 

In late December 2019 the EWS1 form was published.

 

The RICS, the BSA and UK Finance agreed an industry-wide process, to be used by valuers, lenders, building owners and fire safety experts, in the valuation of high-rise properties to help unblock the deadlock in the housing market. It was developed in conjunction with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

 

The EWS1 form as published on 16 December 2019

stated:

‘Objective - This form is intended for recording in a consistent manner what assessment has been carried out for the external wall construction of residential apartment buildings where the highest floor is 18m or more above ground level.

 

The “Objective” does not exclude the plant room floor(if any) when measuring the height to the highest floor.

 

Whilst the EWS1 form was silent as to how the 18m height of a building was measured it did make reference to regulations and stated:

 

‘The assessment takes account of regulations and published design guidance as were current at the time of construction as well as those which are current at the time of this assessment. It cannot be guaranteed that it would address guidance and regulations which may be introduced in the future’.

 

At the date of the publication of the EWS1 form in December 2019 there had been no clarification by MHCLG as to how the 18m was measured.

 

The EWS1 Form Version 2 has now been revised as at 8 March 2021 and now makes no reference to an18m criteria.

 

MHCLG Advice for Building Owners of Multi-storey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings dated 20 January 2020 consolidated and superseded the existing MHCLG Advice Notes 1 to 22.

Moving forward, the Advice Note of 20 January 2020 clarified how the 18m height of a building is measured and stated under item 1.8:

 

‘Expert Panel advice initially focused on the risk a high rise residential buildings of 18m or more to the height of the top occupied story (as per Diagram D of Approved Document B2019 edition). The 18m threshold is established in the guidance to the Building Regulations and is the point at which additional fire safety provisions are provided for’.

 

You may read the full article here:

 

The Expert Witness Journal May 2021

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