How to remediate combustible timber or composite balconies to achieve fire safety
Fire safety is the key issue of our times. While the new build sector has relatively easily made the transition to using fire safe materials, the issue of combustible material in the external walls of existing buildings has caused major concerns for all stakeholders. We spoke to Richard Izzard, managing director of aluminium decking manufacturer AliDeck, to find out more about successful fire remediation of combustible balconies.
Leaseholders and building owners up and down the country have been caught in an incredibly frustrating and difficult situation across the last 18 months. In the aftermath of the Grenfell fire, mortgage lenders became increasingly reluctant to provide loans on properties in high-rise buildings. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the BSA, and UK Finance developed the External Wall Fire Review scheme (and its EWS1 survey form) in an attempt to provide an industry-led solution.
Above: Before & After
Sadly, the scheme was derailed almost immediately following launch when the Government amended its building safety guidance in the MHCLG Consolidated Advice Note of January 2020. Since then, leaseholders and prospective buyers have faced demands from lenders for completed and passing EWS1 forms for seemingly all multi-occupancy buildings. The result of this has been utter chaos, with long waits for surveys (often estimated in years rather than months).
Many buildings have failed EWS1 for the presence of flammable wall cladding or due to combustible materials on balconies. For failed buildings, the only solution is to fully remediate all fire safety issues, replacing combustible materials with non-combustible alternatives.
Richard Izzard, managing director of AliDeck, said “We have conversations with homeowners every day about their failed EWS1. Almost always, they are somewhat confused about the situation as, sadly, there is still significant obscurity surrounding the whole issue.”
For homeowners that live in a building that has failed EWS1 due to the balconies, their key question is; “How can I resolve this?”. Unfortunately, individual leaseholders in a block are actually unable to independently remediate their own balconies to resolve the problem
“The EWS1 failure applies to the entire building,” explained Richard. “A passing survey will not be achieved until all fire safety defects in the whole block are remediated.”
While this is often frustrating news for individual leaseholders to receive, the upshot of it is that by remediating entire buildings in one fell swoop a positive outcome is much more assuredly achievable.
“We have supplied balcony decking materials to a great deal of EWS1-related remediation projects now,” continued Richard. “We were already very well-versed in handling major projects so were able to rely on our knowledge and experience to adequately service the requirements of this new kind of retrofit works. We have found that for EWS1 projects, guaranteed compliance and cost-effectiveness are the absolute drivers in the decision-making process, factors that our range more than satisfies.”
The EuroClass A Rating for fire performance that aluminium decking carries is an instant route to compliance with regulations, resolving the bulk of concerns for EWS1-failed balconies. With aluminium decking acting as an easy-to-install direct replacement for timber or composite decking, the logistics of refurbishing even large buildings with many decked areas are actually relatively straightforward.
“We are always happy to collaborate closely with our retrofit customers,” said Richard. “Not only does this help us achieve maximum cost-effectiveness by being able to precisely plan materials quantities, it also allows us to design the products in to the building correctly for simple installation and a tailored, project-specific schedule.”
While fire remediation is certainly proving a major challenge for building owners and leaseholders, the emergence of simple, effective off-the-shelf solutions to the problem such as those offered by AliDeck is reassuring.