Fire safety update

In January 2020, the Government published Advice for Building Owners of Multi-storey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings.  The guidance note consolidated the Independent Expert Advisory Panel’s (the Expert Panel’s) advice on the measures building owners should take to review ACM and other cladding systems to assess and assure their fire safety, and also issued advice on other key fire safety risks that require proper management.  Most significantly, the guidance note states that there is a need to assess and manage the risk of external fire spread at buildings of any height.

The Government has announced that a Fire Safety Bill will be introduced to incorporate  the above matters in due course.

As a result of the guidance note, managing agents for each block are undertaking further reviews of fire safety.

In addition, on 11 March 2020, the Government announced in the Budget that they will provide £1 billion in 2020 to 2021 to fund the removal and replacement of unsafe non-ACM cladding systems such as high-pressure laminate, wood and other class C/D cladding in both the private and social housing sectors.

This funding is in addition to the £600 million the Government had already made available to ensure the remediation of the highest risk Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding –  the type that was in place on Grenfell Tower. The grant funding will be available to remediate buildings, in both the social and private residential sectors, of 18 metres in height and over, that have such cladding systems. 

As previously communicated to our investors, properties where fire safety issues have been identified as a result of revisions to fire safety regulations due to the Grenfell Tower Fire in June 2017, are as follows:

  • Premier House, Edgware
  • Picture Works, Nottingham
  • Vista Towers, Stevenage
  • The Heights, West Bromwich
  • Fairchild House, Southampton

Due to Covid-19, there will be a pause in works at all blocks and appointment of professionals to assist with works / professional reports due to restrictions around site visits, etc.

Please see below for the latest updates.  The next update will be given on 30 June 2020, unless there is a significant development before then.

Premier House, Edgware
1) 7 June 2018 here
2) 28 June 2018 here
3) 31 July 2018 here
4) 27 September 2018 here
5) 20 December 2018 here
6) 5 April 2019 here
7) 9 May 2019 here
8) 5 July 2019 here
9) 7 October 2019 here
10) 6 January 2020 here
11) 23 January 2020 here
12) 30 March 2020 here

The Picture Works, Nottingham
1) 28 June 2018 here
2) 31 July 2018 here
3) 27 September 2018 here
4) 20 December 2018 here
5) 5 April 2019 here
6) 9 May 2019 here
7) 5 July 2019 here
8) 7 October 2019 here
9) 6 January 2020 here
10) 30 March 2020 here

Vista Tower, Stevenage
1) 13 December 2019 here
2) 30 March 2020 here

The Heights, West Bromwich
1) 7 February 2020 here
2) 30 March 2020 here

Fairchild, Southampton PBSA
1) 21 June 2019 here
2) 7 October 2019 here
3) 6 January 2020 here
4) 30 March 2020 here

Previous update as of 6 January 2020

Following the revisions to fire safety regulations as a result of the tragic Grenfell Tower Fire in June 2017, a full review was undertaken of all properties within our portfolio.  At the time, it was found that Premier House, Edgware had the same cladding installed as that at Grenfell Tower. Updates regarding the fire safety position at Premier House can be found below.

It was also found that Picture Works, Nottingham had inappropriate cladding.  Whilst the cladding does not use ACMs (the type installed at Grenfell Tower), neither the frame nor the insulation are fire rated and there are no requisite barriers.  Updates regarding the fire safety position at Picture Works can be found below.

We have recently been advised by the freeholder’s managing agents at Vista Towers, Stevenage that their surveyor has confirmed that the cladding on the exterior of the property is not ACM cladding, however, the infill panels were found to be a UPVC facing panel backed on to a polystyrene core and timber panel.  This is believed to be combustible. Updates regarding the fire safety position at Vista Towers can be found below.

With regard to the remainder of the portfolio, please see below.

Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) blocks:

We can confirm that all PBSA blocks within the portfolio have regular fire risk assessments undertaken by independent professional fire risk specialists.  All blocks are below the 18 metre (6 storey) threshold requiring cladding to be tested for ACM cladding materials, however, we have undertaken an evaluation of all blocks with cladding regardless of the fact that they do not reach the threshold.  Verney Street – Exeter, Pitt Street Studios – Newcastle and Terence House – Newcastle all have cladding installed on the exterior of the building, however, we have confirmation that the materials used are not ACM cladding materials and as the buildings fall below the 18 metre threshold no remediation works are required.

The fire safety concerns and remediation works required at Fairchild House, Southampton have been completed and we are in receipt of a clear fire risk assessment in relation to this property.

Residential Properties:

Whilst no other blocks within the portfolio have ACM cladding installed, Advice Note 14 was published by the Government in December 2018 which provides guidance for building owners with non-ACM materials in their external wall systems, including cladding and insulation.

While not a legal requirement, the note gives strong guidance to owners of buildings above 18m to take “general fire precautions” in their buildings and to make sure that external wall systems are “safe”.

The definition of “safe” in the Advice Note is two-fold. First, all materials must be safely installed and maintained. Second, the external wall systems (including cladding and insulation) must contain materials that are of limited combustibility or be a system that has achieved the Building Research Establishment’s BR 135 classification.

To achieve this classification, systems will need to go through a BS 8414 test, something that very few materials being used have gone through.

This means if the materials on an owner’s building are combustible and have not passed these specific tests, that property would be contravening the Advice Note and in need of remediation.

The Advice Note also requires the building owner, or responsible person, to have an up-to-date fire risk assessment for their building.

As a result of Advice Note 14, managing agents for each of our blocks are undertaking further reviews of fire safety. 

To go back to the quarterly close period update click here.

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