Cladding


Since 2017, the government has published a series of fire safety advice notes for owners and managers of tall buildings. In January 2020, these were brought together in a single document that relates to all residential blocks with cladding, regardless of their height.

In response, we have introduced a programme to test the external wall systems – including cladding, insulation and fire-stopping  - across our buildings. We own hundreds of buildings, over 60 of which are over 18 metres and have some form of cladding (out of a government estimated figure of 1,700 in the UK) and therefore need to prioritise testing. We do this based on building height and type of external wall covering.

Cladding testing

When will my building be tested?

We have been reviewing all documentation relating to the construction of our buildings to help us decide on the order they should be tested. The programme prioritises buildings according to height and type of cladding.

So far, we have completed 52 intrusive surveys, with another eight reports due back before the end of the year. Forty more are expected to be with us by the end of March 2021.

We will be in touch before testing starts on your building. Unfortunately, we can’t provide a precise timetable due to the shortage of suitably-qualified independent fire safety consultants to carry out the testing and the huge demand for their services from the owners of thousands of buildings across the UK.

What sort of testing will take place?

The independent fire safety consultants will carry out complex and intrusive surveys that involve removing a panel from the building’s external wall system for close examination and, if required, thorough testing. They identify all materials used and whether they’ve been installed according to manufacturer recommendations.

The test which shows how a building’s external wall system reacts to fire is known as a BS8414 test. Where necessary, we will arrange for a BS8414 test to be carried out in an accredited test centre.

When can I see the results of all the testing?

Once the specialists have completed the survey, they produce a report. This takes an average of three to four months. If a BS8414 fire safety test is needed, it may take longer. When we receive the report, we may have to refer back to the original builders, designers and product manufacturers to fully understand the findings. We will then provide you with a summary of the report.

What if my building doesn’t comply with the new guidance?

The report will outline what work is necessary to make the building compliant. We are putting together a programme of remediation works across our buildings, prioritised according to risk. We will let you know when we have more details about your block.

Am I safe in the meantime?

The safety of our residents remains our top priority and we have robust measures in place to ensure your safety. We also carry out regular fire risk assessments to highlight any work that might be required, as well as routine visual checks of community areas to ensure there are no fire hazards.

We also maintain your fire safety systems such as Automatic Opening Vent (AOV) smoke control systems, emergency lighting, dry and wet riser sprinkler systems etc. in line with regulations.

Will the fire strategy change if my building doesn’t comply with the guidance?

Every building has its own fire strategy, which includes the evacuation plan (which can be to evacuate or to stay put) in the event of a fire. This is reviewed after every survey and we will write to residents if any changes are necessary. Where changes are needed, we may install a waking watch or a fire alarm system until the work is carried out.

What is a waking watch and what does a fire alarm system do?

Waking watches are people we employ to patrol a building around the clock to look out for smoke and fire. They will alert residents to any potential dangers with an alarm or by knocking on doors. If a fire alarm system is later installed, the waking watch may be scaled back or removed.

Fitted in individual properties and communal areas, fire alarms detect heat and sound an alarm if the temperature rises above a certain level.

What if I need help to evacuate the building?

If your building has a waking watch and you or anyone in your household would need help to get out of the building in an emergency, please complete this online form. The information will be shared with the London Fire Brigade.

This is likely to apply to people with mobility issues, visual or hearing impairments, young children or elderly relatives.

Does this mean my building wasn't safe to start with?

No, it doesn't - all our buildings complied with relevant building regulations when they were constructed. However, the latest government advice is retrospective, which means it applies to existing buildings as well as new ones.

I live at Suttons Wharf South. When will the intrusive surveys start?

The intrusive survey took place on 25 and 26 June 2020. Once we get the results back, we will write to residents with a summary of the results. This may take up to three months to complete

More information

If you're a leaseholder or shared owner and you're considering re-mortgaging, selling or buying more shares in your home, please read this important information.

If you have questions regarding the safety of your building, please email ask@onehousing.co.uk.