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Building and fire safety glossary

Important building and fire safety terms and their definitions
You will often hear the following terms when discussing fire safety:

ACM

ACM, or Aluminium Composite Material, is a type of cladding used on buildings and was the type of cladding used on Grenfell Tower.

ACM consists of two thin aluminium sheets surrounding a lightweight core material such as polyethylene or polyurethane.

Since the tragic fire at Grenfell, the Government have said that ACM must be removed from buildings and have provided funding for this to be done.

We have removed the ACM from L&Q buildings.

Advice Note 14

Advice note 14 (AN14) was one of a series of 22 government building safety advice notes issued following the Grenfell tragedy.

It was published in December 2018 and stated that all materials used in the construction of the external walls of high-rise buildings should be of limited combustibility (or have passed certain safety tests) and have been installed and maintained correctly.

In 2019, mortgage lenders and valuers began asking people who applied for mortgages on properties in some apartment blocks to provide independent certification that the building met the requirements of AN14.

These requirements were not in place when the blocks were built, so in most cases, building owners now have to go back and undertake complex intrusive inspections (which involve opening up multiple walls to check the materials they are made of), carry out safety tests, and in many cases complete remedial works before they can prove that a building complies with the note.

In January 2020, AN14 was replaced by the Government’s Advice for Building Owners of Multi-storey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings.

This document is commonly referred to as the ‘Consolidated Advice Note' and replaced the existing 22 advice notes, including AN14 (see also ‘Building safety advice’ and ‘Consolidated Advice Note’ in this guide).

Building safety advice

When we refer to the Government’s current building safety advice or guidelines we are referring to their Advice for Building Owners of Multi-storey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings, also known as the 'Consolidated Advice Note', published on 20 January 2020, and the subsequent Government update on Building Safety issued on 2 April 2020.

Neither of these publications are law, but they reflect the requirements that may become law when the Fire Safety Bill is passed later this year.

Because of the importance of keeping our residents safe, and the need to help leaseholders sell, staircase or remortgage their homes most building owners are acting on these requirements now.

Building Safety Bill

The Building Safety Bill, which seeks to implement the requirements of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Building a Safer Future report will set out the building safety requirements that will be overseen by the new Building Safety Regulator (BSR).

The Bill will include requirements such as the need for building owners to appoint an “accountable person” who will be the named contact for building safety for buildings covered by the Bill.

It will also make it law for building owners to register their buildings with the BSR and submit safety information and resident engagement strategies for these.

It has not yet been confirmed what type of buildings the Building Safety Act will apply to, however it is currently expected to apply to taller buildings only (those over 18 metres in height or more than six storeys).

The Bill is expected to become law by 2022 with its requirements starting to be implemented by early 2023. Find out more about the draft Building Safety Bill.

Building Safety Fund

The Building Safety Fund is a government fund, designed to cover some of the costs of replacing cladding. Building owners, such as L&Q, can apply for this fund.

To date there have been three funds made available by the Government. The first two were for the removal of ACM used on high rise buildings (with the two funds only available to private building owners).

The current fund of £1bn is for the removal of non-ACM cladding from high rise buildings, though the industry believes the cost of the work will far exceed that amount.

The fund will not cover any safety issues other than the replacement of cladding, for example, the incorrect installation of cavity barriers (barriers used to restrict the movement of fire and smoke within a building) and several criteria need to be met for an application to be submitted.

Building safety inspection

A Building safety inspection will result in a fire engineer, or Chartered Building Surveyor’s, report which confirms whether your building meets the new building safety guidelines, or will tell us what works we need to do if it doesn’t.

You may also hear these inspections referred to as ‘consolidated advice note inspections’.

These inspections are different to the EWS1 form, which only exists to provide a fire safety rating for mortgage providers that helps them decide whether to lend or not.

Building Safety Programme

The Building Safety Programme is our plan to inspect L&Q's buildings and make sure that they meet current building safety guidelines.

This programme will involve investigations into the materials used in the construction of our buildings, and the delivery of remedial works where needed to make sure our homes are safe.

Once these are complete, or if no works are needed, an EWS1 form can then be provided.

Building Safety Regulator

The Government has asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to establish a new building safety regulator, following recommendations from the Hackitt Report.

This new, independent, regulator is tasked with overseeing the design ad construction of high-risk buildings.

Along with implementing new regulations, the new regulator will:

  • promote competence amongst industry professionals
  • raise standards in design, construction and building management
  • give advice to local regulators, landlords, building owners and residents

The HSE is working with a number of government bodies, such as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to set up the building safety regulator.

Consolidated Advice Notice

Consolidated Advice Note is another term for the Government’s Advice for Building Owners of Multi-storey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings published on 20 January 2020.

It is also known as the 'Consolidated Advice Note' as it brings together 22 previous advice notes into one document.

EWS1 Form

The EWS1 form was developed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to help prove to mortgage lenders that a property meets the latest building safety guidelines.

The form rates the fire safety of a building based on the likelihood of improvement works being required. Find out more about the EWS1 process.

An EWS1 form is not on its own a guarantee of safety, which is why the Building Safety Programme inspection is also required.

Unfortunately, there is a national shortage of qualified people able to undertake these inspections nationally (this was confirmed by the Government in July 2020).

We are working with our sector partners to lobby government to improve this system.

External Wall System

The external wall system is often referred to as the EWS.

This is the combination of materials used to make up the outer layer of your building. It can include blockwork (bricks), cladding, metal frames (including those that support cladding), render and balconies. 

These materials are what must be inspected to secure an EWS1 form.

Fire Safety Bill

This is a proposal to make changes to existing Fire Safety law, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and to enable the Government to implement other fire safety improvements which will include the recommendations made within the phase one report of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

The changes will also bring the current building safety advice, which are guidelines only, into law.

The Bill applies to any building which houses two or more separate homes and has ‘common parts’, for example, a shared entrance hall, regardless of height.

The Fire Safety Bill will apply to approximately 7,500 L&Q homes.

The Fire Safety Bill is expected to become law before the end of 2020. Find out more about the Fire Safety Bill.

Freeholder

The freeholder is the building owner, who in most cases is responsible for inspecting the building and completing any remedial works to ensure that it meetings building safety guidelines.

For most L&Q Homes the responsible freeholder is L&Q, however in some of our blocks we are only the managing agent or the head leaseholder, and another organisation is the responsible freeholder.

Grenfell Tower Inquiry

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry is different to the Dame Hackitt Review, which looked at the construction industry.

The inquiry, set up formally in August 2017, is looking into the series of events that took place during the fire. It will also look into the series of events that led to the fire.

This includes:

  • the immediate cause or causes of the fire
  • the design and construction of the building, including the refurb
  • the scope of building regulations
  • whether Grenfell Tower complied with the regulations
  • the fire prevention measures
  • the response of the London Fire Brigade
  • the response of central and local government, following the fire

The inquiry regularly hears evidence from a series of expert witnesses and expert reports.

HPL

HPL, or High Pressure Laminate, is another type of cladding used on many buildings.

HPL is only unsafe when used in combination with specific types of insulation, so it does not need to be removed in all cases.

Our inspection programme will prioritise buildings that have significant amounts of HPL cladding.

Intrusive Inspection

An intrusive inspection, usually carried out on the outside of the building. This involves opening various sections of the building to understand the internal make up. 

In the case of our building safety inspections, this can mean removing cladding, removing a section of brickwork or drilling holes into materials to take samples. 

None of this intrusive inspection should interfere with your home, cause structural integrity or increase your building's fire risk.

Leaseholder

A leaseholder is someone who has a lease from the freeholder/head leaseholder, allowing them to occupy the home for a set number of years.

Typically this is for one of multiple properties in a building owned by a freeholder.

In an L&Q building leaseholders may own all or part of their lease (as a shared owner).

Waking Watch

Waking Watch refers to fire marshals who are often put in place to help prevent and detect fires and to raise the alarm to both residents and the Fire and Rescue Services in the event of a fire.

They will then coordinate the evacuation until they hand over to the Fire and Rescue Services.

A Waking Watch consists of regular patrols of a building, throughout the day or night to ensure the safety of residents.

In future, instead of putting a Waking Watch in place, we will  install a new communal fire detection and alarm system instead.

This is more effective than Waking Watch because the system is able to detect the early warning signs of a fire anywhere in the building much earlier than a physical patrol.