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PAS 9980: Do you need a Fire Risk Assessment of External Walls (FRAEW)?

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In accordance with the Fire Safety Act 2021, any multi-occupancy residential building’s fire risk assessment must comment on the external walls and advise whether a fire risk appraisal of the external walls (FRAEW) is recommended. In a time of austerity and new regulations that have not been budgeted for, this extra outlay is not desirable. But is there any way to avoid it, legally and safely, or is the sometimes-costly external wall appraisal always required? According to façade and internal fire-safety experts FR Consultants Ltd, while the majority of in-scope buildings will always require a PAS 9980 FRAEW, there are a few select situations where they can be omitted.

It is important to understand that a full FRAEW does form a key part of the requirements for the following regulations and processes:

  • structure, external walls and flat entrance doors fall within the scope of the Fire Safety Order, and the Fire Safety Act 2021 requires that these elements be included in all fire risk assessments
  • the golden thread of information, the model of gathering, storing and maintaining the key information of a building’s life cycle under the Building Safety Act 2022
  • as part of the information on the design and materials of the external wall system and level of risk that must be provided to the local fire and rescue service under the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022
  • an EWS1 assessment certificate, also known as the External Wall System Fire Review certificate, is a requirement for any leaseholder buying, selling or remortgaging an apartment in a multistorey, multi-occupied residential building
  • applications for the Building Safety Fund and Cladding Safety Scheme, the multi-billion-pound funds for addressing life-safety fire risks associated with cladding on mid-rise and high-rise residential buildings
  • for insurance purposes, having a FRAEW has proven beneficial in reducing renewal premiums owing to the risk reduction.

In all these situations, there is no question that a FRAEW is required.

The requirement for a FRAEW is determined within the fire risk assessment, which must consider the external walls and any attachments. This includes cladding, balconies and any additional external structures, the purpose being to assess the risk to occupants from a fire spreading over or within the external walls of the building and to decide whether remediation to address the risk is considered necessary on a particular building. In some cases, owing to an isolated location or limited extent of the system, the external walls may not be considered at risk, and therefore a PAS 9980 FRAEW will not be required.