Published by the British Standards Institution in 2022, PAS 9980 is a new code of practice aimed at decreasing the risk of fire spreading through external walls and cladding systems. It is intended to be used by competent fire engineers and other building professionals who carry out fire risk appraisals of cladding on existing blocks of flats, as well as those making decisions that are based upon the results of these appraisals. It will also be useful to landlords, letting agents, right to manage companies, resident management firms and anyone else involved in the day-to-day operation of these buildings.
As the name suggests, PAS9980 is designed to provide a standard methodology that can be applied to all fire risk assessments of cladding on buildings. It is intended to help reduce the number of different assessment methods currently being used, as well as improving the overall quality and consistency of these assessments. It is primarily designed for those who perform fire risk assessments of cladding, but the key outputs will be useful to anyone who makes decisions based on the findings of these assessments.
One of the most important aspects of PAS9980 is that it takes a more holistic approach to fire safety than previous guidance. It considers not only the type of cladding material used, but also the location and construction of the whole building, and whether it is in a combustible or non-combustible frame. This allows a building to be categorised as low, medium or high risk, depending on a combination of factors, including the likelihood of fire spread, secondary fires and tenable escape conditions.
It is also hoped that PAS9980 will reduce the number of EWS1 forms being used, which are requested by mortgage lenders for low- and mid-rise blocks of flats. RICS data suggests that EWS1s are now being used in fewer than 1 in 10 mortgage valuations for these types of properties, and that the PAS9980 guidance should give valuers greater confidence to exercise their professional judgement. In the minority of cases where this is not possible, the government will introduce an indemnity scheme for valuers and assessors to help them provide reassurance and confidence to lenders that their assessments are sound.
The main reason PAS9980 is important is that it will enable a more consistent What is PAS9980 and proportionate approach to assessing fire risk in these buildings, rather than the black-and-white approach previously seen where a high or medium risk rating was immediately followed by remediation. It should also help to alleviate the concerns of landlords, freeholders and managing agents about the cost and impact of implementing such changes. However, it is vital to remember that complying with fire safety procedures is not just about meeting minimum standards, but ensuring that all steps are taken to protect the safety of the residents, without exposing them to unreasonable costs. For this reason, it is essential that all building owners and occupiers are fully aware of the requirements in place and take appropriate action accordingly.