Fire Safety Works Alexander House

ALEXANDER HOUSE FIRE SAFETY WORKS UPDATE

28 June 2022

As our customers will know, we are currently carrying out extensive fire safety and renovation work on our homes in Aldershot, Alexander House and Stafford House.

The work has been planned for some time, but only started on site earlier this year, due to a delay in appointing a suitable contractor. Everything is going well. 

Our contractor, Cornerstone, https://www.cornerstonelimited.co.uk/ specialise in insulation works, particularly external wall insulation. One of the company's values is being accountable to customers. They firmly believe that engaging with residents is key and they have appointed an RLO, (resident liaison officer), who is an Accent resident, to act as that first point of contact on the ground. The RLO will ensure any queries and concerns are resolved and that customers are kept fully up to date with what is going on. 

We will confirm the details of that appointment but, in the meantime, if you need to get in touch with the RLO for any reason, please email us first, Aldershotfiresafety@accentgroup.org.

Cornerstone are very keen to work on this project. They have a great track record in delivering this type of work which they will put to good use. They also fully understand that there can be no compromise in customer safety or quality on a project of this scale and importance.

What the work Involves

At Alexander House, the work is expected to take between 12 and 18 months. It will involve removing the current EPS insulation system and fitting new ‘mineral wool’ insulation. New windows will also be fitted. 

We are investing over £3 million on the improvements to both blocks.

If you have any questions about the work, please email Aldershotfiresafety@accentgroup.org and we will get right back to you. Thank you for your patience and understanding while the work continues.

ALEXANDER HOUSE FIRE SAFETY WORKS UPDATE

28 March 2022

We are delighted to announce that we have now formally appointed Cornerstone to carry out the fire safety work at Alexander House.

Cornerstone specialise in insulation works, particularly external wall insulation. They are based in Norfolk, but work in a number of areas, including Cambridge, Bedfordshire and Suffolk, and they have worked with a number of housing associations, including Flagship, Freebridge and United Living. They can now add Accent to that list. Cornerstone are a family run business, formed in 2004, and employing around 25 people. They were named Energy Efficiency Installer of the Year in 2019.

What the work will Involve?

At Alexander House, the work is expected to take between 12 and 18 months. It will involve removing the current EPS insulation system and fitting new ‘mineral wool’ insulation. New windows will also be fitted.

The mineral wool is safer than the current EPS system. Mineral wool also insulates against sound, so there might also be quieter times to come for our residents. The colours of grey, darker grey and white will give a more aesthetically pleasing finish.

Your Questions and Answers

Cornerstone have replied to your questions.  

What are the current timescales for the works?
For Alexander House, 12-18 months, although this is subject to change. Cornerstone think the work may be completed sooner, but they will not compromise the quality of the work or customer safety. 

What is the situation with parking at the blocks whilst work is ongoing?
We have secured alternate parking in the multi storey car park in the town centre for residents as the car parks at Alexander (and Stafford) need to close for access and safety reasons.  A bike storage pen will be provided at Alexander House, near the current bike store.

Is the building still insured whilst the works are ongoing?
Yes.

Will there be plastic sheeting on the scaffolding for Alexander House?
Netting will be fixed around the scaffolding. It will mean that some natural light is blocked out.

What is the official start date?
From today (week commencing 28 March). As long as there are no delays, scaffolding will start to go up from 4 April. Putting up the scaffolding will take 8 – 12 weeks.

Cornerstone are very keen to work on this project. They have a great track record in delivering this type of work which they will put to good use. They also fully understand that there can be no compromise in customer safety or quality on a project of this scale and importance.

Whilst work is underway, Cornerstone will be your main point of contact. A resident liaison officer will be appointed to make sure things go as smoothly as possible and keep up a good flow of conversation between residents, Accent and Cornerstone. Details of who to contact will be available shortly.

Thank you for your continuing patience.  


Cornerstone Presentation

A copy of the presentation from our appointed contractors Cornerstone (East Anglia), from our meet and greet event on 10 March 2022


UPDATE: 14 February 2022

We have now appointed a contractor to carry out the fire safety works. They are Cornerstone (East Anglia Ltd). They are fully qualified for this type of work. You can find out more details about Cornerstone here, https://www.cornerstonelimited.co.uk/

At present, we are going through all the details for the work and finalising the contract. Subject to everything going to plan, we expect Cornerstone to start work during the week beginning 4 April 2022. Cornerstone have said they expect to complete the work on both blocks in 12 to 18 months.

As part of Cornerstone's experience in carrying out this type of work, they are appointing a resident liaison officer who can be there to support customers, and they are currently looking for someone to fill that role. The role will involve liaising with everyone living in the blocks to make sure everyone is supported through every stage of the work.

The hope is to appoint someone based locally to Aldershot and, as one of our residents, you are very welcome to apply. You will need to have experience in resident liaison, or other customer service work. You will also need good administrative and Microsoft Office skills. To apply, visit https://uk.indeed.com/jobs?q=resident%20liaison%20officer&l=aldershot&vjk=1c30567d197a21c4

Cornerstone are hoping to appoint someone as soon as possible, so please apply quickly if you are interested. The post is being advertised nationally, not just in Accent. If you think you’d like to apply, but you are not sure if you have the skills, please get in touch with Cornerstone directly. 

Cornerstone will then be in regular contact with everyone as work begins and progresses. With their experience in managing such projects and, because they will be present on site to answer any questions you might have, they will be your main contact while work is happening.

Before work starts, if you would like to speak to us about the work, please get in touch on 0345 678 0555 or email us at Aldershotfiresafety@accentgroup.org

If you are a leaseholder who lets out your flat privately, please advise your tenants of this update.


ALEXANDER HOUSE FIRE SAFETY WORKS

UPDATE: 26 NOVEMBER 2021

Questions and answers following our residents meeting on 10 November 2021.

It took longer than expected to prepare the legal contract and specification of works before we could go out to tender in the summer. This was partly due to changes in the required works due to Government guidance, but also so we could make changes to the specification to try and improve the process by learning from the difficulties other housing associations were reporting when carrying out similar projects elsewhere.

Unfortunately, when we then went out to tender, we only received one application, and we did not feel we could proceed with that contractor. There is a lot of this type of work out there at the moment, and a high demand for contractors, as well as challenges with labour and materials.

We are in direct discussions with a couple of contractors interested in the work and we have asked them to submit a price and a programme of work by the end of the year. We have said that we would like them to start on site by April 2022, but we will not be able to confirm this until we have considered their proposal and appointed one of them. We will keep you updated.

There will be netting around the scaffolding for safety, but it will not be wrapped in plastic sheeting. This may mean a bit less natural daylight can circulate, but there shouldn’t be much difference.

We have looked at a number of options in the local area. We are currently talking to Aldershot Football Club about parking spaces there.

However, the club’s parking area may be converted, so we might not be able to make use of the parking spaces. If we can’t, we will explore other options, including the suggested Casino Close.

Yes, the building is still insured. We have been keeping the insurance company updated on progress with the project. Building insurance remains in place, and shared owners are able to make claims as and when required, as normal.

We will be providing a further update in the new year, after the current discussions with possible contractors are completed.


Leaseholder / Shared Ownership Questions

As this is an unprecedented situation outside of Accent’s control, which is affecting many thousands of homeowners and housing associations across the UK, we are not currently offering buy backs. We are keeping this under review, and if the decision changes, we will let you know.

We deem the properties to be valuable assets and as such, this will be reflected in any staircasing applications. If you would like more information on staircasing, colleagues in the asset sales team can help. However, if you need funding from a mortgage company to staircase, we would recommend that you consider this after the work has been completed and the EWS1 form has been issued.

Our current position is that we will arrange for this to be completed after the works are done. We are keeping this under review and taking advice from our specialist surveyors, Podium.

Yes, we believe there is high demand for private rented properties at the moment. One resident commented that they had not had any problems finding tenants to sub- let to. We would encourage you to be open and transparent with your tenants about the fire safety work planned, and to pass on any updates we provide to you.


UPDATE: 2 NOVEMBER 2021

Unfortunately, to date, we have not been able to appoint a contractor to carry out the required work to remove the cladding and fit new windows, which means we cannot provide a start date for when work can begin.

We can understand how disappointing and frustrating this may be for residents. 

Contract law and legislation requires us to use a formal tender process to appoint a suitable contractor to carry out such major work, which has taken time. Unfortunately, when we sought contractors to tender for the work, we only received one application at the end of the tender process. For a number of reasons, we did not feel we could offer this contractor the work.

Work of this nature is presently in very high demand, and there are many other housing associations and local authorities which also need to carry out this type of work. This high demand is resulting in a shortage of appropriate contractors. We consider this work to be both necessary and urgent but, due to the high demand for contractors, any that are suitably qualified and experienced are already working on major projects that could take considerable time to complete. If we combine this with the increasing price of materials and shortage of supplies, we find ourselves in the almost unprecedented situation of not being able to secure a suitable contractor to carry out the work. 

Despite the position we are in with the tender process, we are looking at what else we can do, within legal and legislative guidelines, to secure a contractor. We are presently in early discussions with two contractors who are currently reviewing the work needed, and we are working on assessments to ensure they are fully capable and experienced enough to carry it out. We will keep you updated on the progress.

Due to these exceptional circumstances, we are willing to discuss the possibility of allowing shared owners to sublet their home if they wish to sell while the work is being arranged and completed. If you are a shared owner, and sub-letting would help you, please contact your home ownership specialist, Chris Harrison on 0345 678 0555, email. chris.harrison@accentgroup.org. If you are a leaseholder, you are entitled to sublet your home as part of your lease, but please inform us if you intend to do that, it is a requirement of your lease.   

We can understand residents will have concerns and questions, so we have arranged a Zoom meeting on Wednesday, 10 November 2021 from 5pm with a number of senior Accent managers present. Anyone who can’t attend the meeting can email us at Aldershotfiresafety@AccentGroup.org or contact us on 0345 678 555. 

Our residents' safety remains our top priority and, until such a time we can confirm when work will start, we will keep everyone updated via email, letter and on this webpage. 

If you are a leaseholder who lets out your flat privately, please advise your tenants of this update.


UPDATE: 5 July 2021

Section 20 Consultation: further to recent legal notice sent to residents for in the re-procurement of our planned maintenance contracts for windows and doors and roofs, we can advise that this was sent out as a result of an administrative error.  Please ignore this notice, as it is not relevant for Alexander House. We apologise for any confusion or distress this may have caused.

We can confirm that residents will not be recharged for the replacement of the external windows as part of the fire safety works we will be carrying out. 


UPDATE: 22 June 2021

We can now confirm that the specification for the works has now been finalised, and we are now in a position to go out to tender, which is good news. Unfortunately, the actual process of appointing a contractor will take further time to complete and, it is with apologies, that we have to say we do not expect the work to begin until at least the autumn.

Although we are hopeful that we will be in a position to start work in the autumn, we need to point out that this is not only subject to us being able to appoint a suitable contractor, it is also subject to appointing one who can commit to starting the work as soon as we want them to. We will, of course, do our best to appoint a contractor who can start as soon as possible, but there are legal and legislative processes we have to follow, to ensure we appoint the right contractor with the experience of undertaking this type of specialist fire safety work. We are also seeing that contractors are in very high demand.

We appreciate this is probably not what you expected, or wanted, to hear and we can only try to reassure you that we are doing our very best to get this important fire safety work arranged.  

We would like to further reassure you that your safety remains our number one priority and, until such a time when we can confirm an actual date for the work to start, we will keep in contact with you and provide any updates we can, via email and here. We are also keeping in touch with Rushmoor Council and local councillors, as we know some residents are contacting them, and we want to be able to reassure them that we are working to appoint the right contractor and start the work as soon as possible.

If you are a leaseholder who lets out your flat privately, please advise your tenants of this update.


UPDATE: 12 April 2021

We are continuing to work on finalising the legal contract and specification of work, before going out to tender. Unfortunately, the legal aspects are taking longer than first thought, and we would like to apologise for this, but it is important that we get these right before we tender the works and appoint a contractor. We hope to be able to go out to tender to appoint a contractor shortly, and to start on site in July, but this timetable may be subject to change. 

Our priority in this process continues to be your safety.


UPDATE: 17 February 2021

Following the residents' meeting in November 2020, we have taken on board the concerns raised by homeowners about the cost of replacing the windows. Because of the extensive remedial works being carried out at Alexander House, the cost of which we have already agreed to meet, we have decided not to recharge homeowners for the window replacements. Please get in touch if you have any questions about this.


UPDATE: 25 January 2021

We have received confirmation from Rushmoor Borough Council that they have approved the planning application for the fire safety works at Alexander House. This is to replace the rendering on the building, and replace the windows with grey uPVC windows. The link below is to the Council’s planning portal and includes more details about the decision.

Visit Planning Portal


We are finalising the specification of work and contract documents, and the next stage is to tender the works and appoint a contractor, which will be in the next couple of months.


UPDATE: 4 November 2020

We have been working hard to ensure the fire safety of our high rise buildings our residents live in meets the latest legislation and guidance, following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

We have taken positive steps at each stage and, following investigations into the external cladding at Alexander House, a number of shortfalls have been identified. We are now liaising with Rushmoor Borough Council, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and other key safety stakeholders in implementing all the interim recommendations.

Our longer term view is that the external cladding will need to be replaced. Specifications have been prepared to ensure our buildings meet the latest Building Regulations Approved Documents.

This page has been created as a source of information to keep you updated with the remedial works project.

CURRENT FIRE SAFETY POLICY

If there ever is a fire at Alexander House, the evacuation process, (which is set by Hampshire Fire Service), is what is known as a single stage evacuation.

This means you should leave your home as soon as the fire alarm sounds. Please do not stop to collect any of your belongings, just leave as safely and as quickly as possible.

Follow the green exit signs in the building and always use the stairs, never the lifts. Once you get outside, stay a safe distance away from the building and don’t go back inside until you are told it is safe to do so by a member of the fire crew or a person of authority.

As your landlord, we have certain legal obligations when it comes to fire safety, and protecting our homes and our residents. These include:

  • Carrying out fire risk assessments on your home and in communal areas to make sure escape routes are kept clear.
  • Making sure your front door meets with current fire safety standards.
  • Fitting special heat and smoke detectors. (If the detectors are linked to a fire panel, they will be checked by our contractors every year).
  • Weekly tests of fire alarms in buildings that have a fire panel.
  • Checking fire safety signage displayed around your building is up to date.

What can you do?

You can help us to help you keep safe by:

  • Letting us in if we need to carry out an inspection of your home.
  • Keeping corridors and stairways clear.
  • If you have a doormat, making sure it is thin rubber with non-slip backing.
  • Keeping meter cupboard doors in communal hallways locked.
  • Testing your smoke detector weekly and keep it working properly by keeping it clean.

You can also help us by letting us know if there is anything we can do to help you stay safe from fire in your home. For example, is there any equipment we could provide, or would you feel safer if you had your own evacuation plan? Would you like us to put you in touch with Hampshire Fire Service to arrange a home safety check? These are just some of the things we can help with. Your local fire service is Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service:

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service
Headquarters
Leigh Road
Eastleigh
Hampshire
SO50 9SJ

Tel: 023 8064 4000
Web: hantsfire.gov.uk

 


Alexander House - Street View

Alexander House, Fire Safety Meeting

Robert Mills, Director of Customer Experience and Holly Sheppard, Contracts Manager met with residents via a Zoom meeting to provide an update on the latest Fire Safety work at Alexandra House.

 

(Published: 25 November 2020)


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. Does Alexander House have any ACM (aluminium composite material) panels on the building?

No, but Alexander House has an External Wall Insulation (EWI) system, which was retrofitted onto the original construction at the time conversion around the year 2000. The EWI system is wrapped around the whole building and is the light blue coloured material.


2. What type of EWI system does Alexander House have?

Alexander House has an EWI system and the manufacturer is Relius. The materials used in the construction are as follows:

  1. Render top-coat (3mm).
  2. Plastic reinforcement mesh.
  3. Insulation 110mm EPS (Expanded Polystyrene).
  4. Adhesive.
  5. Cement sheathing board.

3. Has the EWI system been independently inspected?

Yes, it has been independently inspected. The findings have been reported to us.

4. Has Accent received an independent report?

Yes. We are still reviewing the report and identifying how to apply the recommendations based on further information we need from Building Control and the independent fire safety expert.

5. How long have you had the report?

We received the finalised report on Tuesday 10 March 2020.

6. What recommendations does the report make?

  1. To review the top floor flats to determine the materials used in their construction.
  2. To consider the replacement of the EWI system.

7. How long will the work to meet the recommendations take to complete?

There are a number of factors that need to be considered before a clear timeline can be agreed. We have set up a dedicated project team to work with our customers and external experts including Rushmoor Council and the independent fire safety experts. This will ensure we understand the impact and cost of the work that needs to be done.
We will be talking to you as soon as we know more about what work we will need to do, and how long it is likely to take.

8. You wrote to us in 2017 advising of an independent report and that the building was safe. What has changed and what is different now?

In 2017, a fire specialist inspected the building and made a number of recommendations. These resulted in remedial work that we did immediately. The independent expert reported to us that the fire integrity of the building was robust and safe. They also reported that no further action was required over and above the remedial works we carried out.
However, since the Grenfell Fire Tragedy, the Ministry of Housing, Culture and Local Government’s (MHCLG’s) guidance has changed.

Advice Note 14 was introduced by the Government. It provided a ‘decision tree’ (a tree like model of decisions and their possible consequences) relating to the suitability of external wall materials of residential buildings over 18 metres (6 storeys) high. We have therefore followed the guidance and reviewed and analysed the EWI system installed. This has led to some concerns over the suitability of the EWI system and us now considering its replacement.

9. What does this mean for Alexander House customers?

This now means that due to current guidance, we will be working with Rushmoor Council and independent fire safety experts, to assess how we can safely and practically progress the recommendations that have been made for the EWI system and the four top floor flats.

10. Who is going to pay for any works required?

We are currently reviewing all funding options, including the recent budget pledge by the Government to help landlords pay for external wall material removal.

We can assure you that we will bear the cost of the work required. No costs will be passed on to customers.

1. Is Alexander House safe?

Yes, we believe Alexander House is safe. We would not allow customers to stay in any unsafe home or building.

2. Am I safe in my home?

How safe you are in your own home very much relies on you making sure your home complies with standard fire safety regulations. We would be more than happy to inspect your home and offer fire safety advice.

3. What assurance can you offer me that I am safe?

To be safe in your own home please check you have the following:

  1. A working smoke/heat detector alarm in your kitchen and hall.
  2. A half hour fire door, with strips and seals to the entrance of your home protecting you from a communal fire.
  3. Internal walls which provide a minimum 30 minute fire protection between properties.
  4. A working communal fire alarm and detection system that is independently checked monthly.

If any of these are not in place, please contact us.

In addition:

  • Our fire safety assessor carries out a weekly inspection of the building and reports any remedial works to be completed.
  • Hampshire Fire Brigade undertake a joint annual inspection of the building. There are no current concerns.


4. Do I stay put or evacuate if the smoke/heat alarm sounds?

We have taken advice from Hampshire Fire Brigade on what our customers should do in the unlikely event of a fire in the building. Their recommendation is that if the smoke/heat alarm sounds within your flat, you should evacuate. If you hear another alarm from another property, you should stay in your home unless advised by the fire brigade.

5. I am worried about fire safety, do I have to move out?

No. Based on the most recent fire risk assessments, carried out in January 2020, and taking into account the fire prevention measures in place, the risk of a fire in the building is low.

6. Are the fire brigade aware of Alexander House and the EWI?

Yes. Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service are aware and we are working together to make sure customers are safe.

7. What extra fire safety measures are Accent putting in place until the remediation works are complete?

We have introduced weekly inspections of the building. There is also a dedicated project team, which includes independent fire safety experts, Rushmoor Council and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, which regularly reviews the fire safety risk of the building.

8. Do you undertake Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs)?

Yes, we undertake annual fire risk assessments by internal fire safety assessors and ensure any remediation works raised as part of the FRA process are carried out.

9. Can we see a copy of the FRAs?

Yes. We are looking at how we can best share this information with you. Currently, our FRAs are stored in an internal computer system and there isn’t a straight-forward way to share the detail in a format we can send to customers.

10. How do we report any potential fire risks or concerns we have?

It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure we are all safe. If you have any concerns, or see people undertaking work you think we might not know about, (e.g. Sky installation), please contact us on 0345 678 0555 or e-mail: Aldershotfiresafety@accentgroup.org

1. Will this have any impact on the value of my property?

It is difficult to say at this time. Any potential purchasers may not be able to obtain a mortgage, due to mortgage lenders requiring confirmation of a building’s safety. A building’s safety, for conveyancing purposes, is established through the External Wall System (EWS) process. This has been agreed by the RICS and banks and building societies. Until the works are completed, the fire expert completing the EWS will not be in a position to sign off the EWS form. Further details can be found at www.lease-advice.org

2. What happens if I am currently trying to sell my property?

Unfortunately, at the moment, we don’t think you will be able to sell your property on the open market. However, once the works are complete, and the buildings are compliant, the EWS form can be signed off, and you should be able to sell your property.

3. Will Accent buy my property?

Unfortunately, no, we cannot buy back your property, However, once the remedial work has been completed, we will be able to advise you on how to sell your property on the open market.

4. I have a private tenant, what will you do to help me and them?

If you sub-let your property, we expect that you have landlord insurance in place that would cover such eventualities. If you live in one of the four top floor flats, we do need to talk to you about what happens next for your tenant, and we will be in touch with you directly.

1. Who do we speak to if we have further queries or questions?

If you have any further questions, please email your enquiry into the dedicated email address we have set up, Aldershotfiresafety@accentgroup.org.We will ensure the right member of the project team responds or speaks to you as appropriate, within one working day.

2. How will you keep us informed?

We will be in touch with you regularly to keep you informed of progress or important changes. We are also happy to have face to face conversations and will arrange a customer meeting before the work starts on site.

Because of the current Coronavirus outbreak, we will need to take account of current Government advice about the holding of face to face meetings, but do let us know how you would prefer us to keep you informed.

3. What else do Accent need to do to assess the building?

We are not aware of anything else required to assess the building. However, as Government guidance and best practice is reviewed, we will continue to monitor the fire safety of Alexander House, and further investigation works may be required.


Useful Documents

Alexander House FAQs - January 2020

As a resident of Alexander House, your safety is our top priority, here's a list of FAQs relating to fire safety at Alexander House.

Alexander House fire safety meeting - 25 Nov 2020

Presentation slides from the meeting held with residents on 24 November 2020


Fire Safety at Alexander House

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