The following personal opinion piece (letter) to Mick Wallace TD from Eoin O’Cofaigh, past president of the representative body for architects (RIAI), was submitted to us here on 26th May 2014. This submission is in response to a request by Mr Wallace for submissions in advance on a Dáil Debate on Architectural Technologists and BC(A)R SI.9 on 27th May 2014.
Mr. Mick Wallace TD
Architectural technologists and the 2014 Building Control (Amendment) Regulations
Dear Deputy Wallace,
1. Thank you for taking up this scandal
I commend your courage in taking up the fight on behalf of hundreds of architectural technologists whose livelihoods have been taken away by S.I. 80 of 2013, the 2013 Building Control (Amendment) Regulations of May 2013 as confirmed by S.I. 9 of 2014, and which came into law on 1 March.
Along with numerous other TD’s and Senators your determination to confront the Government on this is admirable.
I am an architect – not a technologist – President of the RIAI in 1998-1999. You may have seen my name over the past 2 years since I started speaking out against these regulations, then in draft, in May 2012. (The “sheep stealers letter”…)
I have no right or wish to deflect your focus from people whose livelihoods are 90% removed by a Minister’s pen through not allowing them act as Assigned Certifier. This is the worst consequence of those regulations. I understand you had hundreds of representations on this issue in recent days. This will confirm you in its seriousness.
At the same time, I beg to point out that destruction of the livelihoods of hundreds of citizens is just one of the consequences of S.I. 9. I offer you the following list.
2. Some consequences of BC(A)R 2014 – S.I. 9 of 2014
These regulations were made after Priory Hall and pyrites. There were no problems outside the spec residential sector. But the regulations impact on almost every building project of any size at all in Ireland. They have the following consequences.
- Architectural technologists can no longer earn a livelihood by not including them on the list of so-called “Assigned Certifiers”. Result: immediate loss of perhaps 90% of income from hundreds of self-employed technologists.
- Removal (despite Ministerial assertions to the contrary) of the ability of “self-builders” to oversee the building of their own homes, now obliged to hire building companies. As confirmed by the Conveyancing Committee of the Law Society of Ireland. Result: €20k extra average cost to each family building their own home. In 2013, 60% of all dwellings built were “self-builders”.
- Increased hurdles to completion in an uncompetitive construction regulatory system (World Bank: Ireland is 119th out of 153!). Confirmed by National Competitiveness Council. Representations made to Minister before 1 March were ignored. Result: Tougher competition for inward FDI projects for IDA. Ongoing loss of new jobs.
- Minimum three weeks validation period for Certificates of Completion. Tiny “weekend fit-out jobs” in e.g. shopping centres must remain unopened and unoccupied for weeks. Result: abandonment of these projects.
- Cost of assigned certifier varies from €2000 on the tiniest job upwards. Result: unnecessary cost on SMEs who never asked for these regulations. Mark Fielding, ISME CEO will confirm this.
- Need to “Certify compliance” results in defensive design. If it’s not in the book (the TGD) it won’t be certified. The AC cannot certify leading edge energy-saving design. Ask the specialist Energy Consultants. Result: Stop to innovation. Madness, where the EU Commission is pushing towards zero-carbon building by 2020.
- Since 1 March 2014 there are 25 steps for statutory compliance (Planning, building regs; health and safety; DEAP calculations etc.) on a 500 square foot house extension. I attach the list. Result: Householders are giving up.
- When the building control authority requires the Assigned Certifier to submit more details before allowing the building to be used, and the certifier cannot get the papers because the builder can’t or won’t hand them over, the Certifier faces jail. Result: Hundreds of architects refusing jobs or quoting exorbitant fees for the liability.
- Nobody knows better than yourself that one can’t certify anything about a building. You can give a conscientious and truthful and carefully formed opinion. The result of requiring Certificates is more legal actions and richer lawyers. Why in 2012 I likened this law to what the British did in 1750 when they hung hungry children for stealing sheep has now become clear. Certifiers, taking the responsibility because they see no other way to earn a living, will be jailed for not providing the certificates and papers which other people will not give them.
- Finally, the regulations are a failure. My colleagues already report “cuter developers” employing registered building surveyors as in-house Assigned Certifier. The regulations permit this self-certification. Result:- Not only the consequences listed above, the regulations will also fail in preventing another Priory Hall.
3. So what should happen
- To “allow architectural technologists act as Assigned Certifier” fixes problem 1. However, all 9 of these problems need solving.
- SI9 should be scrapped and a proper system of independent inspections brought in immediately. I attach a paper which my colleague Michael Collins and I wrote on this late last year. That paper is referred to on the airwaves fairly often these days.
- The register of independent inspectors must include experienced architectural technologists. The RIAI signed up to this last March.
- The Minister promised a review of the regulations. The sooner it happens, the better.
If it is of any use, I am willing to attend at Leinster House any time to brief you and your colleagues on this issue.
Very sincerely yours
Eoin O Cofaigh
President, RIAI 1998-1999; President, Architects’ Council of Europe, 2000; Honorary member: American Institute of Architects, Bund Deutscher Baumeisterer, Bund Deutscher Architekten, Union of Architects of Russia, etc., Architect in private practice in Dublin
I attach a PDF of some attachments referred to:
Other posts of interest:
Collins & O Cofaigh- A BETTER way: BC(A)R SI.9 Solutions – click link here
Architectural Technologist’s personal letter to TD – click link here
An Architectural Technologist Dáil letter – click link here
Architectural Technologists’ Dáil QUESTIONS – click link here
Dáil Debate 27th May on Architectural Technologists: help needed! – click link here
An Architectural Technologist’s 6 questions to employer – click link here
Architectural Technologists and BC(A)R SI.9: CIAT – click link here
Architectural Technologist: Minister “disrespectful and misleading” in Seanad – click link Blog
Eoin O Cofaigh: The architectural technologist and BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here
Opinion piece: Architectural Technologists and the register: BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here