Value-engineering, defensive specifications and BCAR SI.9


In an earlier post “A warning from a concerned Building Control Officer” we noted:

“…Frequently on-site contractors “value engineer” projects- contractors request substitution of more cost-effective alternatives to those specified by designers- “or equal and approved”. Using generic rather than branded products etc. In most cases the performance should be similar.

However, under SI.9 this process is set to change.

All revisions to design or specification, such as changes to branded materials, must be upladed by the design certifier in advance of commencement of that phase of work on-site.

This means for any changes to the specification, say due to value-engineering by a contractor, an E-lodgement of this new specification must be made to the BCMS by the person certifying the design. In a previous post we noted the difficulties the new system poses for public works projects. Quote:

“...while the Design Certificate is required at Commencement Notice stage the Design Certifier’s role does not end there. The Design Certifier is also responsible for completing the submission of ancillary certification at the Completion Certificate stage for elements not designed at Commencement Notice stage. The Design Certifier is also required to liaise with the Assigned Certifier during the course of the building works and prepare any documentation required to record any changes to the works.

The inability of Design Certifiers to upload information to the BCMS system post commencement suggests that original specifications may end up being ‘set in stone’. Many commentators felt that the real hidden costs of SI.9 are in “defensive specifications“, increased specification costs where designers would invariably be more conservative using branded materials and products. Some suggest the additional cost of this more conservative approach to building specification could be in the region of 5% of the construction cost of a project.

The formal procedure involved now in value-engineering suggests specifiers will be reluctant to entertain specification changes post-commencement, particularly where there is a separate appointment of Assigned Certifier to the Design Certifier.

Topics mentioned in above post:

Design Certifier – Can we leave it to the builder to sort out?

Other posts of interest:

RIAI CPD July 2014: Design Certifier in the Design Process- SI.9

Engineers Ireland CPD 10th June

Where is the Design Certifier in BC(A)R SI.9?

MISSING PERSON- the Design Certifier? – click link here

Problems with role of Design Certifier: BC(A)R SI.

4 tips for Design Certifiers…

Law Society : Certifier is single point of responsibility

BC(A)R SI.9- BCMS: “must do better” 

ALERT: Cork CoCo guide to BC(A)R SI.9

2 thoughts on “Value-engineering, defensive specifications and BCAR SI.9

  1. Michael O'Neill


    The whole administration of entirely normal parts of the contract is now hamstrung by notifications of busybodies in the Local Authority.

    I name them “busybodies” because they have no role in Certification and share no responsibility. They are merely added layers of administration designed to trick people into making errors in the execution of the building regulations, any one breach of which attracts penalties under the act.

    We are talking Criminal penalties here – for not advising some busybody of a change in brick because of the discontinuance of a brick type. What about the substitution of a downpipe? A client choice of an alternative light switch? Or a bathroom fitting? (hardly unheard of!)

    The Building Industry is going anal-retentive in a display of illogical, arbitrary, unnecessary and unworkable regulation that confers no benefit on the consumer.

    Remember those words – illogical: arbitrary: unworkable: unnecessary – they will need to be in your hardship plea for clemency before the Court.

    And you better file this one away too: the law does not concern itself with trifles.

    Except where strict liability arises!

    Can you imagine the litigious mire we will have to wade through now to ensure acceptability of a cert? Every decision on site will need to be scrutinized by a legal eagle. And they are always fast workers and are at the back and call of architects, aren’t they? I give it six months before the building industry in Ireland is either riddled with works and practices that are non-compliant or else grinds to a halt.

    = = = = =

    But as we already know, the building regulations, particularly Part L, are already poorly framed with scheduled details on the DOE website which look like they were done by people with a limited knowledge of building physics.

    The effects of cold bridging in three dimensions? Not on the radar.

    The possibility of MVHR systems transporting carbon monoxide or cold smoke fumes and gases around a house? Perish the thought.

    The idea that ventilation penetrations downstairs breach the 30 min FR required between active and the upstairs sleeping occupancy? Not in their darkest nightmares.

    And Designers are supposed to *follow* this window dressing masquerading as prima facie compliance with the Building Regulations?

    Good luck with that.

    = = = = =

    As always, when you are allocating responsibility for a grievous institutional error, you ask the question – who benefits?

    Not the designers.

    Not the certifiers.

    Not the public.

    Big Builders? Yep – they now only have to follow the documents. They are absolved from “building in compliance.”

    But . . . wait a minute! Weren’t the most egregious building failures based on the Builders not building in Compliance? Why, yes, they were! How did this legislation happen then?

    It happened through lobbying, corruption and stupidity, like these things always do.

    = = = = =

    Hogan had ONE JOB TO DO. Make sure that buildings are built properly.

    And he removed the one legal obligation that meant the beast that is the Building Industry was kept under control by the Courts – the obligation to BUILD in compliance!

    Imagine the Priory Hall case under the current regulations! The criminal builder walks away, the Certifiers get hung out to dry!

    What gross incompetence by a Minister.


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