The following opinion post is by Co. Mayo-based architect, Mark Stephens MRIAI, who is one of Ireland’s most prolific architectural bloggers. (Link to his Blog:) and a candidate in the forthcoming RIAI Council 2015 elections.
With the announcement last week that the Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly T.D., is proposing to change the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014, has the Government finally seen sense? The Minister stated that the current Regulations are “too onerous” and [he will] “be proposing that there’ll be amendments to the Regulations – particularly in relation to self-build, one-off houses and extensions.” These proposals are to be lauded but can they and will they solve the problem? By simply ‘tweaking’ S.I No.9 of 2014 we are not dealing effectively with the root cause of the problem; that is that self-certification simply does not work and it most definitely does not work in Ireland. There are numerous posts already written on this blog concerning building failures with regards to the Building Regulations that make it abundantly clear that a system other than self-certification is required.
I would like to respectfully outline in this post the actual steps that I believe are now required to get from where we are (S.I No. 9 of 2014) to where we want to get to (an effective Building Control system for Ireland)*:
- An immediate revocation of S.I.9. You cannot fix something that is irrevocably unworkable; the easiest way now is to revoke the legislation and start again (learning from the lessons to date).
- Involve consumer groups in the consultation process for any future Building Regulation Amendments. It is apparent that the existing stakeholders cannot be relied on solely to create the legislation. Consumer groups such as the National Consumer Agency, the Irish Association of Self Builders and dare I say it representatives from the Bregs Blog Forum should also be involved. I do however believe that no further legislation is required as the Building Regulations and Building Control are strong enough in their own right without the need for further legislation; what is required however is stronger management of the Building Control system which I outline below.
- Retain the Building Control Management System (BCMS). Although there are faults with the BCMS, the system does work and something will be needed to submit drawings for the Building Control Departments to check. I suggest that we keep the BCMS as the only thing (more or less) that actually works in SI. 9.
- Increase the fee for lodgements to BCMS. The current fee of €30 for a Commencement Notice is laughable and obviously will not adequately fund an effective Building Control. By increasing the fee to a minimum of €300 and by referring to a previous post on Building Control fees (Link:), we can see that Local Authority Building Control can be self financing under this funding system.
- Have a separate fee structure for Local Authority Building Control Site Inspections. The self-financing system is funded further when the Local Authority site inspections are separated from the lodgement of the drawings and the Commencement Notice. This again is along UK lines where the typical site inspection starts at around €750. For a further explanation on UK Building Control fee structures see this previous post (Link:)
- By implementing the self-financing Building Control System described above we would then require a 100% target for checking of submitted information to BCMS for Building Regulation compliance together with a 100% target for site inspections; both undertaken by Local Authority Building Control staff. This is compared to the 4-15% inspection rate under SI.9.
- It is debatable whether Assigned and Ancillary Certifiers should be retained; by keeping this aspect of the legislation we are setting a theoretical benchmark for increased professionalism but with the disadvantage of reducing consumer choice. We have already seen the fiasco where the highly trained and competent Architectural Technologists were omitted from the ‘Assigned Certifier’ status. My opinion is that anyone who is competent to produce Building Regulation compliant drawings should be allowed to do so and it is the responsibility of the Local Authority to check whether these drawings comply with the Building Regulations.
- A subsequent implementation (at a much later stage when the above steps are fully implemented) for a UK style Independent ‘Approved Inspector’ system in addition to the Local Authority Building Control Inspectors. The ‘Approved Inspector’ system was implemented at a much later stage than Local Authority inspections in the UK; the same should occur in Ireland to allow for teething difficulties.
- The implementation of a Latent Defects Insurance system. The entire concept of a homeowner having to obtain redress over faults in his construction by suing the Assigned Certifier (a lengthy and costly process) would be eliminated if a Latent Defects Insurance system were to be implemented.
- Include a system for retrospective approval of Building Regulation compliance of completed structures. In an ideal world this would not be required but we are living in the real world and as in the UK we need the facility of checking drawings and Building Regulation compliance ‘as built’. It is this aspect that is critically missing from SI.9.
*The above post is a personal view of the author and is the first in a series of posts from contributors on alternative solutions for Building Control in Ireland.
Other posts of interest: