“These houses were rubbish” | Lobbying in the Construction Industry – Part 2

FrankMcDonald

30th March 2015

Frank McDonald at the Banking Inquiry on Wednesday 11th March 2015 on the deferral of energy standards and vested interests (link here):

“Those relationships were very close. The construction industry, in particular, is very well connected, not just with the present Government but also with previous Governments, and very well able to lobby politicians and all the rest of it.

To give an example, there was a case some years ago where the then Government had the option of introducing higher energy performance rating requirements for houses and higher energy performance standards in general. That initiative was deferred, as a result of which approximately a quarter of a million houses were built during the boom period which have the most woeful energy performance and will all now have to be retrofitted. The reason that happened, as an FOI request to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government revealed, was that the building regulations were going to have to be changed. It was going to happen sooner rather than later due to the targets set under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

However, the memo went on to say, “We don’t want to signal this to the outside world just yet because the next leap in building standard insulation will probably involve making it difficult for the hollow block construction used widely in the Dublin area to survive“.

What is that except playing to a vested interest?

So what if there were guys making hollow concrete blocks in Dublin? They can do something else. Why was it regarded as being so important that this particular sector be protected? These guys were building crap houses.  

Let us be clear about that. These houses were rubbish, from an energy performance point of view, and yet the Department of the Environment allowed it to go on and on. It was only in recent years that we finally caught up with the idea that we needed to have higher energy performance in housing, so that people do not have to spend so much money on fuel and all the rest, and we can cut down emissions.” (Mr. Frank McDonald)

It is interesting to read this statement given recent calls by key industry stakeholders to reduce standards further in response to housing supply issues.

There has been widespread concern and criticism of some of vested interests being involved in the negotiations for the new building regulations, SI.9, introduced in March 2014. SI.9 was introduced by the former Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan with little or no consumer input. Following on from a public consultation in 2012 only a small circle of key stakeholders were invited to participate in the formation of SI.9.

Many consumers share this view and perceive that the government has conveyed vested interest groups with a monopoly on various statutory roles within the construction process. Mr McDonald in particular has  been voiceferous in criticism of SI.9, stating there are little or no protections for consumers in the costly regulations (listen to interview Newstalk: 3rd March 2014- BC(A)R SI.9 “is not a consumer protection measure”).

Other posts of interest:

Lobbying in the Construction Industry – Part 1

Legal perspective: consumer benefit? BC(A)R SI.9 | look back 9

Part L- is compliance worth the paper its written on?

€ 5 billion | The extraordinary cost of S.I.9 self-certification by 2020 

Government Reports + Professional Opinion Ignored in SI.9 | look back 5

Summary of Legal Posts- BC(A)R SI.9 

Pyrite legal dispute referred to European Court | Independent

World Bank Report 2015 | UK v Ireland the real cost of “Dealing with construction permits”

World Bank Report 2015 | Ireland’s poor construction regulations are the biggest drag on our ranking | BRegsForum

1 thought on ““These houses were rubbish” | Lobbying in the Construction Industry – Part 2

  1. Michael O'Neill

    As far as I know – and someone please correct me of I’m wrong – using external insulation to achieve high thermal standards is not incompatible with using a hollow block structure. But since Frank McDonald is not an Architect or Technologist or Technician he might not know that.

    The Troubadour of Temple Bar focuses on a minor technical issue, when in fact the problems the construction industry faced were far more systemic than the choice of which block to use.

    There was – and I believe still is – a general lack of competence and training in how to build compliantly amongst the grey heads on Main Contractors Boardrooms.

    There has been a huge transfer of “ownership” of correct detailing from tradesmen to technocrats. Factory standards are necessary on sites to get the correct tolerances to achieve standards required.

    Which main contractor has invested in this? Anyone? And now the liability that they used to have to shoulder has been transferred to the Assigned Certifier.

    That’s going to end well, isn’t it?

    Reply

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