What Building Control could learn from the NCT | Orla Hegarty MRIAI

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27 April 2015

What Building Control could learn from the NCT  | Orla Hegarty MRIAI

Ireland had a problem with safety standards in cars. There were too many older cars, they weren’t being maintained properly. Rural roads and bad weather compounded the problems and “something had to be done“.

In 2000 the National Car Test (NCT) was established and now all cars more than 4 years old are tested every year. I recently visited a test centre: in less than 25 minutes and for the cost of €55. I was back on the road. The testing centre ran like clockwork because the mechanics are trained, the equipment is calibrated and the testing standardised. It works and it’s very efficient. They can fully test a car for €55 without making a loss. All centres work to the same system and the roads are safer as a result.

If the NCT was run on the BCAR (Building Control Amendment Regulations) model, testing would be carried out in every filling station in the country- all of them would have to train staff and buy in equipment. They would have to continually upgrade machinery and keep it operational, devise their own computer record system, bring in an emissions expert, keep oil samples, file forms and issue reports. It wouldn’t cost €55.

Problems might arise when different garages worked to different standards- word would get around about who would turn a blind eye to bald tyres, who didn’t even check the brakes. Inevitably the cheapest garages would attract a lot of business. Despite good intentions there would still be many dangerous vehicles on the roads.

The powers that be might also find it very difficult to keep track of thousands of operators. It might prove impossible to police the system effectively or to tackle the cowboy operators.  Perhaps the diligent operators would be priced out of the market in a race to the bottom.

Some garages might find it impossible to keep up: a staff member who is selling cars, ordering parts and meeting customers might find it very hard to stay on top of a raft of ever changing technical requirements, and also manage the administration, testing and reporting.

Having invested heavily in the new system some operators might then have to stop offering the service altogether, their customers might find they can get a cheaper inspection from a specialist garage who has dedicated staff and equipment.

Customers might see the benefits of dedicated centers of excellence where specially trained staff could do the job better and faster. These specialist operators wouldn’t be distracted by other tasks, they could work more efficiently and develop greater expertise.

Every local garage would have to raise their game to meet the standards of the specialist inspectors, improving safety right across the country. The Local Authorities could readily police the system by spot check audits on the inspectors. In time, as their systems improved and the volume of business grew, inspection specialists might be able to offer a good service for as little as €55. Just like the NCT.

Perhaps BCAR has something to learn from this? Dedicated specialist staff and standardised systems, monitored by the local authorities are more cost-effective, easier to quality control and ultimately, everyone is safer.

The above opinion piece was received from Orla Hegarty B.Arch. MRIAI RIBA who is Course Director for the Professional Diploma (Architecture) at the School of Architecture, UCD.

Other posts of interest:

Stardust Remembered | Building Control is about protecting life, not property (Part 1)

S.I. 9 and Construction Products: Orla Hegarty MRIAI RIBA

Thoughts on a way forward #bregs #OrlaHegarty

RIAI News Alert | Summary of 5 Senior Counsel opinions on BC(A)R S.I.9

RIAI Past Presidents Paper #2 | The Building Regulations and Certifiers’ Liability

Minister signals changes with Certifier fees of €3,500 | BC(A)R SI.9

4 thoughts on “What Building Control could learn from the NCT | Orla Hegarty MRIAI

  1. Michael O'Neill

    Let us not muddy the water any more than it already is muddied. Three points.

    1. The BC(A)R NCT would not do any field testing after sale. The tester would be present at several stages during the fabrication of the car. He would accept certification from the Car Designer that it was designed in accordance with car design regulations. He would not test this assertion. He would accept certification from Component Suppliers that all their parts were designed in accordance with car design regulations. He would not test any of them.

    2. The NCT does not test the whole car. It tests only certain critical items. The car passes this limited test. It is not certified by someone as being totally in compliance overall nor is that person personally responsible if something falls off a mile later. So much for the similarities.

    3. There is no understanding that buildings need a shake down period before they can be certified in BC(A)R. That is why the RIAI Contracts had a Defects Liability Period. They are light years away from the realization that buildings – IN THE NORMAL COURSE OF EVENTS – become non-compliant unless they are maintained. This is there the idea of testing comes in. But there is no concept of Bi-annual testing of buildings in BC(A)R for the working life of the building.

    Reply
  2. Andrew Alexander MRIAI

    An excellent piece by Orla.

    Might I add that a vehicle inspection system based on BCAR would;

    1. Mandate you (as the car owner) to sign a statutory form declaring the Mechanic carrying out the work to your car be competent to do the job (with reference to a code of practice on car maintenance and inspection which you will of course be eminently qualified to read and interpret).
    2. Mandate you (as the car owner) to sign a statutory form declaring the Inspector to be competent to do the job (with reference to the same Code of Practice).
    3. Upon failing the test (due to several faults which are not imminently life threatening) bar you from getting inside let alone drive your car until all of these items are repaired and a ‘valid’ completion certificate is lodged with the NCT Office (who wouldn’t do any testing themselves of course – and would only have random goal of 12 to 15% inspections ‘based on risk’ (note this goal is not actually part of the legislation in relation to their obligations under this novel system)) who will then have 2 to 3 weeks to upload the certificate on to a national register after which time you will be able to make use of your car.Presumably you would have to hire one in the mean time to go to work and bring your children to school.

    Reply
  3. Lester Naughton

    No No No! The BCAR model is working well and should be expanded. Having recently broken my hand I am now out of my cast. I am going to my GP and have written him a certificate to sign where he certifies that I have received the best practice medical care available. Of course I am allowing him to get ancillary certificates (if he can) from the accident and emergency doctor, nurses, radiologist(s), casting specialist, orthopaedic consultant(s), casting materials suppliers, painkiller manufacturers. etc.

    Reply
  4. Michael O'Neill

    All this Catching of Grenades by Assigned Certifiers for the benefit of Rogue Builders, Criminal Developers and Liability- Averse Local Authorities is likely to result in many broken hands.

    Reply

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