Ministers Kelly & Coffey back CIF objections to better building standards

SocialHousingStrategy

16 June 2015

County Councillors in DunLaoghaire-Rathdown and Fingal have tweeted the following letter sent to Local Authorities signed by Ministers Alan Kelly and Paudie Coffey on 10th June 2015. The letter notes the Ministers’ reluctance to adopt improved standards such as the “passive house” standard proposed in new development plans.

Link to PDF of full letter here: Min Kelly & Coffey Fingal Letter

Extract off letter:

IMG_6479

Quote:

“Viability of new development and therefore supply, will be placed at risk by insertion of unreasonable or excessive requirements in relation to the standard of housing or ancillary services and facilities that, in turn, impact adversely on the economic viability of commercial investment and deliverability of new housing development over the plan period.

We would urge you to pay very close attention to the impacts of development plan requirements on the viability of new development through rigourous ecomomic and regulatory impact assessment and analysis of any new or existing development plan standards that are above national minimum requirements. This approach would support our Department’s effors in tackling impediments and barriers to increased supply…

Yours sincerely,

Alan Kelly TD, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government

Paudie Coffey TD, Minster for Housing, Planning and Co-ordination of Construction 2020”

Recently the Irish Times reported that both Nama and the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) similarly had objected to plans by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to make the passive house standard mandatory for all new buildings under the Local Authority’s latest development plan, which is due to come into force next year (see article to follow). Passive House is an international standard for energy efficient homes that cost almost nothing to heat. (see report on Wexford development here).

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) have consistently argued for relxation of building and planning standards to reduce costs and increase afforability of new build residential developments. However this recent Ministers’ letter leaves some commentators wondering if the CIF, NAMA and now both Ministers of the Environment and State are “on the same page”. The “stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap” approach has resulted in recent high-profile building failures such as Riverbank in Ratoath, Millbank Manor, Longboat Quay, Priory Hall and earlier Shangan Hall during the boom.

The joint stance on the issue of minimum building standards is perhaps indicative as to the strength of the CIF lobby in Government policy-making. Tom Parlon, Construction Industry Federation Director General is a former Fine Gael Minister for State.

The current banking inquiry recently heard that earlier attempts to improve building standards to address climate change were previously thwarted by the construction industry. Minister Kelly is also currently the Minister responsible for introducing climate legislation (see banking inquire here).

  • Nama, CIF object to Dun Laoghaire ‘passive house’ plan” 8 June 2015 Irish Times. New building energy standards contained in draft county development plan for DunLaoghaire Rathdown are being actively being resisted by both the Construction Industry Federation and NAMA, the state-owned developer. Extract:

“Nama has objected to the inclusion of a requirement for “passive house”, energy efficient homes and commercial buildings being written into the Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown County Development Plan…in a submission on the Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown Draft County Development Plan 2016-2022, Nama said energy requirements for new buildings “should come from national standards and should be removed from the county plan”.

…Separately the Construction Industry Federation warned increased costs associated with passive houses would mean “very few” new homes would be built in Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown next year, if the new standard was adopted…

Hubert Fitzpatrick, a director of both the Irish Homebuilders Association and the Construction Industry Federation, has said the move “will increase the cost of new build even further”.

He said house construction prices were still above the anticipated market value in many areas, having fallen 40 to 50 per cent in recent years. In this environment he said it was “wholly inappropriate” that the council would take action that would “increase further the cost of new build”. If it goes ahead he said “there will be very few houses built in Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown next year”.

Submissions on the draft development plan will now be considered by Dun Laoghaire – Rathdown council management, with a report being prepared for the attention of councillors.

In February councillors voted 23 votes to 14 in favour of the change. Final adoption of the plan is not due until later this year.”

Other posts of interest:

The extraordinary cost of BC(A)R SI.9 of 2014

Inadequate Regulatory Impact Assessment for S.I.9- Look Back 2

House completions continue to stall | Department of the Environment

BC(A)R Review Meeting is “…a gathering top-heavy with vested interests.” | Irish Examiner

Building regulations make Dodge City look good | Irish Examiner

Kildare fire disaster shows madness of Kelly’s self-certification proposals | Green party

Simon Carswell: Politicians, Construction industry lobbying and banking | look back 10

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

Does the Minister want a cut-price building control service? | Simon McGuinness

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

1 thought on “Ministers Kelly & Coffey back CIF objections to better building standards

  1. Andrew Alexander MRIAI

    Section three of the Building Control Act 1990 states;

    (2) Building regulations may be made for all or any of the following purposes—

    (c) making provision for the conservation of fuel and energy in relation to buildings;

    (d) making provision for securing in relation to buildings the efficient use of resources;

    (e) making provision for the encouragement of good building practice;

    Technical Guidance Documents since that time have always made allowance for a variety of approaches to be implemented so long as they meet the requirements of the Act.

    The instance of a Local Authority unilaterally introducing requirements to meet a fixed standard for energy efficiency in buildings over and above the minimum standards (which by now are quite robust) contravenes both the spirit of the act and the voluntary nature of Passivhaus.

    From personal experience I can attest that a well insulated house will have little to no space heating demands for substantial periods of the year. Furthermore as the Irish summer never reaches the high temperatures of the continent there is rarely any demand for space cooling.

    Other heating demands such as that for hot water for example can be met by solar panels which are completely unrelated to space heating and insulation.

    The government, construction industry, building professionals and building trades should be working towards establishing a viable form of independent inspection underpinned by an up skilling of our trades to substantially meet the current regulations.

    I do not agree with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown’s approach in this instance.

    Reply

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