Irish Examiner | “Local Authorities should be setting the standard”- Minister Paudie Coffey

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08 September 2015

In the Irish Examiner article “Is the new BCAR system what’s best for the country?” 05 September 2015, recent amendments to building control regulations along with industry reactions are explored. Given such a tight timeline to introduce the amendments to regulations by 1st September it may not have been possible to put a targeted resource plan and the revised code of practice in place with Local Authorities. It would appear from official statements that Ministers Kelly and Coffey are fully committed to enhancing independent Building Control Local Authority sections, and that discussions with the City and County Managers Association (CCMA) are ongoing. 

Extract from Examiner article:

““I firmly believe that local authorities should be setting the standard when it comes to the construction of homes — and given the roll-out of the Social Housing Strategy, we must ensure that we have well-built homes for families across Ireland,” said Minister Coffey…

“the Minister said he looked forward to “the continued development of a robust and credible building control framework based on strong and effective oversight of construction activity, by industry and by local authorities, underpinned by the administrative arrangements now in place under SI No. 9 of 2014”.

“According to the Department of the environment notes I received: “Significant inspection capability is already in place and will continue to be enhanced and developed over time”.

“a spokesman for the department told the Irish Examiner, that technical guidance documents and a new code of practice for inspection and certifying of work is being updated to include a Sample Preliminary Inspection Plan for single dwellings.

Initial reaction from professionals appears positive towards Minister Coffey’s recent SI.365 amendment:

““It makes my life easier. It makes my clients’ lives easier, but is the new system what’s best for the country?”

““The government should be handling supervision and inspections of every one of these builds. I actually don’t want to be the assigned certifier on my own projects”

““Yes, having local authorities carrying out inspections was the way to go — but the government have upset private professionals and their clients who were going honestly through the misery of learning the certification system.

““I certainly wasn’t enjoying the process, and it increased the cost to my clients to as much as €8,000 because of the legwork and paperwork involved in certification”

There seems to be industry-wide support from commentators, industry professionals and consumer groups to introduce greater levels of independent buIlding control inspections, and move away from continuing self-certification under SI.9. In April this year at the Irish Building Control Institute annual conference  (IBCI) the RIAI presented a members survey which confirmed the majority of architects supported independent local authority building control inspections (see post here).

Moves towards enabling Local Authorities to take greater lead role and control of the building inspection process have been well flagged by Ministers.

“To ensure that building standards do not slip in respect of these types of builds; a new fit-for purpose local authority inspection process will be developed.” [said Minister Coffey] (source: Irish Building Magazine 01 August 2015 see here).

“To ensure that building standards are maintained in respect of these types of builds in particular, arrangements for local authority inspections will be reviewed and improved. My Department will now engage with The County and City Management Association to ensure inspection capability is developed and resourced over time and local authorities will now be submitting quarterly reports in relation to their building inspections to my Department and these will be monitored closely – these actions will ensure progressive inspection improvement by local authorities in all sectors, i.e. single dwellings, multi-unit residential developments and commercial buildings,” said Minister Coffey. (source: Environ.ie press statement 01 September 2015 see here).

Perhaps consumers can expect further progressive moves away from “reinforced” self-certification towards independent regulation of the construction sector and Local Authority independent inspections? Time will tell, but this significant reversal of policy removing onerous and expensive paperwork and procedures from once-off house builders and owners extending their homes appears to be universally welcomed by the public, professionals, commentators and the industry.

Other posts of Interest:

SI 365 of 2015: A good start | Collins + O’Cofaigh

DECLG Information Note | SI.365 of 2015

Breaking News! | SI.9 Revisions Published

Are there enough certifiers? | RIAI Survey

Self-certification ‘fatally flawed’ and needs ‘drastic overhaul’ | Engineers Journal

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