County Councils appoint separate Certifiers to projects

fingalcountyhall_lge

06 January 2016

Specialist BC(A)R SI.9 Certifier companies look set to have a busy 2016.

The recent move by Fingal County Council (see details below) to make Assigned Certifiers a separate appointment for building projects is a further indication as to how other Local Authorities may proceed under Building Control Regulations BC(A)R SI.9. Fingal’s action follows the country’s largest commercial architectural and engineering firms who have already contracted specialist Certifier firms for over €1.5 billion worth of construction projects (a sizeable share of an €11 billion industry). Elsewhere in the public sector, Cork County Council, Dublin City Council and the Department of Education have also been appointing separate specialist certifier companies.

Specialist Certifiers continue to enjoy a fees bonanza with an estimated 2,000,000 – 3,000,000 billable hours per annum in the housing sector alone (RIAI estimate). This is despite a Ministerial exemption for once-off housing and extensions introduced in September 2015 following a Government review in an effort to reduce massive impact of costs associated with building control regulations introduced in March 2014. BC(A)R SI.9 applies to all sectors of the construction industry (not just housing) and has added over 5% in administrative costs to construction projects in 2015 (SCSI estimate). These procedures have left standards unchanged but require extensive records to be kept for certification. Industry experts have been critical of the lack of new consumer protections under BC(A)R SI.9. 

When BC(A)R SI.9 was introduced in 2014 Local Authority projects were exempt from onerous and time consuming procedures involved in the new legislation. SI.365 introduced in September 2015 changed that; now Local Authority projects come under the remit of SI.9 and as a result many have been scrambling to bring themselves up to speed with new roles and duties along with potential future liabilities. Farming this liability out to third parties would seem the less troublesome, if the most expensive, option for public sector staff.

The BRegs Blog is not aware of any plans for a Government review of the impact and cost/benefit of BC(A)R SI.9 on the construction industry or of SI.365 on Public Expenditure .

Here is the recent advertisement for a separate Assigned Certifier for two Fingal County Council housing projects (see link HERE:)

Extract:

“The Architects’ Department from Fingal County Council will:

  • provide an architecturally-led design team with Engineering Consultants (Structural & Civil; and Mechanical & Electrical) and QS services; and
  • prepare preliminary H&S Plan and act as Project Supervisor Design Phase, and similar compliance with CDM regulations; and
  •  act as Design Certifier in accordance with SI 9 of 2014 and the Code of Practice for Inspecting and Certifying Buildings and Works, published February 2014.”

Fingal County Council staff are assuming the role of Design Certifier and appointing a separate consultant in the role of Assigned Certifier. However there are a number of issues that affect the Design Certifier role and this has been the subject of much discussion in the industry.  Many industry experts consider this role to carry more liability than the Assigned Certifier, leaving individuals personally exposed to prosecution and financial claims (see Mark Sanfey BL opinion below).

In a previous post the BRegs Blog addressed some of the queries being received from Local Authority employees (see link Here:). For Local Authorities and other professionals, now contemplating acting as Design Certifiers, there are a number of must-read posts. One significant issue is overhang liability – the Design and Assigned Certifier roles are personal appointments and long-term liability for the person signing requires careful consideration. Many consider one separate appointment for Design and Assigned Certifier to be a more logical arrangement with no crossover legal issues/ responsibilities which minimises potential contractual issues on site, in the absence of revised standard forms of contract. The biggest commercial firms in the country are availing of separate Certifier consultants on projects as standard practice to minimise possible longer-term liability implications on professional indemnity insurance.

Other posts of interest:

Professional Liability and BC(A)R SI.9 | Mark Sanfey SC

RIAI President | “2 – 3 million hours a year to inspect new house building”

BC(A)R SI.9 has added + 5% to Residential Costs | SCSI / DKM

BC(A)R SI.9 Submission Series No 3: The Legal Environment and Consumer Protection | Deirdre Ní Fhloinn

Moving from Self-certification of Buildings towards Independent Inspection| Cork County Council

98% say “Building Regulations introduced in recent years are acting as a barrier to construction” | Knight Frank Survey

Selected List of design certifier posts:

Why the design certifier and architect need third party building fabric assessments

Design Certifier – Can we leave it to the builder to sort out?

Law Society : Certifier is single point of responsibility

RIAI: OPW Interactive Tools for the Design Certifier

Design Certifier | RIAI advise separate appointment

Problems with role of Design Certifier: BC(A)R SI.9

4 tips for Design Certifiers…

2 thoughts on “County Councils appoint separate Certifiers to projects

  1. Lester Naughton

    More like the larger firms are setting up legally separate “fall” guys to act as in house certifiers and avoid potential liabilities. After all what does a 60 year old divorcee living with the kids (in the family house in their names of course) have to lose.

    Reply
  2. Michael O'Neill

    I believe this to be a deeply cynical exercise on the part of the local authority – to hang one of its architects out to dry as a design certifier. The body politic of the Council cannot certify, a Department cannot certify – it must be an individual, and any claims can follow them home, literally.

    This disgraceful strategy continues to foster the myth that the scapegoat certifiers will bring improved standards of workmanship to built work when any such improvement rests with the same rogue builders who cause the problems in the first place.

    BC(A)R and its amendment takes these same rogue builders out of the direct firing line by obliging them only to build in accordance with documents received, a total dilution of their former liability that was based on responsibility to build IN COMPLIANCE WITH the Building Regulations.

    Why were these builders let off the hook by politicians in this way? Lobbying? This is a farce that benefits nobody except the politicos misrepresenting the position and certain vested interests in the Building Industry who will profit from it.

    This, in other words, is business as usual.

    Reply

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