RIAI ALERT: Inspection Fees for House Extensions

proforma-increased-costs

04 May 2016

The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) issued estimates, to their practice members on Friday last, for the time needed for Assigned Certifier duties on small domestic projects such as extensions to houses ranging in value between €100k and €200k (excl. VAT).

The time estimated for the Assigned Certifier role for a €200,000 (excl. VAT) residential extension project is an additional 85 hours  on top of standard architectural services.

RIAI FEES

Summary on RIAI time estimates

The above table suggests a cost to the consumer of approximately €7,841* for Assigned Certifier statutory inspection duties (incl. VAT) for a modest €200,000 domestic project. This excludes other professional BCAR costs such as the cost of Design Certifier or other Ancillary Certifier (services and structural engineers) fees. The RIAI have not tabled any separate charge for the role of Design Certifier, despite additional onerous liabilities and administrative workload associated with this role.

Indicative costs for ancillary certifiers for domestic projects (structural and services engineers) are in the region of €2,300 incl vat each, bringing up the cost for a client appointed professional design team for BCAR to €12,453 (incl VAT). This is before any defensive specification costs, increased testing, thermal modeling, contractors additional costs for administration and insurance or other sub-contractor design and ancillary certification costs are added, which can easily double this figure.

The RIAI have been very consistent in assessing hours required for BCAR. Early estimates, at over 100 hours for a mid-sized commercial project, were issued when BCAR SI.9 was launched in March 2014. Then Minister Phil Hogan balked at official stakeholder estimates which were a multiple of his anticipated €1000- €3000 per unit. At the time he said professionals were engaging in “financial extortion” and reiterated earlier Department of Environment suggestions of less than €3000 all-in BCAR costs ‘per residential unit’.

More recently Minister Alan Kelly has labelled certifiers fees as “exorbitant charges” and an ‘opt-out’ SI.365 was introduced for once-off houses by Minister Paudie Coffey in September 2015 as a direct result in the pronounced drop-off in the once-off commissioned house building sector in the 12 months following introduction of BCAR. Industry experts had quoted costs of up to €50,000 for self-builds in the lead-up to the review.

Subsequent statements from former RIAI president Robin Mandal in November 2015 reinforced these figures when he suggested that BCAR would take between 2-3 million ‘man-hours’ to administer for main certifier roles only in a normal functioning housing sector. As BCAR affects all construction based on these numbers the annual cost of the onerous procedures could well be in excess of €500m per annum.

This remains at odds with the Construction Industry Council, a group of construction stakeholders which the RIAI is now chairing. Last September the CIC wrote to the Department of the Environment claiming,  in relation to the amended Building Control regulations SI.365, claiming that there was “no empirical data” for claims of exorbitant fees for SI.9 and that typically the amount charged was between €3,000 and €4,000 — “in line with what the Department expected”. (Link here). Only weeks earlier the architects representative body (who are part of CIC) had made a submission to the Minister (and advised their own members) that the job could not be done properly for less than €8,000. (Link here)

If you take these two statements at face value an Assigned Certifier will take 85 hours to administer the BCAR role on a modest project for a €3,500 fee, the annual salary basis for an experienced professional architect would be a mere €23,000.

No wonder there is confusion in the industry as to what BCAR should cost, and what level of service is reasonable to provide.

Other commentators have suggested roles can and are being charged out at a fraction of this cost. Who is right? Certainly almost agree there is a ‘race to the bottom’ at present, with all the unintended consequences for quality that that invariably brings. When the dust settles, Architects may find themselves being put at a competitive disadvantage to other professions who may choose the lower fee and budget hours accordingly.

Is it time for a re-think?

*As a rough estimate as to out of pocket cost to a consumer, an employee on a base salary of €50,000 will be charged out at €75 per hour ex vat @ 23%; 85 hours costs €7,841 incl vat

Other posts of interest:

CIC | Construction Industry Council or Construction Industry Conflicts [of Interest]

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

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

BCAR “is estimated to add about €25,000 to the cost of each home” | Ronan Lyons

Phil Hogan’s Building Regulations… “were a step backwards”

Dáil | Minister Kelly may take steps to control SI.9 ‘exorbitant charges’

John Graby – RIAI, CEO | “Phil Hogan did not bulldoze through SI.9′

Why did Phil Hogan think SI.9 would cost less than €3000 ?

Revoke S.I.9 – Fine Gael internal report to Phil Hogan in 2013 (3 of 4)

Press piece: professionals “engaging in financial extortion” says Hogan

Minister Hogan concerned at exploitation by professionals: BC(A)R SI.9

3 thoughts on “RIAI ALERT: Inspection Fees for House Extensions

  1. Lester Naughton

    The hours and costs are only going to mount for anyone Certifying “buy the book”

    I have just read the latest from the RIAI suggesting pressure testing of above ground waste pipes is now a standard requirement for BCAR certification (and if it is reasonable under BCAR surely it is reasonable when the project is not under BCAR) and that below ground testing has been a norm. Well not on my domestic projects is all I can say. Can you just imagine the look on my clients face when I suggest they pay for this having just moved the kitchen sink over 2 feet.

    RIAI guidance issued in December now contains an inspection plan where I am apparently looking for the Dop on the fill and the delivery dockets showing the amount delivered (which I assume means I am checking the amount is correct) I repeat below my own unanswered email as sent to the RIAI last October.

    “I find myself in a most awkward position. The Department guidance to homeowners/self builders on SI9 refers them to the “draft” inspection plan issued at the latest public consultation.

    As far as I am concerned the Government in doing this has made the rather limited “draft” inspection plan (Complete with the impossibility of inspecting items at a time where if one was visible the other is not) official and I have no choice but to base my quotes for services on this.

    I would suggest that if this is not reasonable the RIAI should contact the Department to have this reference removed from their guidance however there is still the issue that in publishing the inspection plan even as “Draft” the Department was effectively saying it could be considered adequate.

    I further fear that if the RIAI, as promised publishes contrary, presumably more stringent, guidance for members it will not apply to other professions and will place my ability to compete for a living at a severe disadvantage.”

    Reply
  2. Michael O'Neill

    You have to wonder if anyone calling themselves ‘stakeholders’ have actually inspected and certified at any point in their careers. The current mess, with unwarranted liability, no legal standing for ancillary certs, and apparently no clue by our lawmakers as to what they are doing begs this question. There is a better way than this, but neither clients nor builder-developers are going to like it.

    Reply
  3. Paul Lee

    When regulations become so confusing they start to demand the question: Is it worth building at all? But that’s government for you.

    What would probably work is if insurers were allowed to create publicly scrutable building standards on a competitive basis. People could pay for standards and the insurance companies would oversee and take care of compliance (or else get sued).

    Unfortunately this would take business away from the inefficient, wasteful, backward government cartels so I don’t expect that to happen any time soon.

    As for the “Professional Bodies” I don’t know where to begin.

    All I can say is best of luck lads.

    Reply

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