Building Regulations Reform & the Housing Crisis | Irish Examiner


30 August 2016

In recent weeks advisory bodies like the Housing Agency have suggested tackling widespread vacancy rates in existing building stock as a means to immediately alleviate our current accomodation and rental crisis.  One contributory factor to high vacancy levels is the significant regulatory barriers and costs involved for owners in undertaking works to existing buildings, in particular BCAR SI.9 introduced in 2014.  The country has vacancy rates well above the European average and Dublin is back to pre-crisis rental levels.

For a modest existing building change-of-use application requiring internal work only the regulatory costs associated with getting all relevant statutory permissions are in excess of €15,000 including vat (see previous post here).  

Remarkably 40% of this regulatory cost (over €6,000) relates to onerous administrative procedures introduced in 2014 by the current government BCAR SI.9, labelled by former Minister Phil Hogan as “reinforced self-certification”. Planning costs, the focus of much scrutiny by industry vested interests, are half this level.

In “Few quick wins but housing reform needs good foundations”, Irish Examiner 24 August 2016, the problems of high levels of vacancy and obsolescence coupled with regulatory barriers are outlined:

[Lorcan Sirr] “We need to make better use of our existing stock. We are losing 123 houses a week to obsolescence — that is houses being allowed for various reasons to fall into a state of being uninhabitable.

“That is 6,500 houses a year, and they are not all in isolated rural areas; many are in large urban centres. So even though we completed 12,666 private houses last year, we only added about 6,000 (at most) houses to the nation’s housing stock.

“It also means that in 2015, for every 100 houses we built, we lost another 63 to obsolescence. This is a sub-optimal use of our houses in a time of housing supply need.”

Orla Hegarty, assistant professor and a course director at the school of architecture, planning and environmental policy at UCD, says: “Re-using existing buildings is the fastest and most immediately available solution to provide sustainable housing at the least cost.

“However, there are significant regulatory barriers that need to be addressed urgently in order to bring buildings into use or to enable conversions from other uses.

“Many new homes could be provided in existing buildings for €30,000-€50,000 in less time than it takes to get planning permission and for less than the price of a site in some outer suburbs.

“However, regulation and bureaucracy are significant barriers to the reuse and adaptation of existing buildings.

“To convert a single unit over a shop requires three separate regulatory approvals, four statutory appointments and procedures under three different bodies of legislation, all operating to different timescales and with different authorities..”

Assuming one room with a 40 Sqm internal area, a €25,000 (incl vat) fit-out budget, here are the overall fees and charges for a modest fit-out for an upper floor apartment that will take less than one month to complete on site:

Statutory permission fees

  • Measured survey (entire property, required for Planning Application, Fire Safety Certificate Application and Disability Access Certificate  Application : €700 (all fee estimates exclude VAT @ 23%)
  • Initial planning, preparation of design proposals, meetings and pre-planning consultation with Planning Department and others (incl OS maps €40): €800
  • Preparation of Planning application (documentation, drawings, specifications): €2,000
  • Preparation of Fire Certificate application (FSC incl. drawings and reports):€900
  • Preparation of Disabled Access Certificate (DAC incl. drawings and reports):€900
  • Mandatory Building Control Appointments: professional Design, Assigned and Ancillary Certifiers: €5,100 (see breakdown below*)
  • Mandatory Health and Safety Appointments: Project Supervisor (Design Process): €700
  • Mandatory Health and Safety Appointments: Project Supervisor (Construction Stage): included in Builder’s costs

Total professional fees: €11,600

SubTotal fees and costs incl Vat @23%= €14,268

 Local Authority Application fees & costs:

  • Newspaper advertisement (planning): €220
  • Planning Fee €108
  • FSC application fee: €87
  • DAC application fee: €800

Sub-Total fees + costs: €1215

Total costs incl fees: €15,483

A modest “change-of-use” fit-out from office to studio apartment, with no external modifications or extensions and a construction budget of €25,000 incl vat, will incur planning/ building control regulatory costs of €15,483 incl vat- over 60% of the construction budget of the project.

40% of this figure (€6,270) relates to Building Control (Amendment) Regulations mandatory administration and inspection introduced in March 2015.

Other posts of interest:

Building Regulations Amendments: 20 Feb 2014: Seanad debates (

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

How much does Building Control cost in the UK (Northern Ireland) for apartments?

What do Building Control Regulations cost for a typical apartment?

“After 18 months of operation the industry view of SI.9 is pretty conclusive: it’s not working”

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

Self-builder’s Letter to ISME & SFA: BC(A)R SI.9

2 thoughts on “Building Regulations Reform & the Housing Crisis | Irish Examiner

  1. Lester Naughton

    The above forgets the BER cert and the Sound testing and (according to recent RIAI advice) the pressure testing of new waste pipework. There also seems an assumption the building has a current fire safety certificate / information. You could well run into having to do a FSC for the whole building and been required to upgrade the entire structure . And what if its a protected structure ? Then you will require a Heritage report, monitoring and submission of reports back to planning. The client has to also factor in the cost of lost rents when the office tenant gets wind of the plans and moves out. 3 mths planning then 3 weeks to lodge FSC and DAC? Processing of Fire cert / DAC 2 more months. Produce documents for BCAR design certification and commencement notice submission 4 weeks? Wait for validation. The poor client only wanted to put in a shower and a kitchenette and rent out the place !

  2. Michael Tweed

    Reading this article is so depressing because it highlights so much of what is wrong and yet I know nothing is going to change. While the conclusion outlines that 40% of the cost planning/regulatory fees is due to BC(A)R there are even greater costs associated with the government sponsored self regulation of the Building Regulations. For instance, if the policing of the Building Regulations was through the Local Authorities or even a national building control body, and if Building Regulation approval was required (as it was for Building Bye Laws) the following would result. Firstly all the separate applications for Fire Safety Certificate (FSC) and Disabled Access Certificate (DAC) would be redundant since the Building Regulations Approval (BRA) application would consolidate all parts of the Building Regulations. This in itself would be good practice and would surely be more efficient and cost effective. Also the critique of the construction details carried out be a Building Control officer would be more holistic, surely a good thing.
    There would be little difference between the drawings required for Building Regulation Approval and construction, therefore the cost of preparation of these drawings is nil in regard to consideration of planning/regulatory costs (it’s part of the fit-out cost regardless). There would be a once off BRA fee, but no fee for the FSC or the DAC. There would be no need for assigned certifiers etc. That’s a saving of €9374 or 60% of the planning regulatory costs minus whatever would be the proposed Building Regulation Approval submission fee. (Savings accrue from: FSC preparation = €900 + VAT; DAC preparation = €900 + VAT; Building Control appointments = €5,100 + VAT; FSC application fee = €87; DAC application fee = €800).
    In addition to all these savings, because of mandatory Building Regulation Approval and site inspection, improvements in construction design and building work on site would improve dramatically. Why can’t our politicians see this?


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