02 February 2017
Since 2013 there has been considerable unease about the potential liabilities of Design Certifiers (see legal posts below). Many architects and engineers have taken this on without even a basic job description, leaving themselves (personally) wide open to claims from their clients and future owners and users of the buildings. The following comment was submitted by Michael Tweed MRIAI to BRegs Blog in response to an earlier post Is Design Certification credible? Michael O’Neill MRIAI.
I commend Michael O’Neill and Brian Lahiff of Garland for their articles, the importance of which is that they shine a spotlight on some of the many fundamental flaws in the BC(A)R.
But I would go further than either article in regard to how key the Design Certificate is in the paper trail that is the BC(A)R. Because neither article addresses the crucial point that prime responsibility is placed on the Design Certifier by dint of the “Certificate signed by Builder”.
This Certificate radically dilutes the Builder’s responsibility in respect of compliance with the Building Regulations. By signing this Certificate the Builder certifies that… “having exercised reasonable skill, care and diligence… the building or works as completed has been constructed in accordance with the plans, calculations, specifications, ancillary certificates and particulars as certified under the Form of Certification of Compliance (Design)”.
The full extent of the dilution of his responsibilities is in the wording of the Item 4 in this Certificate – “Reliant on the foregoing (ie the Design Certificate) I certify that the works are in compliance with the requirements of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations insofar as they apply to the building or works concerned”.
Nowhere in the Certificate is the Builder required to certify unequivocally, as the Design Certifier is required to do, that he has complied with the Building Regulations, but rather his certifying of compliance is reliant on the design as certified in the Certificate of Compliance (Design). Let’s all stand with pointed fingers along the line, shall we?
The point Michael O’Neill makes that the design of any building is a complex web of interwoven designs is a truth that the BC(A)R doesn’t even recognise. Almost regardless of the scale, scope or type of building, from a meagre domestic extension to a state of the art pharmaceutical plant, there are multiple designers involved, both designers of building elements and designers of assemblies of elements.
At the heart of this we should really be asking WHY was BC(A)R formulated in the way it has been? Clearly it is not for the benefit of the consumer! This has been pointed out and argued so cogently since the introduction of the BC(A)R that only an idiot would presume that it did. Our politicians aren’t idiots – I think! But they happily peddle the myth that the BC(A)R have provided comfort for consumers. In reality the BC)A)R have been drafted as they have solely for the politicians’ own benefit. BC(A)R’s real purpose, I contend, has been to create a paper trail to a select number of individuals, those foolhardy enough to stand as “Certifiers” and sign the relevant Certificates – where after it is legal tussle between their Professional Indemnifiers as to who be the final scapegoat, and the politicians gloat and claim that the BC(A)R are working because, look, someone is being punished!
At its heart the BC(A)R is a cynical exercise in deflection, just as the original Building Control Act was a cynical exercise in regulation through self-regulation, a proposal doomed to failure from the start! BC(A)R allows politicians to make unsubstantiated claims that they have “fixed” the building industry. But the real trick is that it deflects attention away from what REALLY should have been done right from 1992 – to provide full Local Authority Building Control similar to that provided in the UK.
And why are they doing this? Because to provide this has a cost in the recruitment of enough properly qualified and competent Building Control Officers countrywide to enforce such a system. Instead our Building Control Departments are simply document storage facilities and Building Control Officers nothing but glorified filing clerks.
Ultimately it comes down to us, the citizens of Ireland. If we vote for low tax and spend politicians this is what we get, along with the housing crisis, the crisis in the health service, the crisis in the provision of social services, teaching, public transport – and on and on and on…. We really do reap what we sow!
Other posts of interest: