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SI.9 + Protected Structures | More gaps?

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The following opinion piece was sent to the BRegs Blog by a specialist conservation architect on December 3rd 2015. 

There is an alternative opinion on this topic which suggests gaps in the new regulations. Because planning for Protected Structures only came into 2000 Planning Act and SI.9 only refers to Planning Regulations 1963-93 (now revoked), it could well be that quite an amount of minor works (to protected structures) that require planning permission under the 2000 Act may be undertaken using the short form commencement notice and may not require the services of design or assigned certifiers. We would be interested in getting further input on this from specialist conservation professionals and readers of the Blog.

SI.9 + Protected Structures

We explained the position in which we and our clients find ourselves in connection with the  new building control regulations.

  1.  There is no dispensation from the full or long Commencement Notice  under SI 9, Article 2 resulting from the requirement for a Fire Safety Certificate for a Place of Public Assembly and the fact that the small extension marginally exceeds the 40 m sq limit.
  2. Under SI. 243.2012  article 4.  No Building Energy Rating is required for a Protected Structure or Place of Worship, therefore no DEAP study nor Part L compliance is required.

In other words the long and short of it is that if any works to a protected structure of any type exceed 40 sq metres  then a long form of commencement notice and the concomitant additional fees and additional costs on the construction side occur. The difficulty of obtaining even meagre funds is ever present for this type of work.

The same applies to any works to a protected structure if a Fire Safety Certificate is required regardless of size.

In the case of reconstruction to a Monument of Record, the building works are exempted from the Building Regulations but not from the BCAR.

This is all very confusing and there are no straightforward  nor logical answers to any of this. Whether we like it or not the BCA Regulations will have an ongoing effect on most if not all conservation work in terms of time and expense.

In our view all works to Protected Structures should be exempted from the Long form of Commencement Notice under the BCAR.  They shall comply with Part B where possible and be subject to a Fire Safety Certificate and DACs in connection with public access. The works, as at present, shall be designed and specified by an accredited Conservation Architect, be subject to the approval of the Conservation and Planning Authorities and the Department if needs be.

The very nature of older buildings mitigate against predictable outcomes as covered in the Building Regulations.

I suspect that the present arrangements will present Conservation Officers with long term difficulties. We are left floundering around without direction and our impecunious clients searching for funds to satisfy a bureaucratic monster. It would be great if you can raise the awareness of these issues with your colleagues and the Department, for the necessity for the Assigned Certifier to Certify compliance with the Building Regulations in say,  works attached to or connected with an ancient structure is patently a nonsense.

Other posts of interest:

You can still buy a non-compliant home…and it’s all perfectly legal | SI.9 Loopholes

BC(A)R SI.9 or… green alternative No 1

Stardust Remembered | Building Control is about protecting life, not property (Part 1)

New consumer protections for…spark plugs, not houses!

Collins & O’Cofaigh | “the 38 steps” and the complexity of our regulations

Complaint Procedures for BC(A)R SI.9? Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI.ie)

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30 April 2015

Minister Alan Kelly has noted that the new building regulations have robust complaints procedures for each discipline involved, guaranteeing consumer protection that if a registered member was found to be in breach of their duties then robust disciplinary procedures would result.

Under SI.9 each key stakeholder handles complaints against their own members- Chartered Surveyors police their own SCSI register, architects police the RIAI register etc. Industry commentators consider this to be a clear conflict of interest. Others have suggested that the bar for sanctions and disqualification has been set very high deliberately, that removal from a register may be a remote possibility for members only in the event of gross misconduct.

The reality is despite numerous recent high-profile building failures there have been no sanctions against architects or surveyors for complaints in the past 6 years.

We will examine some dispute procedures in various registers in upcoming posts. In this one we will look at the Builder’s register, CIRI.

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) operate CIRI, the new register for builders written into BC(A)R SI.9. CIRI is currently voluntary but is due to come in on a statutory footing in 2015. The CIF section dealing with complaints under the new CIRI construction register,  is here. We quote directly from the section on complaints about contractors [emphasis in bold by BRegs Blog].

Extract:

“Before making a complaint to the CIRB, the following actions are advised:

You should put your concerns in writing … You should check the terms of contract… You should raise your concerns with your appointed Designer and Assigned Certifier and ascertain if this can bring about a resolution to concerns raised…If you do not receive a satisfactory response to the concerns raised…you may contact the CIF for general advice.”

“What can the CIRI do?

…Under the provisions of the Construction Industry Register Ireland, the CIRI will offer an independent Mediation Service aimed at resolving problems and disputes between registered members and their clients…

The CIRI is not in a position to intervene in any contractual dispute between a registered member and a client or to give specific advice or assistance on any technical issue.”

Under new building regulations introduced last March, an Assigned Certifier has no rights to instruct any builders or even to enter the building site. It is difficult to see how any professional occupying this role could be in a position to resolve any disputes. The only action that an Assigned Certifier can take is threaten to withhold a Completion Cert. In many cases the Assigned Certifier is an employee or directly contracted consultant, a builder-developer could just fire the Assigned Certifier and hire someone else to sign off. Not great for the consumer.

Remarkably there is no recourse to any advisory service, complaints body or ombudsman in the new system. A building regulation dispute could become a stand-off between the builder and certifier. We wonder if the regulators, registered professionals and builders, will provide any new consumer protection?

Other posts of interest:

Opinion: Are builders + developers off the hook with BCAR?

‘Onerous’ Building Regulations must be amended – Minister Kelly

Imminent changes to SI.9 announced | Minister Alan Kelly T.D.

SI.9 causing major delays to school projects

Iaosb letter to Minister Kelly – Revoke or Revise S.I.9

RIAI Past Presidents Paper #1 | The Building Regulations and Consumer protection

S.I.9 – Where are we now? 27 October 2014

UK + Ireland | take a quick trip to Holyhead with Breg Blog…

How much would 100% independent inspections by Local Authorities cost?

€ 5 billion | The extraordinary cost of S.I.9 self-certification by 2020

5 Posts every builder must read- BC(A)R SI.9

Opinion: Are builders + developers off the hook with BCAR?

Press article: Government promotes developers over self-builders?

What Building Control could learn from the NCT | Orla Hegarty MRIAI

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27 April 2015

What Building Control could learn from the NCT  | Orla Hegarty MRIAI

Ireland had a problem with safety standards in cars. There were too many older cars, they weren’t being maintained properly. Rural roads and bad weather compounded the problems and “something had to be done“.

In 2000 the National Car Test (NCT) was established and now all cars more than 4 years old are tested every year. I recently visited a test centre: in less than 25 minutes and for the cost of €55. I was back on the road. The testing centre ran like clockwork because the mechanics are trained, the equipment is calibrated and the testing standardised. It works and it’s very efficient. They can fully test a car for €55 without making a loss. All centres work to the same system and the roads are safer as a result.

If the NCT was run on the BCAR (Building Control Amendment Regulations) model, testing would be carried out in every filling station in the country- all of them would have to train staff and buy in equipment. They would have to continually upgrade machinery and keep it operational, devise their own computer record system, bring in an emissions expert, keep oil samples, file forms and issue reports. It wouldn’t cost €55.

Problems might arise when different garages worked to different standards- word would get around about who would turn a blind eye to bald tyres, who didn’t even check the brakes. Inevitably the cheapest garages would attract a lot of business. Despite good intentions there would still be many dangerous vehicles on the roads.

The powers that be might also find it very difficult to keep track of thousands of operators. It might prove impossible to police the system effectively or to tackle the cowboy operators.  Perhaps the diligent operators would be priced out of the market in a race to the bottom.

Some garages might find it impossible to keep up: a staff member who is selling cars, ordering parts and meeting customers might find it very hard to stay on top of a raft of ever changing technical requirements, and also manage the administration, testing and reporting.

Having invested heavily in the new system some operators might then have to stop offering the service altogether, their customers might find they can get a cheaper inspection from a specialist garage who has dedicated staff and equipment.

Customers might see the benefits of dedicated centers of excellence where specially trained staff could do the job better and faster. These specialist operators wouldn’t be distracted by other tasks, they could work more efficiently and develop greater expertise.

Every local garage would have to raise their game to meet the standards of the specialist inspectors, improving safety right across the country. The Local Authorities could readily police the system by spot check audits on the inspectors. In time, as their systems improved and the volume of business grew, inspection specialists might be able to offer a good service for as little as €55. Just like the NCT.

Perhaps BCAR has something to learn from this? Dedicated specialist staff and standardised systems, monitored by the local authorities are more cost-effective, easier to quality control and ultimately, everyone is safer.

The above opinion piece was received from Orla Hegarty B.Arch. MRIAI RIBA who is Course Director for the Professional Diploma (Architecture) at the School of Architecture, UCD.

Other posts of interest:

Stardust Remembered | Building Control is about protecting life, not property (Part 1)

S.I. 9 and Construction Products: Orla Hegarty MRIAI RIBA

Thoughts on a way forward #bregs #OrlaHegarty

RIAI News Alert | Summary of 5 Senior Counsel opinions on BC(A)R S.I.9

RIAI Past Presidents Paper #2 | The Building Regulations and Certifiers’ Liability

Minister signals changes with Certifier fees of €3,500 | BC(A)R SI.9

SI. 9 and Insurance | Better Latent than never?

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25 February 2015

SI.9 and Insurance | Better Latent than Never?

One of the key criticisms of SI. 9 is that it affords no better protection to the consumer who may encounter a difficulty with a building defect. Building owners still have no recourse other than to pursue the builder and Assigned Certifier responsible through the Courts with no guarantee of success, which is both costly and time-consuming.

Fixing the problem relies on proving negligence by the builder and Assigned Certifier: the builder may have recourse to a structural guarantee or the Assigned Certifier may have a Professional Indemnity insurance policy but the home-buyer has no rights to make a direct claim on them. A better system that operates in other countries (often mandatory with a mortgage policy) is a Latent Defects Insurance policy for the direct benefit of the buyer.

1. Latent Defects Insurance:

Latent Defects Insurance (LDI) is a form of insurance taken out for new-build premises to provide cover for the owner in the event of an inherent defect in the design, workmanship or materials becoming apparent after completion – usually for ten years. It offers a fairly straightforward and affordable direct means of redress for the building owner and it would be commonplace for new construction in many EU states. It was a Red Line issue for the professional stakeholder groups negotiating SI. 9 with the Department of the Environment but it was not made mandatory when SI. 9 legislation was introduced.

To date it appears that there is very little interest in the insurance market either nationally or within the EU at present to provide such insurance to the Irish construction sector.

2. Professional Indemnity Insurance for Employees:

A further insurance problem has arisen with SI. 9 in the event that an employee, who acted as an Assigned Certifier , leaves their employment or where the company that employed them goes bankrupt or winds-down. Where an Assigned Certifier employee finds themselves, for whatever reason, not covered by their employer’s Professional Indemnity policy they will be held personally liable for any loss or damage incurred for buildings where they acted as certifier. The term for this is “employee’s liability overhang” and for this reason most certifiers will be principals or owners of companies, not employees.

It appears that the professional bodies are examining an insurance product for their members who are employees and act as Assigned Certifiers in such cases. However such a scheme comes with many concerns:

  • Once you had a policy you would have to maintain the cover until run-off after retirement;
  • If the PI insurance was linked to  professional membership Assigned Certifiers would also be obliged to maintain their membership of the professional organisation until run-off after retirement;
  • The system would be funded by a levy on membership which is likely to be challenged by those members who do not wish to take on the roles of Design or Assigned Certifier
  • As the system is based on cover for employees it is likely to be challenged by those members who are sole traders
  • Such insurance policies would have to be held by the professional groups involved and this would expose them to enormous risk in the event of substantial claims.

Latent Defects Insurance could prove attractive to the professional organisations as potential revenue streams but there must be wider concerns that would suggest it is inappropriate and potentially reckless for membership organisations to involve themselves in commercial activities such as latent defects insurance.

Other posts of interest:

PII Insurance increase under SI.9 with no cover for pyrite? 

S.I. 9 and Insurance Claims: Deirdre Lennon MRIAI

“The insurance will sort it out…” 

What is Latent Defects Insurance and how much does it cost? 

What is PI Insurance?

8 Questions for Professional Insurer

SI.9 | The Right to self-build is O.K. – if you live in the U.K.

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 06 February 2015

When SI.9 was introduced last year it sounded a death knell for the centuries old tradition of affordable self-building in Ireland. It is hard to fathom why the Department of the Environment would do this in the middle of a housing and financial crisis. In marked contrast our nearest neighbours in the U.K. are doing the exact opposite. Across the Irish Sea they are rolling out comprehensive incentives and supports to get ordinary people building their own houses. See link here:

Extract:

New ‘Right to Build’ areas at forefront of helping aspiring self-builders

The ‘Right to Build’ is the latest in a range of measures designed to help those looking to build their own home in the U.K. Eleven areas will benefit from the latest U.K. government-backed opportunity to help aspiring custom or self-builders get their projects off the ground. These 11 chosen areas will establish and maintain a register of prospective custom and self-builders in the area and begin to identify shovel-ready sites for those on the register – becoming the first to offer local people the right to design and build their own home often at a lower cost than buying an existing property.

U.K. Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said:

“We’re determined to help anyone who aspires to own their own home – whether that’s buying on the open market through schemes like our Help to Buy, or to build. This is one of a range of measures we’re taking to help aspiring homeowners, but also to get Britain building – and thanks to our efforts, house building levels are at their highest since 2007 and rising. Aspiring custom or self-builders will be able to register their interest with the council, who will then be required to offer suitable serviced plots for them that are for sale at market value. But it will open up the opportunity to self-build beyond those with “grand designs” so even more people can realise their self-build ambitions.”

In Ireland if you are a building contractor and a Director of your own firm with at least three years relevant experience, there is no problem with building for yourself. Otherwise, you will have to hire a professional contractor from the soon to be mandatory Construction Industry Federation’s (CIF) own register. The additional cost to employ a CIF registered builder makes house building projects unaffordable for most people. Industry estimates put the additional cost to a typical self-builder at 22%, or over €40,000 on a €180,000 house.

It would appear that SI.9 is causing huge numbers of self-build house projects to be abandoned due to these increased costs, and is a drag on increased housing supply. Minister for State, Paudie Coffey T.D. indicated last month that the unforeseen consequences of SI.9 on self-build is something he has asked his Department to examine.

Other posts of Interest:

UK + Ireland | take a quick trip to Holyhead with Breg Blog…

UK and Ireland: Take a quick drive to Newry with BReg Blog…

SI.9 costs for a typical house

The € 500 million + cost of S.I.9 in 2014 | Residential Sector

S.I. 9 | Self-builders – 6 months’ update

The cost of a Solution to BC(A)R SI.9? 

The self build world has been thrown into disarray

Self Builder petition- BC(A)R SI.9

Law Society response to self-builders

Self building, self-regulation & the consumer

HomeBond | the solution to SI.9?

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The following opinion piece was received from a registered professional on 26th January 2015.

There has been a lot of comment recently on the new building regulations adding hugely to the costs of building a home. Some suggest SI.9 has added over 20% extra to the cost of house building. Certainly, when the cost of using a main contractor is factored in for a self-builder the costs are indeed considerable. Others have suggested that we should embrace additional cost if the system will deliver better building. Only time will tell whether the current reinforced system of self-certification will yield consumer benefit. However, a low-cost certification system currently being developed for the speculative sector may have applications to the self-build and one-off houses. This is currently 46% of housing output according to recent DECLG figures. Any impediment to self-building needs an urgent solution.

HomeBond Pilot Certification scheme

There has been some interest in the pilot scheme announced recently by HomeBond to offer a ‘one-stop-shop’ full building certification service. The main points of the scheme are as follows:

Homebond Certification + LDI scheme:

  1. Includes foundation design at cost €250
  2. Includes Assigned Certification costs
  3. Includes Structural Defects Insurance*

This is currently being piloted on small multi-unit developments. Certificates for Building Control sign-off are provided by HomeBond’s own employees. I am not aware of details of their Professional Insurances held at this point so am unable to comment. While some commentators have concentrated on possible exclusions, I do not have details of the scheme and what is covered or excluded at present.

However there are interesting aspects to this scheme.

Many developers of speculative housing are not necessarily competent builders. They buy a site, engage professionals, borrow money and hire sub-contractors, in much the same way as self-builders, but on a larger scale. Developers would suggest that this was a cost driven model, driving down costs for consumers etc.

The HomeBond scheme is of interest to the self-build sector as it provides a low-cost version of privatised Building Control. Indeed some consider this is precisely what former Minister Hogan had in mind when he (and his Department) issued guidance on costs of the new system of between €1000 and €3000 per housing unit.

Some argue that this is a better model to an all-in professional service where the same person provides certification duties as well as architectural, planning, engineering and design services. The HomeBond separate appointment could provide peer review with the added benefit of a defects insurance at a  modest cost.

Could this scheme could provide a solution to SI.9 problems at the moment?

If the HomeBond scheme was adapted to cover once-off houses and had an additional option for design certifier services, this may be a practical solution to some unintended problems for self building and architectural technologists present:

  • Certifier Costs would be reduced: anecdotally representatives for self-builders have reported increased professional costs ranging from €6k- €30k for assigned certifier duties. An extended version of HomeBond would significantly reduce this cost.
  • Certifier availability: current advice from the Law Society to the IAOSB indicates an unwillingness of certifiers – architects in particular – to undertake self-build projects, . Availability of HomeBond for once-off owner constructed houses would significantly improve this situation. Some suggest the restrictive nature of registers of competent persons has had the effect of reducing the pool of available certifiers, and increasing costs.
  • Contractors: if the HomeBond scheme was geared towards inexperienced owner/ builders, owners would not have to use CIF registered (CIRI) builders for projects. This would reduce the bulk of SI.9 additional costs that are currently acting as a deterrent to self-builders.

Of course details of duties, cover, exclusions, professional insurances held by in-house HomeBond certifiers would need to be looked at. It is surprising that all of the mandatory sub-certification such as waste water and energy compliance can be done at this cost. However if pilot schemes are underway on BCMS validated projects at present, one can only assume all these details have been worked out to the satisfaction of the current Minister, Department and the BCMS.

An added bonus for ‘one-stop-shop’ design and assigned certification being provided separately by HomeBond would be that suitably qualified professionals currently excluded by stakeholder registers, such as Architectural Technologists, could still operate in all other areas of procurement as before, minimising impacts of SI.9 to their liveleihoods. A HomeBond solution (or something similar) could solve a number of problems.

One must assume if this scheme is appropriate for owner-developers of multiple units, it should also be suitable for owner/developers of once-off houses.

* Note: this may be more limited than Latent Defects Insurance. The Homebond policy is taken out by builder and may offer limited benefits to purchasers, see more from Beauchamp Solicitors here:.

Other posts of interest:

Homebond | Assigned Certifier + defects liability policy for €2,000?

The Latest Homebond House Building Manual: A Critique | Joseph Little Architects

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

Quick history of pyrite- press articles

What is Latent Defects Insurance and how much does it cost?

SI.9 costs for a typical house 

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections 

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

SI9 Schedule of duties for Certifiers

Lobbying in the Construction Industry – Part 1

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8th January 2014

In Tuesday’s Irish Examiner Rory Hearne suggests the housing market should serve the interests of all not just the few (Link to article). He also writes:

“We need a national debate about who really benefits from the current housing and property market based around home ownership, and spiraling house prices and rents.

The big beneficiaries remain the banks, developers, estate agents, solicitors, landlords, and increasingly, international capital and vulture fund investors who are buying up huge swathes of Irish residential property (often from and with Nama).

They all have a vested interest in a rising property market.

There has been widespread concern and criticism of some of the same vested interests being involved in the negotiations for the new building regulations, SI.9, introduced in March 2014. Seen as a paper exercise and ‘a political solution’, SI.9 creates a complicated ‘red-tape’ exercise in hands-off private regulation which is resulting in massive costs to consumer and industry. SI.9 was introduced by the former Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan,  with little public or professional back-ups being in place, and no consumer input.

Following on from a public consultation in 2012 only a small circle of key stakeholders were invited to participate in the formation of SI.9.

The organisations invited to participate were representative bodies for architects, engineers and chartered surveyors (RIAI, ACEI and SCSI respectively) along with the Construction Industry Federation (CIF). Most of these bodies now have statutory roles and operate self-policing registers. The CIF register, CIRI, is due to be put on a statutory footing in March 2015.

Critically no consumer groups were involved.

Many consumers share this view and many perceive that the government has conveyed vested interest groups with a monopoly on various statutory roles within the construction process. This is most visible in the self-build sector, where owner/ builders legally are unable to build their own houses without the involvement of a contractor, preferably a Construction Industry Federation/CIRI registered one. This has resulted in significant cost increases, particularly for housing (see links below). The industry has observed a significant fall-off in new self-built homes being undertaken this year.

With Local Authorities already chronically under-resourced, with no additional training or staff allocated to operating the new system, problems such as rogue or cowboy builder/ developers and serious materials issues such as pyrite are set to remain with us for some time.

All these representative bodies are now set for a windfall in income as a result. In order to operate as a registered professional under the new SI9 one must be on a register, and a hefty registration fee must be paid annually to these representative/policing organisations. With 60,000 operatives involved in various roles in the construction sector annual registration fees represent a bonanza for these key stakeholder bodies.

A significant reason for all these organisations to be supportive of SI.9, even though most agree that the regulations bring little or no additional consumer protections to owners.

BRegs Blog Admin. Team

Other posts of interest:

Legal perspective: consumer benefit? BC(A)R SI.9 

€ 5 billion | The extraordinary cost of S.I.9 self-certification by 2020 

Government Reports + Professional Opinion Ignored in SI.9 | look back 5

Summary of Legal Posts- BC(A)R SI.9 

Pyrite legal dispute referred to European Court | Independent

World Bank Report 2015 | UK v Ireland the real cost of “Dealing with construction permits”

World Bank Report 2015 | Ireland’s poor construction regulations are the biggest drag on our ranking | BRegsForum

Ghost estates and public housing: BC(A)R SI.9 | look back 6

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Ghost estates and public housing: BC(A)R SI.9 | look back 6

In this post from March 11th 2014, we explored the undue complexities that SI9 brings to many legacy projects of the celtic tiger years. Local Authorities may find out pretty soon that public housing/ghost estate projects may encounter similar problems to those that generated the SI.105 deferral for hospitals and schools. As the hoarding is up and works start on Priory Hall we wonder how remedial works that come under BC(A)R SI.9 will be completed.

BC(A)R SI.9 may add considerable costs to planned social housing completion of vacant units.

Original post below:

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Ghost estates and public housing: BC(A)R SI.9

The recent deferral SI.105 introduced on 7th march for schools and healthcare buildings appears as a result of issues relating to additional costs, unavailability of professionals as certifiers, time delays due to industry readiness and no revised form of building contract (both private and public sector versions) that incorporates new Building Control (Amendment) Regulation SI.9 of 2014. One would suspect recent robust submissions by the architect’s representative body (RIAI) to Minister Ruairi Quinn, himself an architect and well briefed on the technical complexities of the new regulation, were a factor in getting to grips with the issues earlier than others.BC(A)R SI.9 affects social housing, capital spend by Defence, Social Welfare (employment exchanges in old-fashioned words), Arts/Heritage (Arts Centres but not work to National Monuments), and OPW (State offices but not Garda stations). SI.9 and SI.105 suggests two main issues:1. The State looking out for its own interests: GCCC Form for public contracts but ignoring the fact that the private sector forms and clients are equally affected (self-builders, SME’s and other private non-residential)2. Helping only half of the State spenders (admittedly the larger half) but completely overlooking Govt agencies who have not made representations (other departments that are unaware of implications of SI.9 on annual budgets).

For other departments that may not be as well briefed the same issues may well apply. Here is a link to a recent statement by Minister Jan O’Sullivan on 10th March 2014 regarding public housing:

http://www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/Housing/News/MainBody,36875,en.htm

Government spend on public housing  from 2010 to 2012 dropped from €969m to €384m. At an average government spend of €675m per annum (source: Forfas report table 2.12 p 16 below), and assuming 3/4 qualifies under BC(A)R SI.9 this would suggest an annual extra cost (based on official industry estimates) of SI9 to be in region of €40m (8%). This figure is for the design and assigned certifier roles only, and excludes additional costs for ancillary certifiers, increased insurance costs and defensive specifications. The latter could be as much as an additional 5% extra on top of the construction cost of a project. This could bring the additional cost figure to over €70m, a huge impact on the department’s annual budget.

Notwithstanding direct costs, the implementation problems associated with hospitals and schools may apply to public housing and indeed completion of ghost estates. Due to vague wording of the Code of Practice it would appear that personal liability for certifier roles may require individual employees to take out individual professional indemnity insurance separate to companies that they work on behalf of (possibly including employees of local authorities). This early criticism of the Code of Practice appears to remain in the final version. This may result in delays for local authority projects where certifier roles are assumed in-house, as well as outsourced projects.

Many part-completed residential projects require multiple commencement notices. Current and future remaining phases will come under the remit of SI.9 as a result. Extended planning permissions may require material alterations to comply with current revised technical guidance documents (Part L for example). As a result they may require commencement notices and trigger compliance with SI.9.

This is an issue that affects completion of ghost or incomplete housing estates. Professionals and local authorities tasked with completion of these could discover  the legally “loose and vague” language of S.I9 may incur liability for previous stages completed (e.g. drainage or structural infrastructure). Currently there is inadequate provision for exclusions on the certificates issued under SI.9. Future legal actions may well determine these certificates are guarantees for entire developments, even though certifiers may only have been part-involved for works to finish out projects.

Given the technical complexity of SI.9 and the vague liability boundaries in the Code of Practice, Local Authorities may find out pretty soon that public housing/ghost estate projects may encounter similar problems to those that generated the SI.105 deferral for hospitals and schools.

How long will it be before BC(A)R No. 3 of 2014 appears? Deferral for ghost-estates and public housing?

Link to Forfas report:

So What is an Independent Building Inspector and How Can they add value?

We have discussed the UK system of independent building control inspections by Local Authorities and Approved Inspectors many times on BRegs Blog. Widely praised, internationally the UK ranks an impressive 17th out of 189 countries in the “dealing with construction permits” section of the World Bank “doing business rankings. In contrast Ireland has slid further back to 128th position since the introduction of SI.9. In this Guest post we publish an interview with a UK Approved Inspector. This is the system we could have at no cost to the taxpayer or industry- it’s self-financing.

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So What is an Independent Building Inspector and How Can they add value?

Building Regulations approval is required on almost every building project, including those that are permitted development under the planning system, and even for internal alterations to your home or office.

In this blog we talk to Approved Inspector Geoff Wilkinson* and ask him about the Approved Inspector system which is the alternative way to get Approval instead of using the Local Authority Building Inspector.

(Geoff is Managing Director of Wilkinson Construction Consultants and writes the Building Regulation column every month in Architects Journal)

SO WHAT DOES AN APPROVED INSPECTOR DO?

The service itself is essentially the same as the councils – the Approved Inspector will check and approve the plans, and then come out and inspect the works being carried out at various stages. I should point out though that the Approved Inspector system is a complete alternative to the Council service, the Approved Inspector is the actual decision maker, not a subcontractor for the council.

HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

The Government in the 1980’s recognised that the Building Control System was broken and causing great problems to developers as there was no choice in service provision. If your Local Council was short staffed you had no choice but to wait for your application to be processed. Worse still if the Local Authority Union went on strike your building site shut down while you waited to have your work inspected and approved. As a result they decided to introduce competition into the market as a way to improve standards. Successive Governments have recognised the role that Approved Inspectors have played in fixing the problems of the 1980s.

SO CAN ANYONE BECOME AN APPROVED INSPECTOR?

In short no – not everyone can become an Approved Inspector. Licenses are only issued by the Construction Industry Council and applicants have to prove that they are qualified and experienced to the necessary level before they can practice. This typically means that they hold RICS or equivalent qualifications, have 5 years post qualification experience, have complaints procedures and insurance in place in case anything went wrong, undertake continuous training of staff, and sign up to performance standards. The licenses are reviewed every 5 years there are sanctions that can be taken against Approved Inspectors that fail to perform. Interestingly there are no such requirements for Council Building Inspectors and the Government are now encouraging councils to apply to become Approved Inspectors.

HOW DOES THE SERVICE DIFFER?

The difference is generally in approach as after all both services essentially offer the same thing – a statutory check that building regulations are being followed. Approved Inspectors are commercially aware (they are businesses themselves after all), so understand that the important thing to a client is that works are completed on time and on budget. As a result they look to find ways to help you comply and offer advice early in the process to avoid the need to correct defective work. We don’t justify our fee by trying to find faults!

That may sound like we try to cut corners, but let me explain more. Since the 1980′s the building regulations have been cast in a functional form rather than being prescriptive In plain English this means that there are many different ways that you can show compliance, not just by following the Approved Documents . Approved Inspectors are more flexible in interpretation of the regulations as they are aware of these alternative routes. Also there is no political interference in the decision making process. Unfortunately many Local Authority Building control departments sit beneath Town Planners and in some cases they look to Gold Plate the minimum requirements in order to meet party political aspirations. The Government are trying to stop this completely by bringing all of the technical requirements out of the control of planners and into the Building Control system (see the Housing Review)

Lastly I should point out that Approved Inspectors have a duty to turn down work if they do not have the resources and experience to cope. The reverse is true of the Council service, who cannot refuse to accept a valid application. Councils are permitted 5-8 weeks in order to process an application and during busy periods Local Authority staff can be overstretched to breaking point to meet these targets. In some cases they end up rejecting applications in order to meet those deadlines , whereas there are no such deadlines using Approved Inspectors. As a result turnaround times are typically 5-10 days, instead of 5-8 weeks.

SO WHO ARE THESE APPROVED INSPECTORS?

Approved Inspectors can vary from large corporate practices of around 100 surveyors covering the whole of the country to small local businesses employing just 1 or 2 staff. Some specialise in particular sectors, such as housing, offices, or retail, whilst others work across all sectors. For the most part Approved Inspectors attract the very best ex Local Authority staff who want to concentrate on delivering high quality services and are fed up with the bureaucracy of Local Government. They don’t just work 9am – 5pm and are on hand to give advice from the earliest stage – often pre-planning to ensure that your design wont be rejected

SOUNDS GREAT, BUT ITS NOT BEEN TRIED AND TESTED HAS IT?

Actually it has been – Approved Inspectors were first introduced in the 1980′s and there are now around 60 or so licenses in place, a full list can be seen on the Construction Industry Website.

WHY HAVEN’T I HEARD ABOUT THIS BEFORE THEN?

For many years Approved Inspectors only operated in the commercial sector as the first licenses excluded housing. As a result most of the big commercial developments and many government departments used Approved inspectors whilst small residential developers didn’t. The Government recognised this issue and changed the rules to enable Approved Inspectors to operate on a level playing field and as a result most will now take on smaller projects too.

BUT IT MUST BE MORE EXPENSIVE THEN?

Not necessarily, Approved Inspectors are able to operate without the costs of Local Authority services, operating from small local offices rather than grand civic centres. As a result fees are generally competitive, often within 10% of the Council fee and sometimes even cheaper. More importantly though Building Control fees are typically no more than 1-2% of the cost of a project £600 – £1000 on a typical £30K – £50K extension, and the right choice of Approved Inspector can save significantly more than that in delay and correcting defective works.

BRegs Blog would like to thank the author Geoff Wilkinson for permission to reproduce his article here. The post first appeared on selbydesign.co.uk in November 2014- for original click here.

Other posts of interest:

How much would 100% independent inspections by Local Authorities cost?

Collins & O Cofaigh- A BETTER way: BC(A)R SI.9 Solutions

Ten Point Plan for Building Control Regulations 

World Bank Report 2015 | UK v Ireland the real cost of “Dealing with construction permits”

World Bank Report 2015 | Ireland’s poor construction regulations are the biggest drag on our ranking

Collins & O’Cofaigh | “the 38 steps” and the complexity of our regulations

S.I.9 – Where are we now? 27 October 2014

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

€ 5 billion | The extraordinary cost of S.I.9 self-certification by 2020

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

UK + Ireland | take a quick trip to Holyhead with Breg Blog…