Author Archives: bregs blog admin team

Top Posts for July 2014

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Here are the top read posts for July. Notwithstanding the holidays we equaled our second highest ever monthly level with over 20,600 views, we were nominated for a Blog Award Ireland and reached a milestone 125,000 views. Many thanks again to all our readers. This month we saw:

  • Vivian Cummins and Caomhan Murphy, architects and council members of the representative body for architects (RIAI), both had personal opinion pieces on the difficulties faced by practitioners under BCAR SI.9.
  • The evolving status of the Architectural Technologist featured. We detailed a Department meeting with both the RIAI and Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) on a separate register for Architectural Technologists. We noted the CIAT Register going live on 31st July.
  • The alarming lack of consumer protection for developer-led speculative projects under SI.9 was highlighted.
  • We noted an RIAI EGM which is scheduled for the 12th August 2014. It has been requested by members to call on the new Minister to Revoke SI.9.
  • Readers were getting into the technical issues associated with design certification, inspection plans and ancillary certifiers  in a number of more technical posts this month.
  • Ex-president and current council member of the RIAI Eoin O’Cofaigh provided a detailed examination of smaller retail fit-out projects and the rationale for their exclusion under the new building regulations.

Top posts for July 2014:

Vivian Cummins MRIAI: Are small architectural practices under threat from S.I.9?

Architectural Technologists: Are you on the right bus?

RIAI CPD July 2014: Design Certifier in the Design Process- SI.9

How developers are “adapting” to the new Building Control regulations

Architects are Revolting – Revoke BC(A)R S.I.9!

Shrapnel and Spin – Caomhán Murphy MRIAI

SI9- where do I start?

O’Cofaigh: fit-outs that are exempt from SI.9

Minister Hogan’s departure- Does this mean somebody can now shout STOP?

CIAT Architectural Technologists Register goes live today!

Registered Building Surveyor’s Inspection Plan (post 1 of 2)

A warning from a concerned Building Control Officer

What is the difference between BC(A)R compliance and BRegs compliance?

Architect’s Overview of Regulations for a Dwelling

Overview-sul-Gruppo_billboard

The following opinion piece was submitted on 13th May 2014 by Zeno Winkens architect MRIAI of Winkens Architecture, Wexford www.winkens.ie.

Blog comment: The extraordinary “blizzard of red tape” that applies to even a once-off house is simply illustrated in this informative and useful summary document. At last count there were over 91 Statutory Instruments that currently affect buildings- an extraordinary number that add to complexity and cost of procuring projects in the state.

In contrast to the new building regulations in Ireland, countries like the UK (which have an effective independent inspection system for buildings) are currently trying to simplify and streamline the statutory permissions process, to reduce cost, time, generate additional jobs and also increase international competitiveness. 

Opinion Piece: architect’s overview of Regulations for a Dwelling

Since the 1st of March a new order is in place for most construction projects. As an architect who can be an assigned certifier as one of the 3 chosen professional groups I found it difficult to find a comprehensive guide outlining the new regulation in context of the workflow of a typical Dwelling. Information / guidance is still conflicting, inconsistent and lacking for the consumer (building owner) and professional alike.  That’s why I did the Overview of regulations for an average dwelling myself. Link to pdf here:

http://www.winkens.ie/overview dwelling .pdf

Design certifier and assigned certifier can be the same person and must be either a registered architect, registered engineer or registered building surveyor. The working relationship between assigned certifier and builder is increasingly becoming important for a smooth build. Gathering ancillary certificates from all trades is very important for the Certificate of compliance.

But one must not forget there is a lot more to Building a House than following regulations and filling out forms and I am afraid that with all this new red tape, good design will be lost.

After all anybody can still submit a planning application and get permission. The proposed building should be in accordance with the building regulations, but permission may be given to non-compliant designs. Come construction time and submitting a commencement notice, that’s when the client will need to employ a design certifier to certify that the design is up to regulations,(on paper) and then an assigned certifier that must ensure that the building is constructed in accordance with the building regulations and the planning permission.

I can see problems that permitted buildings applied for by non professionals may be not certifiable without revisions that may need a further planning application.

Unfortunately this problem was not addressed at all with S.I.9.

.Jpeg of Overview of Regulations for a Dwelling here overview reg ave dwelling v2

Letter to Minister Hogan: CIF & SI.9

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The following letter to Minister Phil Hogan was submitted by Amanda Gallagher, self-builder on 29th April 2014. See letter on Blog: Amanda Gallagher – a self builder’s blog “Latest letter to Minister Hogan“. Extract as follows:

_______________________

The Truth is incontrovertible – malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.

– Sir Winston Churchill

Dear Minister Hogan,

I cannot tell you how disheartened I am at the complete lack of respect shown to self builders in Ireland by you and the officials in your Department and your continued refusal to answer most pressing questions that are crucial to the people of this nation who were intending  to build homes for their families.

You and your officials are most convincing in your attempts to ‘reassure’ the nation that self build can continue as before.  Even if we ‘park’ (for a minute!) the now-famous signatory issue within the S.I. 9 – you and I now know full well that a self builder will never find an Assigned Certifier to work with them.  I would advise you listen to Sir Winston Churchill’s words above – before the whole world knows exactly what an unjust ‘regime’ the Irish Government have turned in to – it is imperative that the truth be told as soon as possible for the sake of the Nation and for the sake of the reputation of your Party.

You know everyone is questioning the competence of Fine Gael at this time – I actually feel sorry for the whole party at this stage – most especially the local Fine Gael Councillors – the men and women whose face goes ‘blank’ when we talk to them about this Building Control Crisis.

Yesterday, after explaining (yet again!) the SI 9 to a member of Fine Gael, I was informed that you were not actually in control of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 – you merely signed off on them – as a matter of fact this person claimed it was – the CIF Chief who was the ‘main contributor’ of the S.I. 9! (By the way this person was telling me this in defence of you!).  To tell you the truth I was relieved to hear that all of our suspicions were actually ‘real’!

I would like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to a few quotes from this man who you regard as ‘competent’ enough and that you  ‘trust’ enough that you let him dictate the wording of the Nations building control laws:

  • “Our message is now is the time to buy – there is real value out there!” – May ’08 Irish Examiner
  • “The IMF don’t know what they’re talking about!” – Oct. ’08 The Last Word – in response to the presenter saying that the IMF reported that Irish House Prices were most overvalued.
  • “Now we see value” and “we still need 40,000 houses built!” – Oct. ’08 Newstalk
  • The CIF Chief claimed he’d never seen a ghost estate! – Nov. ’08 The Last Word
  • “WE [IN THE CIF] SAW THE CRASH COMING!!” – Jan. ’09 Morning Ireland
  • “I’m in and out of the Dail every other day…every chance I get..” – Oct. ’10 Irish Independent
  •  “House prices need to rise to make it viable for builders to make a profit!!” – Jan. ’14 Newstalk
  • We have been getting good vibes from this Government…I have access to the Toaiseach’s office…I would find this Government very accessible..” – Jan. ’10 Irish Independent

Wow!  You really couldn’t make this stuff up – even if you tried!

The CIF should have shut it’s doors in 2009  – if they saw the crash coming – why on earth were they advising young families only weeks earlier to buy, buy, buy, buy – knowingly encouraging them to buy homes way overpriced and now they live in negative equity!! And I really don’t know who the Chief is trying to impress telling the world that now he has access into the Taoiseach’s office?  He certainly does not impress the self builder – especially in light of where we are now – we find it rather obnoxious and hurtful.

You know, this whole fiasco is now being discussed in other countries – I would highly recommend you find a resolution to this crisis with immediate effect – you have been given the ‘Collins & O’Cofaigh – A Better Way’ solution to Building Control – a solution that would resolve every single issue contained within S.I. 9 and would most importantly for you, be cost neutral to the State. We are all still wondering why on earth it has not been implemented yet.

Whether or not, the CIF Chief was the main author and your main advisor during the talks of the S.I. 9 – only the other key stakeholders know the answer to this – the fact that the CIF were in any way involved in the talks in itself is scandalous. These are the men that the S.I. 9 are supposed to be ‘regulating’ – have you learned nothing from Ireland’s Proprty Madness days? – why on earth were these men present at talks that were about regulating themselves?  It is madness!  It is like the Customs section of Revenue having talks on regulating the smuggling of cigarettes into Ireland and inviting the sellers of cigarettes on Moore Street to the talks and letting them have input into the wording of the regulations! 

We all know the only reason the CIF were let into the talks was because of who their Chief is (an ex government minister with access into the Taoiseach’s Office!!) and this I am afraid to say is cronyism.  In fact, even the media go to the CIF for construction ‘news’ – It is crazy – they should go to people who actually know a thing or two about construction – people like architects, engineers, surveyors, tradesmen etc… the poor media have even been ‘duped’ into thinking the CIF know everything when we can clearly see from the quotes above that the CIF are totally ‘incompetent’ when it comes to anything got to do with construction in Ireland.

You would have been so much better off if you had Trade Union representatives of tradesmen – the actual ‘builders’ of houses – as key stakeholders – you will see one day that it was a fatal error on your part to have let the CIF in to the talks.

I am hearing a lot of noise of the black market as one of the main reasons for erasing self building from Ireland.  I do know that this ‘reason’ originally came from the CIF – and I am absolutely shocked that yet again this government would be ‘hoodwinked’ by the same men who have this country in €15bn worth of debt – you know the self build houses have been one of the main economic aids that has kept the construction industry going since 2009.  The CIF were dying to get their hands on the one-off houses in Ireland – please do not listen to anymore black market nonsense from the CIF.  If you had a proper government Register of qualified construction workers, men and women who are all tax compliant etc.. this would sort out the black market issue and also generate revenue for the State.  Why don’t you research how every other country in the world copes with the black market – once again, you have made Ireland an International Joke – we are now the only country in the world to ban self building.

The poor citizens of this Nation are in fact ‘sleep walking’ amid political chaos and amid chaos in the construction sector.  I have every faith that it will not be too long until they are all wide awake and hungry for answers as to how on earth the SI 9 happened!

I am still looking forward to answers to all of my queries – this letter I have sent to others ‘in the know’ and we all await eagerly your reply.

Regards, as always to you, at this most difficult time in building control – my thoughts are with you.

Amanda Gallagher

Is CIRI the only register of contractors? BC(A)R SI.9

tools It will be interesting to see if the National Guild of Master Craftsmen have made any representations to Minister Hogan regarding the Construction Industry Federation’s (CIF) private register of contractors CIRI. The Guild is a well-established membership organisation (7,500 members) with it’s own register of competent tradespersons and contractors.

The recently established CIF register CIRI is currently the subject of a complaint by the representative body for self-builders (IAOSB) to the european ombudsman (see post here). The IAOSB have complained that the register is a restrictive practice endorsed by government. The CIF own and operate CIRI. It is also the subject of an individual complaint by self-builder Amanda Gallagher to the Competition Authority. See post here. Homebond of course has also launched a competing register of contractors but is not endorsed by Government (Link here).

CIRI is the only contractor register endorsed by government and has been written into law in the Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). We believe from a recent CPD in DunLaoghaire that CIRI has had 450 applications by persons/companies to join to date. Two meetings of small building contractors have recently been organised in Co. Wicklow and Co. Kildare to protest the CIF register.

Link to CIRI: CIRI: construction industry register ireland

Quote from CIRI website: “This is the register which you may have heard the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan TD and other members of the Government refer to in recent months. CIRI will operate on a voluntary basis initially but the Government has said they will look to put it on a statutory footing next year. CIRI is being set up to try to distinguish legitimate construction companies/ sole traders from those who have given the industry a bad name. At the moment anyone can pass themselves off as a builder or construction operative. There is nothing to stop anyone, regardless of their skills or qualifications from looking to secure construction work.  CIRI will provide a mechanism to the public to distinguish between the credentials of registered construction practitioners from those not on the register.  It will highlight those who follow best practice. CIRI should not be confused with any other registers you may hear about. CIRI is the only construction register that is being supported by the Government.

The National Guild of Master Craftsmen have a well-established register of master craftsmen. This organisation has 7,500 members. One would wonder as to the viability of this Guild when the government’s preferred register is the one owned and operated by the CIF. It will be interesting to see if the Guild will lodge their own complaint against the CIF, CIRI, the Minister and Department. It would seem remarkable that the Department and Minister would give competitive advantage, written into law to a CIF register recently established, at the expense of another organisation that would appear to have a proven track-record and a well-established/ respected register of competent tradesmen and contractors.

We believe the Guild’s registration fee is less than half that of CIRI at €295 per annum (year one), reducing to €195 for each year after.

Here is a link to the National Guild of Master Craftsmen: National Guild of Master Craftsmen

Extract off the Guild’s website:

About: 

The National Guild of Master Craftsmen is the largest organisation representing skilled and accredited tradesmen and builders. Its aims are to protect the skills and integrity of its members and clearly define the skilled from the non-skilled thus enabling the general public to choose a National Guild of Master Craftsmen member to facilitate the service they require. The National Guild of Master Craftsmen has over 7500 members nationwide. With this membership the Guild has the ability to negotiate bulk buying power on group discounts.

Aims:

1) To assist all members, particularly the self-employed and to protect them against the growing menace and the devaluing and damaging activities of the unskilled, against bureaucratic discrimination, against penal taxation and adverse legislation. Equally, to protect the public by instilling among members a greater sense of responsibility, making members aware of the national importance of the services they render, monitoring these standards to ensure that the Guild’s high standards are being maintained, and by encouraging members always to strive for excellence.

(2) To encourage an interchange of views among members, to endeavour to unite these views and bring them to the attention of the Government and local authorities in order to safeguard the livelihood and welfare of the members and their dependants.

(3) To BRING TOGETHER ALL SKILLED PEOPLE engaged in a craft, art, trade profession or vocation in order to safeguard the interests of craftsmen and the public.

(4) To publicise these high standards through the national and local media, thus creating public awareness of the ideals and aims of the Guild and its members.

(5) To ensure that the minimum qualifications for membership preserve the high standards of the Guild by excluding the unskilled.

(6) To promote to the public the trading assets of the members, their honour, professional expertise and integrity, their high standards and the value for money which they offer.

(7) To constitute a pressure group to seek the support of one or more Members of Dail Eireann to make sure that someone speaks up for the interests of the Guild members where it matters most.

(8) To provide clear identification and recognition for members so as to enable the public to distinguish them from the unskilled who pass themselves off as craftsmen and so increasingly to attract and direct work to members of the Guild.

(9) To foster learning among the apprentices and students in order to perpetuate the survival and success of their particular craft.

(10) To promote sponsorship of the Guild by persons, firms and organisations whether by financial support, by endorsement of the activities of the Guild or by patronage.

(11) To promote research within the craft, trade, art, profession or vocation in which members are engaged, for their own benefit and that of the public

Maintenance of Standards:

One of the Guild’s principle objectives is to preserve high standards. For it is the quality of members’ work which achieves public recognition, and the consequent reputation for quality which attracts extra business for all members. The symbol of the Guild’s reputation for quality is the Guild logo.

Unsuitable applicants, identified by the Guild’s strict vetting procedures, are automatically denied membership. Existing members, who allow their standards to fall, resulting in verified complaints from their customers, are refused permission to continue membership. In this way the Guild plays its part in maintaining the quality standards which protect those who are genuinely working with skill and integrity. Membership of the Guild can be the most important asset in many businesses.

It would cost a considerable amount of money for any company to build a comparable reputation for quality with such a strong corporate identification. In the eyes of prospective customers, any new member is automatically identified with long-standing members who have already shown their determination to provide quality products and services. This gives reassurance to prospective customers deciding where to place their next order. It also places an obligation on the new member to live up to high standards. You will be helping yourself by helping us to maintain these high standards at all times

Services and Benefits:

  • Insurance Services– Members are entitled to avail of the Tradesmen Insurance Group’s services, our inhouse insurance brokerage group dedicated to all members of the national guild.
  • Private Health Care– Discounts on Private Health Care plans for members of the National Guild of Master Craftsmen, with V.H.I.
  • Legal Advice Service– Free Legal advice available from the Guild’s list of appointed professionals.
  • Mediation Service- The Guilds Mediation Services available to members can help to avoid costly legal proceedings.
  • Debt Collection & Credit Vetting– In response to the demand from our members we have established Guild Money Recovery Services, our own in house debt recovery company, independently staffed with solicitors, door step callers and telephone personnel.
  • Printing– Substantial Discounts are available to members from the appointed list of Guild’s printers.
  • Safety Statements– A complete range of Professional Health & Safety Risk Management Services- Nationwide.
  • Vehicle Fleet Discounts– Available to Guild Members on the purchase of Ford, Opel, Ssang Yong, Volkswagon and Toyota vehicles – conditions apply.
  • Public Recognition– Membership of the National Guild of Master Craftsmen is recognition of Quality & Service and the Certificate is a valuable trading asset.
  • Letter of Recommendation Service– The Guild provides a highly valuable service for its members by way of a letter of recommendation service to enable further business opportunities.
  • The Guild Logo– The Guild Logo identifies to the public the quality and skills of the member.
  • Register of Members– Computerised list of members to enable us to identify for the public and other members the quality of skills and services offered.

joining: For information on applying to the National Guild of Master Craftsmen, contact Kathleen Carroll, Lo-Call,1890 20 70 50 or email info@nationalguild.ie with your contact details.

Self-builders write to Attorney General: BC(A)R SI.9

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There seems to be numerous conflicting statements concerning the status of the self-builders under Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) by Minister Hogan and his Deaprtment at this point. In previous Dáil exchanges towards the end of 2013 Minister Hogan spelled out the requirement under SI.9 for a “competent builder” to undertake building works. Clearly no mention of owners undertaking the role and CIRI, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) owned and operated private register of builders, is noted as de-facto compliance. Here on 18 Sep 2013 (Dáil written answers): Debate 18 September 2013

Quote from Minister Hogan: “(a) drawings and particulars used for the purposes of construction to be submitted to the local building control authority;(b) design to be undertaken and certified by competent professionals prior to works commencing;(c) owners to formally assign a competent builder to undertake and certify the works;(d) owners to formally assign a registered professional (to be known as the ‘Assigned Certifier’) ...”

In more recent exchanges from the Minister and correspondence from his Department, the view of self-builders appears to be quite different. Link here to recent correspondence from DOELG to the representative body of self-builders (IAOSB): Response from DECLG on SI.9-_13th_march_2014.

This apparent about-turn on the status of self-builders one must assume is as a result of the very high-profile nationwide campaign by self-builders (IAOSB) lobbying local representatives and TD’s with self-builder’s concerns. (Link: People of Ireland, stand up for your rights). This adversely affected group have escalated their complaints about the restrictive nature of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) privately owned and run register of contractors to the European Ombudsman also (Link: IAOSB complaint to European Ombudsman)

Independent legal advice obtained by the IAOSB has confirmed that self-building is no longer possible after 1st March 2014. This view is shared both by two key stakeholder in the formation of SI.9, the representative body for architects (RIAI) and the CIF. The representative body for Engineers the ACEI also have had this confirmed at a CPD event in January 2014. In response to the latest contradictory statement by the Department the IAOSB has written to the Attorney General for definitive guidance on the status of self-builders under BC(A)R SI.9. (Link to attorney general letter here: IAOSB Letter_to_attorney_general).

Text of Attorney General letter to follow (from IAOSB website):

__________

Letter to Attorney General, Máire Whelan SC from Iaosb regarding S.I.9   18th March 2014

Dear Ms, Whelan,

This Statutory Instrument, signed into law by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, took effect from 1 March 2014. The law was drafted in response to certain well-publicised failures in the speculative residential construction sector but affects almost all types of building project. It requires the building owner to make a number of appointments or assignments (“Design Certifier”, “Builder” and “Assigned Certifier”) in advance of construction being commenced and to notify the local building control authority of these. These people, in turn, must certify compliance with the building regulations of the design and the completed works before the works or building may be opened or occupied.

The Irish Association of Self Builders has about 2,000 members. We are primarily private citizens who have built, are building or aspire to building our own homes, usually on land belonging to our families. About 2,800 such homes were completed in 2013, the largest single type of dwelling built in the State in 2013. The Statutory Instrument impacts on such projects.

The way most our Members build their homes in an affordable manner is to retain a qualified professional to prepare a design, and for the “self-builder” to then procure its construction by a combination of their family’s own direct labour, by contracting with specialist tradesmen such as electricians and plumbers, and above all by managing the building works directly themselves.

The Association has expressed concern, both privately to the Minister of the Environment, Community and Local Government and to his Department and also publicly, that the effect of the regulations is to require us to retain and pay a “competent building company” to manage our projects. It is generally agreed that for us to do so will add an average 10% to the construction cost.

This is a very significant cost indeed. €20,000 as an average extra cost will have to be added to the borrowing requirement for our members and will result in many new home projects being delayed or scrapped.

For your convenience, I attach copy of the “Notice of Assignment of Builder” and of the “Undertaking by Builder” which under article 9 the owner of the project must serve on the building control authority when it commences on site.

I also attach copy of the “Certificate of Compliance on Completion” referred to at article 20F of the Instrument which must be lodged with (and validated by) the building control authority before the building or works may be opened or occupied.

You will note that the Undertaking and Certificate of Compliance on Completion are “to be signed by a Principal or Director of a Building Company only”.

Through his Department, the Minister has responded to us to the effect that (a) it was never his intention that the regulations would hinder or prevent “self-builders” from continuing to manage our own projects and (b) that the regulations do not, in fact, so hinder. He has assured the Association that self-builders can indeed legitimately sign the undertakings and “Certificate of Completion” which the regulations require.

I attach in this regard, copy of (a) the “Information Note issued by the Department of the Environment on 26 February 2014 on Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI No. 9 of 2014) and the Self-Build Sector” and (b) a letter which the Department sent to the Association on 13 March 2014.

The Association’s members await our advice as to the implications of the new regulations, for their plans for their families’ homes. If we say to them that the Statutory Instrument requires them to assign a competent building company to undertake the construction of their homes and to sign the required Undertaking and “Certificate of Completion”, this will result at best in their incurring significant extra costs on their projects or at worst in the cancellation of many projects. On the other hand, if we say to them that the Minister for the Environment has advised us that they may themselves act as “builder” and sign the various certificates, this might make “all well”.

If, however, the Minister is found subsequently to be mistaken in his reassurances to us, the consequences are potentially most serious for our Members individually and for the Association upon whose advice our members may legitimately rely. The foreseeable consequences include (a) rejection by building control authorities of the signed “Certificate on Completion” as invalid with our Members’ new homes not being open able or occupiable under law; (b) refusal by banks or other funding agencies of loans to our Members or, worse, demands for the repayment of loans advanced on foot of undertakings which were not fulfilled, loans which it will not be possible to repay upon demand as the money will have been committed to tradesmen and others; and (c) prosecutions of our Members for breach of statutory duty.

In the above context, the Association requests that you ask your officials to examine the text of the Statutory Instrument and to advise us, and if you see fit to advise the Minister also, as to whether in your opinion our members may indeed legitimately appoint themselves as “Builder” under these regulations and sign the various Undertakings and Certificates.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours

Shane McCloud
Irish Association of Self-Builders
www.iaosb.com

Letter to Attorney General from Iaosb regarding S.I.9  Word.Doc

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

cost_eff

As a follow-on to the Michael Collins and Eoin O’Cofaigh paper yesterday on a solution to BC(A)R SI.9, we look back on an earlier blog post that attempted to quantify the resources and cost of a UK-type system here of “approved inspectors”. Link to previous blog post:  how much for a proper independent building control inspectorate? Quote from post:

“…Let’s look at the costs of a good system of Building Control for a moment. The UK ranks 27th out of 182 countries for “ease of obtaining construction permit” according to the recent by the World Bank Report mentioned recently by Minister Richard Bruton. Their legal and system and building standards are closest to ours so they are a good precedent to look at. How much would it cost us to establish the similar system here?

There are over 3,000 local authority building control inspectors (source: Local Authority Building Control UK) with an additional 600 private licensed Approved Inspectors (source: Construction Industry Council UK). Approved Inspectors complete 20% of all building control inspections in the UK (source: World Bank). So we have a conservative total of 4,000 Building Control inspectors in the UK.

In the UK the current construction industry output for 2012 was €115Bn with Ireland at €7.5Bn (source: Bruce Shaw). Given our construction output is just 6% that of the uk the consequent number of inspectors required should be 270. In 2007 we had less than 70 for the entire country so by employing 200 new inspectors we should have coverage similar to the much praised system in the UK.

…The system would be self-funding, transparent and effective. 100% independent building control inspections throughout the country, real consumer protection. There would be plenty of well-qualified applicants for these roles and a separate simple register could be set up to monitor 200 professional inspectors.

No millions of euros in consultants fees needed to work out the feasibility or costs.”

Even being conservative and over-staffing by double all local authorities to bed-down the new regulation system, we would need 400 new inspectors, a fraction of the resources allocated to Irish Water.

 

Building red tape to hit farmers pocket: BC(A)R SI.9

phil-hogan-app

In this article in the Independent on 11th March author Ken Whelan explores the “blizzard of red tape” that Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) will impose on the rural farming community. Commentators have concentrated on other sectors seriously disadvantaged by BC(A)R SI.9. In this article the unintended consequences on the farming community and qualifying farm buildings come into focus. One wonders as to  the rationale that suggests Priory Hall Fire issues and Pyrite problems in the residential sector should have a bearing on the regulatory procedures involved in the construction of most farm buildings.

http://www.independent.ie/business/farming/building-red-tape-to-hit-farmers-pocket-30079557.html

As most farm buildings are built by farmers themselves, self-built, the agri sector now find themselves in a similar position to residential self-builders. Farmers now will have to employ established main contractors to build agricultural buildings that previous to BC(A)R SI.9 they were able to construct themselves. Local Kerry councillors recently estimated that this could, in addition to increased professional fees, add over 20% to the cost of self-built structures and houses. The representative body for self-builders (IAOSB) have escalated objections regarding this requirement. Their objection centers on the restrictive practice of the government recognised privately owned register of builders CIRI, owned and operated by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF). Link to European Ombudsman complaint here:

http://www.iaosb.com/complaint details to the commission of the european communities concerning failure to comply with community law.html

At the end of the article the author notes “It is understood that the county councils have asked the Department of the Environment to delay the introduction of the regulations until they have the necessary staff capable of dealing with the updated building regulations”. The representative body for architects (RIAI) recently came under fire from the Minister for formally requesting a deferral of SI.9 on the grounds of industry readiness and lack of adequate resources in Local Authorities to implement BC(A)R SI.9. In retrospect it would seem the architects’ robust requests for deferral made in letters to Ministers Hogan and Bruton in January 2014 were accurate. Listen to Robin Mandal, RIAI President on RTÉ Radio 1: News At One Media Player:

http://www.rte.ie/news/news1pm/player.html?20140228,20535683,20535683,flash,232

________________

Extract from article “Building red tape to hit farmers pocket”, 11 March 2014:

Farmers face another blizzard of statutory red tape under new building control regulations circulated by the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan in the Dáil last week.

The amended controls, which the minister says are necessary to bring building regulation up to speed in the wake of the ‘pyrite’ scandal inDublin, came into operation on the first of this month.

However, the control, though primarily aimed at rogue builders of urban housing estates, will apply throughout the rural construction sector and will cover most types of agricultural buildings.

New farm buildings over one storey high or over 300 sq metres in area, extensions to existing farms buildings, and buildings not used exclusively for plant, machinery or agricultural-related materials are affected by the new rules.

Similarly, new buildings not exclusively used for the housing, care or management of livestock come within the ambit of the new regulations.

The new rules will also apply to any new houses built on sites on farmland.

And in future farmers will find it extremely difficult to ‘self build’ and this measure will have implications for rural employment in the agri-construction sector, as will the requirement for building contractors and sub contractors to register under the regulations before any work can be commenced.

Death knell

The Construction Federation of Ireland (CFI) are one of the registration monitoring bodies tasked with ensuring the new regulations are adhered to.

The new regulations will spell the “death knell of construction in rural Ireland”, one agri-construction source told the Farming Independent this week, while another said the amount of new bureaucratic red tape facing farmers wishing to improve farm infrastructure will be “bewildering”.

The cost implications of the regulations are still being counted by the sector but registration fees, higher insurance premiums, new administration costs and the inevitable cost of the red tape will inflate the costs of farm and rural construction plans.

There are also fears that the completion deadlines for whatever building goes ahead on farms this year will be impossible to meet given the level of outside independent certification that is required under the new regulations.

“You can forget about any building being carried out in rural Ireland or on farms this year because of these new rules,” an industry source told the Farming Independent.

The ban on self-build effectively means that a farmer embarking on a farm building which falls within the regulations will have to employ a registered builder/contractor, a designer to prepare compliant drawings and specifications and a design certifier to confirm compliance and to lodge plans with the local county council and then apply for a commencement order.

It is understood that the county councils have asked the Department of the Environment to delay the introduction of the regulations until they have the necessary staff capable of dealing with the updated building regulations.

Opinion piece: View of an architectural technologist: BC(A)R SI.9

architectural services and technicians

Two separate radio interviews posted on the BRegs Forum Blog in the past week have hinted at one of the significant issues of the car crash that is BC(A)R and the subsequent SI9 – the complete exclusion of architectural technologists from the provisions of both.

In one interview, a registered architect and MRIAI sidesteps any responsibility by architects for high profile failures to comply with Building Regulations by wrongly pointing the finger of blame at ‘technicians and draughtsmen’ instead, and in the other, an experienced architectural technologist complains of his inability to certify his own work after March 1st.  Both hint at the existence of an issue, neither addresses it directly.

That issue relates to the lack of a defined professional context for architectural technologists in this country, and a definition of the role that we should be expected to fill on the basis of that context.

While the debate around the exclusion of technologists from this legislation normally descends into an argument around the reservation of architectural function, the truth of the matter is clearer than that. That truth is that parties as diverse and discordant as the professional organisations, educators and architectural technologists themselves, all agree that the technical design of buildings is the core competence of the professional architectural technologist, and that establishment of Building Regulations Compliant solutions is a key component of this area. The case could in fact be made that architectural technologists are among those best placed to design, inspect and certify building regulations compliance, and yet SI 9 completely fails to deal with or even to acknowledge this issue.

At the start of the last decade, architectural technology education, originally set at Ordinary Degree Level began to move towards the awarding of Honours Degrees, now generally accepted as the required minimum standard. The ordinary degree is 3 years to Honours degree which is 4 years. The increasingly technical nature of the science of building and associated performance and calculation standards and complex building regulations are now also seeing a shift to Postgraduate Specialisms. Consumers, professionals and educators have all identified the need for more highly qualified architectural technologists in recent times, yet SI 9 again fails to acknowledge this fact.

While the members of the two existing professional organisations argue over who is best placed to lead architectural technologists, these organisations themselves have failed to do so – one through refusal to do so, the other through inability to be heard. Meanwhile professional architectural technologists continue to fall through the cracks.

Minister Hogan, the DECLG and broader Government and the industry stakeholders deemed worthy of inclusion in the conversation around the Legislation insist that in order to play a lead role in this new regime, professional architectural technologists, many with decades of experience, must now deny their primary qualification in architectural technology, and claim instead to be Architects or Building surveyors, and seek entry to those Statutory Registers. They are told to submit to assessment by peers who are already established in those professions, with little sympathy for their professional plight, and the security of protected title and the reservation of function that now goes with that. Ironically, it is feasible that younger members of these Regulated professions could undertake the role of Assigned Certifier with just a fraction of this experience, and the expertise that comes with it.

This is an insult and an injustice to graduates of architectural technology courses in Irish educational institutions, it is an insult and an injustice to those who have filled this role in architectural and other practices for decades, and it is a threat to the very existence of architectural technology as a profession in the future.  Highly valued professionals in the construction industry now face a sea change in the way they must go about their work, with no clarity as to what is expected from them or what the future holds in terms of employability.

Either this situation must change or the profession of architectural technology, established for more than 40 years in this country, will wither and die in the absence of a viable and sustainable career model.

The Building Control Amendment Regulations provided the opportunity for such a model to be created. The case, and perhaps the need to include architectural technologists is obvious and clear. What is missing is the will to do so.

If true consumer protection is to be achieved, all those involved in the provision of assurances around Building Regulations Compliance should be capable of being held accountable, and there should be third party oversight and audit to ensure this. Where a designer is unwilling or unable to accept the role of Assigned Certifier, then that role should be capable of being filled by a competent, independent professional consultant, suitably accredited and insured, and subject to the imposition of statutory sanctions in the case of non-performance. More importantly this role should be capable of being filled by competent and professional architectural technologists.

There is a growing clamour for deferral of SI 9, a policy adopted by the RIAI earlier this year, but deferral is of little use without change. For that change to be meaningful and worthwhile, it must include a viable and sustainable role for this country’s architectural technologists. That change must be informed by the baggage of past debates being cast aside, and the core competences of architectural technologists being accepted and embraced by all parties, architectural technologists included.

It is vital that those who can bring clarity to this issue for architectural technology professionals do so, clearly and without fear or favour of any other party. If such change is achieved, not only will architecture and architectural technology be the stronger for it, but so too will the Building Control System that stems from it.

The above opinion piece is posted on 25th February 2014 by Bregs Blog admin on behalf of an Architectural Technologist

Results for Twitter poll + RIAI Survey: is BC(A)R workable on 1st March?

POLL_RESULTS_46

A few days ago the Bregs Blog set-up a twitter poll. We wanted to see the if readers thought the industry is ready for Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) due to come in in one working week.. The online poll consisted of one question:

“Are you confident that the new Building Control (Amendment) regulations are workable on 1 March?”

Results are in and are pretty definitive. 100% of respondents polled:

NO

In addition 95% of architects are not prepared to implement the regulations next Saturday, as reported by the representative body for architects the RIAI at a CPD event in the Aviva today (24th February) attended by over 500 members. The Breg Blog twitter poll supports the research done by the RIAI on implementation issues. The RIAI have repeatedly called for deferral of SI.9 on the grounds of lack of readiness in the industry.

Please keep your eyes open for more polls. The more responders we get the more accurate our results are. Many thanks to all who took time to respond. Organised by Bregs Blog.

Link to RIAI letters calling for deferral to Ministers Hogan and Bruton:

RIAI_PRESIDENT_LETTER_TO_MINISTER_BRUTON

Letter_from_RIAI_President_to_Minister_Hogan_15Jan2014

The compelling case for Deferral of Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014)

There is widespread concern regarding the timing of the introduction of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations, S.I.9 of 2014 and potential consequences for the building industry and public projects. 

Background

The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations, 2014, S.I. 9 of 2014, was signed into law earlier in January 2014.  Two separate Senior Councils have examined previous versions (SI.80 of 2013) and found the wording of the regulation to have serious liability issues with consequences for Professional Indemnity Insurers.  The Minister and his officials started a process to review some wording in late 2013 and published a revised document (S.I.9 of 2014) which was circulated late Thursday the 16th January and which retained the same implementation date, the 1st March 2014.

Basis for concern

The new Regulations mark a significant change in the way building projects are managed and a new regime of certification, documentation and records is involved. Many of the fundamental systems that are necessary to achieve a proper and realistic implementation of S.I.9 on the 1st March are not in place and are unlikely to be in place for several months. The fear is that the confusion and problems that will inevitably arise in the absence of readiness will lead to delay in the roll out of badly needed projects, contractual claims from Contractors which may be difficult to defend against and reputational damage to our building control system with consequent impact on Foreign Direct Investment.  In essence, with the best will in the world and with every party working together, it is not possible for all those involved and affected to be ready in time.

Main issues.

• The new inspection and certification regimes will need to be provided for in all forms of Building Contract.  The two principle forms of contract (GCCC and RIAI) have yet to be amended.  For example, it is thought that 14 clauses in the standard RIAI Contract will have to be amended or rewritten.   These revised forms of Contract are not ready and will not be ready in time.  Ad hoc clauses will probably be drafted as stop gap measures but that is a high-risk way of dealing with building contracts.  New or revised forms of building contracts have to be extensively scenario tested a checked to ensure risk if positioned where it belongs.  This cannot be achieved before the 1st of March.

• In order to procure valid and reliable tenders, the exact details of the contract that a successful tenderer will be asked to sign need to be included in the Tender Documents.  Many private and public sector projects out to tender at present but do not have the relevant contract clauses or the new requirements for Builders, Suppliers and Sub-contractors in relation to certification.    The tender documents are unavoidably incorrect or incomplete, delays will ensue as these issues are trashed out before a Contractor can be appointed and in many cases there is a risk of the tender award being challenged..

• Client procurement of the Design Certifier and Assigned Certifier.  These roles do not exist at present.  Where Design Teams are currently appointed on public projects, the issue of compliance with procurement rules will arise.  This issue does not seem to be in the process of being addressed and typically takes several months to complete.

• Inspection Plan. The Assigned Certifier is obliged to prepare an Inspection Plan before construction commences.  This plan may have cost implications for the Contractor and arguably should to be a tender document.  Negotiations with the preferred tenderer once the Plan is done will inevitably take time; the alternative is to proceed with the contract and deal with contractual claims for delay afterwards.

• Building Control Authorities will have to manage a large amount of documentation at various stages of the new process.  It was intended that a national I.T. system would be in place in all BCAs to handle this and much good work has been done, led by David O’Connor in Fingal County Council, to progress this.  Unfortunately the systems aren’t yet ready and haven’t been road tested.  Many BCAs have only one Building Control Officer and s/he has not been trained in the operation of the new Regulations.  Without systems to ensure a steam-lined administration, delays, confusion and frustration are guaranteed

• Practical Completion.  Normally defined as being when the building can be used for the purpose it was designed, this will fundamentally be changed with the new Completion Certificate.  The building will now be capable of being used for the purpose it was designed when the Completion Certificate is accepted by the BCA.  In an environment where the local Building Control Officer is under resourced and trying to deal with completely new systems and extensive amounts of documentation, it is foreseeable that delays will occur.  These delays will be seen as intolerable by many international companies central to the recovery.

Foreseeable consequences

Hiatus.  A significant hiatus in the Construction Industry is foreseeable in both private and public sectors.  Anecdotally, this is already happening with some project tenders being delayed until there is more clarity.  This risk arises as tender processes already in train need to be revisited and tender processes about to start do not yet have the necessary contract forms to be referenced.  Further delays will occur as the two principles Certifier appointments are advertised or negotiated.

Confusion, Disputes and Litigation.  

In an environment where people are not prepared properly, an ordered and controlled process cannot be realised.  The resultant confusion is breeding ground for disputes, litigation and unwelcomed reputational damage to the building process in Ireland, which is already well down in the World Bank’s ratings.  A significant number of GCCC projects are already in some sort of dispute resolution process.  The premature implementation of these Regulations will increase the areas of risk in the Contracts and will have financial and delay implications for many important projects.

Solution

Defer the implementation date.  There is no one calling for the regulations to be introduced  by the 1st March and many calling for postponement to ensure readiness.  It is the general belief that all stakeholders in this matter would welcome a deferred implementation date.  What could be achieved during the time allowed by deferral?

• An implementation task group can be quickly set up with various stakeholders involved to coordinate the preparation and development / completion of systems.

• Agree a realistic end date from the liaison groups dealing with GCCC and RIAI contracts and ensure all work towards that target.

• Road-test IT systems and scenario-test procedures to anticipate problems, especially in the FDI and Public Sectors.

Conclusion

No one is ready for this and it would be reckless on many fronts to proceed knowing this to be the case. The logical conclusion is that the date for implementation would be put back and it is likely that no one will object and most will welcome this at all levels and in all sectors. Time is not on our side and action is needed quickly but the goal of avoiding foreseeable significant problems is worth achieving. The industry, taxpayer and consumer need deferral of SI.9.