Category Archives: Building Control Amendment 2013

Framework for Building Control Authorities | June 2016

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01 September 2016

The Framework for Building Control Authorities Version 1.1 was launched in June 2016 (see link here).  This new Framework replaces Version 1.0  published in June 2014 (see link here).  

The 77 page document (up from 64 pages)  is the ‘manual’ produced by the City and County Managers Association (CCMA) for Building Control Authorities in applying Building Control Regulations and as such is essential reading for anyone involved in construction.  The most significant new sections are about Building Control appeals to An Bord Pleanala, phased completion and opt-out provisions.  The most interesting part of the new Framework document in on page 12:

“Chester Bowles concluded from his experience with the U.S. Office of Price Administration during World War II that 20 per cent of all firms would comply unconditionally with any government rule, five per cent would attempt to evade it and the remaining 75 per cent are also likely to comply, but only if the enforcement threat to the dishonest five per cent is credible. Source: improving regulatory compliance: strategies and practical applications in OECD countries, John Braithwaithe, 1993

The BRegs Blog have reported on a wide variation of interpretations and applications of BC(A)R SI.9 since implementation in March 2014, and as such this attempt to standardise approaches is welcome (albeit over 2 years following implementation of BCAR).  The BRegs Blog is not aware of any guidance from relevant stakeholders on this document.  Many commentators and industry experts are critical of the lack of enforcement by Local Authority Building Control since our current privatised system of “self-regulation” was introduced in 1992.  Extract from Framework document:

“Building Control apply generally to new buildings and to existing buildings which undergo an extension, a material alteration or a material change of use… The purpose of the Framework is to provide guidance for Building Control Authorities (BCAs) with respect to undertaking their functions under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014 and the Building Control Regulations 1997 to 2015.

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The ‘Enforcement Pyramid’ (source: Framework for BCAs,  June 2016 p5)

Standardisation and co-ordination nationally of the statutory building control processes, including those listed hereunder, i.e. Notices, Applications, Certificates of Compliances and

Building Control Register

  • Processing and validation of Commencement Notices (CNs);
  • Processing and validation of 7 Day Notices;
  • Inspections and assessments during construction;
  • Processing and validation of Certificates of Compliance on Completion (CCC);
  • Processing, validation and adjudicating on applications for Relaxation of and/or Dispensation from particular requirements of the building regulations.
  • Processing, validating, assessing and granting/refusing Fire Safety Certificate (FSCs) applications-including regularisation and revised fire safety certificate applications; and
  • Processing, validating, assessing and granting/refusing Disability Access Certificate (DACs) applications-including revised disability access certificate applications.
  • Maintenance of the Statutory Building Control Register.
  • Processing of Appeals under to the Board under section 7(1)(a) or 7(1)(b) of the Act”

Download PDF here: Framework for BCAs Version 1.1 June 2016p77.pdf [Converted]p77.pdf [Converted]

BCMS Steering Committee Members (source: Framework for BCAs,  June 2016)

Other posts of Interest:

Framework for Building Control Authorities – Version 1: July 2014

Firetrap Homes | “Fingal CoCo ‘head in the sand’ approach to building control”

Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness Report recommends Building Control Changes

“Building control regulations not fit for purpose” | Sunday Business Post

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

What do Building Control Regulations cost for a typical apartment?

Q + A: Local Authorities and Building Control Regulations | Eoin O’Cofaigh

An ounce of oversight or a pound of legal fees? | Building Control in Ireland 2015

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

One year on: Reflections on the Building Control Amendment Regulations (SI.9 of 2014) | Michael Collins FRIAI

Minister Kelly approves 200 staff: will any go to building control?

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

Complaint_Department___

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?

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

Look forward to SI.9 review in January 2015 | Minister Paudie Coffey

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Minister Paudie Coffey pictured. December 24th 2014.

The BRegs Blog Admin Team are optimistic that both Ministers at the DECLG have been listening. Minister Kelly and now Minister Coffey have signaled an industry-wide review of the new building regulations for early in the new year. We hope that the key stakeholders are prepared and will make informed representations concerning the unintended consequences on consumers as well as impacts on their respective members in their submissions. A comprehensive review of SI.9 that includes some of the consumer groups overlooked in the drafting of the original legislation would indeed be a super Christmas and New Year present for consumers and professionals alike who are subject to numerous unintended consequences at present.

“Early in the New Year, the Department will commence its review of the first year of operation of the regulations in conjunction with local authorities and industry stakeholders. The impact, particularly in relation to cost, of the regulations on one-off housing will be a key element of this review which will inform future regulation in this critical area.”

Minister Paudie Coffey in answer to Barry Cowen TD last Thusday 18th December 2014 in the Dáil. Link to Dáil exchange here.

The initiative to improve building standards in Ireland was welcomed by all sides. There is general  agreement that almost 25 years of Building Control and self-certification has not been a success- there are many reasons for this but the political will to make improvements is to be applauded.

After 10 months of the new system, all sides acknowledge that changes need to be made. There is an urgency about dealing with this because construction is a driver of the economy- we need houses and schools, more importantly we need jobs.

The challenge for 2015 is to deliver a robust system that doesn’t compromise on standards with the resources available. Let’s all look forward and not loosing this opportunity to change the current regulations and create a proper system that delivers real consumer protection.

We look forward to presenting contributors’ workable and practical solutions to the current problems of SI.9 in the new year.

We will resume normal transmissions after a short break on the 5th January 2015Best wishes for the new year from all here in the BRegs Blog Admin team. 

Extract of Dáil exchange:

___________

Written answers

Thursday, 18 December 2014

What are written answers?

Department of Environment, Community and Local Government

Building Regulations Amendments – Written answers 19th December 2014

Barry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)

541. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the new proposed changes to building regulations for one off houses introduced in March 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49090/14]

Barry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)

542. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the cost benefit analysis of the building regulations undertaken prior to them being introduced in March 2014; if a cost-benefit analysis has been undertaken for the proposed changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49091/14]

Paudie Coffey (Waterford, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 541 and 542 together.

The amendment s to the Building Control Regulations introduced through S.I. No. 9 of 2014 have greatly strengthened the arrangements in place for the control of building activity by requiring accountability for compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory certification of design and construction, lodgement of compliance documentation, mandatory inspections during construction and validation and registration of certificates. I am satisfied that this key reform of the regulatory framework represents a reasonable and appropriate response to the many building failures that occurred in the past decade and will lead to improved quality within the construction sector.

The main concern of families intending to build their own homes remains the question of cost. A number of cases have been brought to my attention whereby consumers have been quoted exorbitant charges for professional services in relation to residential construction projects. While the new regulations support improved competence and professionalism and while I believe it is worthwhile for homeowners to have the home they invest in checked and inspected, I do not believe that they should be faced with inflated charges or excessive inspection services.

An extensive public consultation process was undertaken in 2012 to inform the development of the new regulations. Comprehensive consultation documents were published including Strengthening the Building Control System – A Document to inform public consultation on Draft Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2012which sets out the context in which the new regulations will operate and their impact with particular relevance to cost on building owners and industry stakeholders.

In summary terms, the consultation document identified the key cost impact of the new regulations on owners as being the requirement to assign a competent registered professional to inspect and certify the works. While costs are ultimately determined by market forces, it was considered that this particular requirement would add approximately €3,000 to the overall building cost of a dwelling.

While compliant design and construction was a statutory obligation under the Building Control Act 1990, this obligation may not always have been honoured to the full extent in an under-regulated market. On this basis, it was recognised that the revised regulations may result in additional design, inspection, ancillary certification and, possibly, insurance costs which must ultimately be borne by the building owner. In return for such additional investment owners would be assured of an enhanced quality of design and construction of the building project concerned. It was also noted that the statutory inspection and certification process would reduce the incidence of defective works and the resultant associated costs of carrying out remedial works would reduce accordingly.

In response to the concerns about the prices being quoted to consumers, my Department, in conjunction with the Housing Agency and the construction professional bodies, is preparing additional guidance on an appropriate inspection plan for a typical one-off dwelling. Such guidance will be helpful in better informing the market in relation to offering realistic and appropriately priced professional services for such work.

Early in the New Year, the Department will commence its review of the first year of operation of the regulations in conjunction with local authorities and industry stakeholders. The impact, particularly in relation to cost, of the regulations on one-off housing will be a key element of this review which will inform future regulation in this critical area.

Other posts of interest:

SI.9 Review.. “early in the new year” | Minster Alan Kelly

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

‘Onerous’ Building Regulations must be amended – Minister Kelly

Is the UK ‘approved inspector’ model a more transparent system, with better outcomes? | The Engineers Journal

BCMS Commencement Notices | Nine Months On

CSO | Construction output increased by 0.1% in Q3 2014

SI.9 stops Summer Works for schools in 2015!

Developer makes 27% profit in 6 months: warns against state housing.

Engineers Journal | BCMS 9 months on

SI.9 | Where’s the accountability?

Top Dozen Posts | 2014

2015
Happy New Year to all of the BRegs Blog readers. This may be a time of reflection and one way to do this may be to have a look back over the Top Dozen posts for the past year, the BRegs Blog’s first year, in terms of the highest viewing figures registered.
The most viewed post was written by a Self-Builder followed closely by a Building Surveyor contributor. Two of the top six posts were written by Architectural Technologists.
We look forward to receiving your contributions in 2015 and thanks for the support.

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:

“House building costs are 17% more than 2003 despite recession” – Bruce Shaw

Ch.3_—_Ireland

Ireland, Knowledge Centre – Bruce Shaw

Professionals frequently refer to the Bruce Shaw Annual Review for information on costs, trends and the construction industry generally. In this post we look at activity in the house building sector and where savings could be targeted to make housing more affordable. Here’s  link to the full document: Bruce Shaw Knowledge Centre

This year’s edition of the Bruce Shaw Annual Review is no different providing a wealth of interesting and accurate information on a multitude of aspects of the construction industry. It is not the only one of its type but source information frequently is Central statistics Office data so is quite reliable.

We noted there has been a lot of media attention at a predicted “construction boom” with an output of €11Bn forecast for 2015. When one removes the €600m associated with water meter installation, this figure reduces to €10.4Bn. A 15% increase on 2014 projected level of €9Bn is good news; however we are coming from a historic low point in construction activity.

€10Bn is the same as the 2010 level of construction output and well below the level needed to achieve a sustainable level of construction activity in the medium term- see Forfas Report (p10):

forfas report page 10.pdf [Converted]

(Pdf of Forfas Report: Ireland’s Construction Sector: Outlook and Strategic Plan to 2015: forfas)

Construction output is half a normal sustainable level and this indicates that there may be further market distortions due to supply and demand issues in some sectors and locations etc. To give this more modest forecast some background here is a graph with recent years construction output noted:

Value of Construction Output €m 2004 – 2014

construction output

We also note construction costs for housing remain stubbornly high. In the following graph we see that house-building costs are over 17% higher than in 2003, despite the recession. The graph illustrates that house-builders appear have kept costs high, preferring to delay activity to build demand and maintain profit margins rather than reduce costs. We note a recent Davy Research report that suggested Irish construction costs were 50% higher than in Northern Ireland. Economist Ronan Lyons has been calling for a full audit of the cost of building a home for some time- this would have many benefits because state investment in social housing would go further and new homes would become more affordable. (Link to Ronan Lyons commentary here).

House Construction Cost Index

houe cost index

In this series of tables showing house completions, we see that only 11%, 922 of the total of 8,301 dwellings completed in 2013 were apartments, suggesting that individual commissioned or self-built houses comprised a very high proportion of dwellings completed that year. Self-builders may well comprise over 50% of all houses completed in any one year.

Annual House Completions 2003 – 2013

house completions

Annual House Completions by Type 2003 – 2013

completions by type

Finally of interest to Government will be house building costs. Note the specific exclusions which generally add approximately +12.5% and additional costs of SI.9, estimated at between €20,000- €40,000 for a typical 4 bed house.

The Bruce Shaw figures exclude VAT, professional fees, SI.9 costs, developer’s profit and site costs. When the extra SI.9 cost of €21k ex vat, developers profit of 20% and other costs along with VAT of 13.5% is added to the build cost, the sales price of a typical 3-4 bed 125 SqM house is over €290,000 excluding site purchase costs. This excludes the cost impact of recently introduced social and affordable (Part V) levy of 10%.

 

house build costs.pdf [Converted]*Breg Blog note: for additional SI.9 costs for a typical house see SI.9 costs for a typical house | BRegs Blog

Other posts of interest:

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

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

‘Onerous’ Building Regulations must be amended – Minister Kelly

SI.9 Cost for 2014 = 3 x Ballymun Regeneration Projects

Ronan Lyons | Regulations pushing up the costs of homes

CSO- Dwelling units approved down 16.6% in one year

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

12,000 social + affordable houses at no cost to taxpayer?

Soaring house prices and rising rents could damage economy | National Competitiveness Council

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In this article in the Independent from December 3rd 2014  “Soaring house prices and rising rents could damage economy“, author John Mulligan discusses the 2014 National Competitiveness Council (NCC) Annual Report. The report suggests that soaring house prices and rising rents could damage Ireland’s competitiveness. Link to NCC: National Competitiveness Council. About the NCC from their website:

The National Competitiveness Council was established by Government in 1997. It reports to the Taoiseach on key competitiveness issues facing the Irish economy and offers recommendations on policy actions required to enhance Ireland’s competitive position. The NCC was established by the Government in May 1997 as part of the Partnership 2000 Agreement. The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation provides the Council with research and secretariat support.

In previous posts we noted the spike and fall-off of commencements due to the introduction of BC(A)R SI.9, with industry estimates that the new regulations may cost the consumer, taxpayer and industry €5Bn by 2020. Uncertainty and significantly increased costs due to new building regulations is continuing to be a major drag on the feasibility of many new residential developments.

The reluctance of Ireland to embrace accepted international best practice to establish a system of independent inspections and regulation for our construction sector continues to impact on our international competitiveness.

Link to 2014 NCC Annual Report: Ireland’s Competitiveness Challenge 2014

Extract from article:

________

Soaring house prices and rising rents could damage economy

Soaring house prices and rising rents could damage Ireland’s competitiveness as workers seek higher wages in a desperate rush to get on the property ladder, a leading government think-tank has warned.

The National Competitiveness Council (NCC) has also strongly urged the Government to take measures to prevent the return of another damaging property bubble.

In its annual report published today, the NCC said the rapid growth in house prices and residential rents, particularly in Dublin, “represents a potentially destabilising development”.

It said the increases could lead to “adverse knock-on consequences in terms of prices and wage expectations across the entire economy”.

The stark warning comes amid spiralling home price increases in the capital due to a lack of available housing supply.

The Central Statistics Office said last week that house prices in the capital had risen by 24pc in the past year, while across the country they were 16.3pc higher.

A national survey from property website Daft.ie showed that rents in Dublin jumped 17pc over the past year, while in Cork they rose 8pc, and in Galway by 7pc.

“Such rapid growth in property costs, allied to issues around security of tenure, can be expected to have significant adverse knock-on effects on wages and inflation,” said the NCC, whose chairman is Dr Don Thornhill.

Jack O’Connor, the leader of trade union Siptu, said recently that he expected far more pay increase demands to be served on employers next year than were made this year.

He warned it could lead to an “explosion” of claims.

“While economic recovery remains fragile and Ireland is a long way from a return to the undesirable construction boom of the mid-2000s, we must take action now to ensure that the conditions which facilitated the property bubble are not allowed to re-emerge,” cautioned the NCC.

Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan has proposed a mortgage cap that could also squeeze many first-time buyers completely out of the housing market.

But the NCC said the Government should not try to intervene in the property market with a “quick-fix” solution to boost the housing supply.

It said that experience showed it took about 18 months or more to respond to increased demand.

“Strong demand for housing already exists in Dublin and some other urban areas and demand is likely to grow over time,” it added.

In the past number of months, planning applications have been lodged by developers for major housing developments in the capital, some of them for hundreds of homes.

But Dr Thornhill said Ireland could look to the broader economic future with a “greater sense of optimism”.

However, the NCC report also said that increases in personal taxation since the start of the recession had “eroded competitiveness and incentives to work”.

“The council is concerned that hard-won competitiveness gains made since 2008 are in danger of being eroded as the economy returns to growth,” added Dr Thornhill.

Other posts of interest:

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

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

BCMS Commencement Notices | Nine Months On

CSO | Construction output increased by 0.1% in Q3 2014

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

SI.9 costs for a typical house

Developer makes 27% profit in 6 months: warns against state housing.

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing?

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

Catherine Murphy TD | Today’s Housing Promises Won’t Bear Fruit for at Least Two Years

SI.9 Cost for 2014 = 3 x Ballymun Regeneration Projects

Ronan Lyons | Regulations pushing up the costs of homes

Sunday Business Post | Karl Deeter “Building regulations – rules don’t deliver results”

CSO- Dwelling units approved down 16.6% in one year

Want to live in Dublin? | Only the wealthy need apply!

Is the UK ‘approved inspector’ model a more transparent system, with better outcomes? | The Engineers Journal

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Is the UK ‘approved inspector’ model a more transparent system, with better outcomes? | The Engineers Journal

In this well-researched article in the Engineer’s Journal on 9th December 2014, author Tim O’Connor concludes that, although the changes to the Building Control System constitute an improvement, the bar has been set too low. Extract:

“There are issues surrounding the adequacy of the inspection and certification arrangement under the revised Building Control System. The opinion of experienced professionals points towards adopting a system similar to the arrangement that is in place in England and Wales. Under this arrangement, the building owner has the choice of having building works inspected and certified by an officer from the building control authority or by a third party ‘approved inspector’. Adopting the ‘approved inspector’ model in Ireland would most likely result in a more transparent system, with better outcomes, independent of any commercial relationship between the Building Owner and the person certifying the works.

…There is a possible alternative to independent certification. Under the current provisions, building control authorities are not required to perform technical assessments of compliance with building regulation at commencement or at completion stage. If a technical assessment of compliance were to be conducted by the building control authority, at commencement and completion stages for all projects, this would constitute a second level check to capture the vast majority of non-compliances. In order to implement such a system, however, there are a number of obstacles that would need to be overcome”.

Link to full article here: Building Control Regulations – a fire safety perspective

Extract:

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Building Control Regulations – a fire safety perspective

Prior to the introduction of the Building Control Act 1990, building control legislation, from a national perspective, did not exist in Ireland. While the introduction of the 1990 Act introduced a level of regulation to the construction industry, reform of the system, from the perspectives of design, administration, inspection and certification of works, has been long overdue. The amendments to the 1990 Act, introduced by the Building Control Act 2007, did not sufficiently address the issues associated with the design, administration, inspection and certification of construction projects.

The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government promulgated the Draft Building Control (Amendment) Regulations in 2012. Subsequent consultation with construction industry stakeholders including Engineers Ireland, the Construction Industry Federation of Ireland (CIF), Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI) and the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland contributed towards the publication of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2013 (Heneghan and Byrne 2014).

A number of issues with the 2013 Regulations prompted a number of amendments and the 2013 Regulations were revoked when the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (BCAR 2014) were written into law.

Fire safety certificates

The Building Control Authority (BCA) is responsible for examining fire safety certificate (FSC) applications, from a technical perspective, to ensure that the design is in compliance with Part B (Fire Safety) of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations. If the BCA is satisfied that the design is compliant, it issues a FSC to the applicant.

The FSC certifies that only the design is compliant. There is no system in place for the BCA to issue certification of the constructed building being compliant. The only method of certifying technical compliance is the Certificate of Compliance on Completion, issued by the assigned certifier.

Building owners are usually driven by project cost. According to RIAI (2012), certain building owners and clients seek to ignore their responsibilities under the Building Regulations in order to save money. This could have the effect of building owners attempting to compel assigned certifiers into certifying a building that may not be fully compliant.

In order to display compliance with Part B, RIAI (2012) recommended a schedule of compliance documents that should be required for building handover at practical completion stage. Despite recommendations from RIAI to include these documents, BCAR 2014 does not require any certification, at completion stage, particular to fire safety compliance.

In fact, the Code of Practice for Inspecting and Certifying Works 2014 (CoP) remains quite silent on issues relation to compliance with Part B during the construction phase of a project. The only reference to compliance with Part B is a recommendation that the assigned certifier should make provision for inspection of work relating to fire safety.

Applications for disability access certificates (DACs) and FSCs are often compiled and submitted at the same time, by the same professional. The DAC and the FSC applications are interdependent, to an extent, but there are two distinct application processes. There are a number of building design considerations, such as corridor and doorway widths, where a particular design may be in compliance with Part B but not compliant with Part M (Disabled Access).

Perhaps a combined application process for DACs and FSCs would reduce the potential for such anomalies. This proposal was put forward by the RIAI and Engineers Ireland during the consultation phase of the draft regulations.

During the period 2001-2011, approximately 29% of all fires attended to by fire services in Ireland occurred in dwellings. A FSC is required for the majority of buildings in Ireland; however, single domestic dwellings are excluded from this requirement. RIAI, during the Draft Building Control Regulations consultation phase, recommended that FSCs should be required for single domestic dwelling houses on the basis that this is where many of the serious risks to life occur.

The National Consumer Agency and Grant Thornton (2008) recommended that the situation of domestic dwelling houses being excluded from the requirement for a FSC should be reviewed. Despite these recommendations, BCAR 2014 did not add this requirement. A key consideration in to include such a requirement may have been in order to avoid adding additional costs to the construction of new dwellings.

Registration of builders and building culture

“There is a need for a change of culture in the construction industry so that the key stakeholders are committed to achieving quality construction; the Regulations need to reflect and develop this change of culture” (RIAI 2012, p. 13). A particular development that brought building construction issues to a head in Ireland was the Priory Hall apartment development in Dublin in 2011. This development uncovered a plethora of breaches of Building Regulations, including very serious fire safety non-compliance issues, which could not be adequately addressed after the apartments were completed and occupied (Walsh 2011).

Walsh goes on to describe how shoddy construction practices and non-compliances became the norm because small-scale house builders suddenly became developers of apartment complexes without the appropriate experience and competence.

The Priory Hall development attracted significant national media coverage, as a large number of families were required to leave their homes because of the extent of the non-compliance. The issues highlighted by Priory Hall could be considered to be one of the main triggers to reforming building control in Ireland in order to improve compliance with building regulations. There are many who contend that the type of poor building practices that took place at Priory Hall were the norm rather than the exception.

According to the CoP (2014), the building owner should assign a competent builder to construct and supervise the works. However, there are no specific guidelines to determine whether or not the Builder is competent. The CoP (2014, p. 6) states that builders “included on the Construction Industry Register Ireland or equivalent may be regarded as competent for projects consistent with their registration profile”. However, registration is voluntary as there is no statutory requirement for the Builder to be registered and the building owner is entitled to appoint any builder that he/she deems competent.

Engineers Ireland, during the Draft Building Control Regulations consultation phase, recommended that registration of builders must be implemented to strengthen the Building Control System in order to provide the quality outcome from a building that the end user is entitled to expect. RIAI made similar recommendations elaborating that registration of builders is successfully in place in New Zealand, Australia and a number of European countries.

Self-Certification versus independent certification

Verification that buildings are constructed in compliance with building regulations, in the developed world, is generally achieved through either independent certification or by self-certification. Self-certification is the process whereby, typically, a builder, an engineer or an architect, employed by the building owner, inspects and certifies the works. Independent certification is whereby government officials, or government-approved persons, inspect and certify the works.

In the case of independent certification, the persons responsible for certifying that the works satisfy relevant legislation have not carried out the building work themselves; they are independent from those who carry out the actual building work. Where government approved or registered inspectors inspect and certify the works, this is referred to as third party verification (Consortium of European Building Control 2010).

The Building Control Authority is not obliged to carry out a technical assessment of compliance for documents submitted at commenced or completion stage. Isdell (2013) outlines that this issue, combined with the low inspection targets of 12-15%, results in a serious weakness in the revised Building Control System.

Private sector self-certifiers may become subject to potential conflicts of interest (Hodge and Coghill 2007). An additional layer of supervision or oversight may be required to monitor the private sector self-certification actors (Van Der Heijden 2008) as there is no certainty that those responsible for certification cannot be pressured or coerced by their employers to act delinquently (Nor 2008).

In England and Wales, the building owner has a choice of having the works inspected and certified by the Building Control Authority or by an independent ‘approved inspector’. The approved inspector is an independent professional who is engaged by the building owner, but paid by the Building Control Authority.

Primary research

In an attempt to research the topic further, in as unbiased a manner as possible, the researcher interviewed professionals who, in their occupations, act as stakeholders in the building control process from different perspectives. The first group of stakeholders represented building owners or clients that would be engaging the services of professionals to construct and certify buildings or works. The second group represented the private sector professionals that would inspect and certify the works. The final group of stakeholders interviewed represented the public sector Building Control Officers responsible for the administration of the Building Control System and the enforcement of the Building Control Regulations 1997-2014.

▪ Respondent 1 is a marine services executive with Bord Iascaigh Mhara. His primary degree is in mechanical engineering and he has completed a postgraduate diploma in fire safety practice (buildings and other structures). He is responsible for the management of Bord Iascaigh Mhara facilities including ice plants and a variety of other building types.

▪ Respondent 2 is an architect and has been the principal of a highly commended and award-winning firm of architects, in Dublin, for the past 18 years. His primary degree is in architecture and he has completed a postgraduate diploma in fire safety practice (buildings and other structures). The respondent’s firm has a wealth of expertise and experience in the fields of residential, retail, commercial, leisure and mixed-use architecture, urban design, conservation and sustainability.

▪ Respondent 3 is a chartered engineer and has completed a master’s degree in technology (safety, health and ergonomics). He spent 22 years as an engineer officer in the Defence Forces, four years as a fire and safety officer in the Southern Health Board, two years as assistant chief fire officer (prevention) in Cork County Council and two years as assistant chief fire officer (prevention) in Cork City Council. For the past 10 years, he has been working in private practice as fire safety consulting engineer.

▪ Respondent 4 is a civil engineer and has also completed a master’s in engineering science as well as a postgraduate diploma in fire safety practice (buildings and other structures). He spent 10 years as an engineer officer in the Defence Forces and 10 years as a housing inspector in the Department of the Environment. For the past two years, he has been working as a district inspector for the Office of Public Works.

▪ Respondent 5 has been working for the past six years as a fire officer (prevention) in a building control authority in Munster. His background is in manufacturing and his primary degree is in science.

▪ Respondent 6 is a civil engineer and has completed a master’s in emergency management. she worked for a number of years in private practice in London and subsequently worked as a fire officer (prevention) in a building control authority in Munster. For the past 12 years, she has been working as assistant chief fire officer (prevention) in another building control authority in Munster.

▪ Respondent 7 is qualified as a building surveyor. He worked for five years in an architectural design practice and has been working as assistant chief fire officer (prevention) in a building control authority in Leinster for the past six years. He is a part-time lecturer in the area of building regulations and building control regulations.

▪ Respondent 8 is a self-employed chartered engineer who has been running a successful engineering consultancy in Limerick for the past eight years. He previously worked for seven years as an engineer officer in the Defence Forces.

▪ Respondent 9 is an associate director with the Cork branch of an international firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists offering a broad range of professional services. He is a chartered engineer (civil/structural) and has been working at this firm for over 16 years.

Building Control System and improving fire safety performance

All respondents interviewed agreed that the revised Building Control System, in its current form, should have the effect of improving the construction of buildings when compared with the system that was in place prior to 1 March 2014. However, all respondents had issues with some aspects of the system and felt that improvements could be made.

Respondents 7 and 8 highlighted that a lot of stakeholders are expressing concern about difficulties in meeting particular requirements of the building regulations under the revised system. “The building regulations were always there; it’s only the enforcement of them that has changed and people are panicking about them now. If people are worried now, what standard of work were they undertaking 12 months ago? (Respondent 8).

Five of the nine respondents indicated that there has not yet been sufficient experience of the revised system to determine how much of an effect it has on the fire safety performance of buildings. Respondent 3 states that the system is not yet mature enough and a lot of the issues have not yet been encountered.

Over half of the respondents identified that ensuring compliance with the FSC during the construction phase, and the subsequent Certificate of Compliance on Completion, represents a very positive outcome of the revised Building Control System. “The key component of the 2014 regulations is the Certificate of Compliance on Completion. For the first time this is a statutory requirement. This is the first time we have closed out the loop on FSCs, DACs and construction.

“The document must be on the register before the building can open or operate. We should see an improvement of compliance with FSCs. In my experience in the past, after many FSCs were granted, they were binned and they weren’t implemented. They must be implemented now because the full statutory requirements must be met for the Certificate of Compliance on Completion to go on the register” (Respondent 7).

Respondent 7, in his experience as a building control officer, claims that since the revised system was introduced, improvements can already be seen in terms of design and comprehension of building regulations. He goes on to propose that the design approval process for all parts of the regulations should improve compliance, as was achieved with the introduction of DACs 2010.

Builders and building culture in Ireland

Of the nine respondents, seven felt that mandatory registration of builders would result in better building construction. One respondent was undecided and the final respondent felt that mandatory registration would not lead to improvements. Respondent 2 discussed that the system that existed in the past, where anyone can set themselves up as a builder, leads to bad practice and is unfair on those who are correctly set up from the perspectives of health and safety, competence, pension contributions for employees and tax clearance.

Four of the respondents highlighted that it would be very unfair if the CIF was to have a monopoly on registration of builders. Respondents 3 and 6 argue that a list of suitable registration bodies should be identified so that there is a choice for builders. All respondents put forward the view that any system of registration should be based on competency. However, no consolidated view could be reached in relation to measuring such competence.

In the view of Respondent 8, there is no suitable body in Ireland, at present, which is in a position to decide whether or not a builder is competent. There are no guidelines on how competence can be measured or displayed and this must be addressed. Respondent 9 claims that qualifications alone should not be used to determine the competence of builders. This would discriminate against experienced builders who are capable of demonstrating their experience and competence. A significant amount of further research is required to propose a system of determining competence of Builders for the purposes of the revised Building Control System.

Respondent 2 claims that the biggest investment an average Irish citizen makes in his/her lifetime is the purchase of a house. He argues that it is unacceptable that someone, who is not properly educated and has no previous experience, can build a house off the plans, and the client will end up paying for the defects if and when they come to light.

Respondent 3 maintains that we should learn from the experience of the system in place in England and Wales and ensure Builders register with credible accreditation bodies; these Builders must then perform in accordance with that body’s rules and regulations. Respondent 9 suggests that if there is a chance of getting away with sub-standard work, or finding a loophole, there will be builders out there willing to take advantage of this.

Respondent 2 contends that, before the introduction of the revised Building Control System, there had been a culture of cutting corners and there was little if any requirement for proper certification. Although he argues that the new Regulations will be problematic in their implementation, he suggests they will lead to a significant improvement in terms of the culture of compliance and the necessity to comply.

Respondent 9, on the other hand, believes that although the Builder having responsibility for signing the Certificate of Compliance on Completion is a positive step, there are a number of existing Builders that would sign anything. He suggests that independent, random inspection of work by builder accreditation bodies would discourage bad practice among builders. A system of ‘three strikes and you’re out’ would compel builders to adhere to better standards.

Domestic dwelling houses

The majority of respondents did not feel that the requirement for a FSC would improve fire safety in dwelling houses. Three of the respondents contended that the addition of the FSC requirement would simply constitute another unnecessary, bureaucratic hurdle and cost that would ultimately be borne by the homeowner. Four of the nine respondents felt that the revised Building Control System, currently in place, would sufficiently address the issues that arose in the past because the necessary controls are now in place from the design, inspection and certification perspectives. It was highlighted that on-site inspection of fire safety provisions, during the construction phase, is essential.

Four of the respondents outlined that the most prominent fire safety risks associated with domestic dwelling houses are with the older building stock and that introduction of FSCs would do nothing to address this. Respondent 2 suggests that the fire detection and alarm system is the ‘big ticket’ fire safety provision in a domestic setting and that fatalities due to fires, in buildings where people are sleeping, can often be attributed to not having a properly functioning fire detection and alarm system. Respondent 6 emphasises that Building Regulations do not insist on a maintenance scheme for a Fire Detection and Alarm System.

In order to attempt to address some of the issues highlighted, Respondent 3 proposes that a retrofitting initiative, supported by a financial incentive, should be introduced to improve the fire-safety performance of existing dwelling houses. Such retrofitting could involve, for instance, the installation of modern fire detection and alarm systems in existing dwellings.

It was proposed that the requirements of Technical Guidance Document B – Fire Safety (TGD-B), in relation to single domestic dwelling houses, should be addressed by way of a stand-alone document outlining best practice. This arrangement is currently in place for TGD-L (Conservation of Fuel and Energy – Dwellings). Such a document would increase the level of education of practitioners because currently, even the simplest of concepts are not fully understood. The requirement to display compliance with the stand-alone TGD-B, at commencement stage, would result in a significant improvement in the design of dwellings, from a fire safety perspective.

Disabled Access Certificates and Fire Safety Certificates

For many years, there has been a statutory requirement to apply for a FSC prior to the commencement of construction of a building (other than dwelling houses). The requirement for a DAC came into effect on 1 January 2010 for new buildings (other than dwellings houses) which commence on or after that date.

Respondent 1 believes that the applications for DACs and FSCs should be kept separate because they are two distinct areas and each requirement should be met independently. This view was supported by two of the other respondents, who argued that one requirement could get submerged in the other and that due consideration may not be then given to fire safety or disabled access.

Respondent 6 outlines that there are particular situations where a DAC may be required but a FSC may not and that such a situation may make a consolidated approach difficult. Respondent 7, a building control officer, contends that both applications should be kept separate so that the technical requirements are at the foremost priority for each individual area. He was of the opinion that if they were merged, there would be no priority or precedence for one over another.

However, he goes on to state, “You cannot build the same building in two different ways so consideration should be given for both documents to match.” He explains that making DACs and FSCs consistent with each other is only possible where fire safety and building control are covered by a single organisation. The building control authority and the fire authority operate as one in some but not all local authorities. Almost half of the respondents interviewed emphasised their frustration with the issues associated with the disconnect that exists between the fire authority and the building control authority in some local authorities.

Four of the nine respondents emphasised that many of the issues surrounding DACs and FSCs can be attributed to conflicts between the Technical Guidance Documents (TGDs). A building design may be in compliance with Part B but may not be in compliance with Part M. A FSC may be then granted for such a building. For example, the minimum allowable doorway width under Part B is 750mm but the minimum allowable width under Part M is 800mm.

Many of the requirements of Part K (stairways, ladders, ramps and guards) are also relevant to the DAC and FSC; four of the respondents argue that Parts B, K and M should be assessed together. Respondent 2 goes so far as to argue that full approval with all parts (A-M) of the Building Regulations should be required as is the situation in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Certification of Works and building control authorities

The issue, of the appropriateness of the assigned certifier being employed by the building owner to inspect and certify buildings or works, has been a central theme in discussions and submissions relating to BCAR 2014 and the associated revised Building Control System. Respondents were divided in their views relating to this matter.

Four of the nine respondents felt that mandatory registration of the assigned certifier, with a professional body, is a sufficient control measure to ensure that he/she will act independently. Respondent 9 feels that because of the way the certificates are worded, it’s pretty onerous on the assigned certifier to carry out his/her duties correctly. He contends that, irrespective of money, it’s not in the assigned certifier’s interest to sign his/her practice or professional standing away.

Four of the respondents feel that the current system, where the assigned certifier is employed by the building owner, is inappropriate. each of these respondents believes that an independent, third-party system, based on the model used in the England and Wales, should be implemented in Ireland. Although Respondent 2 agrees that the revised Building Control System should lead to an improved culture of compliance, he suggests that the approved inspector system, used in England and Wales, would make the Irish system more objective.
In England and Wales, the building owner pays a fee to the building control authority, in proportion with the scale of the development, and the approved inspector is then paid by the building control authority. He suggests that such a system would end up in better outcomes, and ultimately in better, safer buildings.

Under the revised Building Control System, the building control authority is responsible for validation and registration of documentation both at commencement and at completion stages of construction projects. However, the building control authority is not required to perform any technical assessments at any stage. Eight of the nine respondents felt that it should be compulsory for the building control authority to perform technical assessments.

Respondent 2 proposes that a technical assessment of compliance would introduce an element of negotiation with a fellow peer on the building control authority side; this would facilitate coming to an agreed basis of compliance. He maintains that this is a much better system than assigned certifiers working in isolation, uploading information onto an electronic platform where there is only a limited chance that the building control authority will assess the drawings and documents for compliance.

Respondent 3 implies that not all designs submitted will be fully compliant and a third party assessment would constitute a double check to capture most examples of non-compliance. Although the vast majority of respondents agree that the building control authority should conduct technical assessments, six of the nine respondents emphasised that the building control authorities do not have sufficient resources to conduct such assessments.

CoP (2014) outlines that building control authorities are required to carry out a level of inspection equivalent to 12% to 15% of new buildings for which valid commencement notices have been received. All respondents agreed that this is far too low a target. The majority of the respondents proposed that the building control authority should inspect all buildings during the course of their construction. Respondent 8 contends that if the likelihood of the building control authority inspecting the building is low, shortcuts will be taken.

Conclusions and recommendations

Overall, the research findings suggest that the introduction of BCAR 2014 constitutes a significant improvement on the Building Control System that existed in the past. The overall sentiment, among the research participants, is that the changes to the Building Control System will have the effect of improving building construction, and consequently improving the fire safety performance of buildings. However, the Irish construction industry has not yet had sufficient experience of the revised Building Control System to quantify the extent to which the regulations will impact on the fire safety performance of our buildings. There are particular areas where significant gains have been identified. However, areas have also been identified where further improvements are required.

The research concludes that the mandatory requirement for the Certificate of Compliance on Completion finally addresses the issues associated with constructing a building in accordance with a Building Regulations-compliant design, approved by the building control authority. Heretofore, the FSC was merely certification that the design of a building was in compliance with Part B of the Building Regulations.

Under the revised Building Control System, a statutory certificate is kept on file, signed by the assigned certifier and builder, confirming that the building or works have been constructed in compliance with the Building Regulations and with the FSC. This will undoubtedly have the effect of instilling added confidence in the fire safety performance of new buildings in the future.

The current voluntary system of registration of builders is a noteworthy weakness of the revised Building Control System. In order to address this weakness, a number of reputable, credible accreditation bodies should be identified as being acceptable for builders to register with. It is essential that competence assessment be central to any proposed system of registration. A method to measure competence will need to be agreed for such a system to work. Simply paying a subscription to be a ‘member of the club’ is not an acceptable solution.

It has been determined that the fire safety risks associated with the existing stock of domestic dwellings is a cause for concern. In accordance with the proposal put forward by Respondent 3, consideration should be given to introducing an incentive scheme for dwelling owners to upgrade fire safety provisions in their private dwellings.

There are issues surrounding the adequacy of the inspection and certification arrangement under the revised Building Control System. The opinion of experienced professionals points towards adopting a system similar to the arrangement that is in place in England and Wales. Under this arrangement, the building owner has the choice of having building works inspected and certified by an officer from the building control authority or by a third party ‘approved inspector’. Adopting the ‘approved inspector’ model in Ireland would most likely result in a more transparent system, with better outcomes, independent of any commercial relationship between the Building Owner and the person certifying the works.

There is a possible alternative to independent certification. Under the current provisions, building control authorities are not required to perform technical assessments of compliance with building regulation at commencement or at completion stage. If a technical assessment of compliance were to be conducted by the building control authority, at commencement and completion stages for all projects, this would constitute a second level check to capture the vast majority of non-compliances. In order to implement such a system, however, there are a number of obstacles that would need to be overcome.

In order to address the conflict issues associated with the current parallel arrangement of applying for FSCs and DACs, the TGD-B, TGD-K and TGD-M should be reviewed and harmonised with a view to addressing conflicts that currently exist in their requirements. Furthermore, the disconnect between the building control authority and fire authority, that exists in some local authorities, must be tackled. The recommendations outlined above demonstrate that, although the changes to the Building Control System constitute an improvement, the changes should have stretched much further.

This sentiment has been supported by much criticism of the revised system, from all sides, since its introduction. In a letter that Eoin O Cofaigh, former RIAI president, wroteto The Irish Times on 16 March 2014, he describes BCAR 2014 as “a huge missed opportunity, from a Government who knew the proper solution and who ignored it”.

The research has indicated that, in the past, there has been a culture of cutting corners in the Irish construction industry, which has led to many unacceptable outcomes, of which Priory Hall is a sobering example. Bringing about a change in such a deep-seated culture must be managed with care and such change can only be brought about by sincere buy-in from all major stakeholders. It is up to the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, the building control authorities and the professional regulatory bodies to demonstrate leadership and manage the change effectively without promoting resistance among actors involved.

The introduction of BCAR 2014 constitutes a significant improvement on the poorly maintained Building Control System that existed in Ireland for many years. After a reasonable trial period of the revised Building Control System, the structure and management of the Building Control System, and associated legislation, should be revisited once more, with a view to implementing some of the recommendations proposed in this paper.

However, until such time as a review is appropriate, the stakeholders should embrace the revised Building Control System and exploit its positive aspects in an attempt to improve building construction and promote an improved culture of compliance to provide better, safer buildings for all.

References available on request

Tim O’Connor is a chartered engineer with 14 years’ experience in engineering/construction. 

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Other posts of interest:

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

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

Engineers Journal | BCMS 9 months on

The Engineers Journal: how BC(A)R SI.9 works in practice

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections

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

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

SI.9 to Cost €168m in 2014 | Non-Residential Sector

SI.9 costs for a typical house

More dog wardens than building inspectors in Ireland- Self Builders to be made extinct 

Politicians asking questions about BC(A)R SI.9 | Summary

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By BRegs Blog on 18th December 2014

Politicians asking questions about BC(A)R SI.9 | Summary

In the wake of Minister Alan Kelly’s statement that he intends to amend BC(A)R SI.9, in the following summary we list a selection of issues various politicians have tabled concerning the new building regulations.

Senator David Norris discussed the array of unintended consequences and lack of consumer protection during a Seanad Deabate on SI.105- see Senators ask Minister to Revoke SI.9 (2 of 4).

Senator Michelle Mulheirn asked questions concerning pyrite in blockwork in the home county of the Taoiseach in Mayo- see Dáil update | Pyrite in Mayo.

Stephen Donnelly TD in the Dáil asked why we have no independent inspections in the new system- Dáil: Why not an independent inspection system?.

Kevin Humphreys TD asked a number of departments and Ministers responsible if costs associated with SI.9 on capital expenditure been examined- see The Cost Impact of Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014).

Barry Cowen TD raised the considerable cost to house-building form the new regulations- Minister urges draughtsmen to register for BC(A)R SI.9.

Eoghan Murphy TD came back to the lack of consumer protections under the new system- TD’s suggest independent local authority inspectorate: BC(A)R SI.9.

Senator Cait Keane as part of an Oireachtas committee warned of the problems of a self-certification- Fine Gael expert group opposed the introduction of new regulations.

Claire Daly TD continued to champion the cause of owners with pyrite affected homes- Dáil : Pyrite Remediation Programme: 10th June 2014.

Senator Paschal Mooney was responsible for tabling a Seanad Debate on the unintended ban on self-building which still is relevant today- Senator Paschal Mooney, Minister Hogan and Seanad debate.

Mick Wallace TD who knows the construction industry better than anyone in Leinster  House warned that..

“… the major problem is that all along, the Construction Industry Federation and not the State appears to determine what is happening…The Minister’s system of assigned certifiers will crack up within the next couple of years” 

See post: Dáil debates: Mick Wallace and Minister Hogan- Pyrite

Other Posts of interest:

‘Onerous’ Building Regulations must be amended – Minister Kelly

3 County Councils ask Minister to Revoke SI.9 

Senators ask Minister to Revoke SI.9 (2 of 4)

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

Going through the motions at speed – Independent.ie

Press piece: Co Council votes to scrap BC(A)R S.I. 9

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

Press Piece: Fingal Councillors call to end BC(A)R SI.9