Category Archives: Building Regulations

BRegs Weekly | 2 June 2017

2 June 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 109

Edition 109 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

Building Control and building standards were discussed in The Sunday Times article Reasons to be hopeful”. last week. Dr Lorcan Sirr noted “The department of housing has been sitting on reports about fire safety for a long time. If the department is as “open and transparent” as minister Simon Coveney has insisted, the report into the fire at Milford Manor, for example — which was due in January 2016 — will be released immediately. Milford Manor was a boom-time housing estate in Newbridge, Co Kildare, where six houses were gutted by fire within 20 minutes. Withholding the report is outrageous. Building standards need to be examined in light of our poor legacy of construction standards and the lack of consumer protection for buyers of defective homes.”

Sirr noted the Government’s proposed register of Contractors to be owned and operated by the Construction Industry Federation: “A system of licensing builders needs to be introduced and overseen by an independent body, not a representative group. It is wrong to have more consumer rights as a buyer of a mobile phone than a house buyer. A savvy minister for housing would create a programme whereby the state or local authorities issue contracts to builders to construct mixed-tenure social, cost-rental and affordable housing developments on their behalf, rather than rely on the market. In this way, control is retained over specification and ultimately price.”

Calls for a state remediation scheme to address thousands of defective housing units built during the ‘celtic tiger’ period were re-iterated by the Society of Chartered Surveyor’s representative Kevin Hollingsworth- see “The Price Of Allowing Developers To Self-Certify” in Broadsheet.ie. Mr Hollingsworth has been involved in the remediation works of 29 developments and was critical of the continued practice of builder/ developers using employees to sign-off on quality of developments:  “The assigned certifier can be an employee of the developer, the assigned certifier is also just a professional – they do get paid by the end user. They don’t act independently. They’re supposed to act independently but, once there’s that financial link, that leads to a lack of independence.”

Government proposals for more robust site tax levies for land hoarders was criticised by builders in Builders react with alarm to site levy proposal in the Irish Times. Minister for Finance Michael Noonan signaled that Government would tax speculators for sitting on empty development sites to boost their profits as property prices rise by introducing a levy on such properties in October’s budget “People who are sitting on land as an asset will find themselves sitting on a tax liability”. Builder Michael O’Flynn argued that the Government should cut development levies, VAT and other charges to improve viability and provide infrastructure needed for housing. Extract: “Tom Parlon, director general of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) said that he agreed with the minister’s sentiment but stressed any levy should have safeguards…. Mr Parlon agreed that few investors were simply sitting on land but suggested that some vulture funds that have been buying property here may not consider some sites worth developing at this point… Earlier this week, David Ehrlich, chief executive of Irish Residential Properties REIT, said many of the funds were “just sitting on sites” and were unprepared to sell.”

The BRegs Weekly e-zine gathers all recent social media discussions relating to Building Control Regulations into one weekly digest. It is published every Friday and gives a round-up of news highlights for the week.  We recommend signing up for an automatic subscription to keep up with the discussion surrounding the current annual review of the BC(A)R, and more recent media articles and stories about building control and the impacts on the consumer and construction industry.

Click Here to read: BRegs Weekly : Edition 109

The Price Of Allowing Developers To Self-Certify | Broadsheet.ie

31st May 2017

Last week Broadsheet.ie reported on RTÉ One’s Morning Ireland series on the construction industry in Ireland, focusing on sub-standard ‘celtic tiger ‘ developments. There are over 30 large residential projects known to have significant defects (see list at the bottom of post).  Despite more projects discovered with significant defects, Ireland has maintained a unique ‘hands-off’ 100% system of self-certification of building standards, where developers can employ private building inspectors directly. The state still has no role in testing compliance with building standards. Extract from Broadsheet.ie as follows (see article here), extract to follow:

The Price Of Allowing Developers To Self-Certify

In her fourth of a four-part series on the construction industry in Ireland, journalist Jackie Fox recalled the sub-standard housing developments that were built during the boom, namely Priory Hall and Longboat Quay.

In her report, Ms Fox sought to find out if standards are being met today and spoke to Cian O’Callaghan, from the Geography Department at Trinity College Dublin, and Kevin Hollingsworth, chartered building surveyor.

Ms Fox said that, over the past three years, Mr Hollingsworth has been involved in the remediation works of 29 developments which she did not name.

During the report, Mr O’Callaghan recalled:

“One of the main problems during the boom was that there was so much being built, from 2006, there was something like 90,000 housing units built in the country so local authorities didn’t actually have the staff to regulate the standards properly and what was happening then is there was a process of certification that was brought in to play, where developers would hire their own architect, their own surveyor to sign off on the safety standards for the building, the building regulations.

“So, in the 1990s, the building control regulations relaxed and this kind of allowed developers to self-certify. So this is quite an unusual circumstance. You wouldn’t have it in the UK for example. You’d have an independent body who would be responsible for building controls and responsible to ensure that the quality of things was being kept.”

And Mr Hollingsworth said:

The assigned certifier can be an employee of the developer, the assigned certifier is also just a professional – they do get paid by the end user. They don’t act independently. They’re supposed to act independently but, once there’s that financial link, that leads to a lack of independence.”

Sigh.

Listen back to the report in full here

LIST OF 30 DEFECTIVE MULTI-UNIT PROJECTS

  1. Longboat Quay, Dublin (see RTE news link here)
  2. Gallery Quay, Dublin (see UTV news link here)
  3. Priory Hall, Dublin (see Journal.ie link here)
  4. Shangan Hall, Dublin (see Irishconcrete.ie pdf link here)
  5. Shankill, Dublin (see news link here)
  6. Balgaddy, Dublin (see Echo link here)
  7. Prospect Hill, Dublin (see Irish Independent link here)
  8. Belmayne, Dublin (see Irish Independent link here)
  9. Thornfield Square, Clondalkin, Dublin (see Irish Independent link here)
  10. Foxford Court, Lucan, Dublin (see Irish Independent link here)
  11. The Laurels, Dundrum, Dublin (see news link here)
  12. Ballymun, Dublin (see news link here)
  13. Gleann Riada, Longford (see Longford Leader link here)
  14. Millfield Manor, Newbridge, Kildare (see Irish Examiner link here)
  15. Old Court Estate,  Bray, Wicklow (see Irish Independent link here)
  16. Glentore, Athlone, Westmeath (see herald link here)
  17. Glending, Wicklow (see Irish Independent link here)
  18. Riverwalk Court, Ratoath, Meath (see Irish Examiner link here)
  19. Kentswood Court,  Navan, Meath (see Irish Times link here)
  20. Inishowen, Donegal (see news link here)
  21. Erris, Mayo (see Mayo News link here)
  22. Derrycorris, Edenderry, Offaly (see Offaly Express link here)
  23. Moneymore, Louth (see news link here)
  24. Ceol na hAbhann, Caherconlish, Limerick (see Limerick Leader link here)
  25. Dun Ard, Craughwell, Galway (see news link here)
  26. Moyross, Limerick (see Irish Examiner link link here)
  27. Parkland, Youghal, Cork (see Irish Examiner link link here)
  28. Elm Park, Merrion Road (see Irish Independent link here)
  29. Holywell estate, Swords, Dublin (See Sunday Business Post link here)
  30. The Cubes, Sandyford, Dublin (See Independent link here)

NOTE : In compiling this post, 25 other estates affected by pyrite have not been named due to reporting restrictions (See “Location of 25 estates in pyrite probes to stay secret” Irish Independent). Homes and estates affected by mica in Donegal similarly have not been included (See Pyrite + Mica | Continuing Problems)

Other posts of interest:

Cracking up: the legacy of Celtic Tiger Ireland | Independent

Donegal Mica + Render | “State Fails to Protect Family Homes” Seanad

Dept. of Housing withhold Fire Review into timber frame housing

Defective “Celtic Tiger” projects : The Cubes | Look Back 17

Priory Hall & Longboat Quay: “I’m convinced there are others” | Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Here’s How to Avoid Another Longboat Quay: Dublin Inquirer | Look Back 15

Longboat Quay | Irish Times Letters to the Editor

First Priory Hall, then Longboat Quay…now schools | Irish Examiner

“Risky housing sale outrageous but legal” | Longboat Quay

Complaint Procedures & Construction Industry Register? | Look Back 19

97% of Cork rental homes failed safety checks | Irish Examiner

The State still has no function in testing compliance of building regulations

Housing crisis and building inspection | Eoin O’Cofaigh

FACTCHECK: “If my house is defective, Do I have any rights?”

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

Examiner | Housing Defects Special 

Michael Clifford: “when will we address cracks in construction?” Irish Examiner

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

Is the scene set for another Priory Hall? | Look Back 11

BRegs Weekly | 26 May 2017

26 May 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 108

Edition 108 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

A number of damning official reports into defective buildings continue to remain unpublished by the Department of Housing under Minister Simon Coveney. In a recent Independent article “Cracking up: the legacy of Celtic Tiger Ireland the issue of homes affected by pyrite and mica in Donegal and Mayo was noted. Glacial government response to this particular problem and continued procrastination by officials in publishing an official report  was highlighted in the Seanad on 23rd May 2017.  Pádraig MacLochlainn (Sinn Fein) said This is a failure of the State, of building control legislation and to ensure compression tests guaranteed that the blockwork, the core product in the family home in Ireland, was sound. It was an utter failure of State regulation right through. These families have been failed utterly.” 

Chartered Surveyor Kevin Sheridan examined building control costs for modest residential projects in the Irish Times article Should I opt out of costly compliance paperwork?” Many defective residential schemes have been built under a regime of cowboy  builders, inadequate insurance, a lack of local authority checks and informal sign-off. The 2014 BCAR SI9 regulations reinforced this system of sign-off, putting ‘self certification’ on a statutory basis without dealing with the many root causes in the house building industry. Despite increased costs and paperwork, buyers can not be any more confident of quality and safety under the new system.  There are no new legal rights for buyers and there are still no independent inspections of construction sites. Many think that a BCAR Completion Certificate is a guarantee, but it comes with few consumer protections and no new rights for buyers. If there’s a defect in the house owners will have to go to Court to look for redress; this could take many years and the outcome is not guaranteed.

Architect Brian Montaut echoed the concerns surrounding Developer-led  ‘reinforced self-certification’ a subsequent letter to the editor Building regulations and self-certification“In 2014 statutory certification of buildings was devised following the Priory Hall debacle… At its core, however, is a system inexplicably built around self-certification, ie certification by the participants themselves. Those procedures culminate in an overall certificate, which is filed by the local authority… Overall, statutory self-certification adds time and cost without creating any new form of redress; unless, having legitimised these certificates in the eyes of the ordinary citizen, the local authority is held responsible.

The BRegs Weekly e-zine gathers all recent social media discussions relating to Building Control Regulations into one weekly digest. It is published every Friday and gives a round-up of news highlights for the week.  We recommend signing up for an automatic subscription to keep up with the discussion surrounding the current annual review of the BC(A)R, and more recent media articles and stories about building control and the impacts on the consumer and construction industry.

Click Here to read: BRegs Weekly : Edition 108

Donegal Mica + Render | “State Fails to Protect Family Homes” Seanad

Pictured: Former Minister of State Paudie Coffey in Inishowen in 2015

25 May 2017

A number of damning official reports into defective buildings continue to remain unpublished by the Department of Housing under Minister Simon Coveney. In a recent Independent article “Cracking up: the legacy of Celtic Tiger Ireland the issue of homes affected by pyrite and mica in Donegal and Mayo was noted “In the most extreme cases, such as the hundreds of houses built with defective building blocks in Donegal, homes are literally crumbling”.

Glacial government response to this problem and continued procrastination by officials in publishing an official report  was highlighted in the Seanad on 23rd May 2017. Pádraig MacLochlainn (Sinn Fein) said “This is a failure of the State, of building control legislation and to ensure compression tests guaranteed that the blockwork, the core product in the family home in Ireland, was sound. It was an utter failure of State regulation right through. These families have been failed utterly.” Here is an extract of the Seanad exchange:  

Pádraig MacLochlainn (Sinn Fein):

Some 18 months ago the Government of the day, which was led by the Minister of State’s party, announced the establishment of an expert panel. This panel was to examine the crisis facing a large number of families in Donegal and Mayo in respect of the failure of the concrete blockwork in their homes as a result of the presence of mica, or pyrite as is the case in Mayo. It was to report by 31 May 2016. Here we are a full year after that deadline and that report has still not been published. The families who are crying out for help and assistance still have not received any…

This is a failure of the State, of building control legislation and to ensure compression tests guaranteed that the blockwork, the core product in the family home in Ireland, was sound. It was an utter failure of State regulation right through. These families have been failed utterly… I have met people, grown men, in tears in their own kitchens… They are devastated because of the failure of this State to protect their interests and to ensure that those blocks were sound and that the building controls standards were enforced properly. Now they are left with crumbling homes. I cannot urge the Minister of State enough that this needs to be sorted out urgently. People cannot wait any longer…

How can it take the best part of five months to legally proof a document? I understand this report was concluded at the beginning of this year. It is not acceptable that five months have been spent legally proofing it. A year has passed since this document was supposed to be published. Families have been faced with impossible choices during that time. This is a real crisis…

Catherine Byrne (Fine Gael):

“I understand the Senator’s frustration. As I have said in the Dáil Chamber, it is about time this report was given to the relevant people. The reasons these people should get some redress need to come out now. I will relay all the messages outlined by the Senator to the Minister. A great deal of consultation was done and there were many meetings as part of the in-depth process of identifying the needs of home owners and seeing what structural damage had been caused to their homes. All of this took some time. I agree with the Senator that it is time to get on with this process so that the report can be launched. I understand the Minister intends to have the report finished within a number of weeks. This could mean four weeks or it could mean six weeks. I will relay the Senator’s message to the Minister and make sure he gets an answer.”

Full Link: Building Regulations: 23 May 2017: Seanad debates (KildareStreet.com)

The Department of Housing (environment) withheld a damning report into fire safety in the Holywell estate in Swords, Co Dublin for five years until the Sunday Business Post obtained a copy and went public. The Department was made aware of serious concerns of the Local Authority into fire safety in the estate as far back as 2007 did not inform residents (see article here).

Former Minister Alan Kelly commissioned a report into a potentially fatal fire in Millfield Manor in Newbridge, Co Kildare  when a row of six terraced hoes went up in flames in just 30 minutes in April 2015. This report was completed later that year and was due to be published in January 2016. Department of Housing under Simon Coveney continues to withhold publication (see article here).

In October 2015 following a number of high-profile defects coming to light, a review of the ‘Rapid’ build modular schools programme was announced by former Minister of the Environment Jan O’Sullivan TD (see post here)Over 17 months later this state report remains unpublished. The ‘Rapid’ build schools programme subsequently was used as the template for the ‘Rapid’ build programme for social housing delivery being pursued by the current government.

Other posts of interest:

Donegal Mica + Render | Seamus McDaid

Property firm to contribute €1m to pyrite board | Irish Examiner

ALERT | Pyrite & Ground Floor Construction?

Pyrite + Mica | Continuing Problems

Donegal Pyrite update | BRegsForum

Department of Environment regulatory failure | PYRITE 10 years on

Defective “Mica” blocks problem – fresh hope as Junior Minister visits Donegal | Donegal Now

The €64,000 question: How big is the pyrite problem? | BRegsForum

FACTCHECK: “If my house is defective, Do I have any rights?”

Defective schools | Are our children safe?

The State still has no function in testing compliance of building regulations

ALERT : Asbestos Contamination in Wicklow

Should I opt out of costly SI9 compliance paperwork? Irish Times

23 May 2017

The following article “Should I opt out of costly compliance paperwork?” 18th May 2017, Irish Times explored the pro and cons of providing paperwork for the Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR) of 2014 over the construction of a small garden house-

I am retired and have just got planning permission to build a two-bedroom house in the garden. I understand that regulations introduced in 2014 require paperwork to satisfy all statutory bodies and could cost an extra €3,000-€5,000. As a one-off house, you can opt out of these extra requirements. However, when I die my son, now living in London, may wish to sell the house. Would you advise me to pay for the extra paperwork or opt out? They say that if you leave your affairs in a mess people will be talking about you for a long time – I’d prefer everything to go smoothly. Would opting out of the extra paperwork make it more difficult to sell the house at a future date? Thanking you in anticipation.

It is understandable that anyone building a house, and who is unfamiliar with the Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR) of 2014, may see it as an administrative “paperwork” exercise costing money with limited real benefit. You are right to question the potential downsides in taking this “opt-out” course of action.

An amendment to the 2014 Act introduced by SI. 365 of 2015 seemed a tantalising opportunity to save money by availing of an opt-out. However, this represents an easing only – of some supporting documentation, inspection, certification and sign-off requirements. What is missing is the protection through a transparent and rigorous independent inspection and certification regime provided by the 2014 full BCAR requirements demonstrating that the building is in compliance.

While the self-certification requirements, introduced in the 2014 BCAR Regulations, addressed a shortcoming recognised originally in the 1990 Building Control Act (ie self-certification option), this provision was not enacted, at that time, in the 1991 Building Control Regulations.

Bregs Blog: Priory Hall, an apartment development in North Dublin, was evacuated on foot of a court order in 2011.  The fire risks were so serious that residents were given hours to pack up and leave while fire engines stood outside.  It was a catastrophic failure in regulation, built under a regime of unregistered builders, inadequate insurance, a lack of local authority checks and informal sign-off.  The 2014 regulations reinforced this system of sign-off, putting ‘self certification’ on a statutory basis without dealing with the many root causes in the house building industry. 

In deciding to opt out, it means you are not required to lodge statutory undertaking and certificates by the designer, assigned certifier and builder, or lodge an inspection plan. You are effectively making the decision to not have a design certifier sign off on the building, and you have decided not to have an assigned certifier inspect and oversee the works. Furthermore, you will not be able to register a Certificate of Compliance on Completion with your Local Authority.

Bregs Blog: You might think that this Completion Certificate is a guarantee, but it comes with few consumer protections and no new rights for you as a buyer. If there’s a defect in the house you will have to go to Court to look for redress; this could take many years and the outcome is not guaranteed. The Priory Hall complex was eventually repaired at a cost of €30m to the tax payer, because the owners had no recourse in law (see post here).

For lodgment purposes, owners are tacitly assuming the roles of owner, designer and assigned certifier. They must complete a valid commencement notice, declaration of intention to opt out, nomination of a competent builder, submit general arrangement drawings (not planning drawings), a schedule of documents and compliance statement. They need to fully consider the potential downside of choosing this opt-out route as, unless they are competent to ensure full compliance, they are electing to remove key safeguards in the 2014 BCAR regulations.

Arguably Opt-outs are assuming an onerous role with limited savings being generated as most of the initial costs envisaged will be difficult to avoid in order to comply.

Bregs Blog: The Assigned Certifier will leave a trail trail of responsibility but it is not correct to call this a guarantee because it is not.  However, you may find, like Hansel and Gretal, that this is nothing but a trail of breadcrumbs leading you further down a path of false promises and not to a safely built home.  You can still buy a non-compliant home…and it’s all perfectly legal 

 As owners are not exempted from the building regulations, as distinct from the opt out in the building control regulations, you need to consider your vulnerability. An opt-out may lead to a potential diminution in value or future sales resistance or even exposure in the event of a very significant non-compliance that is not picked up prior to the completion stage.

Before deciding, you should first check with your lending agency and solicitor, as some lenders will actively discourage opt-outs and require full BCAR compliance.

Bregs Blog: There is no legal requirement to include a Completion Certificate in the sales documents, although a building cannot be legally occupied without one and banks require one for a mortgage.  A buyer, or their bank, has no way of knowing if an Assigned Certifier has done careful inspections or if, in fact, the developer has cut corners and had certificates signed by his own staff (see posts here and here).

Opt-outs, in particular, are likely to fall back on providing an “opinion of substantial compliance” with planning and building regulations undertaken by an architect, engineer or building surveyor (though not a statutory requirement). Such opinions regarding building regulations are likely to have so many “caveats” (beware of ) in the report that it will provide limited comfort and protection for current owners and can hardly be relied on by future owners.

In conclusion, you are advised to seek legal advice if you decide to opt out as you may only be “kicking the can down the road”. The alternative course, if properly executed, should give you greater peace of mind.

Bregs Blog: There is no reason to believe that buyers can be any more confident of quality and safety under the new system.  There are no new legal rights for buyers and there are still no independent inspections of construction sites (see post here),

Kevin Sheridan is a chartered surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie

Other posts of interest:

S.I.9 : Is the scene set for another Priory Hall?

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

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

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

BC(A)R SI.9 Submission Series No 3: The Legal Environment and Consumer Protection | Deirdre Ní Fhloinn

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

Legal Advice for Multiple Unit Development Completions | Arthur Cox

Summary of Legal Posts- BC(A)R SI.9

Additional Engineers’ fees for school projects | SI.9

RIAI ALERT: Inspection Fees for House Extensions

RIAI: time needed for schools- BC(A)R SI.

FACTCHECK 1: “If my house is defective, Do I have any rights?

BRegs Weekly | 19 May 2017

19 May 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 107

Edition 107 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

Six fire engines were deployed to Dublin 15 last week by Dublin Fire Brigade to tackle a blaze at an apartment complex that left dozens of residents homeless (read story here). There were no injuries but the fire at Verdemont estate in Coolmine caused extensive damage. A number of residents were provided with temporary overnight accommodation at a respite centre in Cabra. The Department of Social Protection put emergency procedures in place for Verdemont residents the following morning to support those affected. Local TD Joan Burton (Lab) extended sympathies to the residents and called for an enquiry into the blaze. “There will have to be a detailed inquiry into the fire and how it spread so quickly and destroyed and damaged so many apartments and homes. The Minister will have to initiate this as quickly as possible and review fire safety standards and their enforcement in respect of domestic dwellings.”

The mounting crisis of ‘celtic tiger’ defective buildings featured in the Independent (see article here). Some high-profile developments have made the headlines, but many in the construction sector believe these are just the tip of the iceberg. Fortunately to date, there have been no major fire disasters in shoddy Celtic Tiger era apartment blocks. However when a row of six terraced timber-framed houses at Millfield Manor in Newbridge, Co Kildare went up in flames in just 30 minutes in April 2015, a warning was sounded about what could happen.  After the fire former Minister of the Environment Alan Kelly (Lab) commissioned a detailed inquiry and fire safety report. He said at the time: “I am acutely aware of the stressful and distressing situation facing homeowners, such as those in Millfield Estate in Newbridge, who simply do not know whether the home they live in is safe and secure from the risk of fire.” Former Minister Kelly commissioned a report which was completed and was due to be published in January 2016, but the Department of Housing under Simon Coveney has withheld publication.

The Department kept unpublished another damning report into fire safety in the Holywell estate in Swords, Co Dublin for five years until the Sunday Business Post obtained a copy and went public. However, the Department was made aware of serious concerns of the Local Authority into fire safety in the estate as far back as 2007 “Our inspectors have very serious concerns about the specifications and quality of workmanship to the premesis. These matters go beyond the question of completion and raise issues of the basic acceptability of the property”. The Department did not inform residents of serious fire issues that they aware of for years (see article here).

Elsewhere Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has announced a public consultation on his intention to review Part L of the Building Regulations (Conservation of Fuel and Energy) and to amend the accompanying Technical Guidance Document L. From the Dept: “The proposed amendments have the overall objective of improving the energy and carbon performance of new buildings other than dwellings and to transpose the EU requirement for nearly zero energy buildings and major renovations, without imposing a disproportionate burden on industry in terms of bureaucracy or costs.” Submissions and comments on the review should be submitted by email to buildingstandards@housing.gov.ie no later than 5:30 p.m. on Friday 26th May 2017.

The BRegs Weekly e-zine gathers all recent social media discussions relating to Building Control Regulations into one weekly digest. It is published every Friday and gives a round-up of news highlights for the week.  We recommend signing up for an automatic subscription to keep up with the discussion surrounding the current annual review of the BC(A)R, and more recent media articles and stories about building control and the impacts on the consumer and construction industry.

Click Here to read: BRegs Weekly : Edition 107

Cracking up: the legacy of Celtic Tiger Ireland | Independent

16 May 2017

In the  Independent article “Cracking up: the legacy of Celtic Tiger Ireland” by Kim Bielenberg, 15th May 2017, the mounting crisis of ‘celtic tiger’ defective buildings is explored.

There are over 30 large residential projects known to have significant defects- a list is included at the bottom of the post. Remarkably, Ireland has maintained a unique ‘hands-off’ 100% system of self-certification of building standards, where developers can still employ private building inspectors directly and state still has no role in testing compliance with building standards. With recently announced stimulus measures aimed at the private housing sector by Minister Coveney, similar quality and workmanship issues may return to the sector.

Full story here. Extract:

Cracking up: the legacy of Celtic Tiger Ireland

The Celtic Tiger era has left a ­shoddy ­building ­legacy. ­Thousands of homes built during the boom have been found to be ­defective. And all too often ­homeowners are left ­footing the bill. Kim Bielenberg ­reports on a ­mounting crisis

“Kevin Hollingsworth is still shocked by the poor standards of construction that he sees in his work as a building surveyor.

“Many are living in substandard conditions as a result of a lack of proper building controls from the early 1990s until 2013…There was no consumer protection.”

The Celtic Tiger era has left a shoddy building legacy, and it is a crisis that is in many places still only becoming apparent. At the moment, for understandable reasons, attention is focused on the housing shortage. But there is also a mounting crisis over appalling construction standards.

All over the country, thousands of homes that were built during the boom have been found to be defective. And in many cases, the botched building jobs are only now coming to light.

Some high-profile developments have made the headlines, but many in the property business believe these are just the tip of the iceberg. Residents of Priory Hall had to abandon their apartments over fire safety issues. At Longboat Quay they faced huge costs because of defective fire safety features. There are also fire safety issues at the massive apartment scheme at Beacon South Quarter, and these came to light when there were moves to fix a problem with water leaking into two of the blocks.

In the most extreme cases, such as the hundreds of houses built with defective building blocks in Donegal, homes are literally crumbling. And then there is the pyrite crisis – the mineral commonly used to build foundations has caused floors and walls to crack in thousands of homes… In many cases the problems relate to fire safety, water leaking in from the outside, sewerage problems and defective building materials.

Killian Ryan was one of those who was shocked to discover earlier this year that he faces a likely bill of over €15,000 to fix defects in his apartment block at Beacon South Quarter in Dublin… Ryan says there are more rights for consumers buying a doll’s house than if they buy a real home.

Construction lawyer Deirdre Ní Fhloinn agrees. “You have more rights if something goes wrong with the iPhone in your pocket than when you buy a home,” she says.

Fortunately, there have been no major fire disasters in shoddy apartment blocks that went up in the Celtic Tiger era.

But we were given a warning of what could happen when a row of six terraced timber-framed houses at Millfield Manor in Newbridge, Co Kildare went up in flames in just 30 minutes in April 2015. According to a consultant’s report , the walls that separated the houses had “numerous deficiencies”, including “inadequate fire-stopping”. The report found that the timber frame partitions did not run to the underside of the roof.

Terrace Inferno

Dublin architect Mel Reynolds says that fire should have been the canary in the coalmine that led the Government to take action. “Walls between houses are supposed to be fire resistant for 60 minutes. You are supposed to have an hour to get out if a fire starts in a house next door to you. It is appalling that six houses burnt down so quickly. If it was at night, there could have been five or six families dead.”

The potential implications of the Millfield Manor fire are huge. What is to be done if there are thousands of similar developments all over the country?

After the fire there was such alarm at the defects that the then Environment minister Alan Kelly commissioned a report. This was supposed to look into risks faced by residents in apartment developments and housing estates across the country. The minister said at the time: “I am acutely aware of the stressful and distressing situation facing homeowners, such as those in Millfield Estate in Newbridge, who simply do not know whether the home they live in is safe and secure from the risk of fire.”

The report was due to be published in January of last year, and is now complete, but the Department of Housing under Simon Coveney is sitting on it.

Asked to explain the delay, a spokesman for the department told Review: “The report of Steering Group to address non-compliance with fire safety requirements in residential developments remains under examination and the Department is seeking clarification on a number of issues.”

One of the major causes of the crisis was that developments could be built in the Celtic Tiger era without any proper fire inspection. A system of self-certification had been introduced by Environment Minister Pádraig Flynn in 1990. Since 2014, under new regulations, inspections at the time of construction have become more rigorous.

Hollingsworth says another problem is that builders used different construction techniques to save time and money.

During the boom times there was a move away from traditional building with blocks and cavity walls. Builders preferred system-built construction. Ready-made walls arrived as panels on the backs of lorries and were pieced together in jig time on site.

Many builders were not used to this. “Often the seals were not done properly, and there are now problems with water ingress and condensation,” Hollingsworth says.

Burying heads in sand

There are also many defects with timber frame houses, which became popular during the boom. Donegal engineer Damien McKay says the quality of timber-frame houses built during the Celtic Tiger era was variable. “There were some reputable well-established companies doing it, but then new companies were set up out of the blue and they had no experience of that kind of system at all.”

According to McKay, in poorly built timber-frame homes there are often problems with weather-proofing, insulation and air-tightness.

Architect Mel Reynolds says timber-frame houses can be excellent, but they require exacting standards… Reynolds says local authorities and the Government are not really facing up to the problems caused by our defective buildings. “They are burying their heads in the sand… Because the construction sector is self-policed this shoddy workmanship will continue. If we replicate the same environment from 2004 where building output doubles in two or three years, we are going to have the same quality issues that we had before.”

State must step in as regulator

Construction lawyer Deirdre Ní Fhloinn says Irish law is stacked against homebuyers who discover defects in their properties. She says there is a pressing need for a building regulator to oversee the sector. We have regulators for telecoms, data protection and food safety, but none for a sector that has exposed the State and homeowners to huge costs as a result of shoddy practices.

“In this country you need a licence to drive a taxi, but you don’t need a licence to build a house,” says Ms Ní Fhloinn. The lawyer who specialises in building defects says the State needs to step in as a regulator.

“It should be monitoring what is happening across the country and it should be licensing builders. It should be putting together a picture of the most common problems – issues such as fire safety, water getting into buildings and structural defects.”

The lawyer says the response of the Government to the spate of revelations about building defects has been inadequate… “There should have been experts appointed to look across the whole country at what happened, why it happened, and what lessons we need to learn.”

LIST OF 30 DEFECTIVE MULTI-UNIT PROJECTS

  1. Longboat Quay, Dublin (see RTE news link here)
  2. Gallery Quay, Dublin (see UTV news link here)
  3. Priory Hall, Dublin (see Journal.ie link here)
  4. Shangan Hall, Dublin (see Irishconcrete.ie pdf link here)
  5. Shankill, Dublin (see news link here)
  6. Balgaddy, Dublin (see Echo link here)
  7. Prospect Hill, Dublin (see Irish Independent link here)
  8. Belmayne, Dublin (see Irish Independent link here)
  9. Thornfield Square, Clondalkin, Dublin (see Irish Independent link here)
  10. Foxford Court, Lucan, Dublin (see Irish Independent link here)
  11. The Laurels, Dundrum, Dublin (see news link here)
  12. Ballymun, Dublin (see news link here)
  13. Gleann Riada, Longford (see Longford Leader link here)
  14. Millfield Manor, Newbridge, Kildare (see Irish Examiner link here)
  15. Old Court Estate,  Bray, Wicklow (see Irish Independent link here)
  16. Glentore, Athlone, Westmeath (see herald link here)
  17. Glending, Wicklow (see Irish Independent link here)
  18. Riverwalk Court, Ratoath, Meath (see Irish Examiner link here)
  19. Kentswood Court,  Navan, Meath (see Irish Times link here)
  20. Inishowen, Donegal (see news link here)
  21. Erris, Mayo (see Mayo News link here)
  22. Derrycorris, Edenderry, Offaly (see Offaly Express link here)
  23. Moneymore, Louth (see news link here)
  24. Ceol na hAbhann, Caherconlish, Limerick (see Limerick Leader link here)
  25. Dun Ard, Craughwell, Galway (see news link here)
  26. Moyross, Limerick (see Irish Examiner link link here)
  27. Parkland, Youghal, Cork (see Irish Examiner link link here)
  28. Elm Park, Merrion Road (see Irish Independent link here)
  29. Holywell estate, Swords, Dublin (See Sunday Business Post link here)
  30. The Cubes, Sandyford, Dublin (See Independent link here)

NOTE : In compiling this post, 25 other estates affected by pyrite have not been named due to reporting restrictions (See “Location of 25 estates in pyrite probes to stay secret” Irish Independent). Homes and estates affected by mica in Donegal similarly have not been included (See Pyrite + Mica | Continuing Problems)

Other posts of interest:

Dept. of Housing withhold Fire Review into timber frame housing

Defective “Celtic Tiger” projects : The Cubes | Look Back 17

Priory Hall & Longboat Quay: “I’m convinced there are others” | Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Here’s How to Avoid Another Longboat Quay: Dublin Inquirer | Look Back 15

Longboat Quay | Irish Times Letters to the Editor

First Priory Hall, then Longboat Quay…now schools | Irish Examiner

“Risky housing sale outrageous but legal” | Longboat Quay

Complaint Procedures & Construction Industry Register? | Look Back 19

97% of Cork rental homes failed safety checks | Irish Examiner

The State still has no function in testing compliance of building regulations

Housing crisis and building inspection | Eoin O’Cofaigh

FACTCHECK: “If my house is defective, Do I have any rights?”

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

Examiner | Housing Defects Special 

Michael Clifford: “when will we address cracks in construction?” Irish Examiner

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

Is the scene set for another Priory Hall? | Look Back 11

Defective schools | Are our children safe?

 

 

Dept. of Housing withhold Fire Review into timber frame housing | Irish Examiner

10 May 2017

In “Review into fire at timber frame housing being withheld” Mick Clifford writes about the Department of Housing delaying publication of a fire safety report into a potentially fatal fire in March 2015 in Millfield Manor Kildare.

On March 31, 2015, a fire had levelled a terrace of six houses in half an hour in the Millfield Manor estate. According to design standards, it should take about three hours for a fire to spread that quickly. Thankfully, the incident occurred in the afternoon and all occupants were safely evacuated. After the fire, an investigation was launched by the council which found major fire safety deficiencies. The report was handed to homeowners who were effectively told they were on their own

Fourteen months after the review was completed, the Department of the Environment has not published it. During that time, repeated inquiries have received responses from the department saying that aspects of the review are still under consideration…

These are issues on which the thousands of owners living in timber frame homes are entitled to receive either reassurance or the bad news. Instead, the review is being withheld.

Article to follow (click link here):

Review into fire at timber frame housing being withheld

The late Willie Crowley would have continued to serve the people of Millfield Manor after a fire levelled a terrace of houses there, writes Michael Clifford

Willie Crowley was a politician in the best tradition of public service. He was independent-minded and served as an independent county councillor in Kildare.

He died three days after he was knocked down in a hit-and-run incident in Newbridge on December 15, 2015.

On Wednesday, 29-year-old Damien Klasinski pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Crowley. He will be sentenced at a later date.

In court, Mr Crowley’s widow, Claire Doyle, gave a victim impact statement. She spoke in moving terms about her own personal loss, but she also touched on her husband’s role in the community.

“Willie was entering a new phase of his life, preparing to stand as a candidate in the general election,” she said. “I am acutely aware of the unfulfilled potential which adds to my loss.

“Willie worked tirelessly to improve the community of Newbridge. Willie did not discriminate and helped people from all walks of life. The huge loss to the community has exacerbated my loss of the love of my life.”

I knew Willie Crowley for the last nine months of his life. He was passionate and persistent in representing his community. We had come into contact after I began covering a story in Newbridge.

On March 31, 2015, a fire had levelled a terrace of six houses in half an hour in the Millfield Manor estate. According to design standards, it should take about three hours for a fire to spread that quickly. Thankfully, the incident occurred in the afternoon and all occupants were safely evacuated.

The speed at which the fire spread gave rise to serious concerns about construction of the timber frame dwellings. The estate was built by Barrack Construction in 2006, which went into liquidation in 2011. Its principle, Paddy Byrne, has repeatedly pointed out that the construction had been subjected to checks by the building regulatory authority in Kildare County Council.

After the fire, an investigation was launched by the council which found major fire safety deficiencies. The report was handed to homeowners who were effectively told they were on their own.

Through it all, Mr Crowley pushed their interests. The owners had bought their homes in good faith. Now they were being told that they were living in firetraps, which would require an investment of at least €15,000 to rectify.

And it would also require that neighbours on each side of terraced houses go match the investment. Most of the owners had bought at the height of the boom and could not afford the cost.

Mr Crowley and a few other representatives continued to push back against what was an outrageous injustice in which citizens had not been adequately protected by state agencies.

Eventually, in September 2015, the pressure yielded a partial result. The then Environment Minister, Alan Kelly, announced a review to “develop a framework for general application” in homes where concerns had been raised about fire safety. Millfield Manor was to be used as a template.

Mr Crowley, however, was not impressed.

“It’s a joke,” he told the Irish Examiner at the time. “It amounts to putting in a few fire alarms and organising a fire drill. If you don’t get a commitment [to address compensation for the stricken homeowners] before the next election, forget about it.”

His comments were prescient. The review parked the problems in Millfield Manor until after the Febraury 2016 election, in which Mr Crowley had hoped to stand.

At least six owners in the estate co-operated in the review by allowing their homes to be surveyed. They did so on the understanding that they would receive the results of the surveys. They have not been furnished with any results.

Fourteen months after the review was completed, the Department of the Environment has not published it. During that time, repeated inquiries have received responses from the department saying that aspects of the review are still under consideration.

It’s difficult to believe that “aspects are still under consideration”. An alternative explanation is that the department does not want to publish the review because of what it contains.

If the review echoes the concerns of the investigation by Kildare County Council it may have implications for timber frame construction — which was highly popular during the boom —in general.

It could also open up problems for the State concerning design specifications and building control.

These are issues on which the thousands of owners living in timber frame homes are entitled to receive either reassurance or the bad news. Instead, the review is being withheld.

Mr Crowley was taken before the review was completed. He may have been elected to the Dáil in 2016. Even if he wasn’t elected to national politics, he would have continued as a councillor to serve the interests of the people of Millfield Manor and Newbridge.

In either capacity, it’s difficult to believe that he would have remained silent on the failure to publish the review.

It’s difficult to believe he wouldn’t have made himself a considerable nuisance to the Government — and particularly government TDs in Kildare — pushing, haranguing, fighting on behalf of the people of Millfield Manor. He may even have succeeded in forcing the government to spill out the truth.

Mr Crowley’s loved ones suffered a terrible personal loss. His community, and the best traditions of public service, are also the poorer for his passing.

Other articles of interest:

Kildare Fire: Safety concerns arise from Celtic Tiger ashes | Irish Examiner

Bill for defective housing a burning issue | Irish Examiner

Council foots bill to make firetrap apartments safe | Irish Examiner

Fire safety response is just a smokescreen | Irish Examiner

Kildare residents ‘living in fear’ in fire-risk estate call for funds | Irish Examiner

Housing defects special report: We can’t afford to make the same mistakes again | Irish Examiner

Report into Kildare housing estate blaze finds inadequate fire-stopping measures | Irish Examiner

Firetrap homes: Homeowners suffer sour legacy of boom at Ceol Na Mara | Irish Examiner

BRegs Weekly | 5 May 2017

5 May 2017 – BRegs Weekly 55- Edition 105

Edition 105 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

In “Review into fire at timber frame housing being withheld” Mick Clifford writes about state delaying publication of a fire safety report into a potentially fatal fire in March 2015 in Millfield Manor Kildare. “According to design standards, it should take about three hours for a fire to spread that quickly. Thankfully, the incident occurred in the afternoon and all occupants were safely evacuated. After the fire, an investigation was launched by the council which found major fire safety deficiencies. The report was handed to homeowners who were effectively told they were on their own

Environment Minister, Alan Kelly, then announced a review to “develop a framework for general application” in homes where concerns had been raised about fire safety. “Fourteen months after the review was completed, the Department of the Environment has not published it. During that time, repeated inquiries have received responses from the department saying that aspects of the review are still under consideration…It’s difficult to believe that “aspects are still under consideration”. An alternative explanation is that the department does not want to publish the review because of what it contains.”

The extent of state owned vacant homes was brought into focus in “€24m to be spent restoring 1,400 vacant social houses” in the Examiner. “At least 1,400 vacant social houses are to be returned to productive use by the end of the year for homeless households…€24m will be spent on the scheme, which is part of the Government’s Vacant Properties (voids) programme A department spokesperson said that, since the introduction of the scheme in 2014, approximately €85m of funding has resulted in over 7,200 properties being returned to productive use. Local authorities must submit a prioritised list of properties for remediation…

In the Irish Times today “Understanding why homes are vacant can help solve housing crisis” John Fitzgerald discusses Census 2016 and the impact of dereliction on overall housing stock levels “Such losses can take place through dilapidation, through demolition for replacement, or the conversion of houses containing bedsits to single-family homes.”

“Using the Census data on the age of the housing stock it is generally possible to estimate how many units of housing were lost over the period from the previous Census. I did this exercise for the Census periods from 1961 to 2002 in a paper published in 2005, finding an annual obsolescence rate ranging between 0.4 per cent and 1 per cent.”

The author urges the State to examine factors that may give rise to excessive vacancies, particularly in areas of high housing demand “Other countries have successfully harnessed upper floors in commercial streets for housing – we could learn from their fire safety approaches… Understanding why properties stay vacant may bring us nearer to finding workable solutions to the housing shortage.”

The BRegs Weekly e-zine gathers all recent social media discussions relating to Building Control Regulations into one weekly digest. It is published every Friday and gives a round-up of news highlights for the week.  We recommend signing up for an automatic subscription to keep up with the discussion surrounding the current annual review of the BC(A)R, and more recent media articles and stories about building control and the impacts on the consumer and construction industry.

Click Here to read: BRegs Weekly 55- Edition 105

AON Defective Apartment Developments event: May 3rd 2017

May 3rd 2017

The Apartment Owners Network (AON) are meeting this evening, Wednesday 3rd May  2017 in the Wood Quay venue at the Dublin City Council offices in Wood Quay, Dublin.   The meeting will specifically deal with defective residential developments.

There are over 30 large residential projects known to have significant defects- a list is included at the bottom of the post.  Despite more projects discovered with significant defects, Ireland retains a unique system of self-certification building control with little state oversight of construction.

From the AON website (link here):

“Solicitors Peter Kearney and Deirdre Ní Fhloinn will present to us on “Dealing with defects in apartment developments: investigation, options and solutions.”

While there has been a small number of heavily publicised incidents of construction defects discovered in Irish apartment blocks, there is significant anecdotal evidence that this issue is more widespread than a handful of buildings. Problems with many Celtic Tiger-era blocks are only coming to light for the first time now.

What actions can owners take to minimise the financial risk of construction defects? What rights do owners have if they discover defects? What role can/should the Owner Management Company play? What lessons can be learned from experience to date?

We are delighted to have both Peter and Deirdre address our meeting on this significant issue for the apartment sector. Both have extensive experience on the topic and we look forward to hearing from them… The presentation will be followed by an open discussion and Q&A session.”

With recently announced massive stimulus measures aimed at the private housing sector by Minister Coveney, worryingly the state still has no role in testing compliance with building standards.  Remarkably, Ireland has maintained a unique ‘hands-off’ 100% system of self-certification of building standards, where developers can employ private building inspectors directly.  The spectre of owners seeking redress for defects for years through the courts will be with us for some time to come.

LIST OF 30 DEFECTIVE MULTI-UNIT PROJECTS

  1. Longboat Quay, Dublin (see RTE news link here)
  2. Gallery Quay, Dublin (see UTV news link here)
  3. Priory Hall, Dublin (see Journal.ie link here)
  4. Shangan Hall, Dublin (see Irishconcrete.ie pdf link here)
  5. Shankill, Dublin (see news link here)
  6. Balgaddy, Dublin (see Echo link here)
  7. Prospect Hill, Dublin (see Irish Independent link here)
  8. Belmayne, Dublin (see Irish Independent link here)
  9. Thornfield Square, Clondalkin, Dublin (see Irish Independent link here)
  10. Foxford Court, Lucan, Dublin (see Irish Independent link here)
  11. The Laurels, Dundrum, Dublin (see news link here)
  12. Ballymun, Dublin (see news link here)
  13. Gleann Riada, Longford (see Longford Leader link here)
  14. Millfield Manor, Newbridge, Kildare (see Irish Examiner link here)
  15. Old Court Estate,  Bray, Wicklow (see Irish Independent link here)
  16. Glentore, Athlone, Westmeath (see herald link here)
  17. Glending, Wicklow (see Irish Independent link here)
  18. Riverwalk Court, Ratoath, Meath (see Irish Examiner link here)
  19. Kentswood Court,  Navan, Meath (see Irish Times link here)
  20. Inishowen, Donegal (see news link here)
  21. Erris, Mayo (see Mayo News link here)
  22. Derrycorris, Edenderry, Offaly (see Offaly Express link here)
  23. Moneymore, Louth (see news link here)
  24. Ceol na hAbhann, Caherconlish, Limerick (see Limerick Leader link here)
  25. Dun Ard, Craughwell, Galway (see news link here)
  26. Moyross, Limerick (see Irish Examiner link link here)
  27. Parkland, Youghal, Cork (see Irish Examiner link link here)
  28. Elm Park, Merrion Road (see Irish Independent link here)
  29. Holywell estate, Swords, Dublin (See Sunday Business Post link here)
  30. The Cubes, Sandyford, Dublin (See Independent link here)

NOTE : In compiling this post, 25 other estates affected by pyrite have not been named due to reporting restrictions (See “Location of 25 estates in pyrite probes to stay secret” Irish Independent). Homes and estates affected by mica in Donegal similarly have not been included (See Pyrite + Mica | Continuing Problems)

 

Other posts of interest:

Defective “Celtic Tiger” projects : The Cubes | Look Back 17

Priory Hall & Longboat Quay: “I’m convinced there are others” | Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Here’s How to Avoid Another Longboat Quay: Dublin Inquirer | Look Back 15

Longboat Quay | Irish Times Letters to the Editor

First Priory Hall, then Longboat Quay…now schools | Irish Examiner

“Risky housing sale outrageous but legal” | Longboat Quay

Complaint Procedures & Construction Industry Register? | Look Back 19

97% of Cork rental homes failed safety checks | Irish Examiner

The State still has no function in testing compliance of building regulations

Housing crisis and building inspection | Eoin O’Cofaigh

FACTCHECK: “If my house is defective, Do I have any rights?”

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

Examiner | Housing Defects Special 

Michael Clifford: “when will we address cracks in construction?” Irish Examiner

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

Is the scene set for another Priory Hall? | Look Back 11

Defective schools | Are our children safe?