Category Archives: DECLG

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?

Additional Engineers’ fees for school projects | SI.9

Additional-fees-rent-apartment-scam

12th January 2015

Most professionals involved in Public Sector projects feel that the additional red tape of SI.9 that mirrors duties and documentation that were already required is unnecessary and a waste of public finances. Most contributors to this Blog have confirmed that applying the same methodology for the speculative residential sector (where full-service appointments are not the norm) to public sector procurement makes no sense.

Early in 2014 the RIAI met the Department of Education to progress the basis for additional fees for architects undertaking the roles of Assigned and Design Certifier on school projects (based on additional time required under BC(A)R SI.9). See previous post “Time needed for School Certifier“). Not only architects but other design team members, structural and services engineers, are also seeking an uplift in fees for less onerous ancillary certification roles. From industry sources we table approximate increased fees for school projects from engineers and summarise as follows:

  • Ancillary Certifiers (structural engineers) +/- 0.8%
  • Ancillary Certifiers (services engineers)    +/- 0.8%
  • Assigned/Design Certifiers (architects)     +/- 1.0 %
  • Additional fees for BC(A)R for schools      +/- 2.6%*

On a €3m value school project this translates into approximately €25,000 additional fees for EACH Ancillary Certifier (structural and services) while the more onerous role of Assigned Certifier /Design Certifier can expect a fee in the region of €35,000. We have heard of total consultants’ fees up to €100,000 on larger school projects for additional SI.9 duties. These fee levels may vary from project to project, and fees may be a larger percentage for smaller projects. Additional costs associated with SI.9 may be twice this figure when contractors and specification issues are factored in.

The following is a typical scope of services as noted by an engineer for duties associated with the Ancillary Certifier role. Interestingly we have not seen an architect’s scope of service or fee for the same role where the architect is only prepared to act as an Ancillary Certifier. Under SI.9 the statutory duties of Design Certifier may be undertaken by any designer on the project and the Assigned Certifier role by any competent registered professional.

ANCILLARY CERTIFIER ROLE (ENGINEER) ADDITIONAL DUTIES UNDER SI.9:

  • At Commencement stage :-In accordance with the Code of Practice (7.1.1 ) agree Preliminary Inspection plan with Design and Assigned Certifier. Agree final Inspection Plan with Assigned Certifier.
  • Provide General Arrangement drawings (structural and services) Design Reports, and any additional structural (or services) drawings and documentation for Commencement stage, including documents demonstrating compliance with Technical Guidance Documents, and any supporting documentation  particular to the engineer’s role
  • Identify all civil/ structural and M&E Specialists with design function and agree Ancillary Certificate requirements.
  • At site stage : In accordance with the Assigned Certifier’s agreed Inspection Plan carry out specific works inspections. Attend all agreed and scheduled inspections/ interim inspections and co-ordinate with the Assigned Certifier. Compile and keep records of all meeting minutes, correspondences, site inspections, site reports , contractor proposals/sketches, record observations, instructions for remedial works, contractor corrective action reports, issue any clarifications necessary, and re- inspect any remedial works as required. Maintain telephone records.
  • As required under SI 9, 2014 maintain file copies of all structural calculations. Retain site specific investigation / test reports.
  • Coordinate the production of as-built drawings for validation submission to Building Control Authority and BCMS at the completion stage of the project.
  • At Project Handover Stage / Works completion:- Provide required ancillary certification for validation submission to Building Control Authority and BCMS  at the completion stage of the project. Compile other ancillary certificates and issue to Assigned Certifier.
  • Issue a record of all compliance reports and assemble all ancillary structural and civil specialists and M&E specialists Ancillary design certificates.( Sd Sc and Si as agreed with Stakeholder bodies) to the Assigned Certifier.

The decision to adopt Statutory roles or not and any negotiation on fees and services is a matter for individuals as there is no collective bargaining.

*fee percentages normally increase for smaller projects. These consultants fees exclude additional costs for insurance, certification, professional indemnity exposure caused by the significantly greater risk as to liability, currently untested. We believe the additional costs for the work associated with contractor, sub-contractor and supplier costs, specification and inspection oversight will at between 3- 5% onto these costs. Total additional cost for SI.9 for school projects av. +7%.

Other posts of interest:

SI.9 stops Summer Works for schools in 2015!

Schools to suffer as Minister ignores Essential Works Scheme:

Is SI.9 necessary for Public Sector projects:

SI.9 causing major delays to school projects:

60 new schools delayed due to SI.9 | Independent.ie

Examiner – € 35.5 m unspent as Building Control Regulations delay school projects:

Summer Works 2014 Budget:

“30 % of self-builds in 2014 have been postponed or abandoned” | IAOSB

self-build10 January 2014

The Irish Association of Self-builders (IAOSB) conducted a survey of its members in 2014 and found that one third of self-build projects including one-off houses and extensions had either been abandoned or postponed. This figure could represent almost a quarter of the total for house building in Ireland. We reproduce below an interview Shane McCloud, of the IAOSB,  gave recently on this issue outlining some of the reasons for this collapse in self-build housing figures.

 1) What is your own background, are you a self builder, where are you from and when did you set up the Irish Association of Self Builders website?

I have built three houses here as a self builder on direct labour and project management route. Before that, I was a Civil Engineer graduated in USA and have previous experience in this field in the UK. Irish Association of Self Builder was officially launched on 1st of January 2004 and has constantly been ranked number one with all major search engines for “Building a house in Ireland” or similar phrases. Iaosb.com was never started as a business and the aim has always been to help and assist new self builders to understand the whole process from start to finish. The whole operation of the website is run by a team of volunteer self builders who have gone through the experience themselves and want to help others going through the process now.

2)  Did you get any response from Minister Alan Kelly following your letter calling for changes to the building regulations?

We have written to Minister Alan Kelly twice and have received no replies. Recent comments from Minister Alan Kelly mentioned amending SI9 to reduce impacts on self builders. The RIAI at an EGM on 4th November mentioned that they had been tasked with “sorting out” the self-builders. R.I.A.I President said at his meeting with Alan Kelly in early September he was asked for help in resolving the self-build problems under the regulations. We don’t know if the RIAI have proposed technical solutions to the minister in the last 3 months. The RIAI president raised this issue on SixOne in February when Phil Hogan was the Minister and nothing was ever done about it.

 3)  Can you provide details of the survey you did, which found that  1/3 of all self-builds this year have either been postponed or abandoned and could have led to up to 1,000 houses not being built? Was it an online survey?

Out of a representative sample canvassed  we had 40% replies. Based on membership profiles, we believe 30 % of self-builders in 2014 have been postponed or abandoned. The breakdown of respondents were as follows:

  • 1/3 at the upper end were able to assume 22%+ increased costs. These are at the upper cost end of the spectrum.
  • 1/3 in the middle band were still able to undertake projects but were reducing their scope to accommodate increased costs. For many this means reducing size, specification etc.
  • The bulk of respondents who have indefinitely postponed or abandoned self-builds (last 1/3) are at the lower cost end. Many here were hoping to build cheaper than speculative built housing. Normally savings to self-build at this end are around 30% on the sales price of similar standard spec- built housing. Quite a few self-builders are either on housing lists or in rental accommodation at this level.

We believe Bank lending has become much tighter this year , borrowing extra for more  ‘consultancy fees’ is very difficult.

We believe out of 8,300 completed housing units in 2013 around 1,300 were developer built housing units (CSO source). This means that 85% of the new homes built in Ireland in the last few years were ‘custom build’ or ‘self build’??

4) Is the problem right across the country, or is it more prevalent in rural areas?

Our membership is diverse and most individual self-builds are rural. However a significant proportion of members undertake significant extensions and alterations managing projects themselves. Direct labour is not limited to house building. Lots of small businesses in retail, hospitality, tourism and services sector do work through direct labour.

 5) Has the association had a meeting with the Department of the Environment on this issue and what was the outcome?

We have had no meeting with DECLG on this issue . We found out that Minister Hogan stated in a Seanad debate that he consulted with the IAOSB but this is incorrect (Link to Seanad speech). We have also noted the transcript of this debate has been altered to remove this factually incorrect statement. Senator Paschal Mooney has requested more information on this. Self Builders would welcome a meeting to propose solutions.

6) Have you been contacted by people complaining about the fees they are being quoted for having their self-build signed off under the new building regulations, and can you give any examples?

Yes many members have contacted us. One you could talk to is Amanda Gallagher. An RIAI architect (with a quantity surveyor) self-has completed a detailed breakdown of additional costs for SI.9 due to increased professional fees and increased costs to use a main contractor registered for a typical 1,350 4 bed detached house in suburban Dublin- see link here [SI9 costs for a typical dwelling]

The problem is that the regulations are very demanding- it’s understandable that someone won’t risk their own livelihood- if the regulations were clearer the cost would drop. The following is an extract from a member asking for help this morning:

“ To put into perspective I have received three quotations of €4,500, €12,000 and €32,000 all exc VAT for work. This has scared me immensely. I am open to admitting I know nothing about construction but I have two builders both of whom I trust having witnessed them build homes for my friends and family over the past 15 years. Either will do a great job for me with my families best interests at heart. I cannot engage either of them until I have a certifier picked who will need to re-draw my plans to meet their needs and start this process but how can I tell which is the right one to go with especially when each are saying ‘we are all learning about this process and trying to get our heads around it’. Am I really to pay up to €40,000 for something that my neighbour who started work in February (one month before the new regulation launched) is not having to do at all?”

The quotations are based on the work being done by a Building Contractor.

7) I’ve seen the statistic that 60 per cent of houses are self-builds- is this an old statistic because it seems very high?

It varies between 40- 60%. This excludes extensions many of which are self-built. Based on CSO figures for 2013, 8300 dwelling units (including apartments) were built in the year. Approximately 3,000 were once-off houses. Only 1,300 units were registered with house-building guarantee schemes (speculative WITH HOMEBOND) so the bulk of dwellings built were either commissioned or built by individuals rather than house building companies.

Private individuals and businesses with no experience commission buildings and extensions all the time- that’s normal in every country, it doesn’t mean shoddy work. Cowboys are more likely in speculative building where cutting corners can bring big profits,

A quick look at sites like link2plans (we think they may overestimate the number slightly) and the BCMS website (Department site where new commencements are recorder) to verify the extent.

In the UK self-building is very big, and the UK recently have launched a co-housing initiative, to supply low-cost sites to self-builders and decided that there’ll be no development levies for self-build. UK government see self-building this as a big part of solution to the housing crisis- sustainable well built homes, no cost or risk to tax payer.

8) Are the new building regulations having any impact on extensions (from the building regs forum, it seems that extensions under 40sqm are not affected)?

Apparently the Department have recently come back to recommend that many extensions previously under 40sqm that were considered exempt are no longer. The advice is very confusing and we believe the RIAI have written to the department to clarify. It is remarkable that professional architects currently are uncertain and in the dark as to whether extensions under 40Sqm are exempt or not. The BRegs Blog has written extensively on this. In the meantime many small extensions aren’t viable as the cost for inspections is more than the build.

If you need links to any of the statics or sites/ topics listed I can provide them for you.

As you can see from the attached Department of the Environment information there is little to suggest a  housing boom.

Bruce Shaw Annual Review for information on costs, trends and the construction industry:

http://www.bruceshaw.com/knowledgecentre/chapters/ireland

All our information are gathered by a self-build research team and if you have any further technical queries please do not hesitate to let us know and our team will endeavour to answer all your questions.

Kind regards,

Shane McCloud

Other posts of interest:

Self build: How to make your dream home come true

What is Cohousing? | Homebuilding & Renovating

Christmas Present(s)| We are where we are | Christmas Future

presents

Christmas Present(s):

The initiative to improve building standards in Ireland was welcomed by all sides as there is general  agreement that almost 25 years of Building Control has not been a success. There are many reasons for this but the political will to make improvements is to be applauded. After ten months of the new system, all sides acknowledge that further 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 does not compromise on standards with the resources available. 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.

Christmas Future:

The Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly T.D. has signaled recently an industry-wide review of the new building control regulations for early in the new year. Only last Thursday the Minister of State at the same Department, Paudie Coffey, replied to Barry Cowen TD in the Dáil that:

“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.”

We hope that the key stakeholders are prepared and will make informed representations concerning the unintended consequences of SI.9 on consumers as well as the impacts on their respective members. Over the holiday season the elves here at BReg Towers will continue working away on solid, workable, cost-effective solutions for the implementation problems of SI.9. We hope to report on these shortly.

Have a safe and happy holiday,

BRegs Blog Admin. Team

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

Developer-Led projected Sales Price for a Typical House

gchomeplansIn a previous post “House building costs are 17% more than 2003 despite recession” it was suggested that when VAT, SI.9 costs and developer’s profit is added, the sales price of a typical 125 sq.m. house is currently in the region of €300,000 excluding the site purchase costs.

Typical site values for houses in the country would suggest we are well over €350,000 when the site cost is taken into account. As the average sales price for a typical house is in the region of €250,000, this would suggest that it is still cheaper to buy than to develop.

Here is a breakdown of these figures. In an earlier post we noted an architect’s assessment of additional SI.9 costs for a typical house (see below). The following calculation was confirmed by a development finance specialist and a builder-developer as being an accurate assessment of the cost of a speculative house in a larger scheme. We note the developer suggested cost savings may be made on the administration of the new building regulations by availing of the pilot HomeBond scheme.

Here is the breakdown received:

Developer-Led projected Sales Price for a Typical House

Base build cost= €1271 x 125 = €159,000

plus 13% for professional fees (+€20.7k)*= €180,000

plus SI.9 Professional + specification Costs (+€21k)*= €201,000

plus legal, marketing, sales and other costs of 5% (+€10k)= €211,000

plus developer’s net sales profit of 20% (+€42.2k)= €253,000

plus vat @ 13.5% on sales (+€34.2k)= €287,000

plus planning levies (+€10k)= €297,000 Projected sales price

(The above cost calculation excludes site purchase costs.)

Notes:

  • Bruce Shaw cost range for new build €1000- 1250 per sq.m. (av. €1125) excluding VAT. It recommends adding in  13% for additional development costs= €1271 per sq.m. Exceptional or once-off site development or infrastructure costs may be higher.
  • For the purposes of this calculation we will assume a typical 3-4 bed house size is 125 sq.m.
  • Once-off individual sites will be higher in urban areas like Dublin, Galway or Cork.
  • The costs exclude upgrades due to increased performance (Part L etc) required to reach net carbon zero targets, and other changes to regulations.
  • The costs exclude 10% social and affordable costs [Part V] recently introduced. This will likely result in higher site costs and consequent higher sales prices.
  • The following calculation excludes site costs. Assume average site prices of between €40,000 up to €80,000 per house for larger sites excluding VAT. Profit normally would be factored onto sales price so following calculation is at lower end of estimated costs.

This cost, along with other factors such as availability of finance, may well be determining the pace of residential supply currently.

The average house sales price nationally is around €250,000. The above calculation suggests that it is still cheaper to buy than build notwithstanding recent increases, and will remain so until sales prices increase significantly (or the cost of building is lowered).

One can see that the additional cost of the new regulatory red-tape bureaucracy is €21,000 when VAT is added  (consultants fees plus specification costs). Developer’s profit is at €48,000 when vat added on to consumer. The cost in the base-build use a main contractor is in the region of €21,000 incl. VAT. So the additional costs  to a self-builder in buying a speculative built house when vat, SI.9 costs and developer’s profit is added, is in the region of €90,000. An additional 30% cost increase.

If the government adopted incentives, like in the UK co-housing initiative, to stimulate the self-build sector and reduced regulatory costs with the introduction of a low-cost independent inspector system similar to the UK, the cost of once-off housing could be significantly reduced.

*Breg Blog note: for additional SI.9 costs for a typical house see below

 Other posts of interest:

*SI.9 costs for a typical house

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

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

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

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?

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

rear-view-mirror

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

COVER.pdf [Converted]

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:

____________

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