UK Architects response to the Independent Review of Building Regulations & Fire Safety

26 October 2017

The Royal Institute of British Architects have submitted their response and recommendations to the call for evidence from the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt (see here). The response has been developed by the RIBA Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety, established by RIBA Council following the Grenfell Tower fire disaster. Summary as follows:

_________

RIBA submits evidence and recommendations to the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety

The RIBA has submitted its response and recommendations to the call for evidence from the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt.

The Institute’s response has been developed by the RIBA Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety, established by RIBA Council following the Grenfell Tower fire disaster.

The full RIBA response to the call for evidence can be downloaded here.

The RIBA has also set out a series of initial recommendations for changes to Building Regulations and Fire Safety systems, regulations and guidance.

Speaking today Jane Duncan, Chair of the RIBA Expert Advisory Group on Fire Safety, said:

“The RIBA welcomes Dame Judith Hackitt’s review but we believe it must be more comprehensive, addressing the details of Building Regulations guidance as well as the broader regulatory system. The Review should cover all building types and construction methods not just those relating to high-rise, multiple occupancy residential buildings. In addition to submitting evidence, the RIBA has also proposed a number of significant recommendations to the Review, to enhance the future fire safety of buildings for all residents and users.”

The RIBA proposes the following initial detailed recommendations to the Review:

R1 Repeal of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, under which building owners undertake their own fire risk assessment, and the re-introduction of mandatory Fire Certificates for designated premises, based on independent inspections by the fire brigades, with statutory powers of entry to individual dwellings where necessary.

R2 An enhanced role for the fire brigades in assisting Building Control authorities in the fire risk assessment of Building Regulations Full Plans Applications for works involving higher risk buildings that will require mandatory fire certificates.

R3 Review of the “stay put” policy in high-rise, multiple occupancy residential buildings, first introduced in British Standard Code of Practice CP3: Chapter IV (1962) Part 1: Fire Precautions in flats and maisonettes over 80ft in height. For new buildings, the RIBA has a preference for simultaneous evacuation, or phased/staged fire alarm systems, alternative means of escape options, and increased escape stair widths.

R4 Introduction of a Building Regulations requirement for central fire alarm systems, with phased /staged capabilities, in multiple occupancy residential buildings.

R5 Removal of the “desk-top” study approach to demonstrating compliance with Regulation B4.

R6 Introduction of requirements for sprinklers/automatic fire suppression systems in all new and converted residential buildings, as currently required under Regulations 37A and 37B of the Building Regulations for Wales, or at least for residential buildings over three storeys in height.

R7 Introduction of a requirement for more than one means of vertical escape from new multiple occupancy residential buildings of more than three storeys in height, and no use of compensatory features for omission of a staircase or alternative means of escape.

R8 Review of the requirements for natural and mechanical smoke vent/exhaust provisions to corridors, lobbies and stairs to ensure current performance capacities are sufficient.

R9 Development of clearer, prescriptive and design process driven guidance in Approved Document B, written in plain language with straight forward diagrams. Any test based solutions to be based on full scale fire testing and not use desktop studies.

R10 External walls of buildings over 18m in height to be constructed of non-combustible (European class A1) materials only. (The Independent Review should also give detailed consideration to much greater restriction on the use of combustible materials and materials of limited combustibility in external wall construction more generally.)

The RIBA believes that the Independent Review should also make recommendations in regard to ensuring the fire safety of the UK’s existing stock of high-rise, multiple occupancy residential buildings, and recommends:

R11 Retro-fitting of central fire alarm systems in existing residential buildings over 18m in height.

R12 Retro-fitting of sprinklers/automatic fire suppression systems to existing residential buildings over 18m in height, and perhaps extended to all existing residential buildings above three storeys in height.

R13 Consideration of the construction of alternative vertical means of escape, or escape safe havens/refuges, for residential buildings over 18m in height when there is currently only one staircase.

R14 For new refurbishment projects involving “material alterations” to high-rise, multiple occupancy residential buildings, the retro-fitting of central fire alarm systems and sprinklers/automatic fire suppression systems should be mandatory. This could be structured on a similar basis to the “consequential improvements” required under Part L of the Building Regulations to the energy performance of existing buildings where they are subject to renovation and/or extension.

The development of new materials and methods of construction and constantly evolving knowledge about the fire performance of buildings means that fire regulation needs to be regularly updated. The lack of a periodic timetable for updating of the Building Regulations Approved Documents, which has allowed review of Approved Document B to be almost indefinitely delayed, is highly problematic.

R15 The RIBA proposes that a formal, predetermined programme for review of key Approved Documents should be adopted, as is the case with the Australian National Building Code. The CDM Regulations (Health and Safety) are reviewed every 5 years.

The RIBA believes that in addition to making recommendations for changes to Building Regulations, enhancement of the Building Control and enforcement regime, and repeal of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety should also give significant consideration to the impact of procurement decisions and allocation of project responsibilities on project quality and safety, and the role of clients in ensuring independent scrutiny of construction work. The public sector has an important national role to play in demonstrating best practice in procurement and construction oversight.

Consideration should be given to the adoption of the “Principal Designer” and “Principal Contractor” roles set out in the CDM Regulations 2015, with regard to ensuring so far as is reasonably practicable the health, safety and welfare, including fire safety, of those constructing, maintaining and demolishing buildings, within new regulation to also encompass ensuring the fire safety of building users. The “Principal Designer” should have powers during the design and any “contractor design” periods of projects to enable safe design and construction. This will need greater level of approvals and inspection by Building Control officers and independent clerks of works/site architects. The “Principal Contractor” role should have a greater responsibility to work collaboratively with the fire brigades, client and “Principal Designer” to achieve these fire safety objectives. Such a regulatory framework could include:

  • During construction: Building Inspections conducted formally by the Principal Designer, Principal Contractor and the Building Control Officer, and recorded in writing by the Principal Contractor that the building is constructed in accordance with the approved plans, relevant Building Regulations and Codes of Practice.
  • Before the issue of the Final Certificate: The Principal Contractor confirms, in writing to the Principal Designer, that the works to any building have been built in accordance with the approved plans, relevant Building Regulations, Codes of Practice, Fire and HSE legislation.
  • The Final Certificate: Cannot be issued until this written confirmation has been received by the Principal Designer.
  • Regulation 38: The Principal Designer shall give all the fire safety information critical to life safety in and around the building.
  • H&S File: These statements are to be recorded in the H&S File for the life of the building until its demolition.

RIBA members with queries about the submission and recommendations should contact the RIBA Practice Team: practice@riba.org

PDF of full report: 171017 RIBA submission Independent Review of Building Regs and Fire Safety Call for Evidence web ver

Other Posts of Interest:

Update by Minister Eoghan Murphy on Task Force in response to Grenfell

Possibility of Grenfell Tower-type fire exists in Ireland | CJ Walsh

Lessons learned from the Millfield Manor fire? Broadsheet.ie

Officials refuse publication of Fire Safety Strategy for Defective Housing

Minister Murphy has “no plans” for new Safety Advisory Board

‘Does our Housing Minister know how many homes are at risk of rapid fire spread?’ Cian O’Callaghan

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

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

Local Authority knew of estate fire fears for 12 years | Sunday Business Post

“More dog wardens than Building Inspectors” | Look Back 18 

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

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

Cracking up: the legacy of Celtic Tiger Ireland | Independent

“How many more Irish homes are in breach of Fire Regulations?

Defective schools | Are our children safe?

‘The Cloud’ Bytes Back – how Data Centres will cost Ireland dearly | Look Back 19

19 October 2017

The Irish Times article “IDA to seek advance planning permission for future data centres” noted that in February, the IDA hired Jacobs Engineering to identify up to 24 potential sites for data centres and to report back to it by the end of this year. IDA Ireland may seek advance planning permission for future data centres to avoid disputes like the one that delayed Apple’s proposal for Athenry, Co Galway, in the news this week.

Two years ago architect David Hughes asked if a cost-benefit analysis had been completed and the increased energy use on our 2020 renewable targets been assessed? Data centres could add 37% to overall electricity demand and will make our renewable targets proportionally harder to reach, the fines even higher again and last but not least will undo all of the CO2 savings to date. Post from November 2015 as follows:

ekjl-Gqn_400x400ekjl-Gqn_400x400 

David Hughes B. Arch – 29th November 2015

Cloud computing is now part of everyday life. From streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix to search engines and email from companies like Google and Yahoo to online storage services like DropBox… ‘The Cloud’ is both everywhere and yet seemingly invisible.

However in spite of its name, ‘The Cloud’ has some very earth bound needs and truly massive energy requirements. In fact, somewhat aptly, ‘The Cloud’ has overtaken world aviation in terms of its overall energy demand.

These days Ireland seems to be a preferred location for the cloud’s physical footprint – data centres. These data centres will not simply serve Ireland’s data needs but the needs of all of Europe and beyond. This multiplies their energy impact on Ireland enormously and when you analyse the consequences, it is hard to see any silver lining.

To give an example Apple are seeking permission for a 240MW data centre in Athenry Co. Galway, which will create up to 215 jobs. The electricity consumption of this data centre will be the same as 420,000 Irish homes. This is ¼ of all Irish homes or every single house in Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire, Fingal and South County Dublin combined. Basically, the electricity needs of 1 Million people.

Electricity is a very expensive and capital-intensive form of energy. For every kWh coming out of a socket 2.7 kWh of Primary energy needs to be inputted at source. The transmission and distribution infrastructure or ‘grid’ is also massively expensive. This cost is ‘socialised’ and can account for 75% of a domestic electricity bill.

Cost Benefit Analysis?

As a society we may accept such costs to provide a benefit to 420,000 homes but is it really justifiable to socialise the same demand again for only 215 jobs? And Apple is only but one data centre.

Facebook’s 108MW centre will only create 40 jobs and use the energy of 180,000 homes.

In fact in total 1,000MW of data centres are projected for Ireland so on a pro rata basis will use the same energy demand as every home in Ireland.

40% Renewable Commitment.

In 2009 Ireland made a commitment to generate 40% of electricity from renewables. If we add this level of extra demand this makes that target much harder to achieve.

Last year the EPA stated that in relation to our 20:20:20 targets, we are only likely to achieve reductions of between 5% and 12% instead of the full 20% required. The SEAI calculates that the fine for this could be €1.6 Billion per annum.

The full 1,000MW of data centres could add 37% to overall electricity demand and will make our renewable targets proportionally harder to reach, the fines even higher again and last but not least will undo all of the CO2 savings to date.

In the end, trying to chase this growing demand from data centres, will spawn further Wind Farms, Pylons and Transmission lines and will leave the Irish with a second  ‘Universal Social Charge’ this time for either paying an EU fine or paying for the ‘grid’ or both.

Time for a Debate.

Given these figures it’s time for a debate on ‘The Cloud’ in Ireland. Are the numbers of jobs created in anyway justified in terms of its energy demands?

The responsibility seems to fall between a myriad of different agencies and departments pursuing different agendas but each with a focus too narrow to look at the bigger picture. As a result to date, data centres have slipped through the net unchallenged.

We are at a cross roads in terms of whether we follow a route of demand reduction or increase, however ‘The Cloud’ could create the perfect storm and sink Ireland into decades of legacy costs for very expensive and unnecessary electrical infrastructure, which could be just as painful as paying back the inflated property prices that lead to the bank bailout.

David Hughes is a specialist low energy and historic conservation architect with over 25 years experience. He  has designed the first non residential ‘passivhaus’ for the Irish State or Semi State Sector. He has won many national and international awards with two international awards for low energy and environmental design and has spoken and written both nationally and internationally on energy issues and in particular the opportunities from a deep retrofit and how to finance it. Since 2014 he has been serving as secretary of the PHAI and sits on the National Scientific Committee for Energy and Sustainability of ICOMOS Ireland.

Original post: ‘The Cloud’ Bytes Back – how Data Centres will cost Ireland dearly

Other posts in “Look-Back” series

“More dog wardens than Building Inspectors” | Look Back 18

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

Building Regulations add to Vacancy Rates | Look Back 16

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

Notes from the (thermal) edge: Part L Compliance (2 of 2) | Look Back 14

Building Surveyor’s Inspection Plan + Form | Look Back 13

Murray letter to Senators: BC(A)R SI.9 (SI.105) | Look Back 12 

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

Simon Carswell: Politicians, Construction industry lobbying and banking | Look Back 10

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

Minister Hogan defends BC(A)R SI.9 | Look Back 8

Christmas Past – What did you hope for from Santa in 2013? Look Back 7

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

Government Reports + Professional Opinion Ignored in SI.9 | Look Back 5

SCSI | “Highly unlikely Priory Hall would happen in Britain”- Look Back 4

BRAB and BC(A)R SI.9- Look Back 3 

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

World Bank Rankings, Ireland & SI.9 – Look Back 1

BRegs Weekly | 17 October 2017

17 October 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 125

Edition 125 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

In “Budget 2018: State continues reliance on private sector for social housing” Olivia Kelly reports on Budget 2018 which was announced last week “..for the fourth year running the Government is relying on the private rental sector to solve the social housing crisis, a policy which has yet to succeed. Almost €1.9 billion is being provided for social housing next year. However, only 3,800 of those “new” homes will be built by local authorities or voluntary housing bodies. The majority – about 20,000 – will be rented from private landlords, largely using the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap), where rent is paid directly to landlords by local authorities on behalf of tenants.”

In “Mick Wallace calls for €33m sale of Dublin Docklands apartments to be halted” Ronald Quinn noted that the Independent TD  has called on the Government to suspend a NAMA sale of 124 Dublin docklands apartments. Commenting on Nama’s move, Mr Wallace said: “We are in the middle of a housing crisis, and Nama are now buying apartments, in order to sell them on to vulture funds. Nama have now become property speculators. It beggars belief that Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour, and now even Sinn Fein, believe that Nama have the expertise to solve our housing crisis. Nama are part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

In other housing (see here) news a review of the Government’s ‘help-to-buy scheme’, carried out by independent consultants Indecon an international economic consultancy company, found that the scheme had yet to make any impact on the market. The VAT rebate incentive  allows first-time buyers to claim up to €20,000 back in tax will remain in place next year. The scheme was criticised as being inflationary by analysts and opposition parties. No Cost-Benefit analysis of the measure had been undertaken in advance of implementation by the Department of Housing.

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 125

“Budget 2018: More for housing… if developers get up early” Irish Times

11 October 2017

Reaction to Budget 21018 has been mixed, particularly in relation to housing. Two notable omissions from proposals noted by opposition parties yesterday were the lack of any affordable housing scheme and no measures to address the country’s 183,000 existing vacant properties. The following Irish Times article “Budget 2018: State continues reliance on private sector for social housing” rendered some background to the current budget proposals.

Extracts:

“…for the fourth year running the Government is relying on the private rental sector to solve the social housing crisis, a policy which has yet to succeed.

Almost €1.9 billion is being provided for social housing next year, an increase of 46 per cent on 2017, which Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said will provide homes for 25,000 people currently on waiting lists.

However, only 3,800 of those “new” homes will be built by local authorities or voluntary housing bodies. The majority – about 20,000 – will be rented from private landlords, largely using the Housing Assistance Payment (Hap), where rent is paid directly to landlords by local authorities on behalf of tenants.

The remaining homes will be built by private developers, returned to the system through refurbishment, or bought on the private market…

Defending the 3,800 figure, Mr Murphy said it was about 1,800 more than would be built by the end of this year. This year’s total of about 2,000 is not quite the 2,400 promised in last year’s budget but if it is achieved, it would not be dire. It is, however, very small compared to the 15,000 Hap tenancies expected to be provided by the end of this year.

Housing targets

It will be next year before the figures achieved in 2017 will be known, but the promises and outcomes for the first two post-austerity budgets of 2015 and 2016 can be measured.

In budget 2015, just under 1,000 social homes were to be built, and 8,000 families were to be housed using the recently established Hap. In addition, public-private partnerships (PPPs) were to deliver 1,500 social homes by the end of 2017.

The 2015 reality? A miserable 75 homes were built by local authorities and just over 400 by voluntary bodies. The Hap scheme resulted in 5,680 new tenancies.

Budget 2016 was more ambitious with a target of 1,500 social housing units. Another 10,000 families would be accommodated using Hap, with its funding going from €24.5 million to €47.7 million. The PPP scheme, which did not get off the ground in 2015, was to have its first 500 homes under way in 2016.

Of the 17,365 homes the Department of Housing lists as having been provided in 2016, 12,075 were Hap rentals. About 600 houses were built. No houses were provided through the PPP scheme in 2016.

Rental scheme

However, in recent weeks city and county councillors have approved the construction of the first 259 of these homes…

Other measures designed to bring more homes to the market seem to have fallen by the wayside. The Living City Initiative, designed to encourage the renovation and reuse of pre-1915 city centre properties, announced in budget 2015 and revamped in budget 2016, has had fewer than 50 applications.

While an affordable rental scheme, using €10 million from the proceeds of the sale of Bord Gáis, aimed at people whose incomes are above the threshold for State rental assistance but who cannot afford private rents, disappeared altogether.

A new affordable house-purchase scheme had been expected ahead of this year’s budget. It will be announced in the coming weeks, Mr Murphy said.

Almost 100,000 households remain on social housing waiting lists.

Other posts of interest:

Budget 2018: Part 2 – Voluntary & Not-for-Profit Organisations

Budget 2018: Part 1 – Industry Submissions

Rebuilding Ireland Review | John McCarthy

Government’s ‘rapid-build’ schedule in realms of fantasy | Irish Times

“More dog wardens than Building Inspectors” | Look Back 18 

Government Plans won’t fix the affordable-housing crisis  | Engineers Journal

UK Architects reject ‘bonkers’ micro-housing rules | RIBA

Eurostat findings are a “wake-up call” | Housing Europe

State Housing is Key to Solving Crisis | London School of Economics

BRegs Weekly | 9 October 2017

9 October 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 124

Edition 124 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

Last week Fianna Fail proposed a Bill which contained provisions for fire safety checks by independent inspectors to replace the system of self-certification currently in place. Barry Cowan TD outlined proposals to speed up the planning approval and building control processes to allow the speedy conversion of vacant properties into habitable units. He said they exist in large numbers, and pointed out that Dublin City Council recently estimated there were as many as 4,000 vacant spaces above commercial units: “With the right policy instruments in place this could translate into over 20,000 additional residential units in a short space of time,” said Mr Cowen.

Further relevations emerged last week about defetcive schools built  under the so-called ‘rapid’ build programme. The company that built dozens of schools now under investigation due to fire safety concerns is currently building six more schools for the Department of Education and was given the contracts after the fears emerged. Last Tuesday, Education Minister Richard Bruton confirmed that his department has launched a full review of all 37 schools built by the company since 2003.

In housing news Goodbody confirmed the housing crisis is in even worse than previously thought and said 5,377 houses were completed last year, only about one third of the 14,932 indicated by official completions data calculated by electricity connections. “..On current trends, completions will total less than 10,000 units [for 2017] — roughly half the estimates suggested by the alternative electricity connections data,” Goodbody said.

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 124

Fianna Fail Bill to replace self-certification with independent inspectors for existing vacant buildings

5 October 2017

This week Fianna Fail proposed a Bill which contained provisions for fire safety checks by independent inspectors to replace the system of self-certification currently in place. In “Fianna Fáil publishes Bill to speed up access to vacant homes” Irish Times, Barry Cowan TD outlined proposals to speed up the planning approval and building control processes to allow the speedy conversion of vacant properties into habitable units.

The Bill focused in on “above the shop” units around the country which are currently vacant and it envisages a “one-stop-shop” for approving the refurbishment process. Under this plan an owner can apply to be included in the process and if accepted, the owner will receive a “works permit” that will replace a fire safety certificate and will verify compliance with building regulations.

He said they exist in large numbers, and pointed out that Dublin City Council recently estimated there were as many as 4,000 vacant spaces above commercial units. “With the right policy instruments in place this could translate into over 20,000 additional residential units in a short space of time,” said Mr Cowen.

The Bill is a timely piece of legislation given continuing health and safety issues associated with existing buildings and fire safety. In  Times Ireland “Evacuation warning to hostel over fire safety”, a recent high court ruling on a hostel described as a “fire trap” must be vacated unless it is brought up to code.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said that he would have ordered the immediate evacuation of the Dublin building yesterday but it would have left more than 20 residents seeking alternative accommodation.

The property on Old County Road in Crumlin was one of a number of properties being investigated by RTÉ as part of an upcoming documentary on breaches in the private rental sector.

“In the course of our investigation, a property in Crumlin came to our attention. We believed this property posed an immediate danger to the tenants residing there. Ahead of the programme to be broadcast, RTÉ Investigates reported the property and the concerns for the safety of the tenants to Dublin city council,” a statement from the broadcaster said yesterday.

The Dublin city fire officer found that there were no escape routes or fire alarms, and there were a number of other safety issues. John and Yvonne McEleney, the owners, could not be contacted, the court was told. Mr Justice Noonan said that he wanted to grant the order ending the building’s use as a residence but was concerned about putting people out on the street last night.

Dublin Region Homeless Executive could not find any alternative accommodation for the residents last night so Mr Justice Noonan imposed the order on the premises that fire regulations must be adhered to. He ordered the case to come before him tomorrow.

The programme, which has been in production for six months, will be shown on RTÉ One later this month. Link to RTE here.

Other posts of interest:

Lessons learned from the Millfield Manor fire? Broadsheet.ie

Second audit over school fire safety concerns launched | Irish Examiner

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

Fire safety issues ‘whitewashed’ in long awaited review (Michael Clifford, Irish Examiner)

Fire safety report an ‘insult’ to Millfield Manor residents | Irish Examiner

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

Minister Murphy has “no plans” for new Safety Advisory Board

Officials refuse publication of Fire Safety Strategy for Defective Housing

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

‘Does our Housing Minister know how many homes are at risk of rapid fire spread?’ Cian O’Callaghan

Local Authority knew of estate fire fears for 12 years | Sunday Business Post

“More dog wardens than Building Inspectors” | Look Back 18 

Possibility of Grenfell Tower-type fire exists in Ireland | CJ Walsh

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

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

Cracking up: the legacy of Celtic Tiger Ireland | Independent

“How many more Irish homes are in breach of Fire Regulations?

 

BRegs Weekly | 30 September 2017

30 September 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 123

Edition 123 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

It emerged last month that inspection reports from 2015 found fire safety concerns with five schools built by Western Building Systems (WBS). A total of 60 schools will now undergo fresh fire safety audits in the wake of concerns identified in a number of schools built by WBS since 2003.  Donegal Senator Padraig Mac Lochlainn is claiming that three months after the publication of the Mica Expert Panel’s report, there has been no movement by Minister Damien English on a redress scheme, despite the recommendations of the group. And finally at their conference last week the Irish Council for Social Housing says the cabinet needs to provide significant capital spending in next month’s Budget to deal with the 90,000 people on housing waiting lists. Donal McManus CEO said “The problem with social housing is probably [at] the highest level in our generation and really the key thing is to keep the focus by Government into providing finance for social housing.”

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 123

Second audit over school fire safety concerns launched | Irish Examiner

28 September 2017

The following article in the Examiner “Government launches second audit over school fire safety concerns” Fiachra Ó Cionnaith reports on continued problems with the state’s so-called “rapid’ build schools programme. This is the second investigation into serious fire safety concerns in Celtic Tiger-era schools amid growing fears that the scale of the crisis has been deliberately “suppressed”. (see full story here):

A further ‘rapid’ build programme is currently being rolled out by the Department of Housing with the aim to construct 1,500 homes nationwide. It is unclear what impact this second fire safety review will have on the current housing policy. Extract:


Education Minister Richard Bruton confirmed the move as he said his department is continuing to “consult with the Chief State Solicitor’s Office” over what, if any, legal action it may take against builders behind the sites.

In a statement to the Dáil’s education committee yesterday, Mr Bruton said all of the 37 schools built by Western Building Systems, based in Coalisland, Co Tyrone, since 2003 will be examined in the next six months.

The move is in addition to a separate sample audit of fire safety standards at 25 schools built by a number of companies during the boom.

This audit was launched after the department was last month forced to publish five 2016 audits into Western Building Systems-built schools found to have major fire safety concerns. These were instigated by an October 2015 Irish Examiner investigation into a linked school…

This comment was criticised by the committee, with members claiming the scale of the crisis has been “suppressed”.

“Why was the department, from October 2015 right up to now, guilt of suppressing this, of having it suppressed?” said Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett .

The view was supported by committee chair and Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte and the party’s education spokesman, Thomas Byrne, while Green Party TD Catherine Martin said the situation is “despicable”.

Mr Bruton said his department is in ongoing contact with the Chief State Solicitor’s Office to examine what, if any, legal action the State may take if mistakes are found.

He also said he has set up a new group within his department to oversee all audit findings, and that a “clerk of works” will be appointed to ensure transparency on future builds.

Asked if he will ban any firm behind schools considered a fire hazard, Mr Bruton said he cannot do so unless they breach EU tender laws.

A spokesman for Western Building Systems said it was confident all of the buildings conformed with the required standards and specifications relevant “at the time of handover”

“Western Building Systems Ltd has a distinguished record of delivering high-quality buildings for more than 35 years throughout the UK and Ireland. We take matters of health and safety very seriously indeed,” said the spokesman.

The Department of Education has now launched four separate investigations into fire safety concerns in Celtic Tiger era schools:

  • The first was launched in 2015 into the Rusk and Lusk Educate Together school in north Dublin. This school was built by Western Building Systems.
  • A second investigation was instigated by this report, and focussed on five other Western Building Systems schools – St Francis of Assisi national school in Belmayne in Dublin; Belmayne Educate Together national school in Dublin; Mullingar Educate Together national school in Offaly; Gaelscoil Clocha Liatha in Greystones in Wicklow; and Powerstown Educate Together national school in Tyrrelstown in Dublin. While it concluded last year, it’s findings were not published until last month after intervention from the Information Commissioner in response to a Freedom of Information Act appeal by the Dublin Inquirer newspaper.
  • On foot of the second investigation, a third investigation was announced which will examine 25 sample schools built during the Celtic Tiger era. They will be identified next month, with a report due by Christmas.
  • A fourth investigation was launched on Tuesday by Education Minister Richard Bruton, focussing on every school built by Western Building Systems since 2003. Mr Bruton said the step has been taken to ensure there are no concerns, and that just because the schools are named does not necessarily mean there is anything at fault at the facilities.

Excluding the six already examined Western Building Systems schools, the list relates to the following 31 schools:

  • Griffeen Valley Educate Together, Dublin (built in 2003)
  • Greystones Educate Together, Wicklow (2008)
  • Macroom Boys Educate Together, Cork (2009)
  • Ardgillan CC, Castleislands, Balbriggan, Dublin (2009)
  • Athy Model School, Kildare (2011)
  • Scoil Phadraig Naofa Phase II, Kildare (2011)
  • Tyrrelstown Educate Together national school, Dublin (2011)
  • St Paul’s national school, Meath (2011)
  • Lucan East Educate Together national school, Dublin (2011)
  • Portarlington convent national school, Laois (2012)
  • Mulhuddart national school, Dublin (2012)
  • Gaelscoil Eiscir Riada, Lucan, Dublin (2012)
  • Sc Chormaic CNS, Dublin (2012)
  • Maryborough national school, Laois (2013)
  • Gaelscoil Chloich na Coillte, Clonakility, Cork (2013)
  • Gaelscoil Portlaoise, Laois (2013)
  • Scoil Choilm, Porterstown, Dublin (2013)
  • Carrigaline Educate Together national school, Cork (2013)
  • Scoil Phadraig Naofa, Rochestown, Cork (2013)
  • Portlaoise Educate Together, Laois (2013)
  • Luttrelstown CC, Dublin (2013)
  • Cara junior (special) school, Mayfield, Cork (2014)
  • Gaelscoil Shliabh Rua, Stepaside, Dublin (2015)
  • Scoil Chaitlin Maude, Dublin (2016)
  • Gaelscoil Tulach na Og, Dunboyne, Meath (2016)
  • Gaelscoil na Mi, Meath (2016)
  • Ashbourne Educate Together national school, Meath (2016)
  • Scoil Aoife, Dublin (2016)
  • Lucan CNS, Dublin (2016)
  • Broombridge Educate Together national school, Dublin (2016)
  • De Lacy College, Meath (2016)

Other posts of interest:

Schools Safety Report: Building Firm earned €40m & built ‘Rapid’ homes

Defective schools | Are our children safe?

Fire-fighting | Rush and Lusk School | BRegsForum

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

Gaelscoil shut over health and safety concerns – The Mayo News

Schools Building Projects: 5 Jul 2016: Written answers (KildareStreet.com)

Firm that built school with fire safety concerns constructed at least 25 others | Irish Examiner

Calls for a national audit to ensure school fire safety | Irish Examiner

BRegs Weekly | 22 September 2017

22 September 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 122

Edition 122 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

It’s all housing this week! Ictu wants Government to declare national housing emergency, developers reluctant to build apartments  and  Leo Varadkar rules out tax breaks for developers.  Finally, for construction professionals Paul McNieve asks “Would you turn down €1m in fees to avoid a conflict of interest?”

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 122

Budget 2018: Part 2 – Voluntary & Not-for-Profit Organisations

20 September 2017

World Homeless Day coincides with Budget 2018, to be announced on 10th October 2017. In the second of two posts, BRegs Blog gathers submissions from various interest groups and Voluntary and not-for-profit organisations that suggest measures to tackle the housing and homeless emergency. Part 1 gathered various private key-stakeholder organisations and their submissions  (see Part 1 here).

Pre-Budget Submissions (click on organisation for link to PDF)

Articles of Interest:

Peter McVerry: Housing crisis for the rich or poor?

Number of homeless could reach 10,000 by next year–Simon Community

Budget 2018: Here’s what we know so far | Irish Times

Other posts of Interest:

Rebuilding Ireland Review | John McCarthy

Officials refuse publication of Fire Safety Strategy for Defective Housing

Government’s ‘rapid-build’ schedule in realms of fantasy | Irish Times

Minister Murphy has “no plans” for new Safety Advisory Board

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

Rapid Answers – Broadsheet.ie

Homelessness in Galway at unprecedented level, says NGO

Is ‘Rapid’ housing too little, too late (again)?