Is Bogus Self-Employment the Construction Industry’s ‘biggest con’?

11 July 2017

The following Independent article by Rebecca Lumley “‘The biggest con going’ – spotlight falls on ‘bogus self employment’ amid fears it is costing the state €80m per year ” examines ‘bogus self-employment’,  a method by some contractors of driving down employee costs.

Extract:

“Bogus self-employment is a term coined by labour activists which refers to workers being forced to name themselves as sole-traders in order to be hired. They are then still treated as employees despite their sole trader status.

They are then stripped of employment benefits such as sick or holiday pay, while employers do not have to pay these workers’ PRSI contributions.

A Government report on the practise has not yet been published, leading to mounting opposition pressure not to let the report “gather dust on a shelf”… Meanwhile, a Dublin City councillor who has also worked as a carpenter for 30 years, described the practise as “pure abuse” and “the biggest con going.”

People Before Profit councillor Andrew Keegan said the practice is often painted as a way for construction workers to pay less tax and earn more money, but in reality its effects can be detrimental.

He said: “It’s corruption as far as I’m concerned. It’s massive exploitation…By the time you were finished, somebody in McDonalds was earning more than you were and no way would they put themselves at the same level of risk or endurance as you would working in the construction industry.”

The practice has also come under scrutiny by trade unions.  At the beginning of 2016, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions estimated that bogus self-employment has cost the State €80 million a year since 2007… They said that around 27,600 sole traders are operating in the construction sector alone, with no adequate controls to check that these arrangements were legitimate.

The Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) have long fought against the practice, arguing that both employees and the State are losing out. National Construction Official of the TEEU, Brian Nolan said:

“As a Union we believe that we have a duty to all our members and society as a whole to raise this as something where we’re striving to get people to work in good jobs that pay good money and then we have unscrupulous employers who are trying to engage in the biggest tax avoidance scheme that you can.”

Recently Labour TD and former Tanaiste, Joan Burton, called for a fast-track of the report and urged then then Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar and then Finance Minister Michael Noonan to stop “letting this report gather dust on a shelf.”

“Please publish it now and help protect low paid workers,” she said.

The Construction Industry Federation was approached for comment on the subject of bogus self-employment on numerous occasions, but failed to respond. They represent employers in the construction industry.

Full article here: ‘The biggest con going’ – spotlight falls on ‘bogus self employment’ amid fears it is costing the state €80m per year

Related article: Pickets placed on school building site in Dublin – Irish Times 19 Sep 2015

Other posts of interest:

CIF Approved Ancillary Certificates for Sub-Contractors: AncillaryCertificatesComplete_November2014

Builders may soon be forced to join a register to prove they’re competent | Journal

Complaint Procedures & Construction Industry Register? | Look Back 19

Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI) to be made mandatory

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?

 

BRegs Weekly | 7 July 2017

(Fire at Our Lady’s Hospital site in Shanakiel, Co Cork this week)

7 July 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 113

Edition 113 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

In th Irish Mirror’s story “Ireland needs watchdog to crack down on buildings that don’t meet fire safety standards” Green Party’s deputy leader Catherine Martin has demanded an independent watchdog to crack down on defective buildings that don’t meet mandatory safety standards. She said that the government must urgently extend fire safety checks beyond high rise towers. Deputy Martin’s statements come  as it was revealed that Cork County Hall contains the same cladding seen at Grenfell Tower in London, the blaze that left 79 people dead earlier this month. Ms Martin said “It’s extremely worrying that the flammable cladding, believed to have contributed to the spread of the awful fire in Grenfell Tower, was installed here in Ireland. We need to know how this cladding ended up being installed, and if it was used elsewhere… We have seen time and time again the need for a powerful independent regulator for the construction industry. This is another example. The Government need to get serious about this issue.” Last week Ms Martin passed a motion in the Dàil calling for tougher building standards and stronger regulations to protect home owners.

In “Grenfell fire raises fears over cladding on Irish incinerator”, The Times reported that similar concerns have been raised about the safety of the material on the outside a building near Ringsend. Ciarán Cuffe, a Green Party councillor, called on Dublin Waste to Energy, the public-private partnership which runs the incinerator, to provide assurance to the local community that the material was not flammable. “It is one of the largest aluminium-clad buildings in the country. It is a matter of concern and we would like to get reassurance that there is not a problem and that the plant is safe to operate.” Dick Brady, Dublin city council’s assistant chief executive, said. said  “It is obviously a question we have asked ourselves and the detail has been requested. We are awaiting a reply”. Dublin Waste to Energy, a joint venture between the four local authorities in the capital and Covanta, a US waste company, did not respond to a request for comment about the safety of the aluminium exterior.

Joe.ie reported that seven Dublin apartment buildings have been issued with fire safety notices this year. It’s understood that the Dublin Fire Brigade issued the warnings to the Dublin apartments this year after marking them as “potentially dangerous”. Dublin Fire Brigade has an ongoing campaign of inspection to check buildings of public resort for compliance with the Ease of Escape Regulations. These inspections can occur at any time during normal operating hours of public premises. In Ireland, under the Fire Services Act, 1981 a fire authority may serve on the owner or occupier of any building which appears to the authority to be a potentially dangerous building a fire safety notice for various reasons (read more about them here).

The glacial pace of official response to the ongoing housing shortage was highlighted in a number of media outlets.  The Times in “Housing shortage and income tax levels ‘will deter investors’” reported the IDA has warned that a lack of housing and high personal taxes could scupper future overseas investment in Ireland. Martin Shanahan, the chief executive of IDA Ireland, said that companies were “concerned about two issues which they believe may impact on their ability to attract and retain talent and those two issues are housing availability and costs and personal taxation”. 

Elsewhere in “Bedsits are back to the future from the Housing Minister, says Inner City Helping Homeless” Inner City Helping Homeless CEO, Anthony Flynn was critical of suggestions by the Department of Housing for a return to bedsit accommodation as a measure to alleviate the current housing shortage. He said “The Department of Environment thought bedsits were such a poor way of housing people that they outlawed them in 2013… For the government and its officials to abandon standards of housing and the protection of tenants, leaving them at the mercy of the ‘Bedsit’ landlords, shows an astonishing lack of understanding of the brief they hold… The minister would be better served if he widened his circle and invited other suggestions from groups who favour a modern approach to alleviating homelessness and housing issues”. 

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 113

Confused + bewildered by Building Regulations? | Michael Tweed

The following comment was submitted by Michael Tweed MRIAI on 1st June 2017.

As usual, the newspaper article “Should I opt out of costly compliance paperwork?” 18th May 2017, Irish Times is another article about our Building Regulations which is muddled, inaccurate and in some cases incorrect.

The question asked was “would opting out of the extra paperwork make it more difficult to sell the house at a future date?” It is clear how little understanding the questioner has of BC(A)R when earlier he states, “I understand that regulations introduced in 2014 require paperwork to satisfy all statutory bodies…” BC(A)R requires much more than “paperwork” at a cost of “an extra €3000 – €5000.”

Let’s start at the beginning. In 1991, the Building Control Act for the first time required all buildings to be designed and constructed in accordance with a set of building standards, published as Regulations to the Building Control Act. Unfortunately, a golden opportunity was missed because in the same Act no statutory obligation was placed on Building Control Authorities to either approve construction designs, or inspect and approve construction works and instead placed the sole statutory obligation on building owners, designers, and builders to ensure the design and construction of buildings complied with the Building Regulations. The missed golden opportunity was the statutory obligation on Building Control Authorities to provide independent policing of the Building Regulations. From the beginning this would have provided consumer protection and improved building standards.

Building Control Authorities were given powers to request drawings demonstrating compliance with the Building Regulations and to enter a building site and inspect the works in progress but these powers were discretionary only. There was a statutory obligation to alert the Building Control Authority of new construction work by way of the Commencement Notice but absolutely no statutory obligation on the Authority to inspect the works. As an example, between 1997 and 2008 I was involved in the design and construction of between 7000 – 8000 apartments. In that period, I was once asked to submit drawings and calculations to show that the building complied with Part L and I only recall one building inspection by a Building Control Officer. I doubt that my experience was unique!

No regulatory authority granted approval of designs or inspected buildings and passed them as compliant. From 1992 until 2014 there was no requirement to have a Certificate of Compliance. Architect’s Opinions on Compliance were drafted by the RIAI but let’s be crystal clear, they have no legal connection with the Building Control Act! They simply filled a void, providing some form of documentary evidence of compliance for lending institutions providing loans where the building was the security on the loan. That is their sole purpose. As they are based on an opinion given on foot of a very limited regime of superficial inspections they are of little value, and since opinions differ they are virtually useless, as has been demonstrated in the aftermath of the discovery of all the post boom building problems. But they were the magic piece of paper capable of releasing funds!

BC(A)R has been spun by politicians as the solution to the problem of building defects and non-compliant buildings and giving the consumer safeguards. This is a lie. BC(A)R does no such thing. Building Control remains self-regulated, but now there is a scapegoat, the Assigned Certifer, to whom the same politicians will gleefully point as being to blame. There is however no greater consumer protection with the appointment of an Assigned Certifier, and since that person is employed by the building owner this is still self-certification.

The added expense of €3000 – €5000 comes not from reducing the “paperwork” necessary, but from the understandable desire of an Assigned Certifier to mitigate their liability to the greatest degree. Hence there are more inspections, there is more confirmation paperwork, and more ancillary certification to help dilute the Assigned Certifier’s liability. I say this is understandable because otherwise the liability on his shoulders alone will be so great that he will never find anyone willing to indemnify his professional liability! And in any case even in a relatively simply building few Assigned Certifiers will have the range of expertise to determine comprehensive compliance.

S.I. 365 of 2015 provides for opting out of the requirement to have an Assigned Certifier and consequently no requirement for Certificates of Compliance.

So, to answer the question, will this make it more difficult to sell the house at a future date, probably not, providing the construction of the house can be financed without a lending institution requiring a Certificate of Compliance, and hence requiring an Assigned Certifier to be appointed. If the house is complete, compliant with Planning Permission, and compliant with Building Regulations it should have sound title. Therefore, there should be no impediment to a future sale.

Opting out will be determined, not by a question of difficulty to sell in future, but by what requirements might occur in the manner of financing the construction works.

The claims made by the writer of the newspaper article regarding consumer vulnerability and protection are wrong, as the Breg Blog commentary points out. Unfortunately, yet again the general public read a reputable newspaper and receive wrong information. Little wonder they are so ill informed!

Other posts of interest:

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

Could Rapid Build Housing mean Rapid Fire Spread? | Michael Tweed B.A. B.Arch RIBA MRIAI

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

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

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

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

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

Legal Advice for Multiple Unit Development Completions | Arthur Cox

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

Additional Engineers’ fees for school projects | SI.9

RIAI ALERT: Inspection Fees for House Extensions

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

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

 

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

image

28 June 2017

In 2014, the BRegs Blog examined the cost of a proper independent building control inspectorate. In Ireland as there are “…the same number of dog wardens – 67 (46 full-time & 21 part time) as there are Building Control Officers (BCO)” the Blog was able to establish, with some accuracy, the cost of additional staff required to implement a fully independent system of local authority inspectors in accordance with international best practice.  The following post is from August 2016:

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

There are about 67 building control officers in Ireland , many doubling up as fire officers (see post below).

We have not been able to extract out the current cost of building control as these are lumped in with planning and enforcement for Local Authority budgetary purposes. In earlier posts, based on the UK model, we estimated that 200 additional Local Authority staff were required to undertake a 100% nationwide inspection of all buildings .

Recently the Irish Times reported – “Dog wardens issued more fines last year than in past decade“. According to this article there are the same number of dog wardens – 67 (46 full-time & 21 part time) as there are Building Control Officers (BCO) at a nett cost €3.9m when income from fines is accounted for.* This is a cost per Local Authority staff member of €58,200.

Based on these recent figures, the cost of 200 additional BCO staff to achieve 100% Local Authority independent inspections nationwide would be €11.64m.

This cost for independent Local Authority inspections seems like very good value when compared to an estimated cost to the industry and consumer for S.I.9 of over €700m per annum and a cost to remediate pyrite of €780m (DECLG estimate of pre-2012 cases).

An annual cost to the taxpayer of a little over €11m to regulate a €10bn industry would give the consumer the benefit of a proper independent building control inspectorate, as opposed to continuing with our defective system of self-certification at vast cost to both taxpayer and consumer.

The bill for poor regulation at just one development, Priory Hall, is currently running at €30m. S.I.9 costs for one year alone would fund 100% Local Authority independent inspections for 60 years. Self building could resume and this would create 800 more houses this year. Consumers would be protected – no more Priory Halls. Pyrite would be policed at a taxpayer saving of over €780m.

Is the Department of the Environment being penny wise and pound foolish?

Notes: *Net cost less income from fines. We believe there are 5 staff separately employed now processing claims for pyrite remediation. 

Other posts of interest:

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

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 

Other posts in “Look-Back” series

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 | 23 June 2017

23 June 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 111

Edition 111 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

In “Hold builders to account on safety, Green Party says”, the Irish Times noted that a lack of regulation during the Celtic Tiger years led to thousands of properies being built without sufficient fire safety measures. Hundreds of owners have been left with heavy remediation fees to make their homes safe. Catherine Martin, deputy leader of the Green Party, proposed a motion to establish a centralised building regulator to tackle shoddy construction and help those landed with defective properties. She said the time had come to stand up to the construction industry: “In the rush to build new homes so urgently needed, it is essential that this time it is done right..There is no doubt about it; under the current rules and regulations, we could easily have a blaze like Grenfell in Ireland”. The motion was subsequently passed.

Elsewhere in related housing news “Government to miss target on homeless families” RTE News reported that new figures reveal that the Government has built just 10% of its planned provision of social housing units this year. Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy admitted yesterday that the July deadline for getting all 600 homeless families out of hotels would not be met. Only 200 social housing units have been built in the first three months of the year despite a commitment of 2,300 new homes made by his predecessor Simon Coveney. Dublin City Council (DCC) deputy chief executive Brendan Kenny said real progress is being made to house families living in emergency hotel accommodation and that will continue apace in the coming months and said the Government’s target was ambitious and this should be praised rather than criticised.

In “Dublin hotel used to accommodate homeless families does not yet have fire cert” the Independent revealed that a Dublin hotel being used as emergency accommodation for homeless families does not yet have a fire certificate. Lynams hotel on O’Connell Street is used as “contingency accommodation” on a nightly basis for families who cannot secure it anywhere else. The hotel is being converted by DCC into a “family hub” to house homeless families as part of the Government’s plan to end the use of commercial accommodation. The building is currently restricted until “further precautions” can be put in place. This follows action by  Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) on Wednesday who said in a statement: “The Fire Safety Certificate for this premises is currently being processed. The list of works [currently being carried out] include refurbishing of the premises to bring it to an acceptable fire safety standard considering the change of usage on the building.”Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy confirmed to the committee that there were currently no families staying at the hotel and work was underway to make it fully compliant for use as a family hub.

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 111

ALERT | BCMS: Part B – Fire Safety

21st June 2017 

The following alert was issued by the Building Control Management System on 16th June 2017

To: All Registered users of BCMS

RE: Recent Events at Grenfell Tower, London relevant to Part B – Fire Safety

The very tragic events of this week at Grenfell Tower, London is a stark reminder to us that those involved in works to existing or new buildings need to remain vigilant in relation to compliance with the Building Regulations and in particular to Part B Fire Safety.

Technical Guidance Documents (Parts A – M) provide technical guidance on how to comply with the Regulations in practical terms e.g. Technical Guidance Document B 2006* contains guidance, compliance with which will, prima facie, indicate compliance with Part B.

While we respectfully await the outcome of the UK inquiry into the tragic fire, we draw your particular attention to the guidance in TGD B on external wall construction in relation to internal (B3) and external fire spread (B4), which also refers to other publications for further advice.

It should also be noted that, under the Part D of the Building Regulations (Materials and Workmanship), there is an overarching requirement that all works should be carried out using “proper materials…which are fit for the use for which they are intended and for the conditions in which they are to be used to ensure compliance with the regulatory requirements as prescribed.

Where innovative products are used, third party certification, such as Agrément Certification is a means of demonstrating how products/ systems can meet the requirements of the Building Regulations, including Part B. Care should be taken to read the terms and conditions of such certification and ensure that the content of the certification is strictly adhered to during construction, in conjunction with the Fire Safety Certificate where relevant.

*It should be noted that Part B/ TGD B 2006, is currently under review and is being split into 2 volumes. Part B/TGD B – Fire Safety – Volume 2 – Dwelling Houses 2017 was published earlier this year and comes into effect on 1 July 2017. Volume 1 is being prepared for publication consultation.

BRegs Weekly | 16 June 2017

16 June 2017 –  BRegs Weekly Edition 110

Edition 110 of BRegs Weekly is out now.

The Grenfell tower-block fire in London and Building Control failures figured prominently this week. The Guardian led with “’Disaster waiting to happen’: fire expert slams UK tower blocks”. UK architect Sam Webb said breaches of fire safety standards in UK were common and lessons from Lakanal House have not been learned. Webb surveyed hundreds of residential tower blocks across the country in the early 1990s and presented a damning report to the Home Office, which revealed that more than half of the buildings didn’t meet basic fire safety standards. He said: “We discovered a widespread breach of safety, but we were simply told nothing could be done because it would ‘make too many people homeless’…I really don’t think the building industry understands how fire behaves in buildings and how dangerous it can be. The government’s mania for deregulation means our current safety standards just aren’t good enough.”

Irish experts have warned of the possibility of similar large scale loss of life, given our privatised self-regulated construction sector. In the Irish Times article “Possibility of Grenfell Tower-type fire exists in Ireland”  Architect Niall Walsh of CJ Walsh said he feared Ireland was following the building and regulatory path taken in the UK, which appears to have contributed to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Mr Walsh said that Ireland was “following the English model of building regulation – and that model is inadequate…The model was one that eschewed actual inspection of buildings in favour of paper-based checks”. He said there was a need for “independent inspection of buildings”, similar to the regime that was in place in Ireland up until the early 1990s.

Earlier in the week the Donegal Democrat reported on publication of the long awaited official report into Mica affected blocks in Donegal and Mayo. In “Report finds thousands of Donegal homes could be affected by Mica blocks”  it was noted that an Expert Panel on Concrete Blocks found that there may be as many as 4,800 dwellings potentially affected, as well as 541 social housing units. The Minister of State Damien English, said: “There are eight recommendations contained in this report and my Department will be taking action immediately… In addition and in light of the information contained in the report, I have asked my Department to consider what further actions may be required to assist the parties directly involved in reaching a satisfactory resolution to the problems that have emerged in the two counties”. Deputy Thomas Pringle called on Minister English to establish a redress scheme for affected homeowners in Donegal without further delay following the publication of the report.

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 110

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

15 June 2017

The following Irish Times article by Peter Murtagh was published yesterday 14th June 2017 (see link here): Possibility of Grenfell Tower-type fire exists in Ireland

Ireland ‘following the English model of building regulation – which is inadequate’

The possibility of a Grenfell Tower-type fire in Ireland exists, according to a fire safety expert, but a representative of fire-fighters says the height of buildings currently does not pose a problem for the fire service.

Niall Walsh of CJ Walsh, an architectural and sustainable design firm, said he feared Ireland was following the building and regulatory path taken in the UK – which appears to have contributed to the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Rainscreen cladding on the London tower was, according to Rydon Construction, put there with the aim of “improving thermal insulation and modernising the exterior of the building”. The company finished refurbishing the building last summer.

Mr Walsh said in an interview that Ireland was “following the English model of building regulation – and that model is inadequate”.

The model was one that eschewed actual inspection of buildings in favour of paper-based checks, he said.

He said there was a need for “independent inspection of buildings”, similar to the regime that was in place in Ireland up until the early 1990s.

As regards building materials and construction methods, which appear to have played a role in the London blaze, Mr Walsh said while it was important not to rush to judgment, “there is definitely a problem with external cladding”.

Such cladding has become popular in recent years for buildings of all sizes – including two-storey residential homes.

External cladding has previously been a factor in the rapid spread of fire in incidents in Australia, the Middle East and Chechnya, Mr Walsh said.

Spread could be rapid

If the material used in external cladding was flammable and fire from an interior passed to the exterior, the spread thereafter could be rapid.

“There’s definitely a question with the cladding. There’s also a question as to how the fire spread so quickly internally because there was only one fire evacuation staircase, from reports – and that was very quickly smoke clogged,” said Mr Walsh.

Other questions any inquiry was likely to focus on included the fire alarm system, if one existed, and the “stay in place” standard advice to people in residential buildings – that is, return to your apartment, close the door while the fire is fought, and wait for assistance.

“It is criminal to advise people to go back into their apartment and wait. These are not safe places any more,” said Mr Walsh.

Ross MacCobb, chairman of the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association, agreed that external insulation was a cause of concern.

“It’s made of polyfoam, or a variety of that, all the way to rockwool, which won’t ignite although it will burn,” said Mr MacCobb.

Dublin fire-fighters currently had access to turntables that had ladders capable of reaching 32 metres into the air, which, when erected at an angle, gave fire-fighters an elevated reach of some 28 metres, he said.

This would be sufficient for buildings of up to 10 storeys, said Mr MacCobb. He had concerns that planning regulations might soon allow for buildings of a height that would put them out of reach of the fire brigade.

Related

London tower block fire death toll of 12 expected to rise

London fire: Questions raised about safety of building’s modernisation

Spending cuts may have contributed to London fire – Corbyn

Other articles of interest:

London fire: ‘It was quiet panic. People were completely traumatised’ about 10 hours ago 
London fire: 12 confirmed dead with another 18 people critical about 4 hours ago 

London tower block fire: in pictures about 6 hours ago 

London fire: Woman tried to save baby by dropping it ‘from ninth floor’ about 4 hours ago 

Residents’ blog warned of fire hazards at London tower since2013 about 17 hours ago 

Building Control threat to Homeless ‘Hubs’ completions?

13 June 2017

At a Dublin City Council (DCC) meeting yesterday, Councillor John Lyons (People Before Profit Alliance) posted on social media that DCC had not consulted councillors regarding homeless ‘hub’ accommodation and that elected representatives had not seen any cost-benefit analysis for any of the emergency schemes.  His motion to ‘cease immediately with this flawed and shameful plan of placing families into industrial estate locations such as the former Bargaintown furniture store… and seek instead solutions to the homelessness crisis, such as acquisitions and a programme of social housing…” was ruled out of order.

In 2015 Architect Vivian Cummins examined the implications of Building Control Regulations introduced in 2014 BCAR SI9 on 22 ‘Rapid’ build homes in Poppintree, Ballymun. His analysis was prescient as the completion of the ‘rapid’ units took 6 months and not 6 weeks as officials predicted, with families moved in May 2016. Vivian Cummins said “Anyone at the frontline of Ireland’s homelessness crisis knows that there is only one crucial factor to be considered in the provision of modular homes and that is speed of delivery. The parents trying to provide meals from a wardrobe in a hotel room, to the 1,500 children currently homeless in Ireland, are not concerned about Building Energy Ratings or timber versus carpet floor coverings. They just want their own roof over their heads in time for Christmas or indeed anytime soon.”

The same ‘red tape’ may affect the Minister’s planned change of use of various different buildings into emergency Homeless ‘Hubs’, temporary emergency accommodation for homeless families. BCAR SI9 procedures affect all change of use applications irrespective of whether any significant internal modifications are needed or not, and there is no exemptions for emergency or temporary buildings under SI9.

Dublin City Council and the Department of the Housing have quite a challenge to deliver accommodation to +7,500 men, women and children by the 1st July.

It is assumed that these projects will be fast-tracked through the planning process by using Section 179 (6) (b) of the Planning & Development Act 2000*- bypassing the normal planning process as the Local Authority deems the situation to be an emergency. The council can skip taking any submissions or observations from the public on the proposal, a process that would normally take a minimum of six weeks.

Building Regulations (the design and construction of the houses) and Building Control Regulations (supervision and enforcement of the Building Regulations) are not as straightforward. The Building Regulations and the Building Control Regulations do not distinguish a “temporary” and a “permanent” dwelling and there are no derogations for an emergency situation, as we have observed with delays in Poppintree. All change of use projects are subject to the same procedures.

Legislation introduced only on 1st September 2015 (SI.365, brought Local Authorities into the BC(A)R SI.9 net they now have to comply with SI9 in full. The problems associated with SI.9 in trying to deliver housing quickly and economically have been seen elsewhere.

The Building Control Regulations require the serving of a Commencement Notice 14-28 days to the Building Control management System (BCMS) before starting on site and a Completion Certificate, at the earliest, 3-5 weeks before completion. It is unclear who will be the ‘Assigned Certifier’ and ‘Building Owner’ for the purposes of submitting the required Commencement Notice and Completion Certificate and undertaking the responsibility for same.

The above means some of the following programme issues for a completion by July based on tenders submitted say by the end of last month (wed 31st May). Allow a one week assessment of tenders with the successful bidder notified on 7th June:

  • There is a 14 days standstill period before the contract can be awarded, so this takes us to 21st June for the earliest possible start on site.
  • To start on site on 21st June a Commencement Notice with full BCAR SI.9 documentation must be lodged online to the BCMS, 14- 28 days before starting on site, so say 7th June at the latest. This is the day that the contractor may be notified that he has been selected.
  • This means that the Design Certifiers, Assigned Certifier and Builder must be appointed and have full documentation lodged last week (before the contract is awarded).
  • Starting on site on 21st June, the builder then has to work back from 1st July contract completion date.
  • This means the builder/developer has to lodge Completion  documents, confirming the building is correctly built, 3-5 weeks before 1st July, before he starts on site.
  • Many issues remain around the submission of Completion Certificates for multi-unit housing that have yet to be resolved.
  • These multi-family projects cannot be occupied until the Local Authority confirms that the houses are on the Register. If there is any delay here the prospective Completion documents will have to be lodged before projects have started.

Have the implications of the Building Control Regulations BC(A)R SI.9 created a scenario where the Assigned Certifier will have to confirm all of his inspections and everyone else’s before the building actually starts in order to meet the completion deadline?

*To be confirmed

Helpful Links: What are the Building Control rules for converting buildings?

The beginners guide:  Practical posts 3: Change of Use – FDI and offices

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

 

Other posts of interest: 

Is Building Control a threat to Christmas completion of modular homes? | Vivian Cummins

BCMS Alert | Last day for Christmas Completion! 

Completion Certificates for Multi-unit Housing 

Housing crisis rumbles on… the shape of things to come? 

DECLG Information Note |  SI.365 of 2015 

Getting Our Housing in Order | Vivian Cummins

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Builders may soon be forced to join a register to prove they’re competent | Journal

07 June 2017

The Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI) was launched by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) three years ago with the promise that it would “try to distinguish legitimate construction companies/ sole traders from those who have given the industry a bad name” (see link here). The Register is to be put on a statutory basis in coming weeks by Minister Simon Coveney and means that all builders and sub-contractors will have to be vetted by CIRI/ CIF and pay an annual charge of €600 ex vat. There are currently 30+ categories of registration (e.g. house builder, plasterer, civil engineering contractor). Link to CIRI here. The register could have a potential membership of over 50,000.

This is another ‘plank’ in the Government policy of self-regulation of the construction industry. Commentators and the media have noted the apparent conflict of interest of private representative membership organisation (or lobby group) being tasked with policing their own members, and the perception by Consumer groups and opposition politicians that that there is little in the way of enhanced consumer protections in a privately-owned and operated contractors’ register of competence. The following article in Journal.ie explores the proposed register (full article here:). Extract:

“Irish builders may soon be forced to join a register to prove they’re competent”

THE BODY REPRESENTING Irish builders has welcomed plans to make it a legal requirement for companies in the industry to sign up to a register in order to prove their competence.

The government has announced that it has approved the drafting and publication of the Building Control (Construction Industry Register Ireland) Bill 2017.

The aim of the bill is to make joining the Construction Industry Register Ireland mandatory for building firms.

The register was set up three years ago by Construction Industry Federation (CIF) the with the aim of allowing people to easily identify reputable building firms. So far, companies join on a voluntary basis.

Under the current process, businesses joining the register must show that they have tax clearance and insurance.

They are required to demonstrate practical experience of working in construction – “generally for a period of no less than three years” – and show knowledge of the industry’s laws and regulations.

“Applicants must outline details of a minimum of three projects demonstrating their construction experience,” the CIF said.

The register covers a range of professions “from builders and building services contractors to specialist contractors”, according to the organisation.

A CIF spokeswoman said that entry to the register “will be open to all builders, whether sole traders, partnerships or registered companies, who can demonstrate that they are competent to carry out works in the category for which they are seeking to register”.

The register was established in consultation with the Department of the Environment.

Public confidence 

Earlier this year, Housing and Planning Minister Simon Coveney told the CIF Cork construction annual dinner that he was committed to drafting the bill to make joining the register mandatory.

“This is seen as an additional essential consumer protection measure giving consumers who engage a registered builder the assurance that they are dealing with a competent and compliant operator,” he said at the time.

“I see (the register) as an important and necessary step in restoring public confidence and trust in the construction sector given the legacy of the building failures that came in the wake of the construction-related economic collapse.”

Speaking today, he said that the purpose of the Bill “is to provide for a mandatory statutory register of builders, contractors and specialist sub-contractors.”

“Subject to a limited number of exceptions, a builder will only be permitted to carry out building works in respect of which he or she is registered.

CIF director of housing and planning Hubert Fitzpatrick said that putting the register on a statutory footing “will mean that only competent builders can secure registration”.

“It is not acceptable that a person or company without adequate training or experience can portray themselves as a builder to the public,” he said.

He added that members of the public should only engage with builders who are signed up to the register.

Other posts of interest:

Complaint Procedures & Construction Industry Register? | Look Back 19

Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI) to be made mandatory

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?