Tag Archives: BC(A)R

Is Irish Building Control a threat to Foreign Direct Investment?

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April 8th 2015

Are Building Regulations a threat to Foreign Direct Investment?

One area overlooked by commentators and policy makers in the Building Regulations debate are non-residential projects, and in particular foreign direct investment (FDI) projects. The massive costs and delays due to SI.9 introduction last March on the residential sector have been well documented, PMI and CSO indicators all showing an initial surge to get projects started before March, petering out towards the end of last year.

Richard Bruton T.D. at a meeting last year with the World Bank recognised that there was “…a fundamental link between competitiveness and job creation” (see more here).

It is remarkable that there has been no effort to address Ireland’s continued slide in international rankings for ease of construction. The World Bank in their annual “Doing Business” report compare 189 countries in the world in various sectors. Ireland’s overall country ranking is a reasonable 13th, ahead of competitors like Switzerland, Netherlands and Israel.

However when it comes to construction permits and building regulations the World Bank places Ireland at a dismal 128th place, way down between Algeria and Bolivia. For a typical FDI building, Ireland’s regulatory costs are over seven times those in the UK.

World Bank  “Dealing with construction permits” Ranking

The World Bank  take a typical production/warehouse building (13,000 Sqm valued at €1.46m), a standardised template for industry, and based on information from respective government departments calculates the time needed and cost of obtaining all relevant statutory permissions to enable owners to build and occupy buildings. Our direct competitor, the UK, is seen as a “best practice system.

The World Bank reports that the total cost to obtain permits for a typical FDI unit in the UK is €19,035 (£15,039 or 1.2% of the capital cost of the development) and includes 100% independent inspections for building control (approved inspector model). There are 12 procedures to get all statutory permissions for a typical unit and this will take 150 days. See detailed data for UK here (click on title):

Doing Business in United Kingdom – World Bank Group

By contrast in Ireland the cost of statutory fees is an eye-watering €138,379, or 9.4% of the capital cost. There are 38 procedures that take a minimum of 208 days (if owners risk various tasks being undertaken in parallel). These costs do not include our privatised self-certification system of Building Control. Planning contributions alone comprise €126,184 to this inflated cost in Ireland. See detailed data for Ireland here (click on title):

Dealing with Construction Permits in Ireland – World Bank Group

The next report could include additional S.I.9 costs will include design, assigned and ancillary certification costs, defensive specifications and delays due to inadequate Local Authority resources and staffing.

This could add an additional 7% of the capital cost of the development, or over  €100,000 for this building type. Our actual total costs for construction permits, if the real cost of our ‘off-balance sheet reinforced system of building control’ is included, may be more than 10x that in the UK.

Acknowledged by Minister Kelly as “using a  mallet to crack a nut” there is a risk that our fragile recovery and in particular the FDI sector will bear the brunt of ill-conceived regulations, reducing competitiveness, costing valuable jobs and putting our recovery in jeopardy. Conceived as ‘political solution’ for speculatve built housing issues, SI.9 has been applied without any cost-benefit analysis to the entire construction sector and is proving very costly to other non-residential building types. Over 60 school projects have been delayed and Government capital projects costs are increasing across the board.

The recent annual review of the building regulations announced by Ministers Kelly and Coffey excludes all non-residential buildings, with a political focus on once-off housing.

A significant 25% drop in overall building commencement levels in the 12 months since the introduction of SI.9 was confirmed in the Dáil last month.

Ireland’s ranking for “Dealing with construction permits” has slid from 117th in 2014 to 128th in 2015 – a drop of  11 places in one year. In this sector the UK, our main competitor, is placed 17th this year, well over 100 places ahead of Ireland.

Last month on RTE Radio One a number of business owners were complaining about the cost of planning contributions around the country. There is widespread concern that a failure to deal with ‘stealth’ charges is impacting on competitiveness and job creation, particularly for SME’s. The World Bank report provides an objective independent confirmation of the experience of these business owners.

Policy-makers in Ireland may be unfamiliar with the work of the World Bank investigations but international investors may be wondering when the ‘best little country to do business’ will catch up?

Other posts of interest:

World Bank Report 2015 | UK v Ireland the real cost of “Dealing with construction permits”

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

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

Press: lack of office space may affect FDI

FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) Projects & BC(A)R SI.9

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

Practical posts 3: Change of Use – FDI and offices

FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) Projects & BC(A)R SI.9

Everything you wanted to know about “Approved Inspectors”

Collins & O’Cofaigh | “the 38 steps” and the complexity of our regulations

Surveyors call for examination of Building Regulation costs

SI.9 | What’s another year?

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 27 February 2015

In two days time, on Sunday, 1st March 2015, the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations SI.9: 2014 will be one year old. It has become clear that issues with SI.9 are not just ‘teething’ problems that will settle down. In fact many in the construction industry who embraced the change are now struggling with legal and practical implementation problems that cannot be resolved within the legislation.

The BRegs Blog has brought together a community of industry experts and commentators as we reach this important milestone and the imminent review of the legislation. In the coming week or so we will be publishing a series of posts on SI.9 – one year on. This will commence on Monday.

The BRegs Blog is changing!

  1. The BRegs Blog will launch a new e-zine this afternoon that gathers all SI.9 related information (tweets, photos, blogs, comments and other media links) into one easily accessible weekly digest. It will be published each Friday lunchtime as an alternative to the Saturday Summary.
  2. On the last Saturday of the month we will publish a Top Five of each month’s most read posts. This will publish tomorrow.
  3. In parallel with condensing relevant news feeds into single ‘editions’ the BRegs Blog will be posting fewer posts that are more considered with news items moved to the Friday E-zine’.

The BRegs Blog is stepping up to put forward real practical solutions for an effective system of Building Control. The blog continues to enjoy extraordinary support from most representative sectors of the construction industry. The minimal criticism being made would appear to be from those who don’t read it or are challenged by any questioning of SI.9.

The BRegs Blog promotes effective Building Control improvements and best practice standards of inspection.

Thanks for your continued support,

BRegs Blog Admin. Team

RIAI | Village Magazine Again!

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Robin Mandal (L) and John Graby

For the third consecutive issue Village Magazine, Ireland’s premier political publication, features the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI). Village Magazine’s exposé of events at the organisation will have architects and industry observers wondering what is really going on at the Merrion Square HQ of the RIAI. It may be perceived an unnecessary distraction for architects who have had a very challenging year since the introduction of SI.9.

In the February edition (published 6th February 2015) there is a four-page article on the RIAI where editor, Michael Smyth, continues his description of the management of the organisation by its CEO, John Graby and President, Robin Mandal (see extract below). As far as the BRegs Blog is aware no formal public response to the previous issue’s allegations has been forthcoming from the RIAI.

Village Magazine alleges:

  • 13* of the 15 surviving RIAI Past-Presidents have called for the appointment of independent external experts to urgently assist in a comprehensive reform and restructure of the RIAI organisation and its operational policies.
  • A confidential RIAI Council mediation in October 2014 mandated the President to initiate the process of retirement of the RIAI CEO/Registrar, John Graby;
  • A €1 million annual payment of public monies is paid to the RIAI to recruit and employ architects who are deployed in the public sector;
  • Costs including travel expenses were incurred by the CEO/Registrar and a former President, Michelle Fagan, to ‘hand-deliver’ a medal for achievement to Kevin Roche, an ex-pat architect in New York;
  • A potential conflict of interest for the RIAI CEO/Registrar as conduit for complaints against architects and as director of an insurance company which receives sensitive information;
  • Confusion over a combined financial charge for being on the Register of Architects and being a member of the RIAI and the opaque fee structure and assessment of the hardship provision under the Building Control Act 2007 by the CEO/Registrar.

The Village Magazine article ends by noting that the President of the RIAI informed members that 2015 would be the “Year of Change”.

BRegs Blog Note: The 4-page February 2015 feature referred to above is now available on the Village website- for full article click title “RIAIsing the stakes. | Village

*The two immediate Past Presidents, Paul Keogh and Michelle Fagan (who are both members of the RIAI Council 2015) do not appear to have signed this statement.

Village Magazine is sold by most newsagents (€3.95).

.jpeg Extract of Village Magazine article

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Other posts of interest:

What’s happening with the RIAI? | Village Magazine December 2015 / January 2015

John Graby – RIAI, CEO | “Phil Hogan did not bulldoze through SI.9′

Minister Paudie Coffey |Keynote Address to Housing 2020 – Design + Delivery Conference

RIAI Complainee investigates IAOSB Complaint

Radio Clips: RIAI and CIF differ on Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014)

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

Legal Advice for Multiple Unit Development Completions | Arthur Cox

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February 19th 2015

Legal Advice for Multiple Unit Development Completions | Arthur Cox

Arthur Cox, Solicitors have issued legal advice on SI.9 that suggests a lack of clarity and implementation difficulties are inherent in the new regulations for apartments and housing estates. It is all warnings and little guidance- see document here. The following extracts are marked bold in their document:

The 2014 Regulations prohibit the opening, occupation or use of a building until a Completion Certificate has been filed and registered by the building control authority making compliance with the 2014 Regulations of great importance for building owners, purchasers, or prospective tenants.

Housing development issues are also mentioned, in particular multiple units at completion stage:

It is assumed that solicitors for purchasers of new houses or apartments will be satisfied with a copy of the Certificate of Compliance on Completion as signed and registered, together with proof of its registration as sufficient compliance with the building regulations, so long as it clearly applies to the property being acquired [see citation 1]. With regards a housing estate, it has been anticipated that individual houses will have individual certificates. It is likely that purchasers’ solicitors will want to ensure that the certificate properly identifies the unit they are concerned with [see citation 2]. More substantial commercial properties may necessitate additional certification.”

As previously noted in earlier posts and in accordance with Law Society guidance, every house in an estate or apartment building will need an individual completion certificate.

Many developers may be unaware of the unintended barriers to finishing and selling phased developments under the regulations. Official Guidance from the BCMS (Building Control Management System- see post here; SCSI link here) says “nothing is complete until everything is complete“. By default, any structure connected to a particular unit: halls, corridors, stairs, fire escapes, general access for a fire appliance, basement carspaces, drainage systems, boilers or other areas structurally connected (e.g. other neighbouring units in one block) may also need to be completed and certified separately (and concurrently).

The requirement for “total compliance” in the building control regulations introduced last March has far-reaching implications for phasing, financing of developments and also conveyancing and opening for homebuyers and commercial tenants (e.g. shopping centre anchor fit-outs etc.).

Anchor tenants traditionally have very onerous penalty clauses for not achieveing handover dates. These are factors that developers and financial institutions should be aware of in advance of commencement of any phased residential or mixed-use projects.

Other posts of interest:

Help the BCMS Christmas appeal | Certificate of Completion Crisis!

SI.9 “each phase should be designed to stand alone” | BCMS

Have residential Completion Certificates been fully considered?

Completion Certificates for Multi-unit Housing

BCMS Completion Stage | No Ancillary Certificates required!

SI.9 completion stage and the BCMS | Clouds are gathering!

5 Tips for Completion Certs

Press: RIAI fearful Local Authorities will start “finding something to invalidate as a method of workload control”

Build in 8 hours, wait 3 weeks for a Completion Cert!

Practical Post 19: Phased completion & BC(A)R SI.9 

Are Local Authorities ready? Industry concern for completion stage: BC(A)R SI.9 of 2014

Minister Paudie Coffey |Keynote Address to Housing 2020 – Design + Delivery Conference

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February 11th 2015

Address by Mr. Paudie Coffey T.D. Minister of State Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government at “Housing 2020 – Design and Delivery” the Joint Housing Conference of the RIAI & the Department at Dublin Castle on Tuesday 10 February 2015 at 9.00 am.

Speech cleared by Aidan O’Connor, Principal Adviser, Architecture/ Building Standards.

Introduction

I am pleased to welcome you all here this morning for the resumption of our conference programme.

I compliment all concerned in the RIAI and my own Department in creating this forum where industry professionals, academics, policy makers, planners, local housing authorities and voluntary housing bodies can collectively engage with and respond to the many challenges we now face.

If ever there was a time for creative solutions, joined up thinking, collaborative approaches, the time is now.

Housing and Construction

The timing of this conference is fortuitous coinciding as it does with the recent launch by Minister Kelly and I of the Social Housing Strategy 2020.

Economic growth, social progress and environmental sustainability require a capable and effectively performing housing and construction sector.

The Social Housing Strategy 2020 stands side by side with the broader Construction 2020 strategy.  Together they comprise some 112 measures which set out a credible and achievable context for ensuring that the housing and construction sector are aligned to the needs of our economy and its citizens.

Minster Kelly, myself and our colleagues in Government are determined to deliver these measures and will not be found wanting in working hard to create the conditions necessary to ensure the delivery of social and economic infrastructure that will allow people to live and work in a built environment that is user friendly, safe, secure and sustainable.

This means working openly with stakeholders to overcome the challenges of:

  • Careful manpower planning that ensures the right skills and training are in place to respond effectively to growing construction demands following several years of little or no activity;
  • Close alignment of the planning and development system with current and future  investment and infrastructural needs
  • The need for new and innovative investment funding and investment models that provide the wherewithal to meet real and growing demands

Our recent return to growth does not in itself herald the end of constraints on resources.  We need to ensure that public investment is targeted wisely and effectively, not least the €2.2 billion now committed to the delivery of 10,000 social housing units over the next 3 years.

The welcome return from a period of low or minimal housing provision to one where, thankfully, significant investment is again possible, comes with its own stresses and strains.  We are expected to respond to the current high level of pent-up demand for housing while simultaneously addressing and keeping apace of future needs.   It is important therefore that we act quickly, decisively and responsibly in delivering appropriate solutions to current and future housing needs.

Housing Challenges 

The future of a great many of our citizens is heavily reliant on the successful implementation of the Social Housing Strategy 2020, which I know you have already considered in detail during yesterday’s session addressed by Bairbre Nic Aongusa from the Department’s Housing Division.

The range of critical issues which inform this strategy and your conference programme are the traditional dilemmas for policy makers and practitioners in the housing domain, such as the challenge of matching supply and demand, aligning regional and local planning processes with needs, housing standards, funding arrangements.  Far from ever becoming resolved, they continue to throw up fresh challenges.

In addition we face further challenges particular to the present moment including the challenges of kick-starting a building industry that has been mothballed for several years, of translating the return to confidence into tangible investment, of enticing unoccupied buildings back into the market place, all the while, of course, dealing with a market place that is itself still in correction mode.

The Government’s vision for the future of the housing sector in Ireland is based on choice, fairness, equity across tenures and on delivering quality outcomes for the resources invested.   More than anything else, though people want to see delivery and I am personally focussed on the reality that action not rhetoric solves problems.

Private Housing  

Outside of state provision, it is essential that we have a vibrant private housing sector that operates to the same core values as the Government in terms of offering consumers fair play, quality standards and value for money.

Again, the availability of funding for developers and for potential buyers alike is an essential critical success factor for progress in this sector.   This forms a key topic in our Construction 2020 strategy.  In my own view, the expectations of financiers and developers in particular must become attuned to the fact that market circumstances have changed fundamentally.   There is no prospect of the market returning to where it was pre-2006.  Expectations and investment decisions must therefore be framed around today’s operating environment and outlook.

Conditions now seem conducive to allowing business to take place and it is in everybody’s interest that this happens sooner rather than later.

I look forward therefore to seeing what may come from the session later today to be led by Michelle Norris of UCD.

I also believe the upcoming conference on Construction Financing Options being hosted by the Department of Finance will be significant in highlighting the increasing levels of capital available for financing viable construction and development projects in Ireland.

Quality and Standards

The theme of quality and sustainability stands out strongly across the suite of presentations you will hear.

This is as it should be.  Public tolerance for poor building quality has been well and truly exhausted.

On the building control side of things, for which I hold ministerial responsibility, we now have a credible regulatory framework that empowers competence and professionalism in the design and construction process and that requires owner/developers, builders and professionals to account for their statutory obligations.

I look forward in the coming months to working with industry, local authorities and all stakeholders to review the arrangements now in place during their first 12 months in operation.  It is important that we identify what further steps are necessary to refine and streamline the regulatory process in order to ensure that all our citizens can enjoy the quality built environment they expect and deserve.

The next key ingredient rests in the Government’s commitment to the introduction of statutory registration for builders and contractors.  The Construction Industry Register Ireland or CIRI will give consumers the reassurance that they are dealing with a competent and compliant builder.

I believe this register will become the foundation stone of quality in the industry and I look forward to seeing it develop into a robust, statutory register.

Conclusion

By way of conclusion I want to thank the impressive line-up of speakers and panellists for their generous contributions without which this conference would not be possible.

No stakeholder, be they Government representative, public servant, industry expert or consumer advocate, has a monopoly on the wisdom or perspective necessary to identify practical solutions to the problems we face or the right to impose their preferred solutions on others.  Ultimately, it is only through dialogue and interaction that real and lasting solutions emerge.

That is why events such as today’s conference are so vital and so necessary.

I encourage you all to participate as fully as you can in that spirit so that together we can

  • Take on board the lessons of the past and deliver quality housing solutions
  • Ensure that quality and sustainability becomes the watchwords in all we do
  • Continue to question, to inquire and to develop innovative solutions to what are perennial challenges

Know that in applying this approach in our own work and promoting it within our own sphere of influence we help transform the culture of the entire construction industry towards quality and sustainability.

On that note, I wish you well with what promises to be an enjoyable and stimulating event.

Thank you.

40 sq.m. Question | Review 2 of the issues

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Review 2  – 20 January 2015

How many houses have been altered in Ireland where first floor bedroom windows have been replaced without the provision of the required unobstructed openings for escape in the event of a fire or attic conversions undertaken without adequate structural supports? Vast numbers of homes have been renovated in this country without even the most basic compliance with Building Regulations Part L: Conservation of Fuel and Energy which has a seriously negative impact on the value of our national housing stock and our ability to meet carbon emission reduction targets. With almost all fire fatalities* occurring in residential buildings is there not a case that every project should have some sort of third party oversight by competent inspectors even if it is just to make sure the carbon monoxide detectors have been installed?

As part of this continuing BRegs Blog series on SI.9 and the 40 square metre question this post continues with an examination of the context of selecting a seemingly arbitrary 40 square metre measurement in relation to assessing project size for an exemption from the ‘additional requirements’ of SI.9; one could ask why not 4 square metres or 400 square metres? Equally one could also ask if any building works at all should be exempt from Building Control by not having to issue a Commencement Notice?

It is worth noting that the SI.9 Building Control Regulations are different to the Building Regulations. SI.9 is a set of rules to define Building Control procedures. It is not a specification for better building. The Building Regulations specify requirements in relation to Structure, Fire Safety, Ventilation etc. and apply to all building work whether a Commencement Notice is issued or competent certifiers appointed.

It appears that the 40 square metre figure arose from the identical figure used for planning permission exemptions in the Planning Act 2000 legislation as defined in SI. 601:2001. In assessing the merit of using the same figure in SI.9 it is worth borrowing a line from the recent BCMS appeal for assistance with resolving separate difficulties with SI.9 and the completion of multi-unit developments. It said:

“In this context it is appropriate to highlight the dangers of combining and confusing regulatory codes that are entirely different, though they all deal with building or site development.”

Unfortunately this statement neatly describes the difficulties now being encountered with SI.9 and the 40 square metre question. Planning and Building Control have different purposes. Planning is more about about the amenity of your neighbours while Building Control is about the safety and welfare of your family or occupants of a building. If one accepts that there should be exemptions from Building Control for smaller or simpler projects on the basis of “sure, what could go wrong?” then the smaller projects must be examined individually. There has been no logical interpretation of a cumulative approach to exemptions. If a less that 40 square metre extension to your house is exempt from Building Control this year than how can the 2 square metre extension next year not be? There are valid reasons to consider multiple extensions cumulatively from a planning control perspective but not building control. There is no substantial likelihood that any building owner will attempt to circumvent Building Control legislation by building a house in increments of 39 square metres or less. Is this the motivitation in the Department of the Environment or is it a desire to ensure every new porch extension has a professional appointment and a CIRI-registered building contractor?

If a Commencement Notice is issued with or without ‘additional requirements’ the Building Control Authority are on notice and can inspect the building works at any time. With regard to the question if any building works should be exempt from Building Control by not having to issue a Commencement Notice it is worth considering the small scale projects outlined in the opening paragraph above that may be exempt from issuing any Commencement Notice but that may have serious implications for the welfare of occupants.

In future posts on this issue we will be highlighting the varying interpretations of the 40 square metre question that the BRegs Blog has come across and a commissioned opinion, bearing in mind the law is the law and one cannot interpret intent.

*In 2013, (the most recent year for which figures are available) 21 of the 24 fire fatalities in Ireland occurred in residential accommodation. (Link to figures:)  

Links to previous posts on this issue:

40 sq.m. Question | Review 1 of the issues | 19 January 2015

When is an extension not an extensions: the 40 sq.m. question 

Phil Hogan | SI.9…”will only apply to works involving the addition of an extension which is greater than 40 sq.m.”

± 40 sq.m. | “Exemption should avoid controls on minor development”

‘Onerous’ Building Regulations must be amended – Minister Kelly

Architectural Technology in Ireland 2015 | Malachy Mathews

Malachy MathewsMalachy Mathews 

The year ahead for Architectural Technology in Ireland 2015  | Malachy Mathews

2014 will be remembered as a pivotal year for Architectural Technologists in Ireland. The enactment of the SI. 9 legislation had extraordinary effects on our standing in the design and construction industry. The effects were most immediate for approx 200 Architectural Technologists (ATs) who were making their livelihood providing architectural services within their communities. These people were put out of business. The managed exclusion of ATs from the protected function of Assigned Certifier and Design Certifier sharply put into focus the standing of ATs within the Irish professional body that purported to “support” Architectural Technology in Ireland.

The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) has been exposed. The head nodding, platitudes and RIAI Presidents saying all the right things during their term of office has been uncovered as being worthless. ATs cannot ever expect parity until the RIAI members themselves vote to change their Articles of Association to allow ATs join as full, voting and recognised professional members. Remember it is not equality we were looking for, (because we are different) it is equity (parity of esteem). Until this happens, all other efforts within this organisation are futile.

SI.9 also exposed the limitations of having a second professional AT representative body outside of the jurisdiction. CIAT arrived late to the debacle. The stable door was already closed, whether they knew it or not. Since then, its spin and style of political negotiation have not been well received by those who will be influential in making the decision on the future of Architectural Technology in Ireland. Those who will be influential in making that decision are the officials within the Department of the Environment and the sitting Minister. To be honest and straight to the point these people will want to know one thing and one thing only. Are Architectural Technologists competent, and all that this word encapsulates?

Engineers, Architects and Surveyors prove this through their education standard and their commitment to and representation from their professional body. The most important piece of work to be done this coming year is the creation of the QQI (formerly FETAC) benchmark standard for Architectural Technology. This will set out the required education standards and connect these to a “profession”. An initial meeting has already taken place in which representatives of the QQI, the RIAI, CIAT and most importantly, a senior official from the Dept. of the Environment. This is, to my knowledge, the first time a Department official has had contact directly with an RIAI Architectural Technologist. The RIAI CEO also attended this meeting and a legitimate question can be asked, was he there to represent ATs, (there is no evidence of this happening before) or was he there to protect the interests of architects? (there is plenty of evidence of this).

It has to be acknowledged that the education standards for ATs are very varied. The points required to do one of the five Institute of Technology Architectural Technology courses range from less than 200 to 320 and range from level 7 (three year) to level 8 (four year) with no perceived differentiation. They all qualify as an Architectural Technologist. This is the first area that has to be resolved and perhaps the benchmark statement will set out a standard and role for an architectural technician level 7 and an architectural technologist level 8 & 9. Both of these have a role in the business. This benchmark statement is hugely important and if it is to be representative it must have an involvement from the education providers, the graduate community and industry.

It must be remembered that the CIAT represents approximately 220 ATs in Ireland, the RIAI “supports” approximately 200 members. I would suggest that this is less than 20% of the total population of ATs working in Ireland. QQI must get a full scope of the education and industry view to provide a fair and balanced document that will not just reflect the past but provide for the future of Architectural Technology in Ireland.

And all of this is happening against a background of a seismic change in the design and construction industry with new skills, process and methodologies in this age of digital transformation. Of all of the disciplines in the design and construction industry the Architectural Technologist is the one who is in the pole position to embrace this change. As the industry seeks out people to engage in this digital revolution it is becoming increasingly obvious that the skillset of the Architectural Technologist is in demand not just in the architectural domain but also now in the other domains of engineering, measurement and construction. The QQI document needs to reflect this too.

Malachy Mathews: PhD Candidate, MSc. Dip Arch Tech, NUI Dip Computer Studies, PG Cert 3rd Level Teaching & Learning

The above post was first posted by Malachy Matthews on Linkedin on 1st January 2015. This Linkedin group is now 4 years old and it has 968 members, the majority of whom are ATs. Its purpose is to provide a communication platform to debate issues pertaining to Architectural Technologists in Ireland. New members are welcome and encouraged to contribute in this immensely important year for AT in Ireland.

The AT representative on the RIAI Council 2015, Liam Innes, was invited to comment or respond to the above post but has not yet done so.

Other posts of interest:

Should the Architectural Technology Profession stay within the RIAI?

The future for Architectural Technologists is outside the RIAI | Joe Byrne

CIAT + Architectural Technologists | Michael Quirke

Dáil | Architectural Technologist update

Architectural Technologists: Are you on the right bus?

CIAT Architectural Technologists Register goes live today!

Dáil: CIAT & RIAI- 2 Architectural Technologist Registers

Dáil TD’s want to Revoke SI.9 (4 of 4)

Architectural Technologists + Architects | Parity of Esteem?

Hot topic: Architectural Technologists and SI.9

Architectural Technologist – Platitudes, Head Nodding and BC(A)R SI.9.

RIAI NEWS ALERT: Architectural Technologist Register

Message from Mick Wallace TD to Architectural Technologists

Audio Clip: Dáil Debate 27th May- Architectural Technologists & SI.9 

Thoughts on a way forward #bregs #DeirdreLennon

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Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2013 SI 80  –

The Minister has confirmed that he wishes to “strengthen the current arrangements in place for the control of building activities “ as part of the 2013 amendments to the 1990 Building Control Act

Indeed,BC(A)R’s SI 80 has been carefully crafted to “require the private sector to provide an active part in achieving regulatory oversight.” This is to be achieved through professionally endorsed notices and certifications along with Contractor endorsed undertakings, each to be submitted to the Building Control Authority at distinct times between commencement and completion of construction projects.

The drafting of this legislation has been in process since 2011 and its Statutory Instrument SI 80 is on the cusp of enactment. No transition period has been allowed. No meaningful engagement or dialogue took place between government and the general public. Engagement with our representatives and other stakeholders took place behind closed doors. This legislation directly affects the practice of architecture and we are therefore all stakeholders in this important matter.

Given the title of this amendment and proclaimed political commitment we may be forgiven for believing that the proposed amendment promises change. Not so.

The devil is in the detail. The role of the Local Authority as Building Control Authority under the Act has changed in one small way. It has to conduct a validation process, an administration function of receipting and recording submissions. The non mandatory Code of Practice states that the Authority will then undertake a risk assessment but there are no details offered as to how or what this means.

In fact, Building Control Authorities intend to rely on the 1990 Building Control Act to continue a practice of zero obligation to carrying out technical assessments and to proceed with current commitment to an undefined number of building inspections –no change there either.

We are being asked to believe that this legislation will create more work for architects, that our professional liability will not increase, that the Building Control Authority will do better and best of all that Contractor registration will come.

If the Minister is really serious about strengthening the Building Control System he can task the Building Control authorities to carry out independent inspection and review protocols similar to that operated in the UK. This system has been tried and tested and following review in 2012 has been confirmed to be the most cost effective solution for protecting the quality of the built environment. We would welcome it.

Deirdre Lennon MRIAI

Member of BReg Forum and candidate for RIAI Council Election 2014

15th December 2013

Thoughts on a way forward #bregs #ClaireMcManus

Claire McManus_MRIAI

Ireland should look to international experiences & best practice, and devise an effective system of Building Control that is suited to our culture, practices and legal system. A robust system must address eight major policy areas as set out by the World Bank:

Eight Critical Elements of a Building Regulatory Framework

PICTURE

The following analysis of international experience is drawn from the Wold Bank Group (2013), IRCC (2010) and the NCA (2012). The World Bank document was published this year as a roadmap on how to reform building regulations in order to drive cost-efficient robust systems, which have significant benefits to the entire economy.

The Irish system of Building Control is unique internationally. The Department of the Environment do not publish their statistics or their records of inspections, but their target is only one site visit to 12-15% of buildings. By way of comparison, there is a 100% inspection of all dwellings in the USA and in much of Europe.

AUSTRIA – First Build a Solid Foundation, Then Streamline the System

Austria’s building control system focuses on who can build rather than on the building: in other words, the builder rather than the building.

This system presents risks in that heavy reliance on practitioner licensing or “barriers to entry” can create impediments to progress or price increases during construction booms if not enough licensed practitioners are available to carry out the work. Systems that rely heavily on either professional designers and contractors or professional inspectors require strategies to deal with supply issues.

In Austria a strong foundation of transparency and professionalism has improved the regulatory system. Increased transparency improves developer and builder engagement, thereby increasing efficiency. Increased transparency also reduces public-sector discretion and the potential for corruption.

 

FRANCE – Private Liability and Insurance as the Main Drivers to Promote Compliance with Building Standards

Private Liability and Insurance as the Main Drivers to Promote Compliance with Building Standards The French system is one of only a few—if not the only—building regulatory systems driven by insurance. The United Kingdom system has some elements similar to those of the French system, in that private-sector third-party review bodies (approved inspectors) must be linked to a warranty provider for home inspections, but this requirement does not apply to non-residential building.

Independent and efficient courts have also been important elements in France’s reforms. The court system has not only regularly ruled to enforce the obligations of the constructors and insurance companies; it has actually expanded them over time through an extensive interpretation of the “fit for intended use” clause of the Civil Code. Emphasizing the liability of private parties may be a more powerful tool than state inspections to ensure compliance with building standards. Reform in France shows that leveraging the power of the market may be a stronger incentive than the fear of fines or sanctions.

 

NEW ZEALAND – A Focus on Building Control, Accountability, and Consumer Protection

Many countries have established service standards for local building authorities requiring them to have qualified persons on staff who can review building-permit applications within specified time frames. In many countries, however, medium- and small-sized municipalities lack technical capacity or resources to provide the level of service expected or, in some cases, required by legislation. New Zealand’s reform targeted improvements in the transition process for the accreditation of building consent authorities (BCAs). The BCAs were not ready to perform this new task, and their lack of preparation may have led to delays in many jurisdictions.

After improving the municipal service standard and enforcement, New Zealand turned to accountability and documentation and to improving the capacity of designers and contractors to comply with the code. The New Zealand Government has recognized that, while third-party enforcement is important, enhancing the capacity of designers and contractors and empowering the consumer through better information can have an even bigger impact on streamlining of and compliance with building control processes.

NORWAY – Trust But Verify—Norway’s Experiment with Self-Certification

In an effort to streamline its building-permit process while leaving code compliance to the professionals, Norway decided to embark on a bold and unique experiment by eliminating mandatory third-party inspections and relying on self-certification by licensed practitioners. Self-confirmation refers to a construction-permit system placing complete reliance on the project designer to comply with building-code requirements.

The self-certification experiment led to a more streamlined system but also to increases in building defects and reduced building safety. Norway decided to keep the system of self-certification, but it brought back mandatory third-party review for certain crucial building components. The third-party review by certified private inspectors focuses on certain structural, fire safety, and building envelope components.

The lesson drawn from Norway’s experience was that despite self-certification by licensed practitioners and oversight by municipalities, significant increases occurred in building defects and safety problems in the absence of third-party review of crucial building elements.

SINGAPORE Combining IT Solutions with Public-Private Collaboration to Achieve More Efficient Building Approvals

Electronic permitting systems can greatly contribute to efficiency for both the industry and regulators. Following IT-based reforms in Singapore, both developers and regulators have seen significant efficiency improvements.

The Building Control Department (now the Building and Construction Authority) was the clear leader of this initiative, and its leadership and the engagement of all stakeholders from the beginning were key elements of reform success. Subsidies to update IT capabilities and help desks and several seminars and workshops on technical assistance were fundamental in bringing building professionals up to speed on the system. After providing all this support, the government made online submission of processes and plans mandatory: no paper documents were permitted. This was necessary to induce the private sector to fully utilize the new system and to achieve real efficiency gains by avoiding a parallel paper system.

One of the most valuable lessons from Singapore’s experience is the importance of reorganizing the approval process before adopting IT solutions. Authorities met with the private sector and with the technical staff of each of the agencies to look for synergies and to create common standards to improve communications and information-sharing protocols among them. Only after this effort was the approval process automated.

UNITED KINGDOM – Public-Private Competition in Building Control

In an effort to provide builders with more choice and to stimulate competition, the United Kingdom has gradually opened up more opportunities for private-sector inspection agencies, known as approved inspectors. To compete with the private inspection agencies, some local building authorities have entered into partnerships with other local authorities, pooling their technical resources.

The introduction of the private-inspection option and, in particular, the expansion of private inspection in 2007, have resulted in more customer-focused, faster service. Competition among private-sector building control firms has stimulated innovations in public- and private-sector corporate organizations. In the private building control sector, competition has led to the coordination of building control and warranty inspections by firms offering both services. In addition, some corporations offering building control also provide expert design advice on matters such as fire service.

The U.K. experience also shows how difficult, perhaps impossible, it can be to establish a level playing field between public- and private-sector building control bodies. The two building control and inspection systems never really compete on equal footing.

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA – Competitive Building Control—Clarifying Roles, Ensuring Performance

Much like the United Kingdom, Victoria decided to give builders a private-inspector option. To implement this option, Victoria’s reforms included mandatory practitioner certification of designers, contractors, and public- and private-sector inspectors.

Lack of effective government monitoring of private surveyors, however, has left the system open to the criticism that it fails to protect the public by ensuring safety, competence, and compliance with the Building Act. Local government councils currently have no systematic review process for permits lodged by private building surveyors. Many local governments are unsure of their role in dealing with private surveyors, sometimes resulting in building works that do not meet basic standards. Consequently, the system needs further clarity on the role of local governments in dealing with private certifiers.

A key lesson to be drawn from Victoria’s experience is that greater reliance on private-sector inspections and on private practitioners’ compliance with regulations must also involve greater clarity regarding roles and responsibilities and additional performance auditing.

Sources:

Performance Based Building Regulatory Systems, IRCC 2010

Public Consultation – Draft Building Control (Amendment) Regulations, NCA 2012

Good Practices for Construction Regulation and Enforcement Reform, The World Bank 2013

Claire McManus MRIAI is an architect in private practice in Dublin & Tipperary

Inadequate Regulatory Impact Assessment for S.I.80

Audit-Checklist

To find out how one might effectively assess building control amendments we do not have to look far: the “Communities and Local Government: Proposed changes to the building control system – Consultation stage impact assessment” report was produced in the UK in 2012. You can read it here. The report comprehensively examines several options to revise and change the UK building control system. Their existing system, unlike ours, already has comprehensive local authority independent inspections with 80% backed by warranty.

The UK report included the Irish system as a option: light-touch, low-cost (to local authorities), self-certification, but discounted this early on due to cost to the consumer and to the wider industry. Making the system of building control simpler, leaner and more cost effective for society in general is clearly a motivating factor.

The UK is our closest model in terms of building standards, legislative system and environment. We are a fraction of the size of the UK, however our demographics are similar. One must wonder after reading this document, how the Department of the Environment, Communities & Local Government (DECLG) opted to continue with the most expensive form of building control for the industry, when a simple system of self-funded local authority independent inspections would improve building standards and save the industry tens of millions per year, while delivering a better standard of building generally and giving the consumer redress in the event of latent (hidden) defects?

Despite over 500 stakeholder submissions on S.I.80 received by the DECLG, no such study was carried out here. It appears that at no point in the consultation process or formation of S.I.80 have the impacts on SMEs, the industry and the consumer been considered in detail. The National Consumer Agency (NCA) estimates the extra cost to the Irish house building industry alone would be in the region of €30m- €90m per year (based on a sustainable level of 30,000 new dwelling units per year). The financial impact of S.I.80 on the wider industry is likely to be a multiple of this. With no comprehensive independent system of local authority building inspections, the effect of S.I.80 on building standards will not give the return for this extra cost to the industry, nor to the consumer. In their 2012 submission the Competition Authority express concern about “whether the additional costs imposed by the proposed regulations are in proportion to any benefit they might bring”

Worryingly, it would appear that the Department did not carry out a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) of the March 2013 wording of S.I.80. A very brief RIA was completed in 2012 and the lack of a follow-up would suggest some of the very significant changes introduced by the Minister in the March 2013 draft have not been comprehensively examined. The RIA produced by the department is included as part of the following document “Strengthening the Building Control System – A Document to inform public consultation on Draft Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2012“ . See document here

The Impact section (section 4) of the RIA is only six pages long and does not appear to be backed up with any research. For example, under the Section 4.6(i) Impact on National Competitiveness, the report makes the simple claim “There will be no negative impact on Ireland’s competitiveness”. The only costs noted is a notional cost per dwelling. Remarkably, the more significant insurance costs are excluded. This is an extraordinarily light assessment of a very significant amendment.

We do not need to look to the UK for examples of good impact assessment. The RIA of our own Construction Contracts Act 2013 (available here) and recent Health & Safety Legislation (available here) provide far more comprehensive analysis. Why has S.I.80 only had the most cursory impact assessment done on the 2012 draft and nothing since? Already three Senior Counsel legal opinions completed on the March 2013 draft of S.I.80 identified serious legal and practical issues associated with implementation, and all concurred that S.I.80 is unworkable in its current form. Given the wide-ranging effects on the construction industry, SMEs and the wider economy, it is remarkable that essential stress-testing has not been completed by the department.