Tag Archives: Building Regulations

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

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

Breaking News | BRegs Blog | Breaking Records

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We are temporarily dispensing with our one post a day limit to bring you the breaking news that this blog has just exceeded a quarter of a million views since starting a little over a year ago (see the little bean counter on the right)!

That is a phenomenal response for what is, let’s face it, a blog about building control and the BRegs Blog Admin team are very grateful for your ongoing support.

thank_you

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

Thoughts on a way forward #bregs #OrlaHegarty

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‘Certification and Insurance Plan’: An alternative approach to Inspection & Liability

 The reason that design professionals are concerned about responsibility for certification is that there is a tendency to think that certifying compliance with building regulations is ‘all things, for all time’, effectively a warranty on the entire building.

The public may think that architects are responsible for all matters on site and can control a perfect outcome. This is not the case- the standard expected of a professional architect is similar to that of a doctor or accountant- to exercise due, skill and care and to provide a professional service, not to guarantee the performance of others.

In my view, what is required is a Certification & Insurance Plan, not an Inspection Plan. The inspections, timing of inspections and record-keeping are matters for the contractual parties involved and are better dealt with through procurement arrangements and not as another piece of statutory administration.

The following is a proposal for certification and insurance arrangements. The key points are that Part C- Site Preparation and Part D- Materials and Workmanship are not relevant or appropriate to certification at Design Stage and must be the responsibility of the builder at Completion Stage. The Architect and Engineer do not prepare the site, do not order the materials and cannot control workmanship on site.

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In summary:

  • Design certificates are already issued by the Building Control Authority for Part B-Fire Safety and Part M- Access and Use. For simplicity, Part K- Stairways, Ladders, Ramps and Guards might easily be folded into Part M, due to the obvious overlaps; this would also eliminate some of the internal contradictions between the two standards.
  • Design certificates are currently issued by the Structural Engineer for Part A- Structure.
  • Design certificates could easily be added for Building Control Authority approval of BER calculations to demonstrate compliance with Part L- Conservation of Fuel and Energy. This might simply include elemental calculations for wall, roof, windows etc. on the basis of the Planning Permission drawings, without full specifications. The approvals could be sub-contracted from the Building Control Authorities out to the trained BER assessors.
  • Part E-Sound compliance is measurable at completion and could be covered with a design certificate from the architect.
  • Parts F- Ventilation, G- Hygiene, H- Waste Water & Drainage and Part J- Heat Producing Appliances could be codified and project specific to arrange the design compliance between consultants and installers. For example, design of the ventilation might be the architect for a house or a Services Engineer for a hospital, the number of sanitary appliances might be the responsibility of the architect but the drainage might be the engineer, etc.
  • Part C- Site Preparation and Moisture and Part D- Materials and Workmanship. It could be argued that these are not relevant to Design Certificates as they are ‘site’ matters and cannot be designed. In any case, workmanship, materials and site preparation are outside the control of the design team, which is why these are the areas of greatest concern for future liability.  If Parts C and D are excluded from the Design Certificate and become the responsibility of the contractor at completion, this would significantly improve practices on the site.

 

Following from this the LDI (Latent Defects Insurance) could similarly be codified to the certification plan for the various parts of the regulations. The parts that are measurable and that can be inspected (width of stairs, size of window, sound transmission, air-tightness etc) are easily checked at completion. The certification of the other parts are broken down further, depending on the project and the responsibilities allocated.

It also means that Part C and Part D might be covered by LDI without subrogation, as they are outside the remit of the designers PI. This would mean no recourse to the designers PI for defective materials or workmanship. In practice, this might mean that there is subrogation to the engineer for Part A, but not to the architect for Part M (unless the architect made a mistake in certifying that the Completion Certificate conformed with the approved Design Certificate). There would be no recourse to the architect for pyrites, for example, as checking every stone delivery is not the designers responsibility.

Breaking down the certification also gives clarity to the insurers to assess the risk. In order to determine the risk on a policy this table can be used to measure risk against previous claims. More importantly, future policies can factor in the contractors performance, which is a real incentive to improve site practices as it would drive down insurance costs.

Omitting Part C and Part D from the Design Certificate would also bring the Regulations in line with the Construction Products Regulations, which now require all materials to be in compliance with the EU standards. The architect/ engineer can specify materials but has no control over ordering and deliveries. By making ‘materials and workmanship’ the responsibility of the contractor there is a disincentive to cutting corners and a requirement on the contractor to maintain records. (This alone would have significantly helped to reduce the scale of the pyrite problem).

This system would require a ‘Certification  & Insurance Plan’ at the outset rather than an ‘Inspection Plan’. The advantage of a Certification Plan is that it would overcome all of the difficulties with non-traditional methods of procurement and it would allow insurers an involvement at the early stage of a project, when risks can more easily be mitigated.

Orla Hegarty B.Arch. MRIAI RIBA is Course Director for the Professional Diploma (Architecture) at the School of Architecture, UCD

Thoughts on a way forward #bregs #JoanO’Connor

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The Obligations of the State

The involvement of the State in the protection of the interests of its citizens is a legitimate expectation and is an obligation of Government in a civil society. The State cannot abdicate its responsibilities to purchasers and users of property and there are means by which Government could control design and construction quality analogous to the operations of the Revenue Commissioners and their use of licensed auditors as a means of discharging the State’s functions in the control and oversight of business.

What is needed is a State-sponsored, self-funding independent inspection system which is credible and authoritative.

Consumer Needs

The consumer – particularly the house owner – must have easy access to a speedy means of resolving significant defects emerging in recently-completed property [particularly the home] at minimum, collateral costs. The current, Courts-based solution is slow, expensive and adversarial, even if a “mark” is found in the end.

The consumer – e.g. house purchaser – should have access to a guarantee, backed by insurance, to which he has immediate access to deal with legitimate complaints regarding defects. This guarantee – sometimes called latent defects insurance – can be provided, at minimal additional cost which would be carried by the Developer.

Such a guarantee would be mandatory and form part of the chain of conveyance and mortgage funding. LDI brings with it the following advantages in the campaign for better building:

  • Better builders will get insurance cheaper, based on track record, and thus will be able to sell more competitively.
  • Bad builders may be unable to get such insurance, ruling them out of the market.
  • The insurers carry out their own design reviews and site inspections, appropriate to the type of project and the risk profile of the building : another, experienced set of eyes looking at the project.

Increased Complexity of Building in Ireland

A multiplicity of approvals and certificates now required to build and there are numerous appointments to made for all building endeavours – whereas the obligations of the main parties to a building contract with regard to building standards are simple – to design and to build in compliance with the Building Regulations – and this encompasses everything – fire, thermal performance, disability access, structural stability, etc.

Appointments include architect, engineers, QS – PSDS, PSCS, Design Certifier, Assigned Certifier [and statutory notifications of such appointments where required]. Approvals, plans, certificates and consents will now include –

Planning Permission [separate regime].

  • Fire Safety Certificate : €2.90 per sq.m., €12,500 max.
  • Commencement Notice
  • 7-Day Notice : €5.80 per sq.m., €25,000 max.
  • Regularisation FSC : €11.60 per sq.m., €50,000 max.
  • Disability Access Certificate [excluding houses] – €800 plus fees, no time limit for issue.
  • Notice of Assigned Certifier [by Building Owner]
  • Undertaking by Assigned Certifier
  • Notice of Assignment of Builder [by Building Owner]
  • Undertaking by Builder
  • Design Certificate – submission of details, full drawings and specifications to BCA
  • Health and Safety Plan
  • Safety File
  • Preliminary Inspection Plan
  • Inspection Plan
  • Completion Certificate by Assigned Certifier and Builder [and acceptance thereof by the Building Control Authority – “BCA”].

Registration of Builders

Notices issued by Building Employer states that the Owner is satisfied that the person or firm appointed is/are competent to undertake the works …. How is a consumer building a house, or indeed a small shop-owner carrying out some alterations – supposed to know whether a builder is competent or not? The response might be that a check of the Builder’s Register should be adequate but such a register is not in place and will not be in place until 2015 at the earliest.

A voluntary register of builders is a nonsense. Registration with teeth needs statutory backing and would take at least two years to develop. It necessitates the establishment of a registration board, standards and codes of practice, grievance procedures, codes of conduct and the like so that there is fair procedure in the event of a challenge to a builder’s registration.

Registration as a system of recognition or public endorsement is more suited to the individual trader or practitioner – or a single, small firm whose entire activities can readily be encompassed and/or understood. It is less suitable for large, multi-faceted contracting firms with multiple employees of wide-ranging skill levels.

Licensing of contractors could be more appropriate, with builders ranked by competence for projects of varying sizes and complexities. A licence would last for –say – three years and might also be used to exempt firms from pre-qualification procedures or to, de facto, pre-qualify them. There would, obviously, have to be control and complaints procedures of some kind.

The Underlying Purpose of Building Regulations

The primary purpose of Building Regulations is to provide for the health, safety and welfare of people in and around buildings.

Some Impacts of S.I.80

S.I.80 is primarily intended to remedy problems in the speculative residential sector but applies to all buildings and material alterations or extensions to existing buildings, including office and factory fit-outs.

Delays to projects planned to start in early 2014, increased costs – already acknowledged by Government, and protracted procedures at completion and handover, often a critical time for new business or business processes.

Building and construction investment forecast to increase by 5% this year and 7.2% in 2014, subject to conditions – an end to a 6-year decline. But regulatory bottlenecks are cited as a risk – and this is the biggest, avoidable hurdle.

Risks to the Government’s capital programme, including schools recently announced.

Reliance on Professionals’ Insurance

P.I. insurance needs to be in place when damage occurs and/or a claim is made. It is no use if the Assigned Certifier has retired [or been let go] , if his PI has lapsed for reasons of cost or whatever.

The PI insurer will cast his eye around the multiple players in the building works and will sue them all on the basis of joint and several liability whereby one, insured actor with even a minimal liability for the damage can be made to carry all of the costs, even for culpable parties who are no longer in business – “the last man standing”. As architects carry PI insurance, they are often that last man [or woman].

A Way Forward?

Dare we look aim for a radical overhaul of the system to simplify the administrative aspects of building control to focus on essentials such as education, inspection and insurance?

Joan O’Connor, President of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland 1994-1995

Government Reports & Professional Opinion Ignored in S.I.80

As Minister Hogan prepares to sign off on the final wording of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations, we take a look at some of the government commissioned reports and the professional opinion that were ignored in the design of S.I.80.

Government Commissioned Reports:

The National Consumer Agency (2012): “the NCA would point to the undesirability of a situation arising whereby one entity could design, build, inspect and certify a building while no inspection by a Building Control Authority takes place.. Should a consumer purchase a dwelling become aware of non-compliance with building regulations, and bring the issue to the notice of the relevant Building Control Authority, the legislation allows the consumer to be designated as the party responsible for bringing the dwelling into a state of compliance. Consideration should be given to providing means by which responsibility for bringing a building up to a compliant state rests with the party responsible for the non-compliance in the first place”

The Pyrite Panel 2012: “…the Panel recommends that the system of independent inspections, carried out by the building control officers, should be strengthened to complement the mandatory certification process for buildings.. Project-related insurance whereby cover for each specific project is available and adequate and is related to the project only”

The Competition Authority 2012: “These concerns are (a) whether the proposed regulations would, in fact, afford proper protection to citizens, (b) whether the additional costs imposed by the proposed regulations are in proportion to any benefit they might bring, and (c) whether placing the onus for compliance on certain individuals involved in the construction process, rather than on an independent arm of the State, is appropriate”

The National Disability Authority 2006: “The findings of the Rogerson (2005) research and DoEHLG’s own 2003 survey suggest the need for vigilant on-site inspection for compliance with accessibility requirements. The provision of Disability Access Certificates does not preclude the requirement for strengthened enforcement and on-site inspection of buildings against Part M”

Chief Fire Officers Association Conference 2012: “Better Paperwork does not mean Better or Safer buildings!”

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland 2013: “It is believed that Latent Defects Insurance (LDI) would provide a cost-effective means of providing long-term protection for the recovery of the costs of repairing or replacing works following discovery of a latent defect. The insured party does not need to prove negligence and defects would be covered even were the contractor company is no longer in existence. Given the complexity involved in contractors individually providing their own policies, there would be a clear benefit in having a single LDI policy, where all works carried out under the Scheme were covered by a single provider, offering a single point of contact for claimants at an optimal cost.”

Professional & Registration Bodies:

The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland 2013: “Registration of builders must be part of the new system.. It is essential that the new monitoring and inspection systems provide for planned and random audits – on a risk analysis basis – of the documentation submitted to a local authority before building work actually commences, as well as inspection of buildings during construction… If such systems of inspection and analysis by building control authorities are not in place, then the danger remains of shoddy building practices continuing with consequent risks to the consumer”

Engineers Ireland 2012: “An appropriately strong and active inspection/auditing function being delivered by the appropriate state authorities is equally critically important in strengthening the existing Building Control System”

The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland 2013: “The regulations do not address the Building Control Authority’s side of the equation and it will also be incumbent on the Government to ensure that appropriate review of operations occurs in this respect.” Alan Isdell, Surveyors Journal 2013

Home-owners will be no better off at the next “Priory Hall”

In 2014 a builder-developer purchases a site. He commissions an architect to make a planning application for an apartment block, which is granted by the local authority. The builder-developer has in-house professionals and he appoints one of these “Assigned Certifier” to inspect the site under the new regulations. The certifier  uploads the required number of drawings and documents to the local authority IT system. The local authority do not look at any of these files, nor do they ever visit the site during the course of the build. The building is therefore built in exactly the same manner as it might have been built over the boom with internal controls only, no external Local Authority controls.

The apartments are put on the market in 2015 and Mr. & Mrs. Ryan purchase one. Four years later cracks in the building begin to appear. Investigations are completed at the apartment owners’ expense by the management company. Experts announce that major remedial works will be required. The Ryans have to move out of their apartment. They must find the money to fix the problems and sue the builder and the certifier.

Meanwhile the builder-developer has gone into liquidation. As a result, the certifer lost his job and the PI insurance was cancelled. This needed to be in place when the problems appear to be of any use. Who is going to pay to fix the problem?  Is the only hope to gather public support and ask the government to step in?

Has S.I.80 changed anything for Mr. & Mrs. Ryan?

Is there an alternative?

A system of independent checks and inspections on the site would have prevented this situation from arising in the first place. If there was a problem, the local authority could have required the builder to fix the problem or taken him to court before the apartments were sold. Had hidden (latent) defects later appeared, state operated Latent Defects Insurance (LDI) would pay for the repairs immediately. The insurance company would then go on to sue the builder and the professionals, keeping the Ryans out of court.

The UK System of Building Control

As we discuss the adequacy of the new building control amendment, it might be useful to look at systems in other countries. For the purposes of this post we have focused on the Building Control system in England and Wales (The differences in Northern Ireland and Scotland are addressed at the end of the document).

The Building Regulations in England and Wales are set by the Communities and Local Government (CLG).

You have two choices over who supplies your Building Control service:

1. The Local Authority Building Control section or

2. Independent ‘Approved Inspectors’

The Approved inspectors are relatively recent (since the Building Act 1984) and are licensed by the Construction Industry Council For further details on the Approved Inspectors CLICK HERE

Once you have chosen your preferred Building Control service you then have two routes to ensure you are building in accordance with the Building Regulations. When using the Local Authority Building Control method the options are:

1. Full Plans Approval

a. You submit all the construction drawings, details and specifications for inspection/checking.

b. You are then informed of any defects/amendments that need to be addressed in order to receive approval. You can receive a conditional approval where items can be addressed prior to work commencing.

For more information on the Full Plans method CLICK HERE

2. Building Notice

a. You give minimum 48 hours notice to the Local Authority of your intention to build. There is an inherent risk in proceeding in this way as you do not have the benefit of ‘approved’ plans.

For more information on Building Notice method CLICK HERE

Inspections

It is a requirement of the Building Regulations that the builder notifies the Local Authority Building Control section at various stages of the work; this triggers an inspection to ensure the work is carried out at that stage correctly. Failure to give such notice may mean that you are required to break open and expose the work at a later date.

There are minimum days on the required notice that you are required to give (normally on cards provided for this process); for details on the minimum notices and for further information on these site inspections CLICK HERE

The method if you use an Approved Inspector is slightly different in that you and the Approved Inspector jointly notify the Local Authority Building Control Section of your intention to build in an ‘Initial Notice’. Once this notice is accepted, the plans and site inspections are then checked, inspected and approved by the Approved inspector.

Completion Certificate

On completion the Local Authority Building Control Section or the Approved Inspector will issue a final completion certificate stating that the works have been constructed in accordance with the Building Regulations.

Northern Ireland and Scotland

The Approved Inspector route exists only in England and Wales and not in Northern Ireland or Scotland where you only have the Local Authority Building Control Route, although independent inspectors are envisaged in Scotland.

In Scotland the Building Regulations approval to build is called a Building Warrant. The design is approved by the local authority and the architect ‘self-certifies’ that the approved design has been built, at the end of the construction process. All newly built and newly converted dwellings are backed by designated warranty schemes (insurance) as in England and Wales.

In Northern Ireland, there is a full system of local authority inspections for all stages of all projects, even small domestic works. More information is available at http://www.buildingcontrol-ni.com/

You can read more about the systems in Scotland and Northern Ireland in the Irish Consumer Agency/ Grant Thornton Report ‘Building Regulations and their Enforcement’ available at http://corporate.nca.ie/eng/Research_Zone/Reports/Home_Construction/NCA-Home-construction-Volume-5.pdf

A special thanks to Geoff Wilkinson at TheBuildingInspector.org (Approved England and Wales Approved Building Inspectors)

Meath Apartment evacuations could have been avoided, but S.I.80 will not ensure compliance #bregs #MichaelCollins

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Image: The Irish Times

The core issue is that we have had no proper Building Control in Ireland for over 20 years.  The reality is exemplified by the news this morning that another group of unfortunate residents have to leave their apartments which, it was reported on RTE, were constructed without obtaining a fire safety certificate.  That is a breach of the building regulations and people are entitled to ask how could that happen?  The answer is simple.  The Local Authorities did not have the resources in many cases to pursue such things but, more significantly, they have repeatedly claimed that they cannot bring successful enforcement proceedings in the courts because of the defects the current Building Control Act. You would expect that this would be the first thing to be fixed in any revision to the Building Regulations.  In fact, there is nothing in the new regulations (which are to come into effect in March 2014) that will address that issue. This brings us back to the reality that the State is intent on continuing with the “hands off”, “light touch”, “self-regulation” which has failed so spectacularly!  We will continue to have Building Control Authorities who can’t control.

Michael Collins, President of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland 1986/87