BRegs Blog

A blog to debate the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations (BCAR): The BRegs Blog presents an opportunity for free expression of opinion on BCAR and their implementation. The blog is not representative of any professional body or organisation. Each post represents the personal opinion of that contributor and does not purport to represent the views of all contributors.

Category: Irish Building Control

“The Assigned Certifier is the one in the lion’s den” Rory O’Donnell, solicitor

by Bregs Blog admin team

rory

Rory O’Donnell, solicitor, is a former president of the Dublin Solicitors Bar Association, a former vice-president of the Law Society and a consultant to the Law Society’s Conveyancing Committee. He was the main author of the Law Society Practice note ‘Update on Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 issued in April.

In an interesting and very comprehensive interview Mr O’Donnell explains to “Self build and Improve Your Home” magazine (Winter 2014) what the future holds for the industry under BC(A)R SI.9. See complete online version of the magazine here (link to pages here- see pages 36- 41 inclusive).

Extract from article:

When CIRI becomes mandatory:

“according to the legislation, if the register is mandatory then the builder will have to be on the register, so unless the [self-building] owner is able to get on the register (among other things, the requirements include having previously worked on three projects) they will not be able to sign the statutory forms. Even if they were willing to sign the statutory forms I doubt that they would be able to get an Assigned Certifier to work with them. What this implies is that the owner will have to appoint a builder other than himself.”

On Completion Stage invalidations:

“This would be a potential disaster area for any property owner. The legal process is very unwieldy for taking action in these cases and while a claim for expenses may arise, that can often be a long, hard road. Every effort should be taken to ensure that this does not happen.”

On Architectural Technologists:

“Unless and until Architectural Technologists are formally recognised I do not see how anyone could recommend appointing someone, no matter how competent, with such a qualification in any important role  in connection with a building project to which these regulations apply.”

On claims to be made under the new regulations:

If there is a major problem, the person that is most likely to be sued is the Assigned Certifier. On the other hand as mentioned, solicitors will almost certainly advise that action be taken against all members of a team that could possibly be liable for a problem.

If  CIRI becomes mandatory, who will be liable for faulty work undertaken by a self-builder?”

Before and after the most likely person to be held to account is the Assigned Certifier because his work is the most onerous part of the project. The Assigned Certifier is the one in the lion’s den.

Other Law Society Posts:

S.I. 9 | Your Questions for the Law Society

Law Society : Certifier is single point of responsibility

Law Society of Ireland Update on BC(A)R SI.9 | BRegs Blog

Law Society response to self-builders

Self builders escalate to Law Society: BC(A)R SI.9 

New Law Society Guidance Note on BC(A)R SI.9

BC(A)R SI.9 and Law Society of Ireland? 

Other posts of interest:

S.I.9 – Where are we now? 27 October 2014 

Design Certifier | RIAI advise separate appointment

SCSI: SI9 is “positive change”

3 must-read posts for employees

SI9 Schedule of duties for Certifiers

SI.9 costs for a typical house

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

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

Commencement notice problems | Does size matter?

by Bregs Blog admin team

Megaphone

The following opinion piece was submitted by a Registered Architect.

Opinion- Commencement notice problems (the 40 sq. metre issue)

The BRegs Blog has on a number of occasions referred to reports of Building Control Officers invalidating commencement notices, which building owners believed were perfectly valid, and acting in a fashion  which readers suggested were not supported by the legislative wordings.

This was becoming most apparent in the whole issue of whether the full measures of S.I.9  itself applied in full, or whether a reduced commencement notice submission was required.

Eight months into the workings of S.I.9, the BCMS (the content management system, and not as we were led to believe in their responses to us in May, the arbitrator of what is valid or not) have published advice on the most contentious distinction – that relating to the requirement to invoke the full S.I.9 for domestic extensions greater than 40 sq metres.

The advice is published on the BCMS site itself, as follows : -

“QUESTION: Can you clarify the circumstances in which an extension to a dwelling comes within the scope of the requirements for statutory certification under the Building Control Regulations?

ANSWER: In the case of an extension to a dwelling, the requirements for statutory certification of design and construction in line with the Building Control Regulations apply when the total extended area of the dwelling exceeds 40 square metres.   Every new dwelling has a permitted area determined by its planning permission.   Any works which extend the building by more than 40 square metres beyond this permitted area must be certified.

The regulations refer to the total extended area because separate extensions can be added to different areas of a building at the same time or different times.  It is therefore not possible to avoid certification requirements by building a series of small extensions each of which is less than 40 square metres but which together give a combined extended area greater than 40 square metres.”

There must now be real  anxiety, that based on the proposed BCMS advice, that professionals, acting in good faith, and having read the S.I.9 legislation carefully, have submitted and had validated the wrong commencement notice – and by the implications of the BCMS advice, these people now have projects under construction illegally on site!

It is reasonable to complain that it is not possible to  see any comment whatever relating to previous extensions or the like in the S.I.9 legislation.

One colleague has suggested that the Breg Blog put an open call out to readers as to whether their already submitted projects are compromised by this, and to see if we can assemble data on the matter.

Another reader has told me she cannot find  where the “regulations refer to the total extended area” and if readers can find this, or any wording in the legislation which supports the BCMS interpretation [BReg Blog Admin Team note: If readers can find this Breg Blog would be happy to publish it].

But in short, and following the BRegs post earlier in the summer, it does seem, from the point of view of the BCMS at least – that, yes SIZE MATTERS ! You may need an Assigned Certifier to build a porch !!!

No doubt Local Authorities are relishing the opportunity of using careful resources policing all of this !

Will bouncy castles be next ? Or tree houses ?

Other points of interest:

Legal Alert | Commencement Notices since 1st March 2014 

Catch 22 Commencements 

Owners may need a Certifier for a Porch?

“Dangling Participles” and why all extensions may now require compliance with S.I.9: 2014

Help Required | Dept. of the Environment | Deadline Monday 3rd November 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team

SSCOVER1.pdf [Converted]

 Help Required | Dept. of the Environment | Deadline 3rd November

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) are inviting submissions from the public to help inform the development of their future Strategy on or by 3 November 2014. This review will include Building Control. Link to request for submissions here.

In the previous Statement of Strategy 2011-2014 the DECLG wrote:  “We will examine what services could be converged between two or more local authorities, such as technology support, human resources and fire services. We will introduce a single national building inspectorate service.

Link to previous statement PDF here: DECLG Statement oF Strategy 2011- 2014

It is important that the DECLG receives informed submissions from industry and consumers on the impacts of S.I.9 to date. Any suggestions as to how to address current issues such as costs, delays, the exclusion from the register of professionals etc. should be submitted. This is a great opportunity to try and contribute to future strategy.

Given the many negative impacts on the construction sector and in particular building commencements since the introduction of S.I.9  an immediate review of the current building control system would seem to be imperative.

In light of the above we note that one of the proposed motions at this Tuesday’s RIAI EGM  is one that asks for a proper Regulatory Impact Assessment to be completed for S.I.9 and immediate industry-wide review of the new regulation.

This would be of great benefit to the Minister for the Environment  in the context of this immediate call-out for submissions. Submissions can encompass all areas of our built environment, not just building standards. Topics can be planning, housing supply, social housing, self-building, Part L and sustainability issues, water policy and harvesting etc.

Please feel free to send any submissions to BRegs Blog also where we will consider all material for publication.

RIAI EGM Motion No. 3 is shown below:

ORDINARY_RESOLUTION_3

Extract off DECLG website:

“Call for Submissions – Statement of Strategy 2015 – 2017

The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government is currently preparing its Statement of Strategy for the three-year period from 2015 to 2017.

The Department’s new Statement of Strategy will serve as a framework for it’s work during the three year period.  The current Statement of Strategy (pdf 1,737kb)can be found here.

The Department is inviting submissions in relation to its Strategy Statement to be received by close of business on Monday, 3 November 2014.

Submissions should be emailed to: strategystatement@environ.ie or sent in writing to:
Statement of Strategy
Strategic and Business Support Unit
Department of Environment, Community and Local Government
Newtown Road
Wexford

Please note that in the interests of transparency, all written submissions received will be publicly posted on the website of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government after Monday, 3 November 2014.

Previous Strategy Statements

Statement of Strategy 2011 – 2014 (pdf, 1,737kb)

Statement of Stragey 2008 – 2010 (pdf, 1,917kb)

Statement of Strategy 2008-2010 (html)

Statement of Strategy 2005-2007 (pdf, 1,101kb)

Statement of Strategy 2005-2007 (doc, 531kb)

Statement of Strategy 2003-2005 (pdf, 1,271kb)

Statement of Strategy 2001-2004 (pdf, 169kb)

Statement of Strategy 1998-2001 (pdf, 189kb)

Senators ask Minister to Revoke SI.9 (2 of 4)

by Bregs Blog admin team

seat-table

Calls to revoke SI.9 have come from County Councils, the Dáil, Seanad, along with Oireachtas Committees.

A Motion proposed by Senator Mark Daly and seconded by Senator Darragh O’Brien was debated on Thursday, 10th April 2014. The debate was directed at the the making of better construction regulations in response to the Priory Hall and Pyrites scandals. The motion was “That Seanad Eireann resolves that Statutory Instrument No 105 of 2014. Building Control (amendment) regulations 2014 be annulled.

It turned out to be a robust Seanad debate on the new regulation, which resulted in numerous senators adding to the calls to revoke SI.9. Many will remember the debate where there were exchanges between Senators and the former Minister about the fitness for purpose of the new regulations.

See post on Seanad Debate: SI.9 (SI.105) here, for transcript click here.

Numerous senators voiced opposition to the new regulations and called on former Minister Hogan to revoke SI.9. Here are some extracts:

Senator David Norris:  “If the government introduces regulation and then exempts some of its own operations from those regulations there is something very fishy going on…

The certificate does not contemplate fraud, concealment…set up an artificial paper trail … self certification does not work…no requirement for the building control to check design or the work…the architect used to be able to rely on the advise of consultants, now the architect is solely responsible. We’re actually going to criminalise architects.

an honest architect can be trapped by dishonesty and he can still become a criminal…500 to 8 voted that this was a dangerous proposal

…ancillary certificates cannot be relied upon, so offer no protection for the architect…the certificates do not have let out clauses for fraud, dishonesty or concealment…I am very very worried about what the impact of the introduction of these regulations will be.

…this won’t protect the consumer”

Minister Hogan: “professional bodies making outlandish quotations…not allow any body to think this will be an easy way to financial extortion, make easy money…There is a not a majority of architects against  these proposals, the majority are in favour of these proposals… in fact the former president of the RIAI, Michelle Fagan is on the oversight group that is monitoring all of these regulations and has come out in support of these regulations.

…in the past…professionals, particularly architects.. signed off on buildings without even seeing them…people should be able to do this for a modest amount of money.. an average of €3000 in rural areas”

On 16th April after the Seanad Debate Senator Paschal Mooney wrote to former Minister Phil Hogan on behalf of the Irish Association of Self Builders (IAOSB). The IAOSB separately had written a letter of complaint to the Minister and have requested a formal investigation into statements made in the Seanad (see post here). Senator Money concluded by requesting the Minister to instigate an immediate review of SI.9 taking account of the issues relating to the self build sector. Read post here: Senator Paschal Mooney, Minister Hogan and Seanad debate

At recent EGM and AGM held by the representative body for architects (RIAI) it was suggested that asking the Minister to revoke SI.9 was inappropriate and that members would not be listened to by the Department and the Minister. Architects would ‘loose their seat at the table’.

Members of the RIAI should click on the Senate Debate link to hear plenty of passionate and reasoned debate on the matter in the Seanad, where it appears a consensus exists that SI.9 is defective and should be revoked.

Senators like David Norris and Mark Daly would agree that the table is not a place to be seated and say nothing- rather it is a place to give voice to your opinion. And the opinions of the people they represent. The people they should look after- the consumer.

Other posts of interest: 

3 County Councils ask Minister to Revoke SI.9

Complaint to Minister re Seanad Debate: BC(A)R SI.9 (SI.105)

Seanad SI.9 (SI.105) Motion Thursday 10th April

Senator Paschal Mooney, Minister Hogan and Seanad debate 

Architectural Technologist: Minister “disrespectful and misleading” in Seanad

Senator Mooney letter to Minister Phil Hogan

Going through the motions at speed – Independent.ie

Press piece: Co Council votes to scrap BC(A)R S.I. 9

Press Piece: Fingal Councillors call to end BC(A)R SI.9 

Commencement Notice issues

by Bregs Blog admin team

Mass-Confusion

There has been a lot of discussion (some heated!) over the last few days about the legality of small house extensions carried out by home owners since March 2014 based on their floor area. This is as a result of revised advice, in relation to S.I.9, issued by the BCMS and the RIAI last Friday (link here).

Unfortunately there is also another significant problem with S.I.9 involving Short Form Commencement Notices that seems to have gone largely unnoticed but its impact will be just as serious with similar conveyancing and financing problems for homeowners as with the potential floor area problem.

On 12th May the RIAI issued an advice note* to members (see link here). On 19th May the RIAI issued a further advice note* to Practices  about Short Form Commencement Notices lodged between 1 March and 19 May 2014. This was contrary to the advice issued just one week earlier on 12 May.

The RIAI Practice Advice* is evidence that for the first 11 weeks of S.I.9, Local Authorities issued and validated the wrong form for Short Form Commencement Notices (seemingly unaware that S.I.9 required them to be in the new format signed by the building owner). This was compounded by the fact that BCMS was not set up for Short Forms so each of the 34 Building Control departments were working in the dark. The leaflet issued by the Department at the time was unclear (link here)

If you were involved with such a project what should you do now?

Home-owners should be advised that this issue has not been resolved and even where the local authority confirmed a Short form Commencement Notice as valid between 1 March and 19 May 2014 the extension may not be in compliance with the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014. As there are no remedies in S.I.9 there is no going back to rectify administrative errors and genuine mistakes.

Note: The BCMS have little advice for anyone who may have inadvertently failed to submit the correct Commencement Notice, where applicable, for building work carried out since the 1st March 2014. The BCMS advice is that it is up to the building owner to submit proposals for how they intend to regularise the situation to the relevant Building Control Authority.

*PDF of RIAI advice (12th and 19th May): RIAI BCAR ADVICE 12 + 19 MAY 2014

Other posts relevant to this topic:

Legal Alert | Commencement Notices since 1st March 2014 

Invalid “short form” commencement notices: BC(A)R SI.9 | BRegs Blog

CATCH 22 COMMENCEMENTS

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE- Local Authority advice | BRegs Blog

Practical Post 10: No retrospective compliance – BC(A)R SI.9 

NOTE: This series of posts is not meant to undermine or be in opposition to any professional advice from registered representative bodies: rather it is to offer additional technical aids to those that find themselves in the position of having to deal with SI.9 in it’s current form at present. As with all information posted on the Blog we urge all practitioners to check with their respective professional bodies before assuming any roles or duties under Building Control (Amendment) regulation (SI.9 of 2014). We hope to post a number of these posts and list in one area, so home owners, SME’s and professionals can drop in and click on a particular topic to get summary information that may be useful to them while working under the new regulations. 

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

delayed-1.gif [Converted]By Bregs Blog admin on 30th October 2014

Despite the special exemption (aka ‘derogation’) from Building Control Regulations for some pressing public sector building projects it would appear that S.I.9 is continuing to have an impact on capital budgets and programmes, particularly, on schools. See this recent Independent article here.

Quote:

the Building Section in the Department of Education and Skills has been under severe pressure over the past six months because of the new building regulations as have been architects, structural engineers and quantity surveyors, and that 60 new school building projects similar to the New Ross project have been stalled

Earlier in the year TD’s like Kevin Humphries were particularly active in asking various Government Departments if any  assessment had been made of the cost impact of S.I.9 on capital budgets at the time of its introduction in March 2014. Many did not reply. However the Department of Education was quick to get former Minister Phil Hogan to introduce a part deferral or ‘derogation’ for educational and health  projects already in progress. Despite this, since its introduction on 7th March, only a handful of school projects have availed of the process, known as S.I. 105 as it is quite onerous and lengthy.

This will not come as welcome news to contractors and members of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF). We note delayed capital projects is normally a hot topic for the CIF, whose members turnover is affected by any delayed government capital spending.

Issues associated with the new regulations include additional construction costs and delays, vague and conflicting wording in the regulations, legal uncertainty, concerns regarding liability and consumer benefit, huge additional consultant and contractor costs, additional red-tape and industry readiness have beset the introduction and roll-out. Reduced residential output and falling commencement levels post-implementation have been masked somewhat due to the upturn in the commercial sector in Dublin. Two cohorts remain seriously affected by S.I.9: self-builders who are effectively banned under the new regulation, and Architectural Technologists whose income and livelihoods are seriously impacted upon by their exclusion from privately run statutory registers of professionals allowed to undertake new roles.

However for rural based contractors delays in public projects such as schools i.e. ‘bread and butter’ projects, will be of serious concern.

Other posts of interest:

Public Sector projects – is SI9 necessary?

Time needed for School Certifier 

Jobs in Construction

Drop in Commencements

3 County Councils ask Minister to Revoke SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

IMG_3531

“The BC(A)R train has left the station!”

3 County Councils ask Minister to Revoke SI.9 (1 of 4)

Wexford Co. Council recently voted to call on the Minister for the Environment to revoke SI.9. In an article in the Independent newspaper “Going through the motions at speed” on 30th September 2014, it was noted that the motion to “Revoke Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 – Statutory Instrument Number 9” was unanimously approved by Wexford Co. Council.

Wexford is now the third County Council to formally write to the Minister of the Environment formally to revoke S.I.9. Co. Wicklow was the first county council to do this (see post below). In April 2014 Wexford Co. Councillors voted to write to the Minister for the Environment to request that once-off houses be exempt form the new BC(A)R SI.9 regulations.

Sligo Co. Council went one step further and passed a council motion to formally write to the Minister to revoke SI.9. The motion “I, Councillor Thomas Healy, now table a Motion to call on the Minister of the Environment, Community & Local Government, Phil Hogan, to revoke the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 – Statutory Instrument Number 9” was passed on 7th July 2014. (see self-build post below).

There is widespread disapproval of former Minister Hogan’s Building Regulation S.I.9.  In April 2014, Fingal Councillors called for S.I.9 to be reversed (see previous post below).

Councillors in Dublin City Council and Donegal, Kerry and Kildare Co. Councils are currently discussing the effects of S.I.9 on house building. Numerous Co. Councillors have responded positively to the continuing nationwide campaign by self-builders confirming they will be taking the motion to revoke S.I.9 forward for a formal vote.

At a  recent EGM of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), opposition to a motion to revoke S.I.9 appeared revolve around one issue- whether it was ‘appropriate’ to ask for this at the moment and if it might offend the Minister and his Department.

At the subsequent AGM of the RIAI, a meeting between RIAI CEO, John Graby, President Robin Mandal and Minister Alan Kelly was discussed. The impression given was that robust representations of members’ concerns somehow would be ‘inappropriate’. Proponents of this position previously suggested that asking for S.I.9 to be revoked would be like ‘blowing up the tracks’ and risking the minister’s door being shut in architects’ faces.

This silent acceptance of S.I.9, with all its obvious flaws, is not unique to the leadership and staff of the RIAI. It seems to be mirrored in other key stakeholder representative bodies, all keen not to upset the status quo, stick their heads over the parapet or voice members genuine concerns more robustly.

It is interesting to note a growing number of local politicians, consumer groups, Senators and elected members of the Dáil hold a very different view of the building regulations. Or ask any self-builder or Architectural Technologist what they think……

Other posts of interest:

Going through the motions at speed – Independent.ie

Press piece: Co Council votes to scrap BC(A)R S.I. 9

S.I. 9 | Self-builders – 6 months’ update 

Press Piece: Fingal Councillors call to end BC(A)R SI.9 

Problems with role of Design Certifier: BC(A)R SI.9

Building Control Officers need help! BC(A)R SI.9

Design Certifier | RIAI advise separate appointment

by Bregs Blog admin team

Dr. Philip Lee (Philip Lee Solicitors), Joe Millar (RIAI)

Joe Miller – RIAI  Practice Director

Design Certifier | RIAI advise separate appointment

The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) has recently clarified a key element of the new Building Control (Amendment) Regulations i.e. that the Design Certifier must have a separate agreement with the building owner (even if the Design Certifier is also the Architect and/or the Assigned Certifier).

Speaking to ‘Self Build & Improve Your Home’ magazine (link to magazine here- see page 130) RIAI Practice Director, Joe Miller, is quoted as saying that “while registered architects will continue to use the standard contract for their design services, the additional time and risk associated with signing off on the design could translate into additional costs. Indeed the RIAI is advising architects to use a separate appointment for the Design Certifier role (and if appointed as such, the Assigned Certifier role)” [emphasis by BRegs Blog]

Firms that are appointed corporately as the architects for a building project will need to name an individual from among their employees, in the separate appointments as Design Certifier and Assigned Certifier (if taking on these roles). For the professional this brings clarity to an issue that has caused much confusion since 1 March this year. This advice for a separate appointment (to that of the architect) coincides with similar advice issued recently by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland on the same subject.

However it may not bring much clarity to building owners who now have to make at least five* separate appointments for a simple domestic extension or commercial fit-out. They must be wondering why an initiative intended to improve on-site standards in the construction industry has in reality just meant more and more paperwork and increased costs.

*Architect, Design Certifier, Assigned Certifier, Project Supervisor Design Process, Project Supervisor Construction Stage and competent builder.

Jpeg of ‘Self Build & Improve Your Home’ magazine, p130

joemillarSB

Other posts of Interest:

SCSI: SI9 is “positive change”

Design Certifier – Can we leave it to the builder to sort out?

RIAI CPD July 2014: Design Certifier in the Design Process- SI.9 

Engineers Ireland CPD 10th June

Problems with role of Design Certifier: BC(A)R SI

Specialist Ancillary Certifiers, Template Inspection plan & form, 7 day notice

7 posts all architects (surveyors + engineers) should read

Post 1: Architect’s Ancillary Cert (Design & Completion)

Where is the Design Certifier in BC(A)R SI.9?

10 ‘must-read’ posts for Certifiers | S.I.9

Practical post 26: Design changes on site?

Results | S.I. 9 Assigned Certifier Survey

by Bregs Blog admin team

Survey logo

The BRegs Blog conducted a survey of its readers between 16th and 20th October 2014 in relation to their level of engagement and experience of undertaking the role of Assigned Certifier  (or not as the case may be) in accordance with S.I. 9. Thanks to all who took part in the survey. Once again we are indebted to the huge number of you who added comments to elaborate on your answers. These will provide very useful guidance to us in determining subjects for future blog posts.

The make-up of our respondents in terms of professional groups seems to accord with the BCMS indicators for those submitting commencement notices. The clear majority of you were architects (60%). The BCMS are currently advising that “there are a number of Building Surveyors registered as Assigned Certifiers on the BCMS system but the percentage is very small compared to Architects and Engineers”. We had a higher response from building surveyors (20%) and lower from chartered engineers (18%) which probably reflects our readership.  It is understood that the BRegs Blog surveys are unique in that they have been conducted among an industry-wide group comprising all three approved professional groups.

Chart_Q1_141027 Click on graphs to enlarge 

Almost 60% of respondents had submitted at least one Commencement Notice with the average being two. It was observed that certain respondents had undertaken multiple commencement notice submissions with one chartered engineer claiming to have submitted 15 commencement notices. It was also noted that the other respondents who had submitted multiple commencement notices (from 6-10 each) were mostly chartered engineers with one architect alleging to have completed 10 commencement notices.

Of the 40% of respondents who had not undertaken the role of Assigned Certifier the largest group (almost 40%) gave as a reason that they were unwilling to accept the level of liability involved with the role. In the comment section on this question many respondents, who had undertaken the role of assigned certifier, indicated that they would be reluctant to do so again.

Comment: “The whole thing is a minefield with a genuine lack of real guidance provided. We will not be acting as Assigned Certifier again in the foreseeable future “

Chart_Q2_141027

Chart_Q7_141027

Q7 a

The fees being charged for acting as an Assigned Certifier varied considerably although 64% of fees were below 2% of the project contract value. The lowest fee indicated was € 1,200 for a seven-day notice with the highest fee being €15,000 on a € 500,000 Public Sector extension project.

Comment: “I have undertaken some projects at a low fee in order to get the experience of getting familiar with the requirements of the revised legislation”

Chart_Q3_141027

60% of respondents continue to experience problems with the BCMS. These varied from the speed of the system to subsequent problems with individual Building Control Authorities. The comments submitted with this question will be the subject of a future post for assistance to our readers as many of the problems would appear to stem from lack of familiarity with the BCMS process.

Comment: “The BCMS is technically a very poor and clunky site, slowly improving but should be far better. A ‘help’ or ‘FAQ’ section is imperative”

Chart_Q4_141027

About one third of respondents who had acted as Assigned Certifiers had submitted Commencement Notices in more than one Building Control Authority. Two thirds of these had encountered variations between how the Building Control Authorities were interpreting the regulations. These included requests for different levels of information to completely different procedures for accepting seven-day notices.

Chart_Q5_141027          Chart_Q6_141027

Eight months after their introduction only 21% of respondents, who are undertaking the role of Assigned Certifier, feel that they are confident to implement the regulations. Most concerns stem from defects arising with the legislation in practice and the fact that the construction industry was so ill-prepared for such a massive shift in how it did business.

Only 15% of respondents are satisfied with the documentation provided by their professional organisations with EI and the SCSI coming in for particularly strong criticism. Concerns were expressed about incomplete and draft documentation from the RIAI. It is worrying to note that all of those undertaking multiple commencement notice submissions (see Question 2 above) were also indicating that they were not confident to undertake the role of Assigned Certifier nor were they satisfied with the documentation available from professional organisations.

Comment: “Not enough experience or documentation yet – but this is not the fault of the RIAI. It is the inevitable result of a poorly written piece of legislation. I believe that the RIAI are doing their best in a difficult situation”.

Chart_Q8_141027 Chart_Q9_141027

Only 8% of respondents are willing to consider undertaking the role of Assigned Certifier on a self-build project and only then with strict terms and conditions in relation to the building owner’s experience of construction.

Comment: “Only in very limited circumstances where the self-builder can prove to me that they have the experience and competence to carry out the building work, and are willing to pay the requisite fees that will be required as I would envisage a weekly site visit being required for a project such as this”

Chart_Q10_141027

The good news from the survey is that half of respondents believe that S.I. 9 will increase compliance with the Building Regulations on building sites.

Chart_Q11_141027

Almost 90% of respondents would favour a system of independent inspections instead of the existing S.I. 9 system.

Comment: “While I can implement the administrative structure and carry out the inspections as outlined in the code of practice, I remain apprehensive about the ‘certification’ of work carried out by others, particularly outside my area of expertise as the status of ancillary certs is also uncertain”

Chart_Q12_141027

Other links:

BRegs Blog  | 100 Days | Assigned Certifier Survey

BRegs Blog: Snapshot Survey – Building Control Officers

RIAI Assigned Certifier | Results

 

Legal Alert | Commencement Notices since 1st March 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team

legal alert

Hundreds of homeowners have been left in a legal mess following new advice from the government run Building Control Management System (BCMS). The RIAI issued the new BCMS advice to their Practice members at around 5 pm on Friday of the Bank holiday weekend just gone and Building Surveyor, Nigel Redmond, received the advice from the BCMS yesterday, 27th October (Link:).  This is 8 months after the new rules were introduced and means that many domestic extensions started since 1 March 2014 may be illegal.

The implications for homeowners are stark – there are no remedies under the new regulations and if the “commencement” (building start) was not correctly notified before work started there is no way back. While this situation may not prove to be a problem in the short term, as Building Control Authorities are unlikely to enforce the regulations in such instances,  this will be a significant obstacle for owners when they come to sell or finance their homes without the correct paperwork for an extension that is “unauthorised”.

It was generally understood that the new system which came in on 1 March last applied only to larger home extensions over 40 square metres (430 sq ft). However, almost eight months later, when hundreds of domestic extensions have started and finished around the country, the goal posts have been moved and all extensions to the house since 1964 are being counted cumulatively. So if your home had a new porch in 1965 then your extension in 2014, that you thought was exempt, may well be over the limit.

Professionals are divided over whether this BCMS interpretation is legally correct. Some legal commentators do not agree and believe confusion may have arisen in the interpretation of the very different Planning and Building Control legislation due to the commonality of the 40 square metre classifications.

Either way this is yet another significant oversight in drafting and it will add to professionals’ concerns that they have been put to work in an untested system that is proving to be a legal and practical minefield.

Extract from RIAI Practice News: 24th October 2014

The RIAI posed the following questions to the Building Control Management System:

Question: Can you clarify the circumstances in which an extension to a dwelling comes within the scope of the requirements for statutory certification under the Building Control Regulations?

Answer: In the case of an extension to a dwelling, the requirements for statutory certification of design and construction in line with the Building Control Regulations apply when the total extended area of the dwelling exceeds 40 square metres.   Every new dwelling has a permitted area determined by its planning permission.   Any works which extend the building by more than 40 square metres beyond this permitted area must be certified.

The regulations refer to the total extended area because separate extensions can be added to different areas of a building at the same time or different times.  It is therefore not possible to avoid certification requirements by building a series of small extensions each of which is less than 40 square metres but which together give a combined extended area greater than 40 square metres.

N.B. from RIAI
Existing extensions which are to be demolished and reconstructed must be added to the floor area of the proposed extension to the dwelling, and if the cumulative floor area of the demolished floor area (to be reconstructed) and the new extension exceeds 40 sq. m. then BC(A)R apply.

Question: Do loft/attic conversions come within the scope of the requirements for statutory certification?

Answer: The position regarding loft/attic conversions has not changed.  Loft/attic conversions do not therefore generally come within the requirement for statutory certificates.    Where upgrade works may combine a loft/attic conversion with an extension, it is the size of the extension only (i.e. not counting the pre-existing attic space) that would determine whether the requirements for statutory certificates apply.   The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has produced a guidance note on Loft/Attic Conversions.

Homeowners, builders and designers are reminded that the relevant requirements of the building regulations generally apply to works irrespective of whether the works are subject to any building control procedures.

BCMS FAQ

Recently added advice on the BCMS FAQ

Links to earlier posts:

Catch 22 Commencements 

Owners may need a Certifier for a Porch?

“Dangling Participles” and why all extensions may now require compliance with S.I.9: 2014

NOTE: This series of posts is not meant to undermine or be in opposition to any professional advice from registered representative bodies: rather it is to offer additional technical aids to those that find themselves in the position of having to deal with S.I.9 in it’s current form at present. As with all information posted on the Blog we urge all practitioners to check with their respective professional bodies before assuming any roles or duties under Building Control (Amendment) Regulations (S.I.9 of 2014). 

S.I.9 – Where are we now? 27 October 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team

question-get-answers-button-258x300

Recently a reader asked a general question about S.I.9 impacts on housing and the industry in general. She was due to address an industry group and had been asked to talk about the new building regulations, BC(A)R S.I.9.

Here is the briefing summary of posts we forwarded. These are a mix of factual pieces, commentators’ articles as well as contributors’ opinion pieces.

How much is S.I.9 costing and how is the industry affected?

See a breakdown of where the additional SI.9 costs are coming from, a detailed architect’s  cost estimate for a typical house and the range of new professional duties the Certifier roles entail. For the big picture we see the extraordinary costs to residential and non-residential sector as a whole, the huge costs of pyrite remediation up to 2012 (based on current DECLG estimates) and note by 2020 our continuation with a reinforced system of self-regulation could cost us €5bn. For little or no additional consumer protection and no increase in technical building performance standards.

Factors affecting housing at the moment gleaned from commentators and objective sources such as the Central Statistics Office are noted. According to government data (BCMS register) commencements are still down 30% compared to last year, with residential sector output is down 8%. This data must be of concern to legislators and policy-makers at the moment.

How complex is S.I.9 and our regulations?

Has the cost impact on the industry and the consumer been adequately assessed? Remarkably it would appear not, as no regulatory impact assessment was undertaken in 2013 on the last version of S.I.9.

How complex are our regulations now? The answer is very and our guest post shows there are 38 steps now involved in getting the appropriate permissions and permits in place for a simple warehouse building. In a separate post one architect tables on one sheet the multitude of regulations that are needed for a simple house. Hardly ‘lean’ construction.

Solutions and how much will they cost?

How can we fix this and how costly are the solutions? Travel over to Holyhead in Wales and look at the simplicity of the much-praised and proven UK system of 100% independent Local Authority inspections and the ‘Approved Inspector’ model. We used to have a similar system here. How do we compare to the UK? the World Bank ranks the UK at 27th out of 189 countries and Ireland is at 115th.

Surely a proper system like in the UK would cost a fortune? Think again, the cost of S.I.9 for 2014 would probably fund a nationwide system for 60 years.

How to immediately kick-start a solution for low-cost and social housing? Revoke S.I.9 and let self-builders build again.

This alone could create 12,000 additional dwellings at no cost to the taxpayer by 2020. Use funds allocated for social housing to immediately tackle the housing crisis: get people off the streets for Christmas 2014. One stroke of Minister Kelly’s pen and he can blame the mess on the former Minister, Phil Hogan.

If you think that is unreasonable, ask the three County Councils that have already written to the Minister to ask just that: Sligo, Wicklow and recently Wexford.

Remember if doing CPD these all count as ‘unstructured’- Enjoy!

  • Here is a good overview of where multitude of costs will come from:

Value-engineering, defensive specifications and BCAR SI.9

  • What do new roles entail for professionals? Look here:

SI9 Schedule of duties for Certifiers

  • Some interesting posts on cost impacts of SI9 on construction, and housing:

SI.9 costs for a typical house

SI.9 to Cost €532m in 2014 | Residential Sector 

SI.9 to Cost €168m in 2014 | Non-Residential Sector

  • Here’s a summary of the main SI.9 costs including pyrite by 2020. Big numbers:

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

  • Where are commencements at now? are we up or down? Look here:

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

  • Accurate, non-spun general information, planning application levels, total outputs from Constantin Gurdgiev, and recent CSO figures for residential building output:

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

  • And other commentators:

Karl Whelan: “…raft of cost-increasing building regs are at least partly responsible”

  • How much no local authority materials policing will cost the taxpayer (pyrite)?:

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections

  • What we should have done- a regulatory impact assessment…

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

  • How complex is our system now? Look here at “The 38 steps”:

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

  • Many self-builds are passive houses. What’s happening in this sector? look here:

The self build world has been thrown into disarray

  • This month the World Bank Report is due out. We ranked 115 out of 189 last year, Uk was 27. “Room to improve!”

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

  • Any solutions?

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

12,000 social + affordable houses at no cost to taxpayer?

The cost of a Solution to BC(A)R SI.9?

  • What is the UK ‘Approved Inspector’ system like? 

UK + Ireland | take a quick trip to Holyhead with Breg Blog…

  • And we can’t forget our main post:

SI9- where do I start?

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

cloud storage

By BRegs Blog admin on 26th October 2014

S.I.9 completion stage and the BCMS

Sources close to those working on the delivery of S.I9 have indicated that the BCMS system may not be expanded for Completion documents as planned. Assigned Certifiers might only be asked to upload the one single Certificate of Compliance  (Completion), signed by the Assigned Certifier and the builder.

There are alarm bells ringing for some professionals who believe it leaves them right back at the ‘uninsurable’ S.I.80, which named one individual only on the public record. In this case all liability will fall on the Assigned Certifier as the lone ‘mark’ named on the local authority Building Register.

The extraordinary efforts of Assigned Certifiers to compile lists of Ancillary Certificates, Ancillary Inspections Reports, as-built drawings and Testing Certificates might just make a short trip from your desk  to the box under your feet, to lie gathering dust until the day that you, as the lone certifier, have to defend a claim.

So what does the Framework for Building Control Authorities say?

see pdf here: https://bregsforum.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/framework-for-building-control-authorities-july-2014.pdf

It outlines the procedures for receiving, validating and archiving documents at Commencement stage. However it does not require any more than a single Completion Certificate ( with a “table” or list of documents) at the end of the project.

“Completion stage-Overview

The role of the Building Control Authority at completion stage is to validate the submission of the Certificate of Compliance on Completion and, where appropriate, to include details of same in the Register”

“The Annex detailing the Table of Plans, Calculations, Specifications, Ancillary Certificates and Particulars, and other Documents accompanying the Certificate of Compliance on Completion, should be retained on the Building Control Management System by the Building Control Authority”

The retention of documents (Ancillary Certificates, as-built drawings etc.) seems to be a private matter between the Assigned Certifier, his conscience and the limitations of his client’s fees? The next problem for the Assigned Certifier is where to keep it all. With every project the paperwork will keep piling up and you will have to keep it for years. The framework also requires documents to be stored for at least six years.

Assigned Certifiers are fortunate that ‘cloud storage’ is now available at little or no cost so a secure archive of completion documents will not add anything major to practice overheads. The real concern is that homebuyers and building owners will have only two names to go after – the Assigned Certifier and the builder, the latter who may be well gone.

Other posts of interest:

10 ‘must-read’ posts for Certifiers | S.I.9

5 Tips for Completion Certs

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

BC(A)R SI.9- BCMS: “must do better”

8 Questions for Professional Insurer

4 tips for sub-contractor Ancillary Certifiers

5 Posts every builder must read- BC(A)R SI.9

5 POPULAR MYTHS ABOUT BC(A)R SI.9 

4 tips for Design Certifiers… 

4 tips for assigned certifiers

4 things I am putting in my fee agreements

7 posts all architects (surveyors + engineers) should read 

Gurdgiev: Irish Residential Property Prices: Q3 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team

house-prices-on-the-rise

We table the following post from Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev’s blog “True Economics” to explore current residential price issues. As readers of the BRegs Blog are aware we are keen followers of Mr Gurdgiev as he tends to “drill down” into actual figures and frequently gets beyond spin and other anecdotal commentaries on topics. Link to: True Economics: 23/10/2014: Irish Residential Property Prices: Q3 2014

Although not directly related to building regulations house prices are one ingredient contributing to a perceived housing crisis at present, along with new building regulations, increased costs and lower commencement levels.

When viewed alongside the continued fall in commencement notice levels and CSO figures confirming falling residential construction output, the house price and rental cost increases may continue due to lack of supply and continuing demand.

Extract:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

23/10/2014: Irish Residential Property Prices: Q3 2014 data

Latest data for residential properties price index for Ireland is out, covering September. Instead of repeating all the analysis provided elsewhere, here is a look at quarterly data series and longer-term comparatives.

Firstly, on quarterly basis, Q3 2014 ended with index averaging at:

  • 79.1 in Dublin, up strongly on Q2 2014 reading of 72.0. This brings property prices to the levels of Q2 2010 or on pre-crisis comparative basis close to Q4 2002 (80.8).  Year on year prices in Q3 2014 stood 23.9% above Q3 2013 reading, which is a modest increase on Q2 2014 y/y increase of 21.2%.
  • Outside Dublin, index read 71.4 in Q3 2014, marking a rise of 5.8% y/y. In Q2 2014, y/y increase was 2.2%. Outside Dublin prices are currently trending at the levels comparable to Q1 2012 (71.2) and on pre-crisis basis – at the levels between Q2-Q3 2001
  • National prices index is at 76.9, up 14.4% y/y and this compares to a rise y/y of 10.6% in Q2 2014. National prices levels are around Q2-Q3 2011 averages and on pre-crisis basis these are up at the levels of Q2-Q3 2002.

Chart to illustrate:

chart 1

Rates of growth in prices are worrying, as they were for some time now. Chart below shows y/y increases in price indices for quarterly averages:

chart 2

The chart above clearly shows that Dublin price increases have been running well above the historical averages for the main periods since Q1 2000. Q3 2014 marks full year since price appreciation in Dublin market has risen above sub-period (2013-present) average and this now becoming a serious issue.

At the same time, long-term level indices suggest that prices remain below historical trends:

chart 3

So once again, data is showing troubling developments in the rate of price increases in Dublin and below-trend price levels. Based on historical evidence, real price bubble concerns are still outside the scope of index readings by some 25-30 percent. But we are closing that gap very fast.

Other posts of interest:

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

Karl Whelan: “…raft of cost-increasing building regs are at least partly responsible”

FAO Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht- commencement figures

Construction Recovery- watch this space

‘Recovery’ is Still Worse than the 1980s Crisis

CSO: (Q1 2014) planning permissions for dwellings -30% drop

Minister Hogan rejects Irish Times Article

Irish Times: Dramatic fall in number of buildings being started

UK + Ireland | take a quick trip to Holyhead with Breg Blog…

by Bregs Blog admin team

Ireland via Holyhead

By bregs Blog on October 20th 2014

Following our recent post about Newry & Mourne District Council, we decided to travel a bit further- to Holyhead!*

Building Control in a Holyhead is delivered by  the Isle of Anglesey County Council (Link here).

This local authority  service “ensures that (Building Control) standards are met, by checking and approving drawings and calculations as well as inspecting work in progress”

In Wales, there are two methods of applying:

  1. the deposit of full plans
  2. the giving of a building notice

What is the difference?

Full plans

For a full plans application, plans need to be produced showing all constructional details, preferably well before you begin building. The application will be thoroughly checked by us, and we may request amendments to the plans prior to approval being given. We may add conditions to an approval, with your written agreement.

Building Notice

With the building notice procedure, the building work will be inspected as it proceeds. You will be advised by the building control surveyor if, at any stage, the work is found not to comply with the regulations. However, if we require any further information about your proposal either before the commencement date or during building, you will be asked to supply us with the details requested. You must feel confident that the work will comply with the regulations or you risk having to correct it at the request of the council”

And the fees? The Building Control fees for a single house are £200.27 for approval of plans and £391.93 for inspections, a total of £592.20 (approx. €725.00).

(Link to pdf here)

As we noted before, In Ireland the fee to Building Control for a one-off house is only €30. a fee that hasn’t increased since 1997.

The cost of a system of independent building control for Ireland will be expanded in future posts.

*Bregs Blog have a very limited travel budget.

Posts of interest:

UK + Ireland | take a quick drive to Newry with Breg Blog…

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

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

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections

SI.9 costs for a typical house

O’Cofaigh letter to senators BC(A)R SI.9

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

The cost of a Solution to BC(A)R SI.9? 

Clampdown on self-building is stymying construction industry | Irish Examiner

by Bregs Blog admin team

constructionGeneral_large

The Irish Examiner published the following letter by Maoilíosa Mel Reynolds on October 21st 2014. Link  here.

Extract:

Clampdown on self-building is stymying construction industry 

Good news in the construction industry? Central Statistics Office figures indicate an increased number of smaller residential extensions. But the number of commencement notices lodged in local authorities continues to be depressed, now at 30% below 2013 levels, a historic low.

A major drag on the industry is building control system, S.I.9, introduced in March 2014.

Criticised for having little or no additional consumer protection, it was a rushed, paper problem-solving exercise by former Environment Minister Phil Hogan before he went off to Europe. The problem for the new Environment Minister, Alan Kelly, is to reverse these alarming trends, but how without causing embarrassment in the Department?

S.I.9 has added between €20,000 and €40,000 for every new house. It is having a negative effect on speculative residential housing, depressing site values and delaying starts. However, the main fall-out is for self-builders, ordinary people who manage their own building projects and who are now in a legal minefield.

Self-building is one of the biggest sectors in residential construction — one third of all houses built in any year have owners as main contractors. SI.9 is adding a whopping 22% onto the cost of a modest house — for no increase in technical performance.

The IAOSB, the consumer group representing self-builders, has obtained independent legal advice that SI.9 precludes self-building.

The legislative vagueness of S.I.9 is having a catastrophic effect on self-building, particularly at the lower-cost end. The IAOSB estimate that one third of all self-builds will be indefinitely postponed or abandoned, due to S.I.9. Self-builders who have stalled are remaining in rental accommodation or in council housing, or on waiting lists.

Construction is straining to get started. Perhaps the Minister should cut ineffectual red tape rather than provide dog-box apartments and reduce standards?

Due to the impact of S.I.9 on self-builders, three local authorities, Wicklow, Sligo and, most recently, Wexford, have called on the Minister to revoke SI.9.

Many of these problems were forecast last year, in advance of the introduction of S.I.9, by consumer groups and professionals, who called for deferral of the new regulations.

One thing is for sure: unless the Minister acts fast, current housing problems will only become more acute. Do we really need to be saying “I told you so” in 12 months’ time?

Mel Reynolds

Other posts of interest:

12,000 social + affordable houses at no cost to taxpayer?

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

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

Irish Times: Housing measure will help Dublin’s crisis, but not in the short term

“Size isn’t important” | Are shoe box apartments really the solution?

RIAI Complainee investigates IAOSB Complaint

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing?

IAOSB Letter to Minister Alan Kelly

Fine Gael Report opposed new building regulations- 2013

S.I. 9 | Self-builders – 6 months’ update

Commencement Notices | 6 months after S.I. 9

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

by Bregs Blog admin team

Red-house-down-rates-decrease-graph

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

The latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) September 2014 release  is mixed news for the construction industry and for those tasked with solving the housing crisis. Construction is improving, however residential activity and output is decreasing. See link to CSO webpage here.

Quote: “The volume of output in building and construction increased by 4.1% in the second quarter of 2014 when compared with the preceding period… The annual rise in the volume of output reflects year-on-year increases of 23.4% and 8.5% respectively in non-residential building work and civil engineering.

Residential Building decreased by 8.8% in the year to Quarter 2 2014.  See tables 1(c), 2(a), 2(b) and graph.” [emphasis in bold by Bregs Blog]

Not good news for policymakers attempting to deal with spiralling rents, house prices and supply issues. Indeed not good news for consumers, housing lists or first-time buyers. This reinforces anecdotal accounts of a Dublin-centered commercial property resurgence and runs counter to recent media spin on the issue.

Reduced residential activity is marked by a continuing fall in commencement notices since implementation of new building regulations S.I.9 in March 2014. Current levels are 30% below 2013 levels, a historic low for construction output.

Extract off CSO website:

CSO statistical release, 10 September 2014, 11am

Production in Building and Construction Index

table 1

Building and Construction Output increased by 4.1% in 2nd quarter 2014

table 2

The volume of output in building and construction increased by 4.1% in the second quarter of 2014 when compared with the preceding period.

This reflects increases of 9.3% and 4.7% in civil engineering and non-residential building respectively while there was a decrease of 1.9% in the volume of residential building*.  The change in the value of production for all building and construction was +5.9%. See tables 1(a), 1(c), 2(a), 2(b) and graph. 

On an annual basis, the volume of output in building and construction increased by 10.1% in the second quarter of 2014*.  There was an increase of 11.1% in the value of production in the same period. See table 1(a).  The annual rise in the volume of output reflects year-on-year increases of 23.4% and 8.5% respectively in non-residential building work and civil engineering.  Residential Building decreased by 8.8% in the year to Quarter 2 2014.  See tables 1(c), 2(a), 2(b) and graph.

table3Other posts of interest:

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

Karl Whelan: “…raft of cost-increasing building regs are at least partly responsible”

FAO Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht- commencement figures

Construction Recovery- watch this space

‘Recovery’ is Still Worse than the 1980s Crisis

CSO: (Q1 2014) planning permissions for dwellings -30% drop

Minister Hogan rejects Irish Times Article

Irish Times: Dramatic fall in number of buildings being started

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team

0831_fiscalcliff_630x420

The latest Building Register was published by the Building Control Management System (BCMS) on 22nd  October 2014 at 8.46 a.m. The Building Register records all of the validated Commencement Notices or ‘proposed building starts’ received by the 34 Building Control Authorities throughout Ireland.

The Building Register now records a figure of 3,476 as the total number of validated Commencement Notices received over the past 34 weeks since the introduction of the BCMS on 1st March 2014. This is quite a jump since 6 months figures were posted.

Of these 692 (20%) are Short Form (minor works) and 201 (6%) are seven-day notices (Fire Safety Certificates).

At the moment the average number of commencement notices being lodged is 102 per week. However in 2013 the average number lodged per week was 143 (7,456 in total).

Currently commencement notices are running 30% below 2013 levels which was an historic low point in construction industry output. Notwithstanding the late pick-up of commencements and recent hype in the media, we still have some way to go to even equal the very weak output achieved last year.

Let’s hope some of the budget initiatives will have a positive effect.

Link to Building Register: 

PDF: buildingregister Oct13 2014

Other posts of interest:

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

Karl Whelan: “…raft of cost-increasing building regs are at least partly responsible”

FAO Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht- commencement figures

Commencement Notices | 6 months after S.I. 9 

Construction Recovery- watch this space

‘Recovery’ is Still Worse than the 1980s Crisis

CSO: (Q1 2014) planning permissions for dwellings -30% drop

Minister Hogan rejects Irish Times Article

Irish Times: Dramatic fall in number of buildings being started

Minister Damien English “have to get construction right – this time”

by Bregs Blog admin team

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By Bregs Blog on October 19th 2014

Minister Damien English (pictured above) at Nzeb conference last week called for the passive house standard to be introduced in housing and suggested moves be made by the construction industry to address skills shortage problems in construction. He suggested we could have a lot of jobs associated with new technical standards that we can’t fill unless the industry gets moving to upskill. Link to conference programme here

Minister English, who told the Conference that he had built his own passive house said that …”we have to get construction right – this time“.

He called for higher construction standards so that houses are cheaper to run. He also gave a timely warning that if the construction industry doesn’t upskill “we could have a lot of jobs we cant fill

In the article in the Journal.ie from 15th October 2014  “Pressure is on to get building, but those in construction need to learn new skills“, the message from the Better than Best Practice building-skills conference was that construction professionals and contractors needed to ‘up their game’ in the face of increasing building performance requirements.

Extract from article:

“BUILDERS, ARCHITECTS AND engineers are under huge pressures to get building as the country is in the midst of a housing crisis, says the Irish Green Building Council.

However, they said that the game has changed for many developers since the boom, and there are a lot more stringent checks and balances that need to be met.

Under new rules, the construction sector must meet the EU Near Zero energy requirements for buildings by the year 2020, with the council stating that buildings “effectively have to start paying for themselves”.

Learn new skills 

To achieve this many builders will need to learn new skills, something the government addressed in its Construction 2020 document published earlier this year.

The report states: “Address skills gaps relating to the ‘greening’ of construction … including the piloting of training initiatives.”

A spokesperson for the council said that Ireland is undergoing a “revolution in standards and regulation” adding that everyone involved in the building industry have to meet stricter and more stringent regulations than they did a few years ago.

Due to the building catastrophes like pyrite and the likes of Priory Hall, all eyes are on the construction industry to not only build sustainable and “green” buildings, but safe ones too.

Signing-off on builds

“The laws have tightened and there are a lot more regulations to meet than there were five years ago. Now architects and engineers have to sign-off on buildings and make sure that builders do it right. There is huge pressure out there for people to get building and we can’t have the case where people flout the regulations and not bother with the rules. Architects and engineers are not going to sign off on buildings that are not done right, so we are going to need more professionals in the industry and upskilling will be needed, ” said the council spokesperson.

The Better than Best Practice building-skills conference opening today, aims to address one of the biggest challenges facing the Irish construction industry.

Pat Barry, Executive Director of the Irish Green Building Council, said:

We are in a totally changed regulatory environment to that existing in 2006. It is now all about quality and attention to detail.”

zeta-features

Other posts of interest:

Notes from the (thermal) edge: Part L Compliance (2 of 2)

Part L compliance issues – S.I.9 (1 of 2)

Part L- is compliance worth the paper its written on?

Design Certifiers – 3 things about certifying Part L… 

Why the design certifier and architect need third party building fabric assessments

Opinion piece: new building regulations and materials risk analysis

SI.9 and Part L | Specialist ancillary certifiers Part 2

SI.9 and Part L | Are specialist ancillary certifiers needed? Part 1 

BC(A)R SI.9 or… green alternative No 1

12,000 social + affordable houses at no cost to taxpayer?

by Bregs Blog admin team

ct-no-closing-cost-refinance

17th October 2014 (Quotes with consent of IAOSB)

12,000 social + affordable houses at no cost to taxpayer?

Let’s look at social housing and the new building control regulations.

We know all the headline issues, the costs and legal issues in the new regulations that has forced over 800 to 1000 self-builders this year alone to indefinitely postpone or abandon planned home builds.

In parallel we see new Minister Alan Kelly pledging to  build up to 1,000 new homes for social housing next year. Including rentals and leased properties this will rise 10,000 in 3 years. A welcome development but also costly at €2.5 billion to the taxpayer.

However there may be another far more cost effective way to achieve the same result. Self-building.

Self Build is a political problem

Acknowledged as a major political headache, one unintended consequence of S.I.9 is the banning of self-building since implementation in March 2014. The Irish Association of Self Builders (IAOSB) have protested vigorously on this issue nationally.

As a result three County Councils have voted formally requested the Minister Alan Kelly to revoke S.I.9. They are Sligo, Wicklow and more recently Wexford. More are expected to follow suit.

To put the issue in a more personal context we looked at the example Amanda Gallagher and her family. In radio interviews and written pieces she noted her planned family home was to be built using direct labour. Her electrician husband Raymond would manage the project on a site given to them by her father-in-law in Sligo, a site on the family farm.

Amanda and her family are currently tenants in Local Authority Housing and have indefinitely postponed their build, citing the increased costs under S.I.9 as the main reason. Estimates from her Architect suggest the extra-over cost now to build her house using a main contractor are almost double (we have separately tabled a conservative cost estimated for S.I.9 for a typical house at between €20,000 to €40,000- see below).

There are a number of people in a similar situation, electing to put in the hard graft of managing their own house build in stages. Self build means removing developer’s profit and a main contractor’s management costs thereby reducing the cost of home ownership. Frequently self-builds are of a higher standard than speculative housing.

This is a difficult personal situation to be in, to have plans ready to go only to be confronted by poorly-worded and vague legislation that imply there may be legal completion problems later on.

However there is one other observation that may have been lost in the personal story here.

Is self-build the practical solution to social housing?

Housing supply in Amanda’s situation is a bit like money velocity in the economy.

If Amanda and Raymond built their own house, their current council house would become available to others. At no cost to the state. If they were renting it would be another rental unit becoming available, adding to supply and reducing rental costs. If they were living with family and on a housing list, they would be one less name on the list.

In Amanda’s situation her self-build completed is equal to two social/rental houses. At no cost to the taxpayer.

So if S.I.9 was either revoked or amended to facilitate self-building, the 800- 1000 self-build houses abandoned this year could translate to 1600- 2000 social/ affordable units. Every year. At no cost to the taxpayer.

Imagine if the government released details of support schemes (like those in the U.K.) for prospective self-builders, persons currently in local authority housing to build on state-owned sites and build their own houses in a more economic fashion?

So, immediately Minister Kelly could create 12,000 social/ affordable houses by 2020. At no cost to the taxpayer. One stroke of the pen- revoke S.I.9.

Could it be that easy?

To read more of Amanda’s commentary visit her blog here.

Other posts of interest:

IAOSB Letter to Minister Alan Kelly

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

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

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing?

S.I. 9 | Self-builders – 6 months’ update

SI.9 costs for a typical house

The self build world has been thrown into disarray

Eoin O Cofaigh FRIAI- A changing landscape?

Law Society response to self-builders

Self building, self-regulation & the consumer

Senator Mooney- BC(A)R SI.9

RTÉ Radio: self-builders & RIAI past presidents 

UK and Ireland: Take a quick drive to Newry with BReg Blog…

by Bregs Blog admin team

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By BRegs Blog on October 20th 2014

It was commented in an earlier post about independent inspections  (see posts below) that:

one need only take the train to Newry or the boat to Holyhead. Such system can and does work, deliver better building, and can cost the State a net nothing

So to save you the drive along the new road, we took a look at the Building Control Service provided in Newry & Mourne District Council*, a short distance from Louth County Council where “responsibility for compliance with the Building Regulations lies with you, your designer and construction teams” (Link louthcoco.ie )

In Newry, the role of Building Control includes “assessing your plans and inspecting your house at various stages as it is being built” (Link newryandmourne.gov.uk )

This is an extract from the section about building your new house in Newry:

Inspections

Surveyors from Building Control will arrange to inspect your new house at various stages as it is being built.

Whilst it is ultimately your responsibility to notify us, in advance, of any inspection you can arrange for your builder to do this for you.

The building Regulations require you to give us 2 days notice prior to any inspection, but if we receive a request before 10.30 am we will do our best to carry out an inspection that day.

It is also important to note that 5 days notice is required prior to you occupying or completing your house. Please therefore ensure that we are given the appropriate notice at the following [eight] stages:

  1. Commencement
  2. Excavation of foundations
  3. Substructure / hardcore
  4. Damp proof courses
  5. First fix
  6. Drainage
  7. Pre-occupation
  8. Completion

If we do not receive notice and you or your builder cover up work before we have inspected it, you will be asked to expose all or part of that work to allow us to determine whether it complies with the Building Regulations.

Completion Certificate

When your house has been built and we are satisfied, in as far as we can reasonably tell, that the requirements of the Building Regulations have been met, we will issue you with a “Completion Certificate”.

This is an important document and you should file this away for safe keeping. If you ever sell or re-mortgage your house your solicitor, bank or building society may request a copy of the Completion Certificate for the house. It may also be required for the purposes of reclaiming VAT.

Fees

There are two occasions when you pay us fees.

  1. When your plans are sent to us for approval.
  2. When we carry out the inspections.

The fees for the inspections is payable in one lump sum and we will send you an invoice for this, once we have completed our first inspection.

For your convenience you can pay by cash, postal order, cheque, debit card, or credit card”

That sounds like a great service- it must be expensive? Same day call out, eight independent inspections, approval of plans and a Completion Certificate!

There’s a handy fees calculator at http://buildingcontrolfees.tascomi.com/

The fee for one-off house (under 250 sq. m.) for the full Building Control service is:

  • Plans £90
  • Site Inspections £210

That is a total of £300.00 (approx. €370.00) and this service is largely self-funding.

In Ireland the fee to Building Control for a one-off house is only €30 – a fee that hasn’t increased since 1997.

The cost of a system of independent building control for Ireland will be expanded in future posts.

In the The World Bank “Doing Business” Report 2014 Ireland ranks 115th out of 189 countries in “Dealing with construction permits”. The UK ranks 27th. The World Bank Report is due out at the end of the month- it should make for interesting reading.

And better still………………. they have no pyrite in Newry.

*Bregs Blog have a very limited travel budget.

Other posts of interest:

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

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

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections

SI.9 costs for a typical house

O’Cofaigh letter to senators BC(A)R SI.9

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

The cost of a Solution to BC(A)R SI.9? 

Upskilling of construction workforce crucial to achieve a compliance culture.

by Bregs Blog admin team

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Pat Barry, Architect & Sustainable Development Consultant: 20th October 2014

Upskilling of construction workforce crucial to achieve a compliance culture.

How often have you heard the expression on site “ aaah jaysus ….this is the way I have always done it”  Well you are not alone. Construction workers are not known for filling in their CPD points at the end of October.  Is this all about to change?

At the recent conference Better than Best Practice  Zoe Wildiers of the European commission spoke about the need to tackle the lack of skills among Europe’s three million strong construction workforce, if we are to  meet the energy efficiency targets set by the EU. But she added it was not just construction workers but Architects, Engineers and other Construction professionals , who also lacked basic skills and knowledge in energy efficiency.

It was also  interesting to hear Thorston Windmueller of Kozmet,  speak  of his experience of training Irish Craft workers in their facility in Germany under the EU project CESBEM. Whilst the German craft workers understood basic building science and could carry out simple condensation risk analysis whilst the Irish construction workers did not. They also lacked understanding of the importance of quality and attention to detail in achieving energy efficient construction.

The Build Up Skills report from 2014 found that Irish trades do have the the ability and skills to build to high quality. They just lacked the knowledge to put this together in a systems thinking way, with the other trades. It also found construction workers were confused by terms such as green or energy efficient, but  they did understand the term “quality”

Qualibuild is an EU funded programme made up of a consortium of Blanchardstown, Dublin and Limerick Institutes of Technology, the Irish Construction Federation and the Irish Green Building Council  – to provide foundation energy courses  in energy efficiency to trades and operatives. These are not designed to turn trades such as plumbers, electricians, plasterers, bricklayers etc. into passive house experts. The idea is to create a mind altering change over three days …. but without the drugs!  We want to create thinking members of an onsite collective delivering a damn fine building.  We want to give them the collective goal of QUALITY!

This is a pilot programme with the intention that it will become a requirement like safe pass for all construction workers.The programme will be accompanied by a communications campaign to house owners on what quality means in construction. This is intended to equip them with the language to ask trades the right questions and demand the right result.

With the new, Construction Industry Register Ireland  (CIRI) requiring contractors on the register to upskill all of their staff at every level, including engineers, site managers, foremen and site operatives, we may just start to get a more educated workforce.

The next time you hear the expression, “ …this is the way I have always done it” and you are pondering your liability under BC(A)R just say ……www.qualibuild.ie

 About the author: Patrick Barry

Architect & Sustainable Development Consultant

Patrick Barry (Dip.Arch, M.Sc. MRIAI, Dip. Project Man), is an architect with twenty years experience in architectural practice in France, Germany and South America, working with leading architectural practices in Ireland on residential, mixed use, social housing, healthcare and education. He holds a Masters in Environmental Design of Buildings from University of Cardiff, and has completed studies in Leadership in Strategic Sustainability, He is a Certified European passive house designer, and a qualified DGNB international auditor,  He is currently executive director of the Irish Green Building Council

Other posts of interest:

Part L compliance – Who wants a building control service provided by cowboys?

Notes from the (thermal) edge: Part L Compliance (2 of 2)

Part L compliance issues – S.I.9 (1 of 2)

Design Certifiers – 3 things about certifying Part L… 

Why the design certifier and architect need third party building fabric assessments

Opinion piece: new building regulations and materials risk analysis

SI.9 and Part L | Specialist ancillary certifiers Part 2

SI.9 and Part L | Are specialist ancillary certifiers needed? Part 1 

Sound advice and SI.9 – PART 1

Dispensations and Transition Arrangements

Practical Post 10: No retrospective compliance – BC(A)R SI.9

Practical Post 13: Duties & conflicts- BC(A)R SI.9 

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

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By BReg Blog October 20th 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other posts of interest:

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

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections

The cost of a Solution to BC(A)R SI.9?

The € 500 million + cost of S.I.9 in 2014 | Residential Sector

SI.9 to Cost €168m in 2014 | Non-Residential Sector

SI.9 costs for a typical house

More dog wardens than building inspectors in Ireland- Self Builders to be made extinct 

BREGS Blog Archive 5- MARCH 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team

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BREGS Blog Archive 5- MARCH 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team 19th October 2014

Don’t forget our archives!

Click on the following link and read through over 80 posts for March, the month SI.9 was implemented. Many of these forecast  issues subsequently encountered- lack of industry preparedness, BCMS issues, Building Control Sections resources and legal implications on practitioners. Many questions asked still remain unanswered, 6 months on. Scroll through our posts which are in reverse chronological order. Enjoy!

Click link: BREGS Blog Archive 5- MARCH 2014

  • The most popular post in March was one by past presidents of the representative body for architects (RIAI) Collins and O’Cofaigh’s “A better way”. Widely seen as preferable and more cost-effective to our current system of self-certification this clear and articulate proposal is currently being considered by the RIAI as formal policy to be recommended to the Department in advance of an EGM on 4th November 2014.
  • Former Minister Hogan’s cost estimate of €1000 – €3000 for SI0 for a housing unit was shown to be very conservative. We have since established the costs for a typical house at between €20,000 to €40,000. See post here
  • The exclusion of Architectural Technologists from the register of professionals to undertake new roles under SI.9 was a very well read topic (see here). Former Minister Hogan in a Dáil debate urged ‘draughtsmen’ to register as competent professionals under the register to operate roles of design and assigned certifiers under SI.9. see post here. The significant implications for the entire Architectural Technologist sector were explored in  “The architectural technologist and BC(A)R SI.9
  • Past president of the representative body for architects (RIAI), Eoin O’Cofaigh lists out the winners and loosers under the new regulation and says” The regulations do nothing to prevent another Priory Hall or pyrites disaster…They are a huge missed opportunity, from a Government who knew the proper solution and who ignored it.” (see here)
  • In typical strident fashion former Minister Phil Hogan took issue with concerns raised by Brian Stanley TD in the Dáil, and takes head-on the issue professional fees for SI9 :”I am concerned about the possibility of customers being exploited by professionals under these regulations.See post here.
  • SI.105 was Implemented on 7th March and allows part- deferral of some public building types. We believe only a handful of projects have availed of this provision. See post here. Former Minister Hogan explained the rationale behind SI.105 to Stephen Donnelly TD in the Dáil- see here.
  • We noted the Law Society Guidance Note on BC(A)R SI.9  “In the 12 months up to the introduction of a mandatory register this note suggests that whether self-builders can sign the builder’s completion form or not isn’t the main issue halting self-building this year. Rather it will be whether any members of these three professional bodies will assume certifier roles for self-build projects.” See post here.
  • We posted a consolidated piece on legal firms advice for readers this month also on SI.9 (see post here). Has the situation been clarified for professionals 6 months on?
  • We published a guest post of a talk delivered at the Engineers Ireland CPD event by Deirdre Ni Fhlionn, Consultant, Reddy Charlton Solicitors. The lack of consumer protection under SI9 was clearly highlighted “There are no new legal rights or remedies for consumers created by BCAR 2014. Rather, the benefits to consumers are intended to result from improvements in the building process, such as the requirement for an assigned certifier to devise and implement an inspection plan.” see here
  • Self-builders wrote to the Attorney General: BC(A)R SI.9 – the IAOSB are still awaiting a response 6 months later (see here). A problem can’t exist without a solution. We assembled one from a number of sources- it still very relevant: The cost of a Solution to BC(A)R SI.9?. SME issues and SI9 were outlined by Eoin O’Cofaigh his post here.
  • We also noted that staff should take care when undertaking new certifier roles “In the event of a wind-up or voluntary liquidation, of if employers elect to remove or alter policies, employees (current and former) may find themselves exposed to liability for certifier roles.’ These concerns remain and we await input from representative bodies on these issues. See here.

Previous Archive posts (click title):

BRegs Blog Archive 4 – FEBRUARY 2014

BREGS Blog Archive 3- JANUARY 2014

BREGS Blog Archive 2- DECEMBER 2013

BREGS Blog Archive 1- NOVEMBER 2013

Other popular “top read” posts:

Part L compliance – Who wants a building control service provided by cowboys?

by Bregs Blog admin team

Cowboy Up

by Simon McGuinnes architect, on 14th October 2014

Part L compliance – Who wants a building control service provided by cowboys?

The following opinion piece relates to Part L  compliance under SI.9 . Part L of the Irish building regulations is  “CONSERVATION OF FUEL AND ENERGY – DWELLINGS” (Part L Download HERE and the TGD Part L Download HERE).

_______

Let me state at the outset that I believe the fRsi regulation is not a mistake but is actually a carefully drafted text by an expert who understands the risks and the complexities and is primarily interested in ensuring the health of future occupants of compliant buildings.  It is both correct and justified. It is also extremely onerous.

The TGD Part L, Appendix D, section D4, page 61 clearly states that we must prove DESIGN compliance for ground floor junctions by numerical calculation in 3D using validated software.  Other details can be modelled in 2D using similarly validated software. [Blog Note extract from TGD in bold, italics]

D.4 Calculation procedures

The calculation procedure to establish both temperature factor (fRsi) and the linear thermal transmittance (ψ) is outlined in BRE IP 1/06. Details should be assessed in accordance with the methods described in I.S. EN ISO 10211. These calculations of two dimensional or three dimensional heat flow require the use of numerical modeling software. To be acceptable, numerical modeling software should model the validation examples in I.S. EN ISO 10211 with results that agree with the stated values of temperature and heat flow within the tolerance indicated in the standard for these examples. Several packages are available that meet this requirement.

There is currently only one independent Thermal Modeller approved by NSAI for the entire country.  I am reliably informed that he has not undertaken 3D fRsi calculations for any Assigned or Design Certifier since BC(A)R SI.9 was introduced, leading me to conclude that in all probability, few of the certificates signed for domestic buildings (or extensions) issued to date are valid.  He has, apparently, quoted for this service several times but not once was he contracted to undertake it.

This is a very dangerous state of affairs that demands immediate action on the part of all three professional bodies whose members are entrusted with responsibility for certification under BC(A)R. Ignorance of the law is no defence so, at the first sign of mould, the assigned certifier and the design certifier could find themselves  in court and be unable to defend themselves against charges of negligence.

Mould is becoming a significant issue of building failure as a result of the introduction of Part L 2011 with its high U-values for flanking elements.  This focuses the surface condensation problem on the linear joints between the flanking elements as these become the lowest temperature surfaces.  Such linear corners, with their associated low air movement conditions, are ideal locations for mould growth. Old assumptions that inadequate ventilation is the cause of mould have been thoroughly sidestepped by the fRsi regulation: this is strictly a design compliance issue, not a use issue. You cannot blame a user for your design decisions.

Unfortunately, there is no alternative to 3D modelling to prove that the fRsi  has been achieved.  There is no rule of thumb.  The Accredited Construction Details (ACDs) cannot be relied upon to achieve the fRsi because the scope of what they cover is too broad, even very slight (trivial) variations in dimensions or material conductivities will result in breeches of the fRsi.  DIT have modelled several examples of  ACD-compliant junctions which fail the surfaced temperature test.  Furthermore,  the limits on ACDs are such that the applicable range of U-values is often breeched to achieve the EPC and CPC performance indicators required in DEAP.  If you exceed the approved U-value range – the tabulated ACD psi-value in Appendix D cannot be used and even the erroneous assumption of fRsi compliance falls.  This is not an accident.

I would therefore strongly advise anyone considering signing a design certificate for a domestic project to pay the €3,000 – 4,000 for an fRsi compliance check of all the junctions before putting pen to paper.  Once signed, if mould does appear, there is no defence; you are liable for the full cost of remediation including relocation of the occupants.  If you are quoting fees for a house or an extension, add the fRsi compliance check cost to the fee quote and make the ancillary certification by a NSAI approved Thermal Modeller conditional on the issue of the design certificate.  The way the TGD is formatted indicates that fRsi compliance applies equally to material alterations and extensions in addition to new build, so there is no escape.

Now that you know what is required to achieve compliance, will you ever again sign a certificate of design compliance for a residential project without an fRsi check? There is a word for a person who signs such a certificate: a “cowboy”.  I am sorry if that hurts, my intent is not to hurt but to warn colleagues of significant risk that they may ignorantly fall into. I didn’t write the regulation; I just read it, understand it and agree with it, but only after significant personal upskilling in this highly technical area.  Irish Thermal Modellers are the most highly qualified in the world: they need to be, Irish building regulations in relation to fRsi are by far the most onerous in the world.  That is why there is an NSAI Register of Thermal Modellers (the only one in the world), why they need to undertake a postgraduate course of study and sit an exam to gain access to the register, why they have to have PI cover and why they have to pay a fee to have their work audited annually.  This is not the work of a Government intent on ignoring fRsi. You should not ignore it either.

In all likelihood, the fRsi regulations currently applying to residential construction will be extended to all construction once the revised Part L (Non-Residential) is published.  It is right that occupants of hospitals, offices, schools, etc. should not be exposed to dangerous moulds.  Even if you don’t do residential work, now would be a good time to begin the journey to understanding fRsi.  It is a fundamental technical requirement of the delivery of the European nZEB building standard.  The Irish government is to be congratulated for staking its claim to the nZEB territory in this most exportable of high-level technical design services. The projected demand for these services is breath-taking.

But to return to present realities, I find it worrying that my professional colleagues in the Surveying, Architectural and Engineering professions who undertake residential work may already have signed compliance certificates under S.I.9 without fRsi assessments undertaken by a competent Thermal Modeller.  I also find it strange that there have been no warnings from any of the professional bodies to their members advising of the risks they are taking in such projects, and only high-level admonition for those colleagues who decline to take such risks with their PI cover.  Clearly, something is wrong with the system of professional oversight and support.

In spite of the former minister’s ham-fisted attempts to cap the fee for building regulations certification, there is an onus on professional certifiers to ensure that the letter of the regulations is applied fully, regardless of the cost.  If the minister wants to revise the regulations to make them cheaper to implement, then that is entirely his prerogative.  It is decidedly not for certifying professionals to second guess the written regulations and opt out of any they find difficult. That is the road to perdition.

Simon McGuinness is an architect in private practice, a passive house design consultant and a part-time lecturer in digital analysis and retrofit technology at DIT.

Other posts of interest:

Karl Whelan: “…raft of cost-increasing building regs are at least partly responsible”

by Bregs Blog admin team

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Karl Whelan: “…raft of cost-increasing building regs are at least partly responsible”

In a recent blog post UCD Economist, Karl Whelan, suggests recent costs associated with the the new building regulations S.I.9 are partly responsible for the slump in housing supply. The post “The Central Bank and the Irish Property Market”  dated October 13th 2014, issues associated with the housing market and the Central Bank’s latest steps are discussed. See full post here.

Current price to rent ratios are shown as being cost to levels last seen in the 1990’s:

ltvpic31

Quote: “The Central Bank’s new policies are focused on restricting the downside of house price declines by restricting the provision of mortgage credit.  However, the current trend of rising prices is not in any way related to easy mortgage lending. Indeed, the Central Bank’s own statistics show that the total stock of mortgage credit continues to decline at about the same pace as it has over the past three years (see the red line below)

Rather than being driven by credit, the evidence points to a shortage of supply as the main factor driving house prices.  After the building binge of the Celtic Tiger years, housing completions have slumped. Indeed, given trends in population and household formation, we now appear to be at the point where the previous period of over-building has now been offset by the cumulative under-building of recent years.”

ltvpic4

 

“Nor does it appear that recent price increases are doing much yet to provoke a supply response.  Planning permissions remain at historically low levels. Anecdotal evidence suggests restrictions on the supply of credit to builders as well as a raft of cost-increasing building regulations are at least partly responsible for this lack of supply response” [emphasis by bregs blog]

ltvpic6

His assessment is that conditions in the Irish housing market do not currently point towards the need for a sudden large change in LTV limits, and he wonders if a gradual introduction of higher LTVs is desirable is a more open question.

However, what is required now is more than that: Ireland needs a coherent joined-up housing policy. Ideally, it would be better to debate restrictions on LTVs as part of this broader discussion instead of imposing them for financial stability reasons irrespective of the other parts of the policy framework.

One wonders if the recent credit restrictions proposed by the Central Bank, combined with higher costs due to recent building regulations introduced, will combine to give a new market: lower demand matching lower supply with spiraling rents?

Other posts of interest:

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

The € 500 million + cost of S.I.9 in 2014 | Residential Sector 

SI.9 costs for a typical house

Commencement Notices | 6 months after S.I. 9

Continuing Collapse in Commencement Notices: Building Register – 5th August 2014 

Construction Recovery- watch this space

‘Recovery’ is Still Worse than the 1980s Crisis

Commencement figures- June 25th 2014

CSO: (Q1 2014) planning permissions for dwellings -30% drop

Minister Hogan rejects Irish Times Article

BC(A)R S.I.9 | 33 Weeks | Assigned + Design Certifier Survey

by Bregs Blog admin team

survey

 

BC(A)R S.I.9  | 33 Weeks | Assigned + Design Certifier Survey

As we are in our 33rd week of S.I. 9 we thought it would be a good time to conduct a survey but one aimed at individuals who have commenced projects since March 2014 which more accurately reflects the requirements of the legislation. It is a very simple 12 question (max.) survey to see to what extent our readers are embracing, or not, the new roles in view of recent concerns about increased liabilities and the adequacy of documentation etc. The information provided helps us to prepare appropriate future posts. We have not included any questions about Completion Certificates as the numbers on the Building Register are still too few.

The survey will close on Monday 20th October at midnight and we will publish the results later that week.

Link to survey here: Assigned_Certifier_225_Days 

Please note that we do not monitor those who respond to the survey and please share it with your contacts particularly in other professional groups.

the BRegs Blog  Team.

Other posts of interest:

BRegs Blog 100 Days | Assigned Certifier Survey

BC(A)R FIRST 100 DAYS SURVEY

CIF Construction Confidence Survey

Building Control Officers: Survey 

Breg Snapshot Survey: BC(A)R SI.9 

Specialist Certifier 1- ENGINEER: questions and Answers

Specialist Certifier 2- ARCHITECT: Questions and Answers

Specialist Certifier 3- SURVEYOR: Questions and Answers

Irish Times: Housing measure will help Dublin’s crisis, but not in the short term

by Bregs Blog admin team

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(Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times)

Housing measure will help Dublin’s crisis, but not in the short term

In an Irish Times article today (15th October 2014) by Olivia Kelly “Housing measure will help Dublin’s crisis, but not in the short term recent plans in the budget regarding the provision of 3,000 homes a year, 10,000 over 3 years, for a housing list of 90,000 are discussed. In the face of a stalled residential recovery, increased costs due to badly-conceived regulations and a ban on self-building, indicators at present all point towards a short-term situation which will result in a continued depressed levels of of housing supply, increasing levels of homelessness and increasing rental costs.

Another political paper solution?

Extract to follow:

An additional 3,000 households will be housed by local authorities through the leasing of houses in 2015, Brendan Howlin said. However, this is also unlikely to make much of a dent in the city’s housing waiting list.

Housing measures announced by Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin in their budget speeches yesterday will have the greatest impact in the capital, where the housing crisis is at its worst.

Last week, it emerged that Dublin City Council’s housing waiting list had risen to almost 20,000 applicants, up 3,000 on last year.

In the private sector, house prices and rents in the city are increasing at a greater rate than anywhere in the State, corresponding to a lack of supply in the market.

Capital investment of more than €2.2 billion for more than 10,000 social homes over the next three years will allow local authorities and housing bodies to build new homes, but also to buy or lease existing housing .

Limited impact

The ability to acquire existing housing would have the most immediate impact on the housing crisis, but its effect in the capital will be limited, according to Simon Brooke, head of policy at Clúid Housing, one of the largest voluntary housing bodies in the State.

“We are delighted at the trebling in capital funding for social housing, but it is not an instant solution. If construction starts tomorrow, it would take two years for that house to be completed, and there aren’t really any houses in Dublin available to buy for social housing.”

An additional 3,000 households will be housed by local authorities through the leasing of houses in 2015, Mr Howlin said.

However, this is also unlikely to make much of a dent in the city’s housing waiting list as landlords are currently removing their properties from the rental accommodation scheme (RAS) in Dublin city at three times the rate that they are offering them for social housing use. Ninety more landlords had given the council notice that they want to quit the scheme by April this year.

Only six homes have become available to Dublin City Council this year under the scheme, which was set up in 2004 to offset the lack of social housing construction. Under the scheme, local authorities draw up contracts with landlords to provide housing for people who have been on the waiting list for more than 18 months, and pay rent directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant.

The extension of the home renovation scheme to rental properties could bring currently uninhabitable properties to the market in Dublin. Mr Noonan said he expected the savings realised by landlords would be reflected in rent levels. Whether or not that materialises remains to be seen.

Residents of older and historic houses in Dublin will finally benefit from the Living Cities initiative. The measure, which enables residents of pre-1915 buildings to claim tax relief at a rate of 10 per cent a year over a 10-year period for the cost of refurbishment works, was launched in Waterford and Limerick 2012 and extended to Dublin in the last budget. There will be “a full roll-out of the initiative in early 2015”, Mr Noonan said.

Other posts of interest:

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

DAVY Research: surprising fall in residential output Q2 2014

Commencement Notices | 6 months after S.I. 9

Continuing Collapse in Commencement Notices: Building Register – 5th August 2014 

Construction Recovery- watch this space

‘Recovery’ is Still Worse than the 1980s Crisis

Commencement figures- June 25th 2014

CSO: (Q1 2014) planning permissions for dwellings -30% drop

Minister Hogan rejects Irish Times Article

Irish Times: Dramatic fall in number of buildings being started

Engineers Ireland Journal | Eoin O’Cofaigh FRIAI Ancillary Certificates + Self-certification

by Bregs Blog admin team

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Eoin O’ Cofaigh FRIAI | Past President, Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, (1998-1999)

In the Engineers Ireland Journal published on 14th October 2014, Eoin O Cofaigh FRIAI writes that the self-certification system set up by the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations does not properly protect the consumer and the regulations will not prevent a repeat of residential building disasters. For link to article click here.

Ancillary Certificates – new rules regarding self-certification:

I refer to the article by Cormac Bradley FIEI that was published on 15 September. Starting his article, Mr Bradley writes: No précis on the consultation process would be accurate if it did not record the fact that the new regime of building control has not been greeted with universal accord. Some professionals have concerns about the new regime and the liability issues that they perceive arise from the new responsibilities that emanate from the Regulations.”

I am one of those who have been highlighting such concerns for some time. But Mr Bradley is silent on the real problem. The real problem is that the self-certification system these regulations set up does not properly protect the consumer – the house-buyer and especially the first-time house-buyer. For all their intentions, the regulations will not prevent a repeat of the residential building disasters we have all seen and paid for in recent years.

BC(A)R 2014 affects every significant building and fit-out project, not just the speculative residential sector where all the problems started. The regulations allow the building owner appoint only chartered engineers, and registered architects and surveyors, as design certifier or as assigned certifier. They thus confer de facto control over the majority of building design in Ireland on these groups. Furthermore, by requiring a competent building company to be appointed, the regulations stop the centuries old tradition of ‘self-build’ in rural areas, a tradition still flourishing elsewhere, including the UK.

In return for handing control of the process to these groups, the regulations require those professionals to sign certificates that everything designed and built complies in every detail with the building regulations. This will indeed increase the number of inspections on those few construction sites where there were few or none hitherto.

However, by placing the certifier between the house buyer and the builder by means of these Certificates, the principal thing the regulations actually do for the house buyer is set up a paper trail for them to follow in the event of building failure. They distance the local authority from the entire process. They expose FDI intellectual property to internet theft. Furthermore, they introduce two key gateways to every project: a Commencement Certificate and a Completion Certificate, which the local authority can reject as invalid, putting the opening of new projects at risk. No wonder the number of valid residential Commencement Notices has tumbled in 2014 compared with this time last year.

Pyrite Panel report recommendations

The Pyrite Panel, set up to examine the ‘pyrite problem’ and to recommend how to avoid a recurrence, reported to the Minister for the Environment in June 2012. While the Priory Hall and pyrite scandals differ, these scandals were the genesis for the 2014 regulations. Most significantly for consumer protection, the regulations do not implement all relevant recommendations of the Pyrite Panel report.

Pyrite Panel Recommendation 18, a “mandatory certification system” 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”. BC(A)R 2014 does not do this. There is no strengthening the system of independent inspections by building control officers to complement the mandatory certification. For Priory Hall residents, independent inspections by building control officers might have made all the difference.

No architect can enforce good building on a greedy client or on that client’s incompetent contractor. To make the assigned certifier responsible for everything creates a ‘blame trail’ but will not improve standards where good building is most needed. Aside from that, the fact that the builder/developer can appoint their very own design and assigned certifiers, makes a nonsense of the claim that this will bring independent pressure to comply. To get compliance, there must be the likelihood of statutory independent inspection backed by the building control authority. The Pyrite Panel report said so.

Recommendation 21: General Insurance issues, recommended (b) “a requirement for project-related insurance whereby cover for each specific project is available and adequate and is related to the project only”. The regulations should have been written to require evidence of project-related insurance (Latent Defects Insurance or LDI) at the time of commencing the works. Even if mandatory LDI is unnecessary on every project, it should be implemented in projects involving dwellings for sale.

By not implementing this recommendation, the regulations ensure litigation and distress for home-owners will continue to feature where buildings go wrong. Griffith and Armour, the professional indemnity insurance brokers, are recorded as saying that relying on professional indemnity insurance to rectify defects in such circumstances is not the correct solution. The problem is simple. The regulations did not implement those recommendations of the Pyrite Panel report which are the most relevant to consumer protection. So much so, that last January the RIAI Council agreed unanimously that the self-certification system the regulations embody does not adequately protect the consumer.

Mr Bradley refers to “liability concerns”. So what are those concerns? The regulations make the design and assigned certifiers personally liable in perpetuo for the entire design and construction. Signing the 2013 regulations into law, (former Environment Minister) Phil Hogan said as much. Minister Alan Kelly has confirmed it as regards the 2014 regulations. Hogan said: “The new Building Control Regulations are a major step forward and will for the first time give home-owners clarity, traceability and accountability at all stages of the building process.”

The regulations are about “traceability and accountability”, not about better building. Minister Kelly recently confirmed: “The regulations require both the design professional and the assigned certifier to sign statutory declarations (the latter in conjunction with the builder) certifying that the building/works has been designed and constructed in compliance with the requirements of the Building Regulations.”

The Minister says the certifiers are signing statutory declarations that the works have been designed and constructed in compliance with the building regulations. And for the builders, Tom Parlon of the Construction Industry Federation said last July: “There are penalties already under the new building regulations, everything must be signed off by a competent assignee, who can only be an architect, a building surveyor or an engineer, and in signing off on behalf of the builder, there are obligations there and they have to stand over those.” So the assigned certifier “signs off on behalf of the builder”.

The Certificates

A professional opinion is one thing. A certificate of fact is altogether more certain. At the start of the consultations to which Mr Bradley refers, the Minister ruled out any “signed opinions”. He wanted certificates of fact – and got them – because he senses certificates are certain and wants the buyer to use these as the sole means of redress. Parsed plainly, the design certificate reads: I certify … that the proposed design is in compliance with the requirements of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations. As regards the Certificate of Compliance on Completion, signed by the Assigned Certifier, the cornerstone of the regulations, the builder certifies that he has built per the plans – not per the building regulations. The assigned certifier “certif[ies], having exercised reasonable skill, care and diligence, that the building or works is in compliance with the Second Schedule to the building regulations.”

In plain language, this is not an opinion, but a certificate. It certifies not “substantial compliance” but compliance tout court. As the Ministers intended, there are no let outs. No Code of Practice can rescue the certifier, because regulations override Codes of Practice. No system which allows the builder stay silent, while requiring somebody else to certify that it complies in every respect with the building regulations, is likely to actually make builders build better.

Which experienced engineer or architect would say every client was 100% honest? Have we never met a client who wants to stop a job to avoid paying a bill, or who relishes litigation as a high-stakes hobby, or whispered poison by a lawyer seeking work? Many slips, trips and falls, are manufactured or exploited dishonestly. Mr Bradley says we should “embrac[e] the opportunity to show our ability to comply with best practice as a means of defending ourselves against vexatious claims”. I would agree, if I believed no dishonest claim is ever settled out of court and that I would never have to pay.

The honest consumer needs better building and speedy, cost-free redress. Good building control regulations should deliver both. These regulations do not. They are a charter for the dishonest and opportunistic litigant.

Some say Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) will protect the certifier. The underwriters are indeed offering cover – this year. And they will pay out. But what about the second claim? And the third? Insurers are commercial companies with their primary duty to their shareholders. When this problem manifests itself, they must and will walk away, as over asbestos or pyrites. The design and assigned certifiers have the personal liability for the rest of their lives. Insurers do not defend every claim, even if unfounded. An insurer’s duty to his shareholders is not necessarily in the insured’s interest. Settling a claim can cost less than fighting it.

Those who act as design or assigned certifier shall be burdened with litigation; insurers will not renew PII cover, and in a few years they will face ongoing claims, with no insurance. Mr Bradley’s “ISO system” will not suffice as a defence, because the legal test to be applied is not that of “reasonable skill and care in arriving at an opinion”. The test is: “Was what the certifier signed, true?” Finally, while the designer and/or assigned certifier is an individual person, who signs in a personal capacity, PII is taken out and controlled by a practice or company. A design or assigned certifier who changes employment, leaves employment or even has no say over continuation of a PII policy will be exposed with no insurance cover.

What do the lawyers say?

The concerns of those of us who oppose the regulations in the interests of the public and the professional alike are not based on hearsay but on the views of some of Ireland’s most experienced construction lawyers. Writing on the liability attaching to Design Certifiers under these regulations, Mr Denis McDonald SC wrote last March: “It is the certifier who is taking the responsibility of certifying compliance with the requirements of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations. In addition, it would appear that the certifier is undertaking to certify compliance with the “plans, calculations, specifications, ancillary certificates and particulars listed in the Schedule …”. This is a significant responsibility and there does not appear to be any provision made for the fact that the certifier may have had no input into all of the plans, calculations, specifications and ancillary certificates and particulars referred to.

And, in relation to the assigned certifier and the certificate of completion, he wrote: “While it is certainly helpful that the final paragraph allows the certifier to rely upon the ancillary certificates scheduled, it is important to bear in mind that, as I read the penultimate paragraph, it contains a confirmation on the part of the certifier that the ‘others’ have each exercised reasonable skill, care and diligence in certifying their work as set out in the ancillary certificates. I therefore cannot read the certificate as a whole as permitting the certifier to simply rely on ancillary certificates without investigation. It seems to me that the certifier is undertaking a liability in respect of ancillary certificates in that the certifier is confirming that those certificates have been provided by persons who have exercised skill, care and diligence in certifying their own work.”

Mr Bradley refers to “concerns about liability issues”. He omits to mention that our concerns are founded on the considered views of Senior Counsel experienced in construction law and practice.

Readers, especially those not involved in construction, can be forgiven for confusing the various ‘certifier roles’ arising under these regulations. There are three. The two principal ones, ‘design certifier” and ‘assigned certifier’, are obligatory. The third is optional and less important in the system. An ‘ancillary certifier’ may certify elements of work, such as structural design; but they, and their certification, are not defined under Law.

These regulations apply to buildings. The DoECLG intended that the lead consultant, who for building projects is usually the architect, take the statutory design and assigned certifier roles. They also intended other project designers (such as consulting engineers) to act as ancillary certifiers. But does not the ancillary certifier have a responsibility?

The answer is: not a lot. The ‘ancillary certifier’ role is of little legal importance. This can be seen by examining the advice of the Law Society Conveyancing Committee. Solicitors conveying property need not bother collecting ‘ancillary certificates’. They only need the Certificate of Compliance on Completion with the assigned certifier’s name. The target of subsequent litigation is to be the assigned certifier in person, while the ancillary certifier’s firm, whose name will not be recorded by the lawyers, will not appear in the proceedings.

Is there is another way?

Ireland needs effective building control. The RIAI has repeatedly called for an independent system of inspection of both design and construction under the control of the Building Control Authorities. The regulations do not provide this. Independent inspection or audit has been found necessary in many other sectors:- financial regulation, accountancy, hospitals, the Garda, agriculture and food safety. The idea that construction, alone, is uniquely trustworthy is astonishing.

Building control authorities must have real involvement, with adequate resources and powers to oversee and enforce an effective system of inspection of design and construction. In addition to enforcement, they should be enabled to promote better building practices through systems of feedback, notifications and education. An effective system will actively support good design and construction by small but positive interventions, while retaining the power to enforce proper standards by escalating procedures.

Similar to company auditors, the independent inspector can be appointed by the building owner/developer prior to commencement of construction. Independent inspectors would be suitably qualified experienced persons – architects, engineers, technologists: answerable to the Building Control Authority (BCA) as well as to the building owner.

The inspector would inspect design and construction for compliance with the building regulations in accordance with a code of practice, and confirm to the BCA that inspections have been made and no non-compliant design or construction observed. The design team remain in full control. Having an experienced independent inspector, selected and paid by the client, audit the design would raise standards and, in a time-effective manner, assist the client’s building professionals achieve compliant designs.

The certainty that an experienced independent inspector would inspect the construction site periodically, for the sole purpose of auditing compliance with building regulations, would act to raise construction standards. The inspectors would issue reports to the BCA to accompany a commencement notice and also prior to occupation of the building. They would report all un-rectified cases of non-compliance, for the BCA to issue enforcement notices (an “escalating degree of intervention”, which experts identify as an appropriate way to ensure regulatory compliance in complex situations.) They would carry professional indemnity insurance to cover the services provided.

The BCA would also inspect designs and construction, based on their risk analysis of relevant projects. (This would keep inspectors ‘up to the mark’!) As well as enforcement, the BCA would oversee a system of defects prevention based on feedback from the inspectors. (This would catch defects earlier.) The BCA would charge a fee at commencement notice stage to cover the cost of the system. The system could be self-funded.

A system of independent inspection of designs and construction sites, paid for by the client but licensed by and answerable to the BCA, has worked for years in England and Wales. Such a system will:

  • Deliver a higher standard of building;
  • Better protect the consumer;
  • Apportion liability equitably among all of the participants;
  • Allow architectural technologists work as they have done in the past;
  • Allow “self-builders” to continue with their projects;
  • Reduce cost and speed up the construction process;
  • Protect the State from primary liability and additional cost.

It could also make different requirements around projects which under the present regulations are treated identically, from the fit-out of a small unit in a shopping centre, to a major new hospital.

A process to achieve change

Such a system needs input from many stakeholders. This includes representative bodies of those who acquire or use buildings, including purchasers and tenants of residential buildings, commercial and industrial clients, state agencies such as IDA and Enterprise Ireland, and government departments with significant building programmes. It includes government agencies such as the Competition Authority, National Consumer Agency and Competitiveness Council. It includes materials suppliers, standards organisations, construction technicians, self-builders, fire officers and building control officers. The Minister’s own Building Regulations Advisory Body, which hasn’t been convened for several years, should be consulted in detail. None of these were involved in the “stakeholder discussions” before the 2014 regulations.

Mr Bradley starts his article by acknowledging concerns among his fellow professionals. He ends by exhorting us to “embrac[e] the opportunity to show our ability to comply with best practice as a means of defending ourselves against vexatious claims”. He says we should do this, because of the “comprehensive consultation process undertaken before the regulations passed into law”. To quote John Maynard Keynes: “When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”

The restricted consultation process which gave us these regulations has led to the wrong result: better paperwork, not better consumer protection. The people of Ireland – house-buyer and taxpayer alike – deserve proper building control. The sooner, the better.

Eoin O Cofaigh FRIAI
• President, Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, 1998-1999
• President, Architects’ Council of Europe, 2000
• Honorary Member: American Institute of Architects; Bund Deutscher Architekten; Bund Deutscher Baumeister; Union of Architects of Russia
• Member, Building Regulations Advisory Body, 1991-1997
• Architect in private practice and company director, McHugh O Cofaigh architects, Dublin; 1985 to date
• Author of section ‘Building Control’ in Construction Projects: Law and Practice, Thomson Round Hall, 2007 to date

Other posts of interest:

Engineers Ireland Journal | S.I.9 “is an opportunity to enhance the reputation of the building sector”

Response to Engineers Ireland article

Engineers Ireland – Building Regulations Certificates 

S.I.9 Stakeholders | Your questions please for Engineers

Who should be a Certifier- Part 3: Chartered Engineers + Building Surveyors?

Engineers Ireland CPD 10th June 

7 posts all architects (surveyors + engineers) should read

The Engineers Journal: how BC(A)R SI.9 works in practice

The Engineers Journal: Building control regulations key features

The Engineers Journal- CIF’s new register of builders 

Notes from the (thermal) edge: Part L Compliance (2 of 2)

by Bregs Blog admin team

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The following post was submitted by Joseph Little, Architect and environmental consultant, on 13th October 2014. If you are unsure as to terminology used please see Introduction to thermal bridging: The basics of thermal bridge heat loss (courtesy of Joseph Little Architects).

IF you are a Certifier and you don’t know what the following conversation means, or if you don’t know what a temperature factor (fRsi) is, you probably should not be certifying Part L compliance.

THERMAL BRIDGE CALCULATION 

Author: Joseph Little, Architect and environmental consultant

Some aspects of compliance with Part L of the regulations are far more complex and costly than they need to be. Currently this complexity isn’t fully recognised in the Department of Environment or by Industry. Accredited Construction Details (ACD’s) are sets of junction details for various types of construction that have been proven to have relatively low thermal bridges and no risk of surface condensation: the related psi-values for selected junctions are used to generate a Y-value (a figure that represents the full amount of non-uniform building fabric heat loss as an expression of the area of the building envelope) in the Dwelling Energy Assessment Programme software (DEAP). After many other inputs the latter generates a building energy rating (BER), an energy value, a CO2 emissions indicator and an energy performance coefficient (EPC) for a dwelling. Several outputs from DEAP, including the EPC, are used to demonstrate compliance with Part L (bearing in mind that other aspects of Part L compliance, such as thermal bridging, are proven without use of DEAP).

There are two default Y-values: 0.15 W/m2K which may be used for all dwellings of any age where the ACDs don’t apply, and 0.08 W/m2K if all details comply with the ACDs. Alternatively one can calculate a Y-value using the ACDs (which can give a value better or worse than the default of 0.08 W/m2K depending on geometry) or a mix of psi-values from the ACDs, manufacturers catalogues and bespoke thermally modelled details, etc.. If a designer is able to use ACD details appropriately and consistently for the design of a particular dwelling s/he will be able to calculate a Y-value easily (check out the SEAI Y-value calculator), simplifying one aspect of creating a BER and EPC.

So far so good.

PROBLEMS

The problems are that:

(a) The thermal bridge heat loss of ACDs details (which were published a few months after TGD L(2008) and are closely based on even older UK details) is not sufficiently low to result in the kind of Y-values one should aim for (i.e. 0.04 or 0.05 W/m2K) to achieve a compliant maximum permitted EPC in DEAP without resource to unnecessary amounts of renewables. Indeed some ACD junctions such as external wall insulation – window junctions are badly detailed and result in relatively high thermal bridges.

TBs typical house_BLC copyright 2014(b) The ACDs are incomplete: this means, strictly speaking, that NO Y-value calculation can be made for even the simplest housing estate dwelling without thermal modelling. In the ‘zero tolerance’ world of SI.( (2014) that matters. For instance, the ACDs don’t contain a door threshold detail of any kind (though all houses have entrances), nor a detail for patio or folding door thresholds (that could constitute a significant proportion of the ground junctions in modern houses), nor a detail for a floor over a garage, a floor or roof of a window projection, a warm slab or raft slab, nor any sort of dormer or velux type window, nor even an EWI sill (excluding the bizarre Appendix 2 detail);

(c) The Department of the Environment recently confirmed that changes to the ACD sheets have been completed but not yet implemented. The changes are already shown in Appendix D of TGD L(2011). The following is a quote from an email I recently received from the Architecture/Building Standards Section “L 2011 encourages the development of customised details by certified designers.  This is a conscious effort to spur the market towards informed project specific solutions rather than generic approaches.  We have no plans to produce higher performing ACDs for generic use”. Hardly a case of the Department trying to support small, hard-pressed practices. Therefore Architects that want a wider range of lower thermal bridging details must either wait for manufacturers of major construction systems to calculate exactly the detail needed, or draw it themselves and pay for its calculation by an independent thermal modeller.  So far architects are staying away from thermal modellers in the NSAI scheme ‘in droves’: the market has not been activated.

(d) Default psi-values (that are deliberately high, i.e. poor), such as have been used for some years in the UK, have been proposed by SEAI but not yet adopted. It is not clear why. These values can be a useful way of including short, or seldom used, non-ACD junctions in a Y-value calculation. This encourages designers to undertake Y-value calculations and spend their limited money on calculating the longest or most improved details. Over time they will naturally calculate more details improving their Y-values further. As with any calculated Y-value the length of the junctions is measured, adding significantly more accuracy than a default Y-value.

(e) There is no methodology (such as exists in the UK) that guides an architect or BER assessor through the selection and calculation process of creating a Y-value. For instance the UK methodology states that roof or wall junctions that subtend an angle of less than X degrees can be ignored, psi-values for Y detail type can be substituted for Z type etc. These kind of rules allow a sane and relatively simple way of calculating a sufficiently accurate Y-value. Ironically they encourage low thermal strategies and encourage the use of thermal modellers. Importantly this methodology also allows proof of compliance with procedure: architects, and even more so certifiers, need confidence and a clear compliance path. To date SEAI, NSAI and DECLG have each seen the question of whether a methodology should be created, or simply adopted, as an issue for a different Govt. Department: it is my view the responsibility rests with the Department that ‘owns’ DEAP: SEAI.

In summary without default psi-values and a methodology, in a context where a simple housing estate house may have between 18 and 25 junctions and a unique design could have more than 50 architects face a costly, complex and uncertain path in addressing the thermal bridge impact of their designs. Ironically, in the context of a, b, c, d, e above, installing more high maintenance ‘solar bling’ on the roof is currently an easier way to get an EPC-uplift: it’s also easier to prove its compliance.

IMPLICATIONS FOR SI.9

Part L demonstrates two key areas that undermine the absolute guarantees implicit in SI.9:

  • The actual technical guidance documents themselves are flawed and contradictory (in this case incomplete).
  • Compliance requires expertise that currently is not readily available in the industry.

The hands-off approach by the government, “here’s the regulation now sort it out” has put practitioners in the unenviable position of having to issue absolute guarantees of compliance for situations that are at best unclear, and at worst non-compliant.

Other posts of interest:

Part L compliance issues – S.I.9 (1 of 2)

Part L- is compliance worth the paper its written on?

Design Certifiers – 3 things about certifying Part L… 

Why the design certifier and architect need third party building fabric assessments

Opinion piece: new building regulations and materials risk analysis

SI.9 and Part L | Specialist ancillary certifiers Part 2

SI.9 and Part L | Are specialist ancillary certifiers needed? Part 1 

Dispensations and Transition Arrangements

Practical Post 10: No retrospective compliance – BC(A)R SI.9

Practical Post 13: Duties & conflicts- BC(A)R SI.9 

€37m spent on ‘affordable housing’ sites unsuitable for residential use

by Bregs Blog admin team

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In the following article from September 27th 2014 it would appear that Local Authorities have spent vast sums on sites that are unsuitable for residential use. €37m could have purchased 191 houses nationwide immediately (av purchase price €193k) and eliminated Dublin’s homelessness crisis by this Christmas.

Are Local Authorities the correct instrument for procuring housing?

Recent discussions regarding reducing costs do not address the waste in the public system due to administration, procurement and excessive bureaucracy associated with inadequate and inefficient regulation. Industry estimates have put the cost of SI.9 at over €700m for this year alone. SI.9 is widely acknowledged to give little or no additional consumer protection and does not enhance the technical standards of buildings generally.

€37m could fund 100% local authority independent inspections for 18 years and could simplify and reduce the cost of building control significantly.

See link to article here

extract:

“€37m spent on ‘affordable housing’ sites unsuitable for residential use” by Ciaran Hancock, September 27th 2014.

Comptroller & Auditor General’s report also finds delays and incomplete transfer of sites under land aggregation scheme

The land aggregation scheme was set up in 2010 to ease the financial burden of social housing schemes on local authorities after the economic crash.

Some 25 sites acquired for social or affordable housing at a cost of €37 million have since been deemed unsuitable for residential development, according to the Comptroller & Auditor General’s annual report.

This emerged from its scrutiny of the land aggregation scheme, which was set up by the State in 2010 to ease the financial burden of these schemes on local authorities after the economic crash.

The C&AG also found that in the case of 37 sites accepted for transfer under the scheme, the entire original site did not transfer over. In addition, there were “significant delays” in effecting the transfers of many sites and some were not revalued before being approved for the scheme.

Three valuations were subsequently obtained by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and showed that the land was worth just 20 per cent of the amount paid 12 years previously. When financing costs were taken into account, this figure dropped to 15 per cent.

Some interest payments on the scheme are set to continue until 2038, with local authorities drawing down €2.68 million a year based on current rates. The C&AG said 259 sites covering 775 hectares with a loan value (capital and interest in 2010) of €500 million were deemed suitable for inclusion in the scheme.

Up to June 2012, the department had approved the inclusion of 47 sites, with an aggregate area of 173 hectares. It paid €111 million to redeem these loans – €86.6 million in capital cost and €24.5 million in accrued interest.

The terms of the scheme then changed, and the loans were converted into a 25-year mortgage. Another 25 sites were approved on this basis with a value of €53.2 million, including €12 million in interest. The scheme was closed last December. Local authorities funded land purchases for social and affordable housing with loans from the Housing Finance Agency. These were redeemed from the exchequer when the schemes were developed.

SCSI: SI9 is “positive change”

by Bregs Blog admin team

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In this article from the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland Positive change – Surveyors Journalpublished in October 2014, author Andrew Ramsay takes a positive view of the recently implemented and widely criticised building regulation regulation SI.9. The Bregs Blog has recently written to the SCSI with a list of readers questions on SI.9. The SCSI however, remain unwilling to answer these questions at time of writing.

The current support for SI.9 is in marked contrast to previous comments made by SCSI on the regulation, where the organisation was heavily critical of the lack of adequate enforcement and additional resources allocated to building control sections in Local Authorities (see “SCSI | “Highly unlikely Priory Hall would happen in Britain”- Look Back 4“)

The article does acknowledge that Department estimates on the cost of SI.9 are completely inadequate “Statements indicating that to sign off on work completed will cost between €1,000 and €2,000, do not take account of the resource or complexity of a project” 

Some interesting points of note in the article:

1) Separate appointment of Design and Assigned Certifier roles

Current SCSI guidance appears to be that Design and Assigned Certifier roles are separate to that of the architect or other members on the design team. We wonder if the SCSI has made any representations to the Competition Authority regarding procurement bodies given current public sector tender requirements for exclusive appointment as design certifier of lead architect on projects? Quote:

“It should be noted as identified under the ‘Code of Practice for inspecting and certifying building and work’ (COP) that the DC and AC may not necessarily be a member of the overall design team. Their appointment, whether standalone or not, should be viewed as two distinct roles, with separate processes and separate appointment agreements.”

We have noted the conflicting advice issued by RIAI regarding the separate appointment of a Design Certifier in our post “S.I.9 & RIAI | The Design Certifier Conundrum- Talk to Joe!“. We are not aware of other key stakeholder guidance on the issue of separate appointment of Design Certifier at time of writing.

2) Costs for Certifiers

As noted the author appears to be confirming RIAI and ACEI guidance on the additional hours needed to undertake certifier roles. We have previously noted the cost element for these roles alone could be in excess of €15,000 (excluding other costs):

“It has been suggested that the additional hours required to fulfil the roles and services of DC and AC under BCAR SI.9, based on the construction of a one-off house with a completion programme of 40 weeks, would be in the region of 155.5 hours over and above normal professional scope of service”

3) Single point of responsibility and Builder’s compliance

The author confirms the Assigned Certifier as the “single point” of responsibility for guaranteeing compliance under SI.9. However the statement that the builder is responsible for ensuring the building is completed and compliant with the regulations may be misleading. The current ancillary certificate issued by the CIF suggests the builder is responsible for ensuring compliance with the design and drawings only. Director of the CIF Tom Parlon has suggested that the Assigned Certifier issues a guarantee on completion that the building has been built in accordance with the building regulations, not the contractor.

“The AC also acts as the single point of contact for the Building Control Authority and issues required documentation when requested. The AC role does not include supervision of the building process. The builder is directly responsible for ensuring that the work completed complies with the requirements of the regulations, which is a positive step in ensuring safer and more compliant buildings”

Estimates on the cost of SI.9 for a typical house of between €20,000 and €40,000 have been posted up in the Blog previously. The cost of SI.9 has been estimated by some industry sources as €700m per annum.

For full article: Positive change – Surveyors Journal click link: http://www.surveyorsjournal.ie/index.php/positive-change/

Extract:

Positive change

ANDREW RAMSEY explains how the new Building Control Regulations bring positive change to the building sector.

As part of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland’s public awareness campaign, the ‘Owners’ guide to the new Building Control Regulations’ was published in February this year. It provides clear and practical advice for consumers, explaining the new regulations and associated obligations. In the summer 2013 and spring 2014 editions of the Surveyors Journal we explored the philosophy in relation to the Building Control (Amendment) Regulation 2014 (SI 09) (BCAR) and how, as registered building surveyors, we saw its implementation taking place. Six months on, still in the early stages of implementation, the associated roles and the additional processes created by the regulation are still being understood.

Specialist roles and responsibilities
BCAR creates a specialist role for registered building surveyors who are one of three groups of professionals that can act as Design Certifier (DC) and Assigned Certifiers (AC) under the Regulation. In taking on this role, registered surveyors will need to adapt to the new administrative and inspection requirements along with developing a robust management check system to deliver the necessary service. We will need to ACT-PLAN-DO-CHECK-RECORD, and to provide a log of clear documentation to support and substantiate our professional judgement.

Under BCAR, building owners, designers and builders are all responsible for their role in the building process. This includes the provision of plans, documentation, inspection plans and certificates relating to the various processes that are lodged with the Building Control Authority by the DC and AC appointed under the regulations. The processes leading to these submissions and the administrative oversight involved are necessary in order to ensure that failure in compliance with the requirements of the regulations is prevented (or detected and remedied). The responsibility for compliance remains with the certifiers but regulatory oversight is proposed on a risk-based approach to target those who are non-compliant.

With the implementation of the BCAR, since March 2014, a building owner is required to appoint a DC and AC, as well as a competent builder. The launch of the Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI), which provides an online directory of registered building contractors and specialist contractors, provides assistance to clients during contractor selection. They know that each firm on the list has passed the minimum requirements of registration and is governed by an Industry Code of Ethics, as are registered building surveyors. It should be noted as identified under the ‘Code of Practice for inspecting and certifying building and work’ (COP) that the DC and AC may not necessarily be a member of the overall design team. Their appointment, whether standalone or not, should be viewed as two distinct roles, with separate processes and separate appointment agreements.

Statements indicating that to sign off on work completed will cost between €1,000 and €2,000, do not take account of the resource or complexity of a project.

Certification
Prior to March 2014 there were no statutory lodgements for building control outside the requirements of a Commencement Notice, Disability Access Certificate and Fire Safety Certificate. Application drawings produced as part of the process were mainly planning drawings and not construction drawings. The ‘selfcertification’ system adopted was not a requirement under building regulation compliance but was primarily driven as a process for title purpose, with certificate providing building sign off as having “substantial compliance”, sometimes only based on a single inspection after the completion of construction work.

The new system through the BCAR places a statutory obligation on the DC to issue a design certificate on the design confirming compliance with building regulations. This certificate, along with necessary project-specific documentation, is handed over to the AC before commencement of work on site. Prior to this commencement stage, general arrangement drawings (as a minimum) outlining how the building works will comply with the requirements of the building regulations, are lodged with the Building Control Authority online. A preliminary inspection plan is also required as part of this process.

The AC’s obligation under the BCAR is to ensure that an appropriate level of inspection is taking place and to co-ordinate the required ancillary inspections completed by others. In the completion of this requirement the AC must identify all design professionals and specialists from whom certificates are required and obtain them. With the support and co-operation of the design team, builder and client, the AC co-ordinates the implementation of the inspection plan and oversees its implementation, which should be reviewed and updated as required. The AC also acts as the single point of contact for the Building Control Authority and issues required documentation when requested. The AC role does not include supervision of the building process. The builder is directly responsible for ensuring that the work completed complies with the requirements of the regulations, which is a positive step in ensuring safer and more compliant buildings.

Inspection plan
The frequency of inspection will be outlined within a formal inspection plan that takes into account the factors relating to the overall building construction risk. The inspection plan is formulated in conjunction with the design team and other appropriate specialists. It will include an inspection notification framework (INF), which identifies the stages or items of work the AC or ancillary certifiers require notification of to allow inspection. While an INF defines the necessary inspections required during the construction process, this does not prevent the AC, or others, from completing unannounced inspections.

On completion of the project, the BCAR requires the AC to certify the building or works as being compliant. Provision of certification will be subject to the AC’s professional judgement, and upon receipt of all required supporting documentation to allow them to do so. The Certificate of Completion must be validated and registered by the Building Control Authority via the (online) building control management system hosted by the local government management agency before the building it relates to may be opened, used or occupied.

Owner’s role
Turning now to the building owner’s role, under the BCAR they have a responsibility to “ensure that adequate resources and competent persons are made available to design, construct, inspect and certify the building work” and with this many believe, an implied requirement to allow sufficient time and funds for completion of the necessary requirements.

The cost of compliance
Statements by senior Government ministers and others, indicating that to sign off on work completed will cost somewhere between €1,000 and €2,000, do not necessarily take account of the resource or complexity of a project, nor the additional work to ensure quality assurance within the new regulations. Each project is unique, with its own set of risks and requirements, and necessitating a range of “adequate resources”. Any increase in professional service costs to allow completion of the required components of the BCAR is directly proportional to the additional resources invested by all parties involved. Properly resourced inspections will be required to ensure that the final project complies. This is in everyone’s interest, particularly the client’s.

It has been suggested that the additional hours required to fulfil the roles and services of DC and AC under BCAR SI.9, based on the construction of a one-off house with a completion programme of 40 weeks, would be in the region of 155.5 hours over and above normal professional scope of service. This will vary from project to project subject to risk analysis and construction complexity. The implementation of the BCAR has created a requirement for all parties involved to invest additional time and resources in construction projects. While this will inevitably result in increased cost (appropriate to the resource invested), the regulation is an important step forward in ensuring building regulation compliance, and should be perceived as a positive change.

Andrew Ramsey
Andrew is a Chartered Building Surveyor and Chartered Project Management Surveyor with McGovern Surveyors.

Other posts of interest:

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

S.I.9 & RIAI | The Design Certifier Conundrum- Talk to Joe!

RIAI CPD July 2014: Design Certifier in the Design Process- SI.9 

Engineers Ireland CPD 10th June

The RIAI recommends separate appointment of Assigned Certifier under Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014)

Problems with role of Design Certifier: BC(A)R SI

Design Certifiers – 3 things about certifying Part L…

Specialist Ancillary Certifiers, Template Inspection plan & form, 7 day notice

7 posts all architects (surveyors + engineers) should read

Post 1: Architect’s Ancillary Cert (Design & Completion)

Where is the Design Certifier in BC(A)R SI.9?

Part L compliance issues – S.I.9 (1 of 2)

by Bregs Blog admin team

Graphic for u+ψ_BLC copyright_2014

The following email was received from Joseph Little, Architect and environmental consultant on 10th October 2014. We have formatted it into a post format. If you are unsure as to terminology used please see Introduction to thermal bridging: The basics of thermal bridge heat loss (courtesy of Joseph Little Architects).

IF you are a Certifier and you don’t know that the following conversation means, or if you don’t know what a temperature factor (fRsi) is, you probably should not be certifying Part L compliance.

At the moment, under 1.3.3.2 (iii) of TGD L(2011), ‘reasonable provision with regard to limitation of thermal bridging’ for non-ACD details can be proven by a manufacturer applying to NSAI for agrément certification by ANY thermal modeller (whose calcs are then vetted thoroughly by NSAI), or by someone on an approved thermal modellers scheme (the only scheme we know of worldwide is the NSAI scheme). An architect in private practice must use the latter approach in establishing psi-values for his/her own (non-Accredited Construction Details, non-agrément) designs. Obviously the UK Accredited and Enhanced Construction Details are equal to the Irish ACDs.

Please note that there are clear limits on the use of ACDs that seem to be frequently ignored, e.g. you may have a detail similar to an ACD but sufficiently different in adjoining U-values and/or geometry that the ACD value may not be used.

1.3.3.2 (iv) focuses not so much on limiting thermal bridging but on surface condensation based on the hugely onerous statement in 1.3.3.1 ‘Any thermal bridge should not pose a risk of surface or interstitial condensation’. As a member of the Building Fabric team of DECLG told me in a telcon some time ago one cannot ‘know’ this unless one calculates it… If calculation is indeed needed for every potentially vulnerable junction of every building it would constitute a vast number of calculations. I would argue this requirement does not require all thermal bridges to be calculated, only the ones that may be vulnerable… but who decides which junction is in which of these groups?

1.3.3.2 (iv) states one may ‘use alternative details which limit the risk of mould growth and surface condensation to an acceptable level as set out in paragraph D.2 of Appendix D for all junctions’. This is proven by establishing that the temperature factor (fRsi) of the surface or junction is above an accepted threshold or that building type (0.75 for dwellings). This little calculation is very simple and any design professional could do it, however they must use surface temperature information that can only be established in two ways:

(a) by thermal modelling at design stage (it does not explicitly state that a modeller on NSAI scheme must carry out this do this but I think it would be hard to prove who else would be clearly acceptable given the clarity of the clause above it); and

(b) after the building is completed, by having a thermographic survey carried out under IS EN 13187. Only a trained thermographer (trained in an internationally recognised training programme, such as ‘ITC Level 1 Thermographer’) is likely to be able to do that. Unless you are allowed to certify design after the building is complete and have a survey carried it (in accordance with specific conditions and manner in IS EN 13187) it does seem to push one back to the desktop thermal modelling by someone on the NSAI Scheme again.

Other posts of interest:

Part L- is compliance worth the paper its written on?

Design Certifiers – 3 things about certifying Part L… 

Why the design certifier and architect need third party building fabric assessments

Opinion piece: new building regulations and materials risk analysis

SI.9 and Part L | Specialist ancillary certifiers Part 2

SI.9 and Part L | Are specialist ancillary certifiers needed? Part 1 

Dispensations and Transition Arrangements

Practical Post 10: No retrospective compliance – BC(A)R SI.9

Practical Post 13: Duties & conflicts- BC(A)R SI.9 

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

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

In following article from the Examiner in 2011 ‘Highly unlikely’ Priory Hall would happen in Britain, the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland (SCSI) comment on SI.9, formerly SI.80. The SCSI clearly highlight the main defect in the old Irish system of building control was lack of enforcement of the regulations. It is clear that the SCSI at this point had identified a comprehensive system of 100% local authority inspections as the essential part of any new building control system.

Quote: “TOUGHER inspection laws in Britain make it “highly unlikely” that a situation could arise like Priory Hall in Dublin, where residents had to evacuate the development because of serious fire safety concerns, a building expert has claimed.

A leading British authority on building defect recognition, Prof Malcolm Hollis, said a key issue in Ireland appeared to be the lack of independent assessment of the design, together with detailed checking of the building work.

Asked if a situation like Priory Hall could emerge in Britain, he replied: “You can’t rule anything out in terms of defects in buildings but it would be highly unlikely and it is certainly not something you would expect to see repeated in more than one building.

Prof Hollis, who spoke at the annual conference of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland conference in Dublin, said the British model of independent inspections, where developments are examined before, during and after construction, protected occupants and ensured the value of new properties.

It is all the more remarkable that the SCSI remain supportive of SI.9 as introduced. Containing no new provisions for enforcement of the current building regulations and little or no additional consumer protections, the new system continues our defective system of self-certification. No new or additional resources have been allocated to building control sections to administer the new regulations, and the new code of practice indicates that increasing BCO inspections to 4 per project will result in the current unrealistic target of 15% inspections will reduce to less than 4% nationwide.

Why are the SCSI, like the other stakeholders RIAI and ACEI endorsing this new regulations when it clearly does not work in the interests of the consumer? These are questions members of all three representative organisations may well be asking at the moment.

Extract to follow:

‘Highly unlikely’ Priory Hall would happen in Britain

Saturday, October 22, 2011

By Evelyn Ring

TOUGHER inspection laws in Britain make it “highly unlikely” that a situation could arise like Priory Hall in Dublin, where residents had to evacuate the development because of serious fire safety concerns, a building expert has claimed.

A leading British authority on building defect recognition, Prof Malcolm Hollis, said a key issue in Ireland appeared to be the lack of independent assessment of the design, together with detailed checking of the building work.

Asked if a situation like Priory Hall could emerge in Britain, he replied: “You can’t rule anything out in terms of defects in buildings but it would be highly unlikely and it is certainly not something you would expect to see repeated in more than one building.”

Prof Hollis, who spoke at the annual conference of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland conference in Dublin, said the British model of independent inspections, where developments are examined before, during and after construction, protected occupants and ensured the value of new properties.

The professor of building pathology at the University of Reading said it appeared that the lack of legislation requiring mandatory inspections and enforcement in Ireland had resulted in cases where new construction did not achieve the required standards.

“We have already seen the result of this in relation to fire safety. But the health and well-being of occupants can also be put at risk through failures to achieve required standards for ventilation, water-proofing, drainage, heating and energy conservation,” he said.

“In the UK, approved independent inspectors work with the developer before, during and after construction to ensure a stringent approach to ensuring compliance in accordance with the building regulations. A similar system could work in Ireland,” he said.

The president of the society, John Curtin, said they wanted tighter building control. He said local authorities were only inspecting between 10% and 15% of developments in their area. He also said the buildings inspected by the councils were only visited once during the building process.

Mr Curtin said all developments should be visited on a “blanket basis” and the society would favour the British model, where there were constant building inspections on all sites.

The society has also called on the Government to clarify the issue of retrospective banning of upward-only rent reviews in commercial leases, a situation severely impacting on Ireland’s ability to attract foreign investment. It pointed to figures suggesting that investment levels have dropped to about €180 million so far this year, compared to over €3 billion in 2006.

Meanwhile, the country’s planners could be tied up in red tape for years as a result of more un-coordinated rules and restrictions.

Planning expert Conor Skehan, who addressed a conference of the Irish Planning Institute in Dublin yesterday, said “a plethora of environmental restrictions threatens to engulf and overwhelm rural areas, with potentially disastrous results for their future”.

Other posts of interest:

BRAB and BC(A)R SI.9- Look Back 3 

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

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

BREGS Blog Archive 4- FEBRUARY 2014

BREGS Blog Archive 3- JANUARY 2014

BREGS Blog Archive 2- DECEMBER 2013

BREGS Blog Archive 1- NOVEMBER 2013

Response to Engineers Ireland article

by Bregs Blog admin team

 

FUTURE CHANGE sign istock

The BRegs Blog received a lot of detailed comments in relation to an article by Cormac Bradley in the Engineers Ireland Journal. Many are suitable for posts in their own right which we intend to publish. The following comment was received from Michael Gillespie in response to this article.

SI 9 is not a common sense approach to the deficiencies in the construction industry. As opposed to taking a hands on approach in improving the skills and abilities of BOTH professional and trades, S.I.9 seeks instead to frighten people into improving not unlike a dictatorship. In a small number of cases this will happen, but it will be too small to make a real difference. For many, it is and will continue to be business as usual, despite the mountain of liability. The hard neck cases will not be deterred by the increased regulation; they can only be deterred by the physical presence of independent inspectors – this is true for both trades and professionals.

The real result of S.I.9 is not improved adherence to the regulations, but rather a reduction in projects and increased flaunting of the regulations. Most of the people responsible for delivering an improved construction sector are not up-skilling, revising or putting into practice measures that will guarantee the aims of S.I.9 as claimed by the Department of the Environment and its former minister. For them the investment is too much or too high of a risk with work projections down, as evident the decrease in commencement notices.

Those behind S.I. 9 will argue to the bitter end, the supposed benefits it will bring and deny the realities such as the end of Self build and fewer projects, which will result in higher rents and people being denied their right, to own a home. But come to an end it must, as the flaws and fears mount by the day and the lies and stubbornness become more and more apparent. S.I.9 needs to be replaced with a better system, taking along the good points but replace the damaging areas. Unless this is done, projects which we could start next year will be shelved or delayed. At the moment trades and professionals are relying on work exempt from S..I9, WHICH WILL NOT ALWAYS BE THE CASE.

What are the good points of S.I.9?

The main benefit was to be the production of comprehensive compliance documents. This would ensure that the design was properly assessed and details of how it is built thought out. This is already being flaunted by all sides. Even Building Control Authorities cannot enforce this requirement, making it almost redundant. Thus Clients, costs are up but the benefits are down.

What are the bad points of S.I.9?

These are seemingly endless but I will point out a few of the worst:

  • Outlawing of self-build’s (check with your LA) when mandatory builder’s registration takes effect.
  • The fact a home owner cannot move into the property before it is completed presents huge obstacles for clients. This is punishing people who were not responsible for Priory Hall and the like.
  • Virtual removal of Architectural Technologists from the industry

What is needed?

A system of independent inspection, with properly resourced Building Control Authorities. It is clear that S.I.9 was intended to escape the cost to Local Authorities. The Department’s belief that self-certification could be enforced is proving to be the death nail for the one off housing industry at least (but maybe it does not care). S.I.9 tries to make sweeping changes and take the construction industry from gutter to elitism in one swoop and it is too much. A less expensive system including independent inspection, would instantly rectify the issues around self-certification and allow for the more reasonable rate of change and improvement, without all the drama or jeopardy to the industry.

Those around the table should have known better. It is now time for them to listen to the people at the coal face. Take a step back lads, open your eyes and be brave and honest. CHANGE IS NEEDED AND IT IS NEEDED NOW.

Other posts of interest:

Engineers Ireland Journal | S.I.9 “is an opportunity to enhance the reputation of the building sector”

Engineers Ireland – Building Regulations Certificates 

S.I.9 Stakeholders | Your questions please for Engineers

Who should be a Certifier- Part 3: Chartered Engineers + Building Surveyors?

Engineers Ireland CPD 10th June 

7 posts all architects (surveyors + engineers) should read

The Engineers Journal: how BC(A)R SI.9 works in practice

The Engineers Journal: Building control regulations key features

The Engineers Journal- CIF’s new register of builders 

S.I.9 Job Opportunities: Building Control Technical Director €75-90k p.a.

by Bregs Blog admin team

opportunity

The BRegs Blog does not usually post up job vacancies but the following one received on 9th October 2014 may be of interest to our readers.

Given the very low take-up of roles for Assigned and Design Certifier generally, there is a gap in the market at present for specialist certifiers. A number of specialist firms,  along with individuals, have emerged to undertake the new roles under S.I.9 (see previous posts below).

As the largest architectural firms in the state are not undertaking the new roles of Design and Assigned Certifier under S.I.9 there may be significant business opportunities, for foreign- based certifier firms from the UK in particular, to set up a similar “approved inspector” service in Ireland. Given that most state agencies such as the OPW and other Local Authorities are refusing to undertake the new certifier roles there may be significant business opportunities for specialist certifier firms in the arena of public projects also.

One benefit to a foreign-based specialist certifier firm would be limiting Certifier liability in the short term while the vague wording in the legislation is established in the courts system.

The following is an email received advertising one such position. If you are interested please contact the person listed and not the  BRegs Blog.

_________

BRG – BUILDING CONTROL TECHNICAL DIRECTOR / ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR APPOINTMENT – DUBLIN – £60000PA / £70000PA+

[€ 75,000 /  € 90,000+]

Good Afternoon,

I hope you are well and have had a good week too.

I have just registered a new Technical Director / Associate Director Building Control-based appointment in Dublin offering a starting salary of £60,000 pa to £70,000 pa plus competitive company benefits.  This newly-created position will require the successful candidate to lead, drive and develop an entirely new business within the Republic of Ireland that will be dedicated to the enforcement and improvement of Building Regulations across the country within a Private Sector entity.

Candidates will already be based or have the capability to be based in Dublin, as well as extensive experience within the Building Control, Building Surveying, Engineering or Architectural sectors.  Applications are encouraged from Senior-level staff, as well as those professionals already working at Associate, Partner and Director levels, who have the drive and ambition to take this new business venture within an already established organisation forward for the next 15-20 years.  High levels of Technical knowledge are not a necessity but the ability to network, develop and drive business forward certainly is.

For more information on this exclusive appointment, please email me at paul.tomkies@britishresourcinggroup.co.uk and I shall be more than happy to provide you with further details on request.  The closing date for applications will be Friday 24thOctober 2014.

In the meantime, have a good afternoon and I look forward to hearing from you again soon.

Kind Regards,

Paul Tomkies

Other posts of interest:

SI9 Schedule of duties for Certifiers 

Specialist Ancillary Certifiers, Template Inspection plan & form, 7 day notice

10 ‘must-read’ posts for Certifiers | S.I.9 

BAM to switch focus from State-funded projects

Summary of building regulations changes posts 

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

SI9- where do I start? 

3 must-read posts for employees

The Design Certifier Conundrum | Retraction

by Bregs Blog admin team

The BRegs Blog is in receipt of email correspondence in relation to this blog post published originally on Friday 10th October 2014 under the title “S.I. 9 & RIAI – Talk to Joe! | The DC Conundrum”.

The writer believes that the blog post either mistakenly or mischievously misrepresented what the writer had said about Design Certification and that the writer considered the blog post to be defamatory.

The BREgs Blog has removed the original blog post. The intention of the BRegs Blog has always been to publish informative and objective blog posts. It is never an intention to cause any personal anguish. The Bregs Blog Admin. Team apologises if any upset has been caused in this instance.

The writer has been offered an opportunity to submit an alternative post for publication if the writer so wishes on the subject of Design Certification.

BRegs Blog Admin. Team

 

‘No Minister’ | RIAI Annual Conference 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team

No Minister

Bregs Blog admin team 8th October 2014

At the RIAI AGM, late last month, a question was asked by a member as to whether the ‘Minister’ would take questions about S.I.9 from the floor of the RIAI annual conference . The officers at the top table seemed perplexed at the mention of a ‘Minister’ and the CEO, John Graby and President, Robin Mandal, claimed that there would be no ‘Minister’ at the conference. The questioner pointed out that the online conference programme had clearly noted an address by the Minister on Day One of the conference. The following day all references to an address by a ‘Minister’ were removed from the RIAI online conference programme.

The Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly T.D. and the Minister of State, Paudie Coffey T.D., have been very visible in supporting construction sector conferences of late. Minister Kelly is due to address the Irish Planning Institute conference this Friday. Minister Coffey attended the Construction Industry Federation’s conference last week and will support the National Building and Design Conference this Friday also. So why ‘No Minister’ for the  RIAI Conference?

The RIAI top table would have you believe that the Ministers and officials at the Department of the Environment “are not amused” at the fact that architects have not embraced S.I.9 with open arms; that the RIAI members are now being placed on the naughty step for daring to question the legislation on behalf of the consumer and their clients.

On the other hand most architects believe there is a fear among the RIAI conference organisers that there might not be a big welcome for a Minister from the Department that brought its members S.I. 9? Could such a Minister be greeted with heckling, booing and awkward questions that might mirror the reception usually given to Ministers at Teacher and Garda Unions’ conferences? Would such a response from members give away the carefully crafted message from the RIAI head office to the Department of the Environment that all is well with architects and they are just getting on with the new building control regulations? Are some people afraid that the Ministers will find out what is really going on?

The vast majority of architects do not believe S.I. 9 will help consumers or improve building standards. Most believe it is a lost opportunity and cannot understand why the profession is being misrepresented at its highest level. Most architects do not hold Ministers Kelly or Coffey responsible; they inherited this appalling piece of legislation from Phil Hogan and would welcome an opportunity to be able to explain to these Ministers its shortcomings and how there could be a better way to control building in this country.

We know Minister Coffey, at least,  has looked at the BRegs Blog so leave your comments below!

BRegs Blog Admin Team

The RIAI Annual Conference is scheduled to take place at the RDS on Sunday 12th and Monday 13th October 2014.

Related posts: 

“Size isn’t important” | Are shoe box apartments really the solution?

by Bregs Blog admin team

image001

“Size isn’t important!”

The BRegs Blog has documented the acute fall-off in commencement notices since the introduction of S.I.9 in March of this year. Other industry commentators have noted CSO figures for a 17% decrease in residential planning applications year-on-year. In parallel we appear to have significant property price increases in Dublin while the levels of homelessness appear to have increased also. Faced with an apparent shortage of affordable housing Minister Alan Kelly appears to be about to introduce a 10% requirement for social housing on all new residential developments.

With S.I.9 having a significant effect on the self-build sector with 800 dwellings being abandoned this year alone (source IAOSB), we table a selection of recent articles from various industry lobby groups on how to kick-start the residential construction sector.

One thing is certain- the huge increases in cost for a typical dwelling due to S.I.9 combined with any new more onerous social housing levies may well make speculative housing continue to be unfeasible, even despite recent price increases. In the short term this may well depress residential development further and contribute towards a rental “bubble” and housing shortages. The following letters and articles list out consumer and industry discussion on the matter (click on heading/titles to access link to articles).

Apartment Sizes

The following letter to the editor in the Irish Times from Peter Ennis on October 7th 2014 concerns a Construction Industry Federation (CIF) call for smaller apartment sizes and cynically suggests (seemingly in jest) “…why not a reduction in building standards, a ban on costly thermal and sound insulation, an abolition of any building inspections and a rowback on fire safety standards, as these will surely encourage a building boom and create many jobs? Feeding our children less might also mean future generations will fit into even smaller apartments.

Remarkably key industry stakeholders the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) and the Society for Chartered Surveyors (SCSI) have endorsed the CIF call for a reduction in building standards and sizes to offset costs in new building. Rather than concentrating on the removal of additional red-tape or a reduction in actual construction labour and materials costs, these representative bodies appear to be endorsing smaller units of lesser quality.

CIF says standards hamper development

In a recent Irish Times article the CIF has said “Dublin City Council should change its standards on apartments now to kick-start development, industry representatives have said.”

This article is of some concern to professionals who note that developers tend to concentrate on minium standards and maximising profits rather than market and dwelling sustainability or settlement patterns and urban mix.

Housing Agency calls for smaller apartments in Dublin

“John O’Connor of the Housing Agency is urging the council to reduce permitted sizes of one-, two- and three- bedroom apartments to restart construction and make homes more affordable.

The SCSI said the affordability of construction could be addressed through increasing density instead of reducing size. “We are still 45 to 55 per cent off the prices that were achieved when the regulations were brought in,” said Michael Cleary, the chairman of the society’s planning and development group…The council’s standards should be kept but there has to be a “trade-off” of allowing density to be increased. “We need to achieve more out of a site without the diminution of standards, so that might mean building a 10-storey block instead of eight storeys.”

President of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland [RIAI] Robin Mandal said a reduction in size did not have to mean a reduction in quality.

“…Size isn’t necessarily the most important aspect when it comes to ensuring the quality of apartments.”

On balance this would appear to be a more considered version of the CIF recommendations however dwelling size frequently is directly related to quality of living. What commentators may actually be hinting at is the unintended consequences due to recent changes to planning legislation that remove so-called “pre-63″ bedsits and multiple units from the market. Although intended to remove sub-standard smaller dwellings form the market the absence of a workable alternative has resulted in a shortage of smaller cheaper rental units for the entry level or lower level of the rental market.

Council sees no reason to change standards

In this article “Claims that Dublin City Council’s apartment standards were holding back development were “simplistic, premature” and based on a superficial analysis, a senior council official said. Executive manager of the council’s planning department Jim Keogan said he had no reason to advise councillors to reduce apartment sizes…

…If we go back to building micro apartments it’s the owner of the land who will gain from having more units on the site, but the price isn’t going to go down for the buyer or the renter.”

Other posts of interest:

Irish Independent “Private lifts and sunny views- but housing is a real mess” 

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing?

Commencement Notices | 6 months after S.I. 9

SI.9 to Cost €168m in 2014 | Non-Residential Sector

S.I. 9 | Self-builders – 6 months’ update

SI.9 to Cost €532m in 2014 | Residential Sector 

SI.9 costs for a typical house

CSO: (Q1 2014) planning permissions for dwellings -30% drop

The cost of a Solution to BC(A)R SI.9? 

RIAI Complainee investigates IAOSB Complaint

by Bregs Blog admin team

Self Build 2

The following letter of complaint by the Irish Association of Self Builders (IAOSB) was posted on their website on Monday 29th September 2014 (click link here). It is a follow-up on an earlier complaint made last February regarding statements made on self-building under the new BC(A)R S.I.9 regulation by the CEO of the representative body for architects (RIAI). The letter is presented here without comment courtesy of IAOSB:

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Letter from IAOSB to Robin Mandal, RIAI President

29th September 2014

Dear Mr Mandal,

Re: Self- Builder status under Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014)

I am writing to you on behalf of the Irish Association of Self Builders regarding the status of self-builders since the introduction of Building Control (Amendment) S.I.9 on 1st March 2014. Despite numerous written exchanges with the previous Minster for the Department of Environment Phil Hogan, correspondence to the Attorney General and the Law Society, the status of self-building still remains unclear. We have also written to the new Minster for the Environment, Alan Kelly T.D. but have not received a reply yet.

In February 2014 in our letter to you, on behalf of our members, we requested that the RIAI formally correct previous statements concerning the status of the self-builders made by the CEO of the RIAI Mr. John Graby . On 6th February 2014, in a radio interview on Ocean FM, Mr Graby stated that self-building was still possible under Regulation S.I.9. We believe these statements were misleading and bring the RIAI into disrepute.

Link to previous correspondence: http://www.iaosb.com/letter from iaosb to Robin Mandal, RIAI President

In reply to us on 23rd February 2014 you informed us that our formal complaint concerning Mr Graby was forwarded on to the Executive of the RIAI. We were surprised to hear that the Executive of the RIAI, the person dealing with formal complaints appears to be none other than Mr. Graby himself which makes a mockery of the whole system.

Can you please clarify what procedure has applied to this complaint, whether any statements of correction have been or will be made, and whether any steps regarding our complaint have been taken.

We would also be grateful to you as the President of the RIAI to confirm the current advice to your members on self-building, particularly in light of correspondence from the Law Society suggesting professionals should not certify self- builds.

The Law Society have confirmed a self-build owner will have to be willing to complete forms as indicated above and to find an architect, engineer or surveyor that is willing to undertake the task of acting as an assigned certifier – in most cases for a person with no experience acting as a ‘builder’. Doing so will clearly increase the risk for the architect, engineer or surveyor, and such professionals would be best advised not to undertake such a role in this sort of situation.”

We assume you have been in contact with the Law Society and their views have informed RIAI policy on the subject of self-building. See Law Society letter here: http://www.iaosb.com/law society of ireland – update on building control (amendment) regulations 2014.html

And finally, our members experience to date is that R.I.A.I. registered architects are unwilling to take on any certifier roles for self-builds at present under the new building regulations. This contradicts everything that was said by Mr Graby as a representative of your institute. If you and RIAI do not agree with this, we would greatly appreciate the names and contact details of all the Architects who are acting as certifiers for self builds.

Building Control (Amendment) Regulation S.I.9 of 2014 has failed and as one of the main stakeholders responsible for its introduction, you need to take action now.

Look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours Sincerely,

Shane McCloud
Irish Association of self Builders
www.iaosb.com

Cc To all RIAI council members

Sound advice and SI.9 – PART 1

by Bregs Blog admin team

eavesdropping-1

Sound advice and SI.9 – PART 1

By Bregs Blog admin on 6th October 2014

Many of the homes and apartments constructed in recent years have very poor sound insulation between homes. Anyone looking at discussion boards or homeowner and tenant websites will see that this is a widespread problem that is very expensive to remedy.

This is another fallout of ‘self certified’ poorly constructed homes which impacts directly on families. It can cost €1,300-1,500 per room to upgrade a poorly constructed party wall (see DOELG RIA link here).

The Irish Concrete Fedaration give advice to consumers on buying a home (see link here- for list of helpful FAQ’S see section following this post). Quote:

Another major problem in some modern houses is poor sound insulation between adjoining properties. The best way to check when buying, is to get a friend or partner to open and close doors and presses in the adjoining property and if possible bring a small radio to check for sound transmission. The builder may or may not be happy to facilitate you, but this is the best way to check for soundproofness. Normally, there will be a certain amount of sound transmission between party walls, but it is important to satisfy yourself that the level of sound transmission is acceptable to you

This advice from the building industry fails to mention that builders, designers and Certifiers who have a legal responsibility to build party walls and floors to the correct standards. Prospective buyers should not be bringing friends and radios to view properties- they should be provided with a testing certificate from a competent technician confirming  that it has been properly built.

The DoE estimate that proper testing of compliance for Part E would cost €800-€1,050 per unit, see information here (page 10) .

Under the new Building Control (Amendment) Regulations Assigned Certifiers will be factoring these additional testing costs into their certification fees.

Blog Note: The cost for the above test has not been factored into previous cost estimates for SI.9.

Other posts of interest:

Summary of building regulations changes posts 

SI.9 to Cost €168m in 2014 | Non-Residential Sector

SI.9 to Cost €532m in 2014 | Residential Sector 

SI.9 costs for a typical house

________

Notes

The following is a list of FAQ’ s off the Irish Concrete Federation – (off website dated 6th October 2014). Please consult with your representative organisation with any queries regarding any of the comments below. Link here:

What are the most important things to consider when building or buying?

The house should be as safe as possible for you and your children to live and sleep in. A house with is constructed from incombustible materials and with the minimum of cavities in the structure (through which flame and hot gasses can pass) is the safest structure. This is particularly important in the case of apartments.

Another major problem in some modern houses is poor sound insulation between adjoining properties. The best way to check when buying, is to get a friend or partner to open and close doors and presses in the adjoining property and if possible bring a small radio to check for sound transmission. The builder may or may not be happy to facilitate you, but this is the best way to check for soundproofness. Normally, there will be a certain amount of sound transmission between party walls, but it is important to satisfy yourself that the level of sound transmission is acceptable to you. Remember, when buying and apartment, the source of the sound may be from above and below as well as through walls with adjoining neighbours. It is important in apartments that vibration from washing machines and spin dryers does not cause irritation.

Is concrete a cold material?

We are all familiar with the cold sensation of stepping onto a concrete surface. However, this is because most concrete surfaces are not insulated. Concrete is efficient at retaining heat and this is why it is often used in storage heaters. Under the Irish Building Regulations floors and walls are now required to be highly insulated and as a result concrete will thermally outperform the most commonly used alternative materials.

Should I build internal walls in concrete block?

Building internal walls in block is relatively inexpensive and has a positive effect on the fire, sound and thermal performance of a house. Applying curtain rails and fixtures is easy and internal block walls can also be used to support Precast concrete floors.

Should I use dry-lining or wet plaster?

Many builders and plasterers opt for dry-lining which is taped at the joints, or plaster slabs and a wet hardwall plaster skim finish. These finishes are generally very acceptable. However, a wet plaster finish, although more labour intensive is arguably a better finish. A wet plaster finish gives improved thermal performance (see thermal mass) and a more solid feel to the building. Ultimately, this is a matter of choice and of course the key to good plaster work is a good plasterer.

What insulation should I use?

There are a wide range of insulation materials on the market, including mineral wool type insulations such as ‘Glasswool’ or ‘Rockwool’ and rigid insulations such as Polyurethane (PU) and High Density Polystyrene (HDPE). Non-rigid insulations are generally used for insulating attics. Where fire performance is concerned, ‘Rockwool’ has far greater fire resistance than ‘Glasswool’ and is considered incombustible.

Where masonry construction is concerned, there are a range of options in relation to wall type. To view the five most typical wall constructions download Thermal Insulation -ERG (Brochure) Click here

Rigid insulation boards can be installed either within the cavity wall or on the internal face of the inside block. Some of the rigid board insulations are foil-faced to reflect radiant heat back into the room. With the higher insulation requirements under the new Part L (Thermal Insulation) of the Building Regulations 2003, using combined in-cavity and internal wall insulation is an increasingly popular choice. This form of construction is likely to become more popular with the introduction of higher thermal performance requirements under new Building Regulations to be implemented towards the end of 2007. It is proposed that thermal insulation requirements will be revised upwards again in 2010.

Specially manufactured plasterboard with rigid insulation board bonded to the back is available for installation on internal walls. This is fixed to the wall with plaster dabs by what is commonly referred to as ‘the slab and dab method’. When rigid board, partial fill, cavity insulation is installed, a clear air space of 40mm should be left between the outside face of the insulation and the inside face of the outer block. To maximise thermal performance, there should be no gaps between the insulation boards and the boards should be fixed tightly against the block inner leaf.

Full-fill cavity insulations are available in both rigid board and bead forms. Full-fill rigid boards are installed as the wall construction progresses whereas, bead insulation is pumped into the cavity after the wall is completed. There are regional preferences for both rigid and bead type insulations. Full-fill insulations breech the cavity wall and therefore should be installed strictly in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.

Where hollow block construction is used (mainly in the greater Dublin area) rigid insulation (generally foil-faced polyurethane) is fixed to the internal face of the wall.

What is thermal mass?

Thermal mass is a word used to describe materials in a building’s construction which can store and release large quantities of thermal energy. These materials are normally the dense structural elements that form part of the building’s fabric. Materials such as concrete, brick and stone are particularly effective. Concrete blocks exposed to large areas of south-facing glazing, can store free energy from the sun at peak times and return the energy to the room over a period of hours (up to six hours) when the sun has gone down. Increasingly, architects design houses strategically to take advantage of this principle.

What about ventilation?

Until recently the Building Regulations called for permanent ventilation in each room. A new variation in the regulations allows for ‘hit and miss ventilation’ to be included in each room, so that the option for the occupant to temporarily close off the ventilation is available. Ventilation can take the form of vents through the walls or alternatively ‘hit and miss vents’ installed into window sashes. Mechanical ventilation is required in wet areas such as bathrooms.

One of the main methods of improving thermal performance in dwellings is to reduce ‘air filtration’ through the fabric of the building and through the opening and closing of windows and doors and through open chimney flues. A modern house will typically have five or six air changes per hour, but some consider that this is wasteful since expensive heated air is being expelled from the building. There is some debate about this, since air change through both planned and unplanned ventilation is related to ‘indoor air quality’. A certain amount of air change is necessary and some argue that air changes of as little as 0.5 air changes per hour is sufficient. However, this can depend on other factors such as the level of relative humidity and the presence or absence of carpets for example. Generally speaking, it is not good to have very high levels of airtightness in houses which are carpeted throughout. It has been shown that wooden floors harbour as much as fifteen times fewer ‘allergens’ than carpet floors. Allergens are one of the main causes of asthma and Ireland has the fourth highest level of asthma per capita in the world.

Given Ireland’s commitment to the Kyoto agreement, it is likely that air-filtration levels will be reduced further. A partial solution lies in the installation of mechanical air-heat exchange ventilation systems. However, these systems are relatively expensive, difficult to install and require maintenance.

Air filtration through chimney flues can be reduced by the installation of a chimney ‘damper’ or by the installation of a ‘balloon’ while the chimney is not in use. Another method (suitable for new buildings) is to install an under-floor air supply to the fire ope so that cold air to feed the fire is drawn from the outside of the building rather than warm air from the inside of the building. This has the effect of reducing air filtration from the open fire from about 40 litres per hour to about 20 litres per hour – a significant saving.

Another trend is to replace open fires altogether and replace them with wood stoves. This also greatly reduces air filtration. Wood stoves typically yield 80% or more burning efficiency compared to open fires which are approximately 15% efficient. However, some people view the option of lighting a fire in an open hearth as top of their wish list.

Do I need a radon barrier?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which originates from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils. When inhaled in sufficient quantities over a protracted period of time radon can be seriously damaging to your health.

Since July 1998, every new house is required to incorporate some degree of radon preventive measures at the time of construction in accordance with the revised Building Regulations. The degree of protection required is dependent upon whether or not the site is located within a High Radon Area.

Technical Guidance Document C of the 1997 Building Regulations, which came into force on the 1st of July 1998, sets out radon preventative measures to be applied in the construction of new dwellings or long stay residential buildings. Click here to download Part C of the Technical Guidance Documents

Two levels of protection are laid down: a basic or precautionary level which applies to new buildings in all parts of the country and a more advanced level which applies to new buildings in designated High Radon Areas. Comprehensive advise on the threats posed by Radon gas and the measures to deal with it are given on the website of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland

If I use concrete upper floors do I need soundproofing?

Soundproofing refers to both ‘airborne’ and ‘impact sound’. The level of sound insulation offered by a concrete upper floor is related to the thickness and density of the concrete. Poured or (in-situ) concrete floors have no joints and therefore offer a high level of sound insulation. Precast concrete floors also offer high levels of sound insulation, but care must be taken to fill all joints between the concrete planks and to fill all joints between the floor and the wall. Failure to fill joints between units and the joint between the floor units and the walls will allow ‘flanking noise’ to occur between upper and lower floors.

In order to reduce impact sound to an absolute minimum, it is advisable to install a special rubber layer on top of the floor. This may not be necessary if carpet/carpet underlay is used as the upper floor finish.

Is there a solid block wall between my neighbour and I?

Where houses are constructed using masonry construction, a 215mm solid block ‘party wall’ will separate adjoining houses. To function properly, all the joints must be filled and a coat of wet plaster must be applied on both sides of the wall. Particular attention should be paid to the joint between the concrete party wall and the underside of the roof finish. The Irish Concrete Federation strongly recommend the use of specialist fire stopping such as ‘Firebar’ at this junction.

Where timber frame construction is concerned, it is common practice to use timber studs between adjoining houses and apartments. In the view of the Irish Cocnrete Federation this is a mal practice, since standard timber frame party walls have not been tested to comply with British Standard BS476 part 20 and therefore (de facto) do not comply with the current Irish Building and Fire Regulations.

Can I use precast floors at ground floor level?

The use of precast floors at ground floor level has become popular in recent years because of ease of installation and because of poor ground quality or sloping sites. Some precast flooring suppliers manufacture special ground floor precast units with insulation fixed to the underside of the units.

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

system-failure-348x196

The following opinion piece was originally submitted to the blog as a comment on 6th September 2014 and has been re-formatted.

In the Dáil on October 1st 2013 Enda Kenny said:

I do not believe, however, that every single developer or contractor should be branded in the same way as those who put together Priory Hall. It is not just in one instance that negligence or incompetence occurred because there were systems failures along the line.” Click link here.

It is worth examining some of the systems failures in Building Control that lead to problems in some of the defective apartments and housing estates. It is unfortunate that no report has ever been undertaken by the Government into identifying the causes of the failures that happened throughout Ireland and that have taken years to come to light in developments such as Priory Hall and the Meath Apartments that had to be evacuated at the end of 2013. Some of these are listed below and rectifying these should have formed the basis for any new Building Control legislation:

BUILDING CONTROL SYSTEMS FAILURES

1. The developer did not employ competent and suitably qualified designers (developers completed large numbers of dwellings built with the input of in-house engineering staff only. Other professionals input was limited usually to planning stage only).

2** The developer did not employ competent builders (quite a number of speculative residential developments were completed by developer-builders, where the developer and builder were the same company. Essentially that was the equivalent of large-scale self-builders who occupied the role of management contractors.

3* The design was not inspected signed or approved by the Local Authority (little or no independent Local Authority building control inspections carried out nationally)

4** The developer did not employ a competent supervisor (foreman) on site to oversee the work (for owner-developers most construction personnel involved in site management were in-house employees)

5 The developer did not employ a competent independent professional to inspect the work (Previous professional compliance system allowed for partial-service only, including “visual inspections” on completion of projects. Frequently this resulted in little or no independent professional input on-site).

6* The local authority had no obligation to ever visit the site (since 1990 this has been the case, and remains so with an unrealistic target of 15% Building Control inspections nationally. The new regulations impose additional administrative duties on Local Authorities but the Building Control Sections remain understaffed).

7* The local authority did not have any system to catch defective materials like pyrite (no additional resources or enhanced powers have been introduced on foot of the pyrite panel report in 2012, critically there is still no comprehensive independent local authority inspection system for the construction sector)

8* The developer did not have to put in place any effective safeguards to pay for latent (unseen) defects. (previous structural guarantees have been seen to be patchy and not satisfactory, particularly in relation to defective materials such as pyrite. Some Defects Liability Insurance schemes do operate but the consumer is left looking through the fine-print).

9 The professionals gave very limited guarantees because they were only paid for very limited involvement (as mentioned above partial service agreements, acceptable for conveyancing, required cursory independent professional involvement in projects, in some instances none at site-stage. No registration of title meant that anyone could complete these certificates).

10* The solicitors and lending institution did not advise the purchasers to get independent inspections. (there is no way to anticipate how lenders and the law society will react to the new regulations- the Law Society were excluded form the formation of the new regulations).

11* The developer wound up the limited liability development company once the development was sold (unfortunately nothing in the new regulations precludes this practice of minimising the liability trail to developers in the event of defects occurring post-completion).

12* The home buyer had no comeback unless he could prove negligence through a slow and costly case in the courts (lack of additional consumer protections in the new regulations means the same situation arises in the event of a defect occurring post-purchase- homeowners are left seeking redress through the courts with no guarantee of success)

13* The Local Authority could not take action because the law is unworkable (lack of additional resources, no Local Authority code of practice, differing interpretation between authorities of the new regulations means that Local Authorities are dealing with a system in place that is being developed post introduction. Suggested new inspection regime of 4 inspections per unit will mean target  inspection rates will drop to less than 4% of buildings completed.)

14* The government stepped in and the tax-payer footed the bill (given the recent pyrite issues in blockwork, responsibility for policing the market has been placed with Local Authorities. It is anticipated that the taxpayer will continue to pay for defective materials in the construction industry, like the recent pyrite remediation scheme, or face class action law suits from disenfranchised homeowners. The insurance industry will simply exclude materials that the industry is not policing adequately).

Nine* (highlighted in bold*) of these 14 issues issues are not addressed under the new Building Control (Amendment) Regulations and a further two (shown **) are only partially addressed with promised new legislation at some time in the future.

The S.I. 9 system of Building Control is is unlikely to prevent future failures. Unfortunately the scene is still set for the further ‘Priory Halls’.

Other posts of interest:

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

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

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

Opinion: Are builders + developers off the hook with BCAR?

Press article: Government promotes developers over self-builders?

New Law Society Guidance Note on BC(A)R SI.9

Practical Post Series 1-20

Pyrite & SI.9- what happens now?

Quotes for 6 months of SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

quotes for 6 months.pdf [Converted]

Posted by Bregs Blog on 21st September 2014

As we are marking the first 1/2 year of BC(A)R SI.9 (and the introduction of SI.105), we thought we would relist some notable quotes from the first 6 months of the new regulations. Click on the link at the end of each quote for the source post-

I believe that the language which is used in the proposed amendments is extraordinarily loose and vague. In many cases the meaning if the certificates in their amended form is unclear… any lack of clarity is a recipe for disaster.” Denis McDonald SC 4 December 2013 (read full text here).

I cannot help but feel Environment and Local Government Minister Phil Hogan and his Department have failed utterly to learn the lessons of Priory Hall” Graham Usher former Priory Hall resident (read full text)

I am concerned about the potential for costs to be exploitative initially. The same thing happened in respect of the building energy regulations introduced several years ago… People were charged between €3,000 and €4,000 for certification inspections that cost €150 in the market. The professions have tended to jump on the bandwagon to exploit the customer for what they can get…” Phil Hogan 12 March 2014 (read full text here).

There are no new legal rights or remedies for consumers created by BCAR 2014” Deirdre Ni Fhloinn solicitor 14 March 2014 (read full text here). 

You are fully aware that all consumer groups were excluded from any key stakeholder meetings since mid 2012…You have stated your Department is in discussion with us and we have not risen any objections. This is a grave misrepresentation of our organisation and the interests of all self-builders in the Seanad. We would support any independent inquiry into these statements.” Shane McCloud, Irish Association of Self Builders 11 April 2014 (see full text here).

quotes.pdf [Converted]

professional bodies making outlandish quotationsnot allow any body to think this will be an easy way to financial extortion, make easy money” Phil Hogan 10 April 2014 (read full text here)

To be informed now by Mr Hogan that in spite of being deemed to be qualified and competent by the CIAT and the RIAI, I am now a “draftsman” and that “the new building regulations will make it more difficult for unqualified people to pass themselves off as construction professionals” is offensive and potentially catastrophic to the livelihoods of many Architectural Technologists” Brian Maher AT 16 April 2014  (read full text here).

quotes2.pdf [Converted]

” The Minister’s system of Assigned Certifiers will crack up within the next couple of years… Does the Minister honestly believe the architect will employ someone to be on site continuously to check that things are done right?” Mick Wallace 17 June 2014 (read full text here).

The big elephant in the room again is that while the Minister has stated there is a facility for third-party checks, the major problem is the local authority lacks the facility, the manpower and the money to be a serious third party that checks to ensure everyone is behaving well.” Mick Wallace 1 July 2014 (see full text here).

tom

There are penalties already under the new building regulations, everything must be signed off by a competent Assignee, who can only be an architect, a building surveyor or an engineer, and in signing off ON BEHALF OF THE BUILDER (our emphasis), there are obligations there and they have to stand over those” Tom Parlon 16 July 2014 (read full text here).

to have the notion of overturning these regulations is delusional… We must continue to think like a poet but also act like a professional” (Architecture Ireland). Ciaran O’Connor State Architect July 2014 (see pdf here: COC letter AI)

Our primary concerns with BC(A)R include:

  • Lack of appropriate independent oversight – to support those tasked with compliance
  • Absence of mandatory project insurance – in line with international best practice.
  • Inadequate timescale – to ensure the supporting systems and documentation are in place. This is why the RIAI called for a deferral”  Robin Mandal, President of the RIAI, 4 June 2014 (see full text here)

The Design Certifier certifies the design and the Assigned Certifier certifies the construction. These must comply in full with every aspect of the building regulations. There is no time limit on the certificate. This certificate is to everybody, about everything, for all time. And if an employee signs the certificates, they are liable in equal measure. This is all as clear as day” Eoin O’Cofaigh 12 August 2014 (read full text here).

FAO Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht- commencement figures

by Bregs Blog admin team

help_keyboard

In a recent post we noted a meeting of the Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht on Tuesday 23rd September, when it met with Dr Peter Stafford, Director of Property Industry Ireland. Representatives of various vested property interests were the meeting (link here).

A number of attendees suggested there were no statistics on commencements for 2014. See transcript for Oireachtas Committee meeting pages 7 & 8 here .

Dr Peter Stafford: “One of the legacies of the Celtic tiger is that when the crash occurred, we realised we had very poor data in respect of the property market. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government collects some data on house-building activity and the Central Statistics Office collects certain other data. Various agencies examine different parts of this data but it is extremely difficult to mesh it all together in order to obtain an overall picture of the position with regard to supply and demand at any one time. The Construction 2020 report, which the Government produced a couple of months ago, has at its heart an evidence-based property market. This is something that we have absolutely been calling for all the way through. We are of the view that there should be task forces, forums and committees established and that everybody responsible for collecting data on anything to do with the market should contribute to these in order that said data might be analysed in real time.

[Dr. Peter Stafford:] There are two practical problems. First, the data from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government is often very slow to be released. We do not yet have commencement notices for —–”

Ms Marian Finnegan: “Since February. It is now almost October, but we do not know what has commenced since February because the Department is reviewing its processes.”

Dr. Peter Stafford: “Therefore, when we are making our estimates for the number of houses that will be completed in 2014, at best we only have official data from February, and it is now September.”

To assist attendees and members of the committee, the Bregs Blog emailed all attendees the following information on commencement notice data from the register of the Building Control Management System on 24th September 2014 (sent to Dr. Stafford, seven senators and 14 T.D.s):

_____________

Attn: Dr. Peter Stafford – Property Industry Ireland

Cc: Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht

Re: Commercial and Domestic Property Supply and Demand: Property Industry Ireland

Dear Dr. Stafford, Deputies and Senators,

The answer to the question posed at yesterday’s public session of the above committee is 2247! This is the number of building project starts advised to the Department of the Environment via the 34 Building Control Authorities in Ireland between the 1st March and 4th September 2014 i.e. the first six months since the introduction of new Building Control (Amendment) Regulations S.I.9 (BC(A)R).

The information is readily available if one knows where to look for it. Here is a link to our blog post on these commencement notice figures.  (LINK:)  The full text is reproduced below. We are currently analysing this data to clarify the breakdown of commercial and residential (single and multiple) projects. If you would like to be kept informed of future statistics, analysis or blog-posts please let us know.

Commencement Notices | 6 months after S.I. 9

The Building Control Management System (BCMS) is now six months old and published its half-year Building Register on Monday 4th September 2014 at 8.31 a.m. The Building Register records all of the validated Commencement Notices or ‘proposed building starts’ received by the 34 Building Control Authorities throughout Ireland.

The Building Register now records a figure of 2247 as the total number of validated Commencement Notices received over the past 26 weeks since the introduction of the BCMS on 1st March 2014. This would be equivalent to an annual figure of approximately 60% of the 7,456 Commencement Notices submitted in 2013 which was one of the lowest figures in decades. Since implementation the average number of commencement notices being lodged is 86 per week. In 2013 the average number lodged per week was 143.

Of the 2247 Commencement Notices received, 676 (30%) appear to be ‘Short Form’ notices (small projects where an Assigned Certifier is not required) and 133 of the Commencement Notices are for 7-day notices in relation to Fire Safety Certificates. It is noted that 104 of the Commencement Notices on the Building Register appear to have no certifier status or are recorded as ‘Tests’.

There is clear evidence that some of the Commencement Notices currently being submitted are repeat notices for Commencement Notices submitted earlier this year ahead of the introduction of S.I. 9 to try and avoid the implications of the legislation. There is no evidence from other sources that there was any equivalent spike in building tenders in the earlier part of the year that would indicate that these ‘commencement notices’ were actual ‘building starts’. Where works had not commenced before the end of March it has proved necessary to resubmit these Commencement Notices.

This is leading to further confusion in the construction industry as to actual number of project starts in 2014 which appears to be heading for record lows for a variety of reasons including the cost implications of the introduction of S.I. 9.

Other posts on this topic:

Commencement Notices | 6 months after S.I. 9 

Continuing Collapse in Commencement Notices: Building Register – 5th August 2014 

Construction Recovery- watch this space

‘Recovery’ is Still Worse than the 1980s Crisis

Commencement figures- June 25th 2014

CSO: (Q1 2014) planning permissions for dwellings -30% drop

Minister Hogan rejects Irish Times Article

Irish Times: Dramatic fall in number of buildings being started

Top 20 posts for September

by Bregs Blog admin team

top 20 sep.pdf [Converted]

Here are the top 20 posts for September 2014.

This was our 2nd busiest month ever with over 21,500 views.

Posts are a mix of opinion pieces, detailed technical posts on changes to the building regulations, updated costs for SI.9, problems associated with interpretation of the new regulations and also clarification pieces by contributors. This month we also attempted to quantify the additional duties involved in certifier roles. Confusion regarding SI9 and standard forms supplied by financial institutions also was highlighted this month.

As September marked the 6th month of operation of SI.9 we did a review of commencement notices levels to date- still an alarming 2247. We noted this was equivalent to 60% of the 7,456 Commencement Notices submitted in 2013 which was one of the lowest figures in decades

Our top read post is an opinion piece by former president and current council member of the representative body for architects (RIAI) Eoin O’Cofaigh, followed closely by an opinion piece by Architectural Technologist Kevin Tyrrell. Again many thanks to our many varied contributors.

Don’t forget reading these blog posts qualifies for CPD points!

Enjoy!

  1. Eoin O Cofaigh FRIAI- A changing landscape?
  2. ‘All Ireland’ | BC(A)R Boycott
  3. The new Part K of the Building Regulations
  4. SI.9 costs for a typical house
  5. S.I.9 | What large firms are doing 
  6. Summary of building regulations changes posts
  7. Commencement Notices | 6 months after S.I. 9
  8. RIAI meet Minister Alan Kelly | “mind the gap”
  9. Bank of Ireland | Confusion over S.I.9 Building Regulations
  10. The self build world has been thrown into disarray
  11. ALERT | Owners may need Certifiers on porch extensions?
  12. Opinion: “the architectural profession is largely united in opposition to S.I.9″
  13. SI9 Schedule of duties for Certifiers
  14. RIAI S.I.9 CLIENT GUIDANCE NOTE – 1 Sep 2014
  15. New Planning and Construction Legislation | due September 2014
  16. Fine Gael expert group opposed the introduction of new regulations
  17. “Dangling Participles” and why all extensions may now require compliance with S.I.9: 2014
  18. DAVY Research: surprising fall in residential output Q2 2014
  19. Consequence Classes – What are they?
  20. A Profession Divided? Reflections on an RIAI EGM

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

Lean Thinker

By BRegs Blog Admin. Team on 3rd October 2014

The following submission by two RIAI Past Presidents, Michael Collins and Eoin O’Cofaigh, is part of a ‘change paper’ currently being developed to propose a workable alternative system of independent building control inspections for an RIAI EGM in November. In this paper the extent of current legislation and regulation that currently applies to construction is catalogued. Recent consolidated Senior Council opinions suggest that five separate eminent Senior Counsels are unable to agree on a common interpretation of S.I.9 given the complexity of the current legislation. Quote from the paper:

That a private householder might have to bring a 500 sq. foot house extension through 27 statutory steps before occupying it; or, that an FDI project takes 38 steps likewise?

It makes for a suitable companion piece to our post earlier today when Dr. Ronan Lyons commented upon the urgent need to review the complexity, cost and consumer benefit of our construction regulations. The system should be streamlined and simplified to aid in a construction recovery with the cost/benefits to the consumer assessed. The UK is currently looking at simplifying their systems – applying the principles of ‘Lean Construction’. To quote the UK government Red Tape Challenge:

The housing and construction industries are key to driving growth in our economy. Through smarter regulation, we can remove barriers to growth and encourage investment, choice and innovation“. Read more here.

The answer to a problem where there was inadequate enforcement, is not more regulation. It’s more enforcement.

More paper does not make better buildings“.

Pdf download of paper here: 140514 Better System V2

_____________

RIAI:- BC(A)R Change Group

BETTER LEGISLATION FOR BUILDING DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

14 May 2014

This paper is a shortened version of a paper  given at the RIAI “Better Systems” Workshop, 22 May 2014

Michael Collins, Eoin O Cofaigh

1 Context

Since the Local Government Planning and Development) Act 1963 came into force, statutory control of building design and construction has progressively intensified and become more complex. What started as one Act and one Statutory Instrument (280 pages) has grown into legislation on:-

  • Planning (1963) including development control;
  • Building control (which started in 1991);
  • Safety, health and welfare at work (which started in 1988);
  • Environmental protection;
  • EC/EU directive transpositions;
  • Building energy rating;
  • Multi-Unit Development Act;
  • Fire Services Act (1981); and
  • Environmental health.

At this time there are perhaps 13 separate Acts and 110 Statutory Instruments in force which regulate construction design and realization (footnote 1). These originate in four government departments who communicate little on these issues. These are staggering figures. Nowhere can this legislation be found grouped in one place. Nobody, especially not the legislator, has a grasp of the entire. But the problem devolves on the architect, who has to implement the legislation and protect their clients.

“If we were designing a system, we wouldn’t design it the way it’s turned out!” is wrong. There is no system.

Buildings have become more complex and some projects have grown larger. The legislation must respond. However, legislation impacts on the smallest, simplest job. The problem has been growing for 50 years. Controversies over BC(A)R are only its most severe manifestation to date.

The impact of ever-more complex legislation on Ireland’s international competitiveness is increasingly clear. Recent UK policy on lowering corporate taxation is now being paralleled by British Government decisions to simplify their planning and building law.

From the largest, most complex project to the smallest and simplest, Irish regulation of building design and construction is in increasingly urgent need of radical overhaul.

The difficulties in implementing the 2014 building control regulations (S.I.9) are already manifesting themselves on lowered Commencement Notice numbers. The poor international rating of the efficiency of the regulatory system (reference: World Bank reports), together with the expectation that amendments to the Building Control and Planning Acts will be proposed in the near future, and the BCR review promised by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, all taken together, both demonstrate the need and the opportunity to review the entire.

Such a review, with independent inspection of building design and construction, could streamline the entire process to the advantage of the State and industry; give the house buyer better protection; solve the self-builder conundrum; and promote construction sector growth and employment from the shopping unit fit-out (now made practically speaking, impossible) to the FDI project. A system of independent inspection under building regulations should form part of a simplified system. Think if architects and engineers were helped to understand the planning regulations! Given the 50 statutory instruments currently in force, this is more easily said than done…

There will be many allies in this process. These include:-

IDA Ireland;

The National Competitiveness Council;

The Competition Authority;

The representative bodies for building control officer and fire protection officers;

Representative organizations for self-builders, architectural technologists and others currently excluded from the S.I. 9 self-certification process; and more.

2 IRELAND: MAY 2014: LEGISLATIVE GATEWAYS TO A NEW BUILDING

The building owner must take or cause to have taken on his behalf, the following steps to realize a project. The few of the following steps which are not statutory are marked * but are in reality unavoidable in the “system” as it has evolved in Ireland. Other building types have their own sets of requirements.

45 sq m domestic house extension 10,000 sq m FDI shell industrial facility
1 * Consult development plan. Site development standards, overlooking, protected structures, * Consult development plan. Zoning, site development standards, overlooking, protected structures, transportation policy, areas of scientific interest etc..,Special Development Zone regulations apply?
2 Initial consultation with planning authority, sanitary authority, re zoning, transportation, environmental impact, protected landscapes, drainage etc..
3 Consult FPO re standards, mains water for fire fighting.
4 Pre-planning consultations with transportation, sanitation engineers, Irish Water, even if consultations do not bind
5 * The adversarial nature of the process makes consultation with adjoining owners desirable consultation with adjoining owners desirable
* Consultation essential with adjoining owners, environmental groups
6 Planning application, 16 page form, site notice, public notice, design statement, 3-D visualisations, energy calculations etc Planning application, 16 page form, site notices, public notice, design statement, detail drawings, engineering layouts, 3-D visualisations, energy calculations etc
7 Engage consultants including specialists, prepare, coordinate and submit EIA and report – transportation, fauna, flora, heritage, drainage, water, energy
8 Respond to RFI requests Respond to RFI requests
9 Respond to third party appeals Respond to third party appeals
10 Meet L.A. engineers re post-compliance submissions
11 Perhaps post-permission submissions Lodge post-permission planning compliance submissions. Usually mobility plan, landscaping, drainage, roads, parking, façade, gates, boundaries…
12 Apply for Fire Safety Certificate
13 Obtain approval post-permission planning submissions
14 Apply for Disability Access Certificate
15 Determine safety competency of person to be appointed as PSDP Determine safety competency of person to be appointed as PSDP
16 Tax clearance cert for chosen builder to avail of tax relief
17 Appoint PSDP Appoint PSDP
18 Preliminary Safety and Health Plan Preliminary Safety and Health Plan, to include preparation of and co-ordination of risk assessments and, most likely, Site Limitations drawing and schedules
19 Determine building regulations competency of appointees Determine building regulations competency of BCAR Certifier appointees
20 Appoint Design Certifier Appoint Design Certifier
21 Appoint Assigned Certifier Appoint Assigned Certifier
22 Prepare Preliminary Inspection Plan and submit to BCA Prepare Preliminary Inspection Plan in conjunction with consultants and submit to BCA
23 Appoint competent builder Appoint competent builder
24 Commission DEAP calculations for Part L Commission DEAP calculations for Part L
25 Commission Building Energy Rating and systems reports
26 Obtain Fire Safety certificate
27 Obtain Disability Access certificate
28 Notify HSA before starting Notify HSA before starting
29 Notify BCA of appointments Notify BCA of appointments
30 Serve Commencement Notice on BCA Serve Commencement Notice on BCA
31 Serve Commencement Notice on HSA
32 Serve design drawings, calculations, inspection plan on BCA Serve design drawings, calculations, inspection plan on BCA
33 Serve developed Inspection Plan on BCA Serve developed Inspection Plan on BCA
34 Obtain and serve revised drawings, specifications, test certificates etc on BCA Obtain and serve revised drawings, specifications, test certificates etc on BCA
35 Serve Completion Certificate on BCA Serve Completion Certificate on BCA
36 BCA to validate submissions BCA to validate submissions
37 (Open, occupy and use building) (Open, occupy and use building)
38 Payment details to Revenue re tax relief
39 Keep safety file for future reference Keep safety file for future reference

Which is worse? That a private householder might have to bring a 500 sq foot house extension must through 27 statutory steps occupying it; or, that an FDI project takes 38 steps likewise? Whether for social or for economic reasons, the mass of legislation urgently needs overhaul and simplification.

Simplification should not be about lowering standards. It’s about better understanding what’s needed, and about spending less time and intellectual energy to deliver it.

3 Where to start?

With building control and building regulations. These present the most acute difficulties, and the Minister for the Environment has promised a review. Several groups (“self-builders” and architectural technologists) have been affected gravely by the BC(A)R 2014. More importantly, it is now emerging that the slow-down in construction Commencement Notices is being caused by the BC(A)R process. A review is needed urgently. With cooperation all round, this can turn into a “win-win” for Minister, consumer, FDI, SMEs and the construction sector alike.

The opportunity presented by the need for consideration of a revised set of Building Control (Amendment) Regulations to replace S.I. 9 of 2014 should be grasped, and a case now made for a comprehensive set of measures to deliver a more effective and streamlined building control system, coordinated where possible with other legislation that regulates the industry.

4 The case to be put

  • The legislative and procedural mess with which the State confronts promoters of building projects and their professional advisors;
  • The slowly and, lately, rapidly increasing complexity of the procedures, for projects large or small, per Section 2;
  • The lack of any co-ordination between the multiplicity of similar and overlapping requirements of the Building Control Act; Planning Act; Multi-Unit Development Act; Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act; Fire Services Act; Construction Products Directive; Environmental Health Acts; and Environment legislation has resulted in a multiplicity of different forms and procedures with different timescales and sequences.
  • The inappropriateness of a single set of procedures to all projects from a house extension to a major infrastructural project, with no analysis of the risks or benefits.
  • The poor levels of competitiveness of the Irish building control system as ranked in recent World Bank report and confirmed by the National Council on Competitiveness.
  • Government moves in other jurisdictions, most immediately in the UK, to a simplified unified system. This will widen the gap in Ireland’s poor position in world rankings.
  • RIAI Council policy in relation to BC(A)R 2014, unanimously agreed in January 2014 that self-certification does not properly protect the consumer.
  • Implementation plan for EU energy/ sustainability targets (2020 nearly-zero-energy for all new buildings). This is not achievable without independent inspections and enforcement and it is mandatory at EU level. The new Climate Bill will also include construction and there will be a requirement for annual reporting nationally.
  • Implementation of the Construction Products Directive. This changes Part D; and a national system of record-keeping, market surveillance and ‘alert’ system is needed.
  • Each Building Control Authority is currently required by law to provide a schedule of approved materials for the industry. This is also mandatory at EU level.
  • The benefits to the national economy from streamlined systems.
  • The need to re-establish fair, sustainable levels of liability and remuneration for all stakeholders with cost effective systems of redress in cases of defective buildings.
  • A simpler system can give better protection to the consumer.

5 Principles which should underlie such a system

  • Streamlining Building Control. A reformed system should be simpler than the present one, combining into a single process the procedures such as Fire Safety Certificates and Disability Access Certificates; and integrated to the maximum extent possible with other relevant legislation such as planning, and products regulations.
  • The exemptions/ classes of use/ administration could change over time to align with Planning, and Health & Safety. A new Planning Act is to be published this year. This gives an opportunity to start the process. This could follow through with H&S notices, site record keeping etc., to remove duplication.
  • Streamlining inspections. At present, there are site inspections from HSA (site safety), Revenue (tax compliance), BCA (building regulations and now construction products), Environmental Health, Roads/Drains and more. The opportunities to reduce duplication and make efficiencies must be grasped.
  • Local authority control. Building control authorities should be clearly in overall charge of the process with the powers and resources to carry out the task effectively.
  • Cost and Liability: The State should must retain overall control of and responsibility the system, but industry should in the first instance be responsible for the cost of the system and for defects in construction.
  • Enforcement. Powers of enforcement should be strengthened where there are gaps and Building Control Authorities must be prepared to use them to act as an effective deterrent in appropriate circumstances.
  • Risk. The system should be sufficiently flexible to reflect the risk and scale and nature of the projects that it seeks to regulate. 24 people died in residential fires in 2013. Nobody died in a fire in any other building type. The system should re-focus on such problems. Recent requirements on carbon monoxide alarms are sensible; but when did a building control authority conduct an area-wide walk-past inspection of escape facilities through new bedroom windows?
  • Flexibility. The system should accommodate fluctuations in the scale and nature of construction sector activity, and make best use of public and private sector  resources.
  • Speculative housing. Given the experiences of recent years and its social importance, the system should pay proportionately greater attention to this sector.
  • Non-residential construction. Given the lack of problems in this sector, consideration should be given to lightening the regulatory burden on businesses.
  • Fostering technical innovation. The system should encourage innovation, particularly in a context where zero-carbon housing is a target only six years off.
  • Maintaining Standards:  Systems of monitoring and feedback to the industry are a vital element in raising and maintaining standards of design, and construction.
  • Dispute Resolution: There is need for efficient systems of dispute resolution.
  • Quality of construction materials. The CE mark does not cover all widely-used construction materials. The system needs to ensure quality of all materials and compliance with CE mark which is integrated into the overall building control system. 
  • Latent Defects Insurance. LDI is the most effective way of protecting consumers. A properly formulated system should be compulsory in the speculative residential sector.
  • Simplicity in technical guidance. In 1991 the TGD’s totalled 340 pages. In 2014 they total 1000. The desire for comprehensiveness is affecting clarity. This can include structure, programme for updates, removing inappropriate/ out of date references, internal contradictions etc. This will take time but could actively remove some of the claims in the grey areas. All standards should be ‘measurable’ if they are to be certified.
  • BRAB (or some equivalent) should be re-appointed with an enhanced role in the review of the overall system.

1. In 2000 and 2001, after three years’ solid work, the then Minister for the Environment, Noel Dempsey TD, secured a consolidated and updated Planning and Development Act and Regulations. That was a huge and worthwhile undertaking.

Since then, there have been 3 further Planning Acts and 56 sets of Planning Regulations.

Since the last major update of the building regulations and the building control regulations in 1997, there have been 31 additional sets of regulations and 1 additional Act.

LEGISLATION IN FORCE IN MAY 2014 GOVERNING THE DESIGN AND CONTRUCTION OF BUILDING PROJECTS IN IRELAND

Sector Comment
(General) It is possible that some of the Instruments have been repealed. It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine the legislation on a piece-by-piece basis.Some (not all) Commencement Orders are listed, as it can otherwise be unclear which potions of Acts are in force.
Planning and Development No consolidated list is available from the Department of the Environment. The following is taken from the Irish Statute book.Instruments relating to appointment of members of An Bord Pleanála have not been listed.
Building Regulations and Building Control Regulations The DoECLG website lists some Statutory Instruments which have been revoked. Those are not included below.S.I.s relating to the Building Regulations Advisory Body, which has not met for some years, is not listed.
Building Energy Rating To the DoECLG website list should be added the 2012 regulations and those revoked in 2012 should be removed.
Safety and health re: construction The list does not include legislation on specialist areas such as quarries or asbestos exposure.
Planning and Development
1 S.I. No. 219/2013 – Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2013.
2 S.I. No. 403/2013 – European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment and Habitats) (Section 181 of the Planning and Development Act 2000) Regulations 2013.
3 S.I. No. 520/2013 – Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2013.
4 S.I. No. 116/2012 — Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2012.
5 S.I. No. 419/2012 — European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Planning and Development Act, 2000) Regulations 2012.
6 S.I. No. 530/2012 — Planning and Development Act 2000 (Designation of Strategic Development Zone: North Lotts and Grand Canal Dock) Order 2012.
7 S.I. No. 132/2011 — Planning and Devt (Amendment) Act 2010 (Commencement) Order 2011.
8 S.I. No. 201/2011 — Planning and Development (Strategic Environmental Assessment) (Amendment) Regulations 2011.
9 S.I. No. 243/2011 — Planning and Devt Act 2000 (SDZ) (Amendment) Order 2011.
10 S.I. No. 262/2011 — Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2011.
11 S.I. No. 454/2011 — Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2011.
12 S.I. No. 464/2011 — European Communities (Amendment to Planning And Development Regulations) Regulations 2011.
13 S.I. No. 475/2011 — Planning (Amendment) Act 2010 (Commencement) (No. 2) Order 2011.
14 S.I. No. 476/2011 — Planning and Development (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2011.
15 S.I. No. 582/2011 — Planning (Amendment) Act 2010 (Commencement) (No. 3) Order 2011.
16 S.I. No. 405/2010 — Planning (Amendment) Act 2010 (Commencement) Order 2010.
17 S.I. No. 406/2010 — Planning and Development Regulations 2010.
18 S.I. No. 451/2010 — Planning (Amendment) Act 2010 (Commencement) (No. 2) Order 2010.
19 S.I. No. 477/2010 — Planning (Amendment) Act 2010 (Commencement) (No. 3) Order 2010.
20 S.I. No. 535/2010 — Planning and Development Act 2000 (Strategic Development Zone: Cherrywood, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County) Order 2010.
21 S.I. No. 540/2010 — Planning and Development Act 2000 (Strategic Dev Zone) (No.2) Order 2010.
22 S.I. No. 678/2010 — Planning and Development Act 2000 (Strategic Devt Zone) Order 2010.
23 Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010
24 S.I. No. 100/2009 — Planning and Development (Regional Planning Guidelines) Regulations 2009
25 S.I. No. 574/2009 — Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 (Amendments of Planning and Development Act 2000) (Commencement) Order 2009
26 S.I. No. 235/2008 — Planning and Development Regulations 2008.
27 S.I. No. 256/2008 — Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2008
28 S.I. No. 83/2007 — Planning and Development Regulations 2007.
29 S.I. No. 135/2007 — Planning and Development (No. 2) Regulations 2007.
30 S.I. No. 297/2007 — Dublin Docklands Development Authority Act 1997 (Section 25 Planning Scheme) Order 2007
31 S.I. No. 442/2006 — Planning and Development Act 2000 (Designation of Strategic Development Zone: Balgaddy-Clonburris, South Dublin County) Order 2006
32 S.I. No. 525/2006 — Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 (Commencement) Order 2006
33 Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006
34 S.I. No. 364/2005 — Planning and Development Regulations 2005
35 S.I. No. 152/2004 — Planning and Development Act 2000 (Commencement) Order 2004
36 S.I. No. 436/2004 — Planning and Development (Strategic Environmental Assessment) Regs 2004
37 S.I. No. 813/2004 — Rules of the Superior Courts (Planning and Development Act, 2000), 2004
38 S.I. No. 90/2003 — Planning and Development Regulations 2003
39 S.I. No. 175/2003 — Planning and Development (Regional Planning Guidelines) Regulations 2003
40 S.I. No. 450/2003 — Planning and Development Act, 2000 (Commencement) Order, 2003
41 S.I. No. 70/2002 — Planning and Development Regulations 2002
42 S.I. No. 149/2002 — Planning and Development (No. 2) Regulations 2002
43 Planning and Development (Amendment) Act, 2002
44 S.I. No. 135/2007 — Planning and Development (No. 2) Regulations 2007.
45 S.I. No. 153/2001 — Planning and Development Act, 2000 (Commencement) Order, 2001
46 S.I. No. 138/2012 — Building Regulations (Part A Amendment) Regulations 2012.S.I. No. 272/2001 — Planning and Development Act, 2000
47 S.I. No. 273/2001 — Planning and Development Act, 2000 (Designation of Strategic Development Zone – Hansfield, Blanchardstown) Order, 2001.
48 S.I. No. 274/2001 — Planning and Development Act, 2000 (Designation of Strategic Development Zone – Clonmagadden Valley, Navan) Order, 2001.
50 S.I. No. 525/2001 — Local Government (Planning and Development) (Fees) Regulations, 2001.
51 S.I. No. 539/2001 — Local Government (Planning and Development) (Amendment) Regs, 2001.
52 S.I. No. 599/2001 — Planning and Development Act, 2000 (Commencement) (No. 3) Order, 2001
53 S.I. No. 600/2001 — Planning and Development Regulations, 2001
54 Planning and Development Act, 2000
Building Control
55 SI 180 of 2014 Building Regulations (Part K Amendment) Regulations 2014 (pdf, 109kb)
56 S.I. No. 9/2014 – Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014.
57 S.I. No. 105/2014 – Building Control (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2014.
58 S.I. No. 133/2014 – Building Regulations (Part J Amendment) Regulations 2014.
59 S.I. No. 284/2002 — Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2002
60 S.I. No. 138/2012 — Building Regulations (Part A Amendment) Regulations 2012.
61 S.I. No. 259/2011 — Building Regulations (Part L Amendment) Regulations 2011.
62 S.I. No. 513/2010 — Building Regulations (Part M Amendment) Regulations 2010.
63 S.I. No. 561/2010 — Building Regulations (Part H Amendment) Regulations 2010.
64 S.I. No. 351/2009 — Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2009
65 S.I. No. 556/2009 — Building Regulations (Part F Amendment) Regulations 2009
66 S.I. No. 259/2008 — Building Regulations (Part L Amendment) Regulations 2008
67 S.I. No. 335/2008 — Building Regulations (Part G Amendment) Regulations 2008.
67 S.I. No. 854/2007 — Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2007
68 Building ControlAct 2007
69 S.I. No. 115/2006 — Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2006
70 S.I. No. 873/2005 — Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2005
71 S.I. No. 85/2004 — Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2004
72 S.I. No. 284/2002 — Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2002
73 S.I. No. 284/2002 — Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2002
74 S.I. No. 581/2002 — Building Regulations (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2002
75 S.I. No. 10/2000 — Building Control (Amendment) Regulations, 2000.
76 S.I. No. 179/2000 — Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations, 2000
77 S.I. No. 249/2000 — Building Regulations (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations, 2000
78 S.I. No. 441 of 2000 (Class 9 exemption extension)
79 S.I. No. 496/1997 — Building Control Regulations, 1997.
80 S.I. No. 497/1997 — Building Regulations, 1997.
Building Energy Rating
81 S.I. No. 243/2012 — European Union (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2012.
82 SI 872 of 2005 (European Communities (Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations)
Fire safety in buildings and as AFFECT alteration projects
83 S.I. No. 319/1989 — Fire Services Act, 1981 (Prescribed Premises) Regulations, 1989.
84 S.I. No. 249/1985 — Fire Safety in Places of Assembly (Ease of Escape), Regulations, 1985.
85 S.I. No. 430/1981 — Fire Services Act, 1981 (Commencement) Order, 1981.
86 Fire Services Act, 1981
Safety, health and welfare at work as APPLY to building JOBS
87 S.I. No. 291/2013 – Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013.
88 S.I. No. 299/2007 — Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007
89 S.I. No. 318/2006 — Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Work at Height) Regulations 2006
Multi-unit developments
91 S.I. No. 95/2011 — Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011 (Commencement) Order 2011.
92 S.I. No. 96/2011 — Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011 (S. 3) (Prescribed Persons) Regs 2011.
93 S.I. No. 112/2011 — Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011 (S. 27) (Prescribed Bodies) Order 2011.
94 Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011
Not scheduled: Environmental protection
++ Governs requirements for Environmental Impact Assessment and EI Statements
Not scheduled: Environmental Health
++ Governs design of premises such as restaurants and kitchens

Other posts of interest:

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

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

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

Architect’s Overview of Regulations for a Dwelling

BC(A)R SI.9 + Construction Product Regulations 2013

How do we fix BC(A)R SI.9? 

SI.9 costs for a typical house 

SI.9 to Cost €168m in 2014 | Non-Residential Sector

SI.9 to Cost €532m in 2014 | Residential Sector 

The extraordinary cost of BC(A)R SI.9 of 2014

The cost of a Solution to BC(A)R SI.9? 

Irish Independent | Ronan Lyons “Private lifts and sunny views- but housing is a real mess”

by Bregs Blog admin team

 Ronan Lyons TEF

Dr. Ronan Lyons

Dr. Ronan Lyons, Assistant Professor of Economics at Trinity College Dublin, clearly pointed the finger of blame for the housing and building control crisis in his Irish Independent, Business Page, article on 2nd October 2014. In it he wrote:

“Effective regulation is not about lots of laws, it’s about enforcement. And this is where Ireland is out of step with other countries.

The BCARs effectively place all the burden – and financial liability – of meeting regulations on the professionals involved in the building project, in particular the architect. This is in stark contrast to most countries, where inspections by officials are a key part of making sure a building is fit for purpose.

Lots of regulation is no substitute for good regulation. Government needs to know the difference.

The point is that, when introducing new regulation, governments in the EU are supposed to undertake a regulatory impact analysis. They need to be able to answer the question: what will the impact of a proposed new regulation be on society and on the economy? Given that there is no agreed estimate of the cost of BCARs on a new unit, this clearly has not been done.”

Link to the full article here in the Irish Independent “Private lifts and sunny views – but still a real housing mess”

Lyons also spoke last weekend about the lack of a proper review of existing legislation and a cost/benefit analysis with RTE’s Brian Dowling and Minister Dara Murphy TD, Michael McGrath TD,  Ruth Coppinger TD and Peter Stafford of IBEC. Listen back: Link

 Dr. Ronan Lyons is also author of the Daft.ie Report

 

Other posts of interest:

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

Minister for Construction | Take 6 (No 600)

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing?

SI.9 to Cost €168m in 2014 | Non-Residential Sector

S.I. 9 | Self-builders – 6 months’ update

SI.9 to Cost €532m in 2014 | Residential Sector 

SI.9 costs for a typical house

The cost of a Solution to BC(A)R SI.9? 

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections

by Bregs Blog admin team

3077222739_8f69d7976c

Nessa Childers MEP

The spiraling cost of no local authority building inspections

In an article in the Irish Examiner on 1st October 2014 “CIF to publish supplier list in bid to stop pyrite“, a group representing the Construction Industry Federation indicated that they intend to publish a survey of suppliers, in a bid to stop materials containing pyrite finding their way onto building sites.

Local Authorities are tasked with policing the materials supply chain but due to chronic under-staffing these duties may not have been observed in the past. Recent conversations in the Dáil on 17th September between Clare Daly TD and Paudie Coffey TD regarding property tax exemptions for pyrite affected homes suggest resources are not available even to undertake the tax exemption tests. The government are exploring alternatives at the moment. See discussion here.

In a previous post “The € 64,000 question: Is it really cheaper to have no regulation?” we attempted to establish some ballpark figures for the cost of pyrite remediation. In this post we update that estimate following on from recent confirmation of the Department of the Environment figures by Nessa Childers MEP and Rob Kitchen that those likely to seek remediation will number 12,250:

  • There have been 520 applications so far to the Pyrite Remediation Scheme, but the Department of the Environment has confirmed this number may rise to 12,250.
  • The first 50 homes cost €3.2 m so this indicates an average cost per home of €64,000 each (source: Irish Times article 19.08.2014- see link below).
  • The Pyrite Remediation Scheme EXCLUDES work from 2014 so S.I. 9 cannot be covered. Applications are still being accepted so there may be even more. The SCSI correctly predicted that the eventual figure could be almost 20 times this figure i.e. more than 10,000 homes may be affected by pyrite contamination (source: SCSI- see note below).
  • Based on these figures, to date, 12,250 homes may cost in the region of €784m.
  • The scheme only covers foundations in homes where there is no other means of redress e.g. where insurers refused to pay out or the builder has gone bust. It also excludes pay-outs made by private sector insurers to date for pyrite remedial works.

Under the new building regulations introduced in March 2014 an Assigned Certifier will now certify Part D (Materials & Workmanship) and sign off on, and assume the risk, for pyrites. Given that no additional resources have been allocated to Local Authorities to police materials, we can assume pyrite as a problem will continue to affect construction.

Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) policies will exclude such claims. With such a weak system of redress, the next building failure will inevitably fall back on the tax payer. Why continue with a system that has little or no independent Local Authority Inspections? Can the taxpayer afford to pay out multiples of the cost of a independent system of building inspection?

*Pyrite remediation at €64,000+ per house and there are 12,250 pre-2012 properties affected (up to €784 million).

Sources mentioned in the above post:

Pyrite Remediation Programme…: 16 Jul 2014: Seanad debates (KildareStreet.com)

Irish Times, August 19th 2014: 6,000 social housing units to be provided this year

Irish Times, August 1st 2014: Supreme Court makes final Priory Hall orders (185 apartments at estimated €27m for repairs)

RIAI News Alert | Summary of 5 Senior Counsel opinions on BC(A)R S.I.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

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On 24th September 2014 the RIAI circulated a “précis” or summary, to their Practice Members, of various Senior Counsel opinions on S.I.9 and S.I.80 . The précis was written by David Phelan of Hayes Solicitors. The five Senior Counsel opinions had been prepared on behalf of the various stakeholder groups involved in the negotiations with the Department of the Environment on the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations. The introduction to the précis stated:

“Balance of Opinions indicate that liability is not increased and a Certifier can rely on Ancillary Certificates.”

However if one reads Phelan’s full document it is clear that he said no such thing. It is unclear if this statement regarding liability was written by Phelan or added by a third party. Phelan’s text includes some of the following  comments [which we have paraphrased] from the Senior Counsel opinions:

  •  A Design or Assigned Certifier engaged to carry out work under the Regulations undertakes a very serious responsibility and considerably more than the limited qualified Opinions which could be given under the previous regime.
  • Issuing a Completion Certificate in circumstances where the appropriate criteria have not been met may in itself be an act of negligence.
  • The certification given by the Assigned Certifier involves significant responsibilities. The Certifier must certify compliance with plans, calculations, specifications etc. when the Certifier may not have had input into those documents.
  • There is nothing to qualify the nature of the inspections carried out. Building owners may rely upon this to try and pin liability upon Certifiers for failure to inspect a particular element of the building that they may not have physically been able to.
  • In relation to the Design Certificate and the Ancillary Certificate, it appears that the certifier is certifying not just that he or she has exercised reasonable skill, care and diligence but that other members of the design team have too. As such, the certifier is taking responsibility for the work of others and therefore exposed to liability.
  • Reliance on Ancillary Certificates does not represent any significant protection for the Certifier.
  • It is implicit in the Certificate of the Assigned Certifier that the Assigned Certifier must have satisfied himself or herself as to the general competency of the Ancillary Certifiers and the Assigned Certifier is responsible to procure and annex the Ancillary Certificates to the Completion Certificate.
  • The reference to reliance upon Ancillary Certificates in the Completion Certificate means that the Assigned Certifier will require that Ancillary Certificates be given by every other trade or profession involved in a particular project. The Ancillary Certificates may therefore run into several volumes.
  • Failure to co-ordinate the inspection activities of others and co-ordinating procurement of ancillary certification will give rise to a legal liability.
  • There may well be insurance implications, with a significant prospect that at the very least insurance companies will wish to reflect the increased risk in premium.

From these opinions one could take a very different view; a view that the balance of opinions of S.I. 9 indicate that liability is increased and a Certifier cannot rely on Ancillary Certificates; that it is poorly drafted legislation that some of our most eminent Senior Counsel and solicitors cannot make head or tail of. Nobody knows what this law may actually mean but most are agreed on one thing – it will take the Courts to sort it  out. The test case could be any diligent professional caught on the wrong side of a lorry load of contaminated aggregate or a badly sealed flue.

Could this be you?

The BRegs Blog strongly recommend that our readers read the full document even though this will be quite time-consuming. We wish that we could give a more definitive  analysis of the five Senior Counsel opinions but that is beyond the scope of our resources.

Extract to follow:

___________

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY BY DAVID PHELAN

In this memorandum, I have summarised the various Counsels’ Opinions in relation to the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations. As I indicated at the outset of this memorandum, I would recommend that any interested party would read the actual Opinions as there is detail and nuance in them which by necessity is not captured in the summary.

You asked that I would include an executive summary identifying in short form the views ultimately reached by the various Counsel in relation to Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014. I will do so here. However, I would reiterate what I have said immediately above, which is that people should read the more detailed summary of the Counsels’ Opinions contained in the rest of this document and indeed read the Counsels’ Opinions themselves.

INTRODUCTION

I have attempted to do that in this note.  However, there are a few very important points which I must make at the outset, as follows:

  • Each Counsel will have issued the Opinion to their instructing solicitor for the relevant client. As such, although I understand that the respective clients appear to have shared and exchanged the various Counsels’ Opinions, it is still important that I make the point that each Counsel will have given their Opinion only to their instructing solicitor and their own relevant client.
  • I am approaching this on the basis of an understanding that each of the respective clients agreed to share the Opinions they had been furnished by their own Counsel and, on that basis, that neither they nor their Counsel would have any objection to this summary note being prepared.
  • While I have attempted to summarise key points of the Opinions in this document, the reality is that the only way in which a person can establish and properly understand the actual views of the relevant Counsel is by looking at the actual Opinions themselves. As one would expect,  the Opinions  all  go  into  some  detail  in  terms  of  explaining  the  respective Counsels’ understanding of matters, relating some of the instructions they have received and explaining the rationale for any  conclusions reached. Furthermore, each of the Opinions make clear in their own different ways the fact that these are not necessarily straightforward, black and white issues, which lend themselves to very neat, concise Opinions and conclusions. The Opinions, and the underlying issues, are detailed, nuanced and often complicated. It is simply not possible to replicate that detail, those nuances and those difficulties in this note.
  • Where a Counsel gave more than one Opinion, it is necessary to read all of that Counsel’s Opinions together.
  • Finally, what I have outlined below is my own assessment of what appear to me to be the key issues in each of the different Counsels’ Opinions. In preparing this note I have focused on what appears to me to be perhaps the key issue for architects, which is the issue as to whether the Regulations (or before that the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2013) impose additional liability on architects in the context of providing Statutory Certificates under the Regulations, as compared with the regime which pertained prior to the introduction of the Regulations. I have to say it may well be the case that any of the respective Counsel might disagree that I have identified the key points in that regard, but I have attempted to do so faithfully and objectively.

GAVIN RALSTON SC

  • The 2014 Regulations are not intended to alter the existing common law liability on architects. They do no more than require the building owner to engage suitably qualified property professionals to carry out a “full service”. The real onus of the Regulations is on the building owner. An architect engaged to carry out work under the Regulations undertakes a very serious responsibility and considerably more than the limited qualified  Opinions which could be given under the previous regime.
  • On the question as to whether the issuance of Certificates under the new regime impose any greater liability on the Assigned Certifier than already exists under the law of negligence, Mr Ralston answers it in two parts. Firstly, the Certificates are actually issued to the Building Control Authority and the Building Control Authority itself would not suffer any damage in consequence of an inaccurate Certificate.  Of course, any third party (such as a purchaser) may be able to make a claim but not as a result  of the Certificate but rather upon negligence (including the possibility of negligence in issuing a Certificate). Secondly, in the absence of negligence for which an architect would be liable, the issuance of a Certificate would not in itself be a ground of liability. However, issuing a Certificate in circumstances where the appropriate criteria have not been met may in itself be an act of negligence.

DENIS MCDONALD SC

  • In relation to the undertaking to be given by the Assigned Certifier, the second part of the undertaking (which relates to the certification given by the Assigned Certifier) involves significant responsibilities. The  Certifier must certify compliance with plans, calculations, specifications etc when the Certifier may not have had input into those documents. Furthermore, there is nothing in the Certificate to qualify the nature of the inspection to be carried out by the Certifier in the undertaking. One can therefore envisage that building owners may rely upon this in the future to try and pin liability upon Certifiers for failure to inspect a particular element of the building or works notwithstanding that the Certifier may not have physically been able to do so.
  • In relation to the Design Certificate and the Ancillary Certificate, it appears that the architect is certifying not just that he or she has exercised reasonable skill, care and diligence but that other members of the design team have too. As such, the architect is taking responsibility for the work of others onto himself or herself and therefore exposed to liability.
  • Mr McDonald is not convinced that the reference to reliance on Ancillary Certificates in the Design Certificate represents any significant protection for the Certifier.
  • The reference to reliance upon Ancillary Certificates in the Completion Certificate means that the Assigned Certifier will require that Ancillary Certificates be given by every other trade or profession involved in a particular project and the Ancillary Certificates may therefore run into several volumes.
  • There may well be insurance implications, with a significant prospect that at the very least insurance companies will wish to reflect the increased risk in premium.

PETER BLAND SC

  • In the Certificate of Compliance on Completion, the Assigned Certifier does no more than confirm the exercise of his own skill, care and diligence. It does not constitute a warranty as to the accuracy of the Ancillary Certificates of others.
  • The Assigned Certifier is entitled to rely on the exercise of reasonable skill, care and diligence by the Ancillary Certifiers in the context of the reference in the Completion Certificate to the Inspection Plan.
  • It is implicit in the Certificate of the Assigned Certifier that the Assigned Certifier must have satisfied himself or herself as to the general competency of the Ancillary Certifiers and the Assigned Certifier is responsible to procure and annex the Ancillary Certificates to the Completion Certificate.
  • The modifications to the form of the Completion Certificate (as compared to the 2013 Regulations) are reasonably effective in addressing the concern as to whether the 2014 Regulations extend the potential liability of the architect who signs the Certificate so as to amount to a warranty in respect of the works of others. The wording of the Certificate may still be less than perfect, but the Assigned Certifier should not fear being found liable for the negligence of an Ancillary Certifier.

DAVID NOLAN SC

  • The final Certificates in the 2014 Regulations are a significant modification of the previous Certificates.
  • The final draft Certificate of Compliance on Completion (the one in the 2014 Regulations) qualifies the role of the Assigned Certifier having regard to the work of others. The Assigned Certifier is no longer certifying the work of others, although it does have a role in co-ordinating the inspection activities of others and co-ordinating procurement of ancillary certification. Failure to so co-ordinate will give rise to a legal liability.
  • The final Certificate of the Assigned Certifier is based upon he or she exercising reasonable skill, care and diligence at all times and so long as the Assigned Certifier has exercised reasonable skill, care and diligence, legal liability has been tempered.
  • The new wording of the Certificates in the 2014 Regulations are a very significant improvement from those appended to the 2013 Regulations. Necessary modification and improvement and clarifications have been achieved so as to lessen the broad legal liability previously imposed.

JOHN TRAINOR SC AND SADHBHANNA NI FHLOINN BL

  • Their Opinion, from September 2013, relates to the 2013 Regulations.
  • They consider whether in the future third parties might seek to hold builders liable by reason of a certification error.
  • A failure to comply with the undertaking and/or an error in certification in the Completion Certificate would not per say appear to impose any additional statutory liability on the builder for which he/she could not have previously been pursued.
  • In considering whether in the future third parties might seek to hold builders liable by reason of a certification error, they conclude that an argument in favour of civil liability is highly stateable and that the risk of a court imposing civil liability in respect of an error in certification is thus very real.  They have strong concern that Section 21 of the Building Control Act 1990 would not  be  sufficiently  strong  to  exclude  the  possibility  of  civil  liability  for  damages  for  misrepresentation  (arising  from  a  certification  error)  being imposed on a builder.
  • The prospect arises that in actions against Design Certifiers for errors in certification (against based on negligent misrepresentation) one might see such parties applying to the court for leave to seek contribution or indemnity from builders in appropriate cases.
  • The 2013 Regulations did present considerable potential risk to builders who have been subjected to additional potential liabilities over and above those extant under the regime prior to the 2013 Regulations

Read David Phelan’s full document: Memo re Senior Counsels’ Opinions 15 Sept 2014

Other posts of interest:

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

10 ‘must-read’ posts for Certifiers | S.I.9

Opinion: “the architectural profession is largely united in opposition to S.I.9″

SI.9 Is Defective | RIAI EGM Consensus 

Friday Follow | Eoin O’Cofaigh FRIAI

S.I.9 and Employees: Eoin O’Morain FRIAI

S.I. 9 and Insurance Claims: Deirdre Lennon MRIAI

S.I. 9 and Construction Products: Orla Hegarty MRIAI RIBA

Vivian Cummins MRIAI: Are small architectural practices under threat from S.I.9?

Shrapnel and Spin – Caomhán Murphy MRIAI

Eoin O’Cofaigh: missed opportunity? BC(A)R SI.9

News Alert | RIAI EGM Report

 

The Ghost estate problem and BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

GhostEstatesBallinagreeMacroom_large

The difficulties that Local Authorities have in getting developers to complete estates or in getting their hands on the money to do the work (where a bond was in place) are repeated all around the country. This article from The Irish Examiner on Monday 16th June highlights the plight of residents but also the powerlessness of the Local Authorities who have all of the responsibilities and very limited funds. (Link to article here).

Minister Alan Kelly- ” I also wish to state that NAMA has made available virtually all of its housing stock to local authorities for social housing. However, not all of it was deemed suitable.” See Dáil exchange here.

The issue of the quality of construction standards is also often raised. Gradually, the Government is coming to grips with dealing with the absolutely dreadful legacies of unfinished estates and poorly built, substandard homes and buildings, with examples being the progress being made under the Priory Hall resolution framework and by the Pyrite Resolution Board, not to mention the resolution of a significant number of unfinished estates, in which very significant progress has been made.

See numbers here.

There is nothing in the new building regulations to ensure that this does not happen again. As we can see the Local Authority can’t do much about these estates without expensive legal action, which can take years to resolve. Under S.I.9 the Local Authorities may have a list of names but without taking legal action against someone,  who can pay out for the problem, they will be no better off.

Extract off article:

_____________

Special report: Nationwide look shows slow progress on ghost estates

By Eoin English, Conor Kane, Donal Hickey, Gordon Deegan and Jimmy Woulfe

Visits to ghost estates last year revealed nightmare conditions for home owners. One year on, work is finally beginning to make residents’ lives much better, though others are still stuck in limbo.

Ballinagree, Co Cork
By Eoin English

A GOVERNMENT TD who has been trying to resolve problems in one of Ireland’s worst ghost estates has called for an overhaul of the planning process.

“We must learn lessons from this situation,” Fine Gael’s Michael Creed said.

“We should look at the priority of planning conditions when it comes to the construction of estates. I would suggest we should make it a condition of planning that developers put in roads, footpaths, sewers, pipes, public lighting and public green areas first, then lodge a bond, before any house building takes place.”

This would ensure that when houses are being sold, the basic infrastructure would already be in place, he said.

It would also ensure that if development companies collapse, the state and local authorities wouldn’t have to foot the bill to bring unfinished estates up to standard, he added.

Mr Creed was speaking as work finally begins to end the six-year nightmare for the residents of Carrigrua Estate, near Ballinagree in Co Cork.

The Government has sanctioned a €160,000 grant to help fund remedial works in the unfinished estate near Macroom. Some minor health and safety works have been undertaken in recent weeks.

But residents’ spokesman, Michael Cummins, said it is vital that the momentum which has built in recent weeks continues, to ensure that the major work is done, bringing this sorry tale to an end.

“They put a lip of tarmacadam around the manholes to stop them damaging the suspension on our cars,” he said.

“They also gave us a lip of tar up to the driveways of the occupied houses, and they cleared the overgrown area. But we’re still waiting for the clearance of overgrowth in the large green area, and for street lights.

“While we’ve seen some action on the ground, negotiations are ongoing on an overall site resolution plan for the estate.

“So while we wait for that, we’re still effectively in no man’s land. We’re just hoping and waiting to see when they’ll do the major stuff.”

The 22-house estate was developed from 2008 on by Old Friary Developments. Of the six houses bought initially at the height of the boom, four are privately owned by owner occupiers.

The ownership of four more is understood to be linked to individuals associated with the development company.

Cork County Council bought four of the houses, but withheld the payment of up to €70,000 pending completion of the estate.

But the development company collapsed during the crash and the estate was left unfinished, with the remaining eight houses left unoccupied.

The collapse of the firm triggered a litany of serious issues with the unfinished estate.

The street lights were stolen about three years ago. The unoccupied properties were burgled for copper piping.

Earlier this year, the residents commissioned chartered engineer, Kevin McDonnell, to conduct a preliminary engineering report on the estate.

He found a litany of chronic structural issues with the unoccupied houses, including subsidence and cracked gables — and deemed the houses unviable and said they should be demolished.

Some cold water storage tanks collapsed the underlying bearing joists, which suggested that inadequate floor joists were used.

External plaster-work was found to be “wholly under specification or that pyrite was present, or a combination of both exists”.

He found trip hazards from elevated manholes, trip hazards at all driveway entrances, open excavations, exposed live electrical wiring, electricity pole support-stays bolted directly to the centre of footpaths, unprotected electricity transformer stations, no street lighting, vermin infestation, and retaining walls at risk of collapse.

He also found incorrect and faulty wiring on the electrical installation and heating systems, a 225mm diameter foul sewer not working correctly, and driveways built at too steep an incline.

A receiver has been appointed to work with AIB to resolve the issues.

It is hoped that through negotiation, the estate will be brought up to a standard that would allow the county council take it in charge.

Mr Creed, who has been working to resolve issues in the Carrigrua Estate for some time, and who is working to resolve similar issues in another ghost estate in Tarelton said no two ghost estates present with the same difficulties.

“The challenge is to find a way through in each case and prepare a site resolution plan. It has taken time in these two cases, but we are no getting there,” he said.

A vast dump in the centre of one of Cork city’s worst ghost estates, the Meadows in Hollyhill, which was highlighted by the Irish Examiner last year, has been cleared.

But residents said while there has been some progress, it has been painfully slow, and a lot more needs to be done.

Cashel, Co Tipperary

‘Can’t fault houses but place is an eyesore’
By Conor Kane

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Part of the unfinished estate, at Longfield Park, Boherlahan, Co Tipperary. Just seven of the houses are occupied. Picture: Denis Minihane

LONGFIELD Park in Boherlahan is a fine example of 40 or so well-built houses, nicely designed and placed in a peaceful village setting.

However, only seven of those homes are occupied.

Last year, the few residents there are in this picturesque corner of western Tipperary, a few kilometres from the heritage town of Cashel, were angry about the prospect of having to pay the Government’s new household charge when they’ve been left in a development of mostly empty houses, replete with rubble, unfinished roads, and without street lighting.

“A year on, nothing has changed, except that the initial property tax of €100 was waived,” says Marcella Kennedy who moved into a lovely three-bedroomed home in Longfield Park back in 2009.

“Going forward, we have to pay every other tax.”

Along with the 40-odd houses which were constructed in this estate by a builder who has since died, there are four sets of foundations laid which are unlikely to ever see a concrete block.

Four of the houses here are owner-occupied while another three are rented but with so few tenants in all, they don’t have sufficient people to form a decent residents’ association to try and improve things themselves and club together to pay for some services.

“We haven’t even got the grass cut. There’s not enough of us to form a committee or anything.”

According to Marcella, those few like she and her husband Seán who bought houses in 2009 were assured there was a bond in place from the development company responsible for Longfield Park.

However, there’s been no sign of that bond being released by the council to allow some completion work to be carried out. The houses consist of three-bedroom semi-detached, three-bedroom semi-detached with sunroom, and four-bedroom detached properties.

“We moved in five years ago and it’s the same now as it was when we moved in. The same amount of houses. The work had just stopped.”

Like many in similar unfinished estates around the country, where site works stopped in late 2008 or sometime in 2009 following the collapse of the economy, the residents here have been in limbo ever since.

“Until it’s handed over to the council, they can’t work on it and as far as we know the property company haven’t handed it over.”

She says that, with the development basically being allowed go to seed since 2009, “it’s got to the stage where it’s dangerous” by now.

“I don’t have children, but if I did I couldn’t leave them out. There’s rubble, concrete blocks, rocks, the grass is overgrown. They don’t even know where they’re walking. It’s very dark at night. It’s OK now in the summer but in winter, you could be coming home at five o’clock in the evening and it’s totally dark because we don’t have street lighting. I can’t fault the building of the houses themselves, it’s fantastic, but the place is an eyesore.”

Lismore, Co Waterford

False dawns, broken promises and potholes
By Conor Kane

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Looking at an unfinished part of The Mills, Lismore, are residents, from left, Ray Murphy, Anna Kunert and Kevin Landers. Picture: Denis Minihane

THE flurry of excitement and joy when residents moved into The Mills in Lismore, Co Waterford, in the latter years of the Noughties turned to a near-nightmare in the subsequent months — and now, in mid-2014, dashed hopes and broken promises are all they have to show for plans to complete their development.

A year ago, residents spoke of their despair at the dangers of their unfinished estate as a result of uneven roads, rubble, the possibility of vermin, antisocial behaviour and even fires started at empty houses.

In the meantime, there’s been little more than a “false dawn”, according to Ray Murphy who has lived at The Mills, just a few minutes walk from the centre of the famously attractive town of Lismore, for four and a half years. “I came in at the top end of the market, like everybody else, and was screwed. Screwed a number of times.”

A tender was put out by Waterford County Council to finish the estate but, as far as the residents could see, little if anything resulted from that process and they’re still no better than they were a year ago.

“Apparently there’s a bit of movement now with the properties, they think. Nama are considering this as an asset so they’re going to try and finish the estate. That’s what we hear. But things haven’t changed on-site since last year. We purchased a ride-on lawnmower to keep the place tidy — that’s about it.”

About 30 of the estate’s 40-odd houses are occupied and the residents’ association is “pretty good”, but there’s only so much they can do.

Because there is space in the middle of the development which was originally earmarked for houses, but has remained empty, the residents are likely to end up with a bigger green area than they ever expected.

An unexpected bonus, perhaps, if things ever get moving again.

“It’s going to be massive. It’s never going to be built on. There’s two houses down the back of the estate and they’re going to be finished. At least they think they’re going to be finished. But after that, the whole thing is going to be a big green area. Maybe we can have the grassy area and set up a little bit of a park on it?”

For now, however, the residents consider The Mills to be in “lethal” condition, Ray says. “It’s still dangerous. There’s potholes there and young kids going around on bikes. I’m surprised one of the kids hasn’t come off a bike yet… The main problems are the road surface, the potholes, craters all over the place [and] there’s a possibility of vermin and rodents in and around the unfinished areas because there’s a big waste area.” All it needs to turn The Mills into a completed development is “a bit of a kick”, according to Ray Murphy but while there’s been much talk lately about the council or Nama making a move after more than four years of waiting, nobody is holding their breath.

“We’ve heard it before.”

Call to ‘get tough’ to finish Kerry estates
By Donal Hickey

GhostEstateRadharcNahEaglasieArdfert_large

A LARGE amount of work still remains to be done in unfinished estates throughout Kerry, where more than 50 such locations were listed, in 2013.

While there have been calls for “tough and firm action” in relation to completing work on estates, Kerry County Council says getting money released from bonds lodged by developers now in liquidation is a slow and difficult process.

Forty bonds have been paid up and all estates have been surveyed on more than one occasion by the council’s estates unit.

“We know what needs to be done, but in some cases getting money from financial institutions can be painstaking and incremental at times,” said council spokesman Padraig Corkery.

Clearing up the mess left behind by developers involves, primarily, work to make estates safe and includes road repairs and surfacing, footpaths, drains and sewers, public lighting and general tidying up. Sewage treatment plants have to be provided, or replaced, in some cases.

The distressed estates can be found in towns and villages and, sometimes, in rural areas. The council hopes to have a lot of the work carried out by the end of this year.

At the height of the boom, people paid up to €230,000 for semi-detached houses in these estates, but some of these houses have been resold for a fraction of that price due to the condition of the estates.

One of the stand-out eyesores is just outside Castlemaine, on the main tourist route from Killarney to Dingle, and 14 houses there were sold at an auction of distressed property in Dublin, in 2012, for €235,000.

The property is on a 1.22 hectare site at Annagh Banks, Castlemaine, and planning permission had been previously granted for a 12-bedroom hotel, apartments and a restaurant on the site.

Ongoing problems in the Killarney area are being highlighted by county councillors in response to complaints from residents frustrated with the lack of progress.

Estates in the Castleisland, Kilcummin and Firies areas are being singled out, amid concerns about inadequate sewers and sewage treatment systems, especially, and delays in getting work finished to the standards required under planning conditions.

The small village of Firies, in the heart of the county, saw huge housing development during the boom, but local services are inadequate to meet the demands of the resultant population increase, according to local councillor Brendan Cronin. “I’m looking for tough and firm action by the council to resolve these matters,” he said.

He is dissatisfied with a €185,000 offer to the council to complete work at Greenfields, in Firies, which, he pointed out, was considerably less than €300,000 bond lodged by the developer.

The council is involved in protracted negotiations with banks, receivers and Nama in relation to several estates.

Residents vow not to give up the battle
By Donal Hickey

SINKING FEELING: The council has undertaken work at Radharc na hEaglaise, Ardfert, Co Kerry, but residents are “finding it difficult to make further progress”. Picture: Domnick Walsh

RESIDENTS of an unfinished housing estate near Tralee, Co Kerry, have vowed to continue their seven-year battle with a local authority to have works completed.

Though Kerry County Council maintains it has carried out “significant works”, including the replacement of a sewage treatment unit and pumping station, the residents of Radharc na hEaglaise in Ardfert are not fully satisfied.

Conditions at the neatly planned, seven-house estate, 1km outside Ardfert village, were highlighted in the Irish Examiner a year ago and, since then, the council has done work to resolve storm water drainage and finished the access road to a high standard.

The estate, made up of detached houses on spacious sites, looks much better, but is still without public lighting — though poles have been erected — and residents also want a proper boundary fence. The stone-faced houses were purchased for prices ranging from €350,000 to €430,000 during the boom, but are now worth substantially less.

Residents’ Association chairman Aidan Walsh said they were happy with work on the access road. From their point of view, there should be no obstacles to completing work and they had signed over the estate to the council.

“But, we’re finding it very difficult to make further progress with the council. We regard public lighting as a security and a health-and-safety issue. We’re left in pitch darkness at night and it’s terrible during the winter months,” he added. “We were told some time ago that whatever money was left after work on the road and drains was done would go towards lighting and the boundary fence, which was never put in properly.

“An old drain which poses a danger to children also needs to be filled in.”

Mr Walsh, who said they were now “totally frustrated” in their efforts to maintain contact with the council and were finding it difficult to reach officials, commended local Ardfert councillor Toireasa Ferris for her ongoing efforts on their behalf.

According to the council, the developer left significant works outstanding in Radharc na hEaglaise, including the sewer network and sewage treatment unit.

After long negotiations with a financial institution, the bond was finally released and significant works carried out, which included replacement of the treatment unit and pumping station.

“This has now resolved a very significant health issue,” said a spokesman.

He said the process had been extremely slow, with the council’s housing estates unit pressurising AIB over a number of years to try and release the bond to allow the council bring the estate up to an acceptable standard for the residents.

“In some instances financial institutions have been exploring the possibility of carrying out the works themselves, but this did not happen in this case,” he said.

Crucially, the issue of public lighting does not apply as the estate is in a rural area, he went on.

As it was the council’s policy not to install public lighting in rural, cluster estates such as Radharc na hEaglaise, the council was not in a position to maintain public lighting in such rural estates.

The spokesman also said that, in relation to the fencing, what remained of the bond after carrying out the significant works already mentioned would not allow for new boundary fencing.

Killaloe, Co Clare

‘We’re hoping to move in next September’
By Gordon Deegan

RESIDENTS of one former Co Clare ghost estate are looking forward to moving into their homes in September.

Michele Burke and William Buck, along with the owners of two other homes at the Ard na Deirge estate in Killaloe, have endured an eight-year-long nightmare that prevented them from moving into their homes.

The builder constructing the estate went into receivership. AIB took possession of the estate through the receiver, but with no electricity, water services nor street lighting, the residents were unable to move in.

However, after Limerick building firm, Cherryfox Developments purchased the homes from the receiver for a knock-down price earlier this year, services to the houses are now being connected.

“We never wanted to live in a ghost estate. At the moment with the work done by the developer, John Walsh, the estate is looking amazing,” said Ms Burke.

She revealed that all of the built homes that were recently put up for sale in the estate have sold.

“The 14 were sold in a week-and-a-half, so we are delighted that we are going to have lots of neighbours and there is a very good mix of people as well.”

Ms Burke said the homes sold rapidly “because the developer wasn’t greedy”.

She said that the three-bed semi-detached sold for €145,000 with the four-bed detached selling for €160,000.

“Work is ahead of schedule so we are looking to move into our home in September and the rest of the residents will be able to move in a month later.”

She said Clare County Council had played a very prominent role in resolving issues around the bond that has allowed Cherryfox Developments complete the estate.

The couple had been in a legal limbo concerning the home they purchased in September 2006 when both were aged 27.

However, in spite of being unable to move into their home, the couple had to maintain mortgage repayments and Ms Burke confirmed that since 2007, they have spent €273,000 on their mortgage, along with €46,000 on renting a nearby apartment. Ms Burke said they have paid €1,400 per month between mortgage payments and rent all that time giving a total spend of €319,000.

“The whole thing has been horrendous, but it has made us very tough and very strong and it has also made our marriage stronger. Also, the support from the community has made our lives much more positive.

In April of last year, 80 supporters joined residents at the site to protest at their plight where the protesters heard Ms Burke say that “we have been to hell and back” over the home.

Kilfinane, Co Limerick

This troublesome ghost has been banished
By Jimmy Wolfe

GhostEstateKilfinaneLimerickPICKieranClancy_large
Coming up roses: All is well on the Glenduff Estate in Kilfinane, Co Limerick, with outstanding issues resolved and residents undertaking work themselves.Picture: Kieran Clancy

THE ghost which lurked over the Glenduff estate in Kilfinane, Co Limerick, has been banished. Tony Clancy, one of the residents, says he and his wife were lucky in that they bought their detached house for €200,000 in 2009.

“It was priced at €360,000 when it was built,” he says.

But they were left with unfinished roads and footpaths.

A year on, all has changed and for the better.

“We have gone from the Third World to the First World. Everything has been sorted out. We have got a new road in the estate, the footpaths have been repaired, and all four houses in the estate are occupied.”

Problems in the estate, he says, mainly centred on the roadway which was not properly laid. “It was in the same rough condition as when the estate was being built. The footpaths were not fully finished.”

Tony says the residents took steps to improve the place. “Myself and neighbours did our own work to clean up the place. We also cut the grass and this was the best we could do and put an effort to keep the place.”

Local postman Peter O’Sullivan was the first resident to move into the estate in 2008. “Two of my children are very young and I couldn’t allow them out because there was rubble. We tried to maintain the road ourselves with a load of gravel we bought,” he says.

But now the estate has been sorted out and residents are happy that outstanding issues have been resolved.

Residents confident dialogue will yield results
By Jimmy Woulfe

WHILE things have not changed very much in the Cluain Dara estate on Limerick’s Ennis Rd, residents are confident that ongoing dialogue with Limerick City and County Council will yield results.

The estate has a temporary sewerage system, although the homeowners were guaranteed a full gravity-fed arrangement was contained in planning permission. All houses have been completed.

The residents are hoping the council will take the estate in charge and resolve issues such as inadequate public lighting and poor fencing of an open area which adjoins a main road, and where children play.

A builder’s bond has been handed over to the council and discussions are ongoing about how much work can be done with this insurance cover.

Pat O’Neill, who works in the engineering department at Analog in Raheen Industrial Estate, bought a detached house in Cluain Dara six years ago for almost €500,000. Continuing efforts to replace the temporary sewerage system have failed and he says it is now unlikely they will get the system specified in the planning. Mr O’Neill said the relocation of the sewage pump house to a more secluded location would be of great help and he is confident that things are moving in the right direction.

“The council have been very positive in their dealings with us and have been very forthcoming with information as to where things stand. I understand they are in talks with the insurers on the bond and how much work can be done with this.

“Over the past year things have moved on and dealing with the council is not like dragging teeth. They are very open and we are keeping pushing. If the estate was taken in charge we have a list on sewerage, signage, lighting, and proper fencing of an open area.”

Mr O’Neill said they are not very confident that they will get the sewerage system as set out in planning, but if the estate is taken in charge they will have an agency, the council, to turn to.

“We need clarity on who to go to if a problem arises and things have moved on due to the better communication between the residents and the council.

“Things have slowed down, and we need to keep pushing, but we are very encouraged by the approach of the officials we have been dealing with. Things are moving in the right direction in getting the estate taken in charge by the council and we expect to get results.”

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

SI.9 to Cost €168m in 2014 | Non-Residential Sector

by Bregs Blog admin team

burning-money2-300x199

SI.9 to Cost €168m in 2014 |  Non-Residential Sector

Based on current information for non-residential projects,  SI.9 could cost the economy €168m per annum. To put it another way thats a 9.7% surcharge on every shop, warehouse, office, production facility completed, school, hospital bed for which the consumer has no tangible benefit.

Towards the end of February 2014 we did an overview of the possible cost of SI.9. In a recent post we tabled a revised cost estimate of €532m per annum for residential projects. We have drawn on recent information from the industry, current market rates for construction and the additional workload estimated by construction professional bodies and specialists. Given recent input regarding implementation the following costs excludes the minority non qualifying works in accordance with Building Control Management System (BCMS) data to date. Information suggest most small non-residential projects qualify under SI.9.

SI.9 ANNUAL COST FOR PRIVATE NON-RESIDENTIAL PROJECTS (€606m qualifying)

  • Increased costs for private non-residential (€606m @ 7%)=   €42.4m
  • Cost to private non-residential- delays(€606m @ 4%) *=         €24m
  • SUBTOTAL  PRIVATE NON RESIDENTIAL =                      €66.4m

SI.9 ANNUAL COST FOR SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS (€753m qualifying)

  • Increased costs for social infrastructure (€753m @ 7%)=         €52.7m
  • Cost to social infrastructure projects- delays (€753m @ 2%)=  €15m
  • SUBTOTAL  SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE=                            €67.7m

Previously we completely discounted qualifying buidings and structures that come under SI.9 associated with Infrastructure.

SI.9 ANNUAL COST FOR PRODUCTIVE INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS (€374m qualifying)

  • Increased costs for productive infrastructure (€374m @ 7%)=  €26.2m
  • Cost to productive infrastructure- delays (€374m @ 2%)=        €7.5m
  • SUBTOTAL  PRODUCTIVE INFRASTRUCTURE                    €33.7m

The above figures, when added to the costs to residential, suggest a cost to the economy every year of €700m for SI.9. Do the benefits of SI.9 outweigh the costs?

_________

Assumptions in compiling the above figures:

  • Commencement figures verified with the Building Control Management System (BCMS) to date indicate completions will be at best similar to 2012 (optimistic)- this is dependent on current levels improving significantly.
  • Figures are based on 2012 construction outputs from Forfas report (table 2.12 (p16) Value and volume of construction output, 2012-2012E; Source: DKM Economic Consultants analysis for Forfás, 2012). See link below.
  • We have discounted non-residential and social infrastructure sector outputs by 10% (we assume €1.359bn qualifies under SI.9 ) to take into account minor works that are exempt from SI.9 as registered on the BCMS to date.
  • We have not factored in any projects abandoned and postponed  due to SI.9, or capital budgets not spent. This will have a significant impact.
  • A minimum 3 week delay is assumed on all projects due to increased administration and paperwork, lack of Local Authority resources, invalidations at completion and commencement etc. Delays for non residential projects have further turnover/ trading costs for SME’s, offices, manufacturing etc. in addition to 3-5 week delay noted above and we have factored in 4% for this figure.
  • We have excluded extra costs for all sub-certifier roles, ancillary certifiers and sub-contractors, other insurance costs etc.
  • SI.9 cost: Professional sources indicate 2-3% for certifier roles (DC, AC, Ancillary Certifiers), 3-5% for defensive specifications; total average increase of 7% on capital cost.
  • Non residential projects comprise Industry (324m), commercial (207m), agricultural (90m), tourism (31m), worship (21m); subtotal is 673m. We are discounting output by 10% to exclude minor works where SI.9 does not apply along with simple repair and maintenance works to give €606m as qualifying under SI.9.
  • Social infrastructure includes education (€492m), health (€266m), public buildings (€79m), other social (€63m), totaling €900m. For this exercise we have excluded other social (assumed exempt public sector projects) and reducing the net total by 10% to allow for projects exempt from SI.9, and simple repairs and maintenance work. This gives €753m which qualifies under SI.9.
  • Productive infrastructure is all qualifying new buildings associated with this sector: roads, water services, airports/seaports, energy, transport, communications. In line with total new-build costs in the Forfas report we have discounted this heavily down from a total spend of €2.878bn to €415m. This figure is further discounted to assume 10% projects do not come under SI.9 giving a qualifying total of €374m. This number when added to previous figures corresponds to a cumulative total of €4.3bn quoted in the Forfas report for total new build output excl R&M construction.
  • The above estimates are non-exhaustive and are based on a number of assumptions. As more exact figures become available we will refine costs further.

Link to Forfas report here:

Extract off Forfas report table 2.12 p 16

forfas report table 2.12 p16
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