Self-builders to be phased out under S.I.80

by bregs blog admin team

The forthcoming changes in the Building Regulations in March 2014 (S.I. No. 80 of 2013 BUILDING CONTROL (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 2013) have big repercussions for residential self-builders. Nearly 60% of houses constructed in Ireland are self-builds (source NaSBA) and self-building is a common form of construction for houses and extensions; this is especially the case in rural areas.

S.I. No. 80 requires that the owner gives notice to the Building Control authority of ‘…ASSIGNMENT OF BUILDER’:

Item 2. requires the owner to have ‘…assigned the following person as Builder of the works and I am satisfied that they are competent to undertake the works so assigned on my behalf.’

The owner therefore needs to assign a ‘competent person’ to undertake the building works; this raises several questions:

• Who decides whether a builder is a competent person?

• Currently there is no register of ‘competent persons’ that are considered competent to undertake building works; the Construction Industry Federation ‘is progressing the establishment of a Register of Builders in consultation with the Department of the Environment Community and Local Government (DoECLG).’ but this register will initially only be a voluntary register (transitioning at a later date to a statutory scheme).

• Logically a self-builder cannot assign himself unless he is a ‘competent person’.

Self-builders will be required under S.I.80, as clients, to employ a design certifier and assigned certifier (engineer/ architect/ building surveyor)- this is positive as it is unwise for a technically non-experienced person to undertake self-building without professional input. This should be welcomed as a positive development.

If a client is going to be the builder, currently that’s fine- self-builders can nominate themselves (as long as they consider themselves to be ‘competent’ and as builders are currently unregistered this seems to work well for self-builders. The only persons precluded from operating as contractors are Architects.

So, S.I.80 at the moment can only improve the quality of self-builds.

However when a formal register of builders is introduced in 2015 self-builders will need to meet the criteria to become registered, or will be precluded from this role. The criteria more than likely is a minimum of 3 years relevant building experience, tax affairs in order, relevant insurances in place etc.

So, in 12 months self-building will no longer be possible unless the self-builder  is already an established experienced contractor, with their own insurances and tax-clearance documents etc. People who want to undertake works themselves are no longer able to do so. One unintended consequence of this is that rural landowners with some building experience who are capable of managing sub-contractors will no longer be able to inhabit this role- they will be forced down the more expensive route of appointing a main contractor to domestic or other projects that require planning permission (farm buildings, outhouses etc.)

The UK system of Building Control allows for self-builders; their risk-based assessment on the number of inspections takes into account whether the builder is known, his experience/track record and whether there is also an architect inspecting the works (as examples). The Building Control Officer then adjusts the number of visits following this risk analysis based on a points system in order to ensure the build is in compliance with the Building Regulations.

The introduction of S.I.80 denies the centuries old tradition of the Irish person building their home for their family themselves. There are a number of contradictions in S.I.80 and this is one of them. If public opinion forces a u-turn on registration of contractors in 2015 then the basis of S.I.80, that of “regulating” building, will not be achieved. Unregistered and unregulated builders will still be in a position to control the procurement process. Introduce mandatory registration of contractors and self-building will cease to exist.

References to UK Building Control mean England and Wales.

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

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