Thoughts on a way forward #bregs #OrlaHegarty

by bregs blog admin team

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

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

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

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

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

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In summary:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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