New or same old building regulations?

by bregs blog admin team

Sir, – Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan TD (Opinion, December 11th) explains that he “inherited an appalling mess of shoddily built homes like Priory Hall”. He says new building regulations “provide the consumer with better protection”, but that “a campaign led by several past presidents of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI) has recently sought to postpone and prevent implementation of the new regulations”. He does not explain why we have so sought.

At a meeting last October, the largest-ever gathering of architects in Ireland resolved (by 550 votes to eight) that the new law “will not achieve the objective for which it has been introduced, and that the consumer will be no better protected than was the case in the recent past because of shortcomings in the said regulations”.

Why will the consumer be no better off under these new regulations?

The reason is to be found in the public statements last year of Graham Usher, spokesman for the Priory Hall residents, who wrote: “The proposed amendments still place the focus for local authorities almost entirely on the acceptance and filing of certificates of compliance. Under the 1990 Act, local authorities have the power to inspect works in progress. They clearly have not availed of this power. Legislation should be changed to turn that power into a statutory duty.”

Several consumer protection bodies have explained why independent inspections under local authority control are vital for proper consumer protection. The Minister’s regulations do not provide this; instead, they provide the “ultimate in self-certification”. Furthermore, the developer should pay for mandatory insurance for home buyers: the regulations do not require this.

These regulations are a huge missed opportunity. The Minister and his Department should consult with all relevant stakeholders, not just the construction industry as hitherto, and rethink his approach.

There is no time to waste. The Irish people need better building regulations now, not after the next round of building disasters. – Yours, etc,

Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland Past Presidents:

PADRAIG MURRAY (1974-1975), MICHAEL COLLINS (1986-1987), PETER HANNA (1992-1993), JOAN O’CONNOR (1994-1995), EOIN O COFAIGH (1998-1999), ARTHUR HICKEY (2000-2001), SEAN O LAOIRE (2008-2009)

As published in the Irish Times today, 13/12/13