Political Q+A: Mark Daly: Professionals concerned over Building Regulation (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014)?
by bregs blog admin team
Seanad debates Thursday, 30 January 2014 Building Regulations Amendments
Mark Daly (Fianna Fail)
I thank the Minister for coming to the House. This issue relates to the new 2013 regulations introduced under the Building Control Act, and they relate to certification of building works. There seems to be much concern among architects, engineers and surveyors regarding the exclusion of large numbers of competent engineers and architects who currently do a job in applying for planning permission and supervising construction works. It now seems that those who have been deemed competent for decades and who have been in the industry for years will not be able to certify works under these regulations. Will the Minister outline what is being done to allay their fears? People’s lives and livelihoods – their ability to earn a living – are being put at risk.
Phil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
I am glad of the opportunity to outline the position for Senator Daly. The new Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2013 will strengthen the arrangements currently in place for the control of building activity by requiring greater accountability in compliance with building regulations in the form of statutory certification of design and construction, lodgement of compliance documentation, mandatory inspections during construction and validation and registration of certificates. The new regulations are necessary following the widespread instances of failure by owners, designers and builders to comply with their statutory obligations under the Building Control Act 1990 to design and construct buildings in accordance with the building regulations. An extensive public consultation process was undertaken in 2012 to inform the development of the revised building control regulations which will come into effect on 1 March 2014. Comprehensive consultation documents were published, including Strengthening the Building Control System, a document to inform public consultation on draft building control (amendment) regulations 2012 which sets out the context in which the reforms – which are now signed into law in the form of SI No. 9 of 2014 and which supersedes SI No. 80 of 2013 – will operate and the regulatory impact of these for building owners and industry stakeholders. This document remains on my Department’s website. In the two years since public consultation began, my Department has worked in close consultation with key industry stakeholders and local authorities through the City and County Managers Association to prepare for the new regulatory environment. In this regard, a new on-line building control management system will provide a common platform for clear and consistent administration of building control matters across the local authority sector. It will also undertake a risk analysis of all projects for which commencement notices are received, which will inform each building control authority’s own inspection arrangements, thus ensuring that available inspection resources are used to optimum effect. Briefing and guidance for local authority staff on the new system has begun in recent weeks and arrangements are being made to brief industry stakeholders in early February 2014 before the system is made publicly available in advance of 1 March 2014. A new code of practice for inspecting and certifying works will guide and assist construction professionals in particular in dealing with their new obligations in inspecting work during construction, lodging documentation to demonstrate compliance and certifying the design and construction. Professionals who comply with the code of practice will be deemed to have fulfilled their obligations. This code of practice has been prepared in close collaboration with industry stakeholders and circulated widely within the industry. Standard forms of contracts used for both private and public sector projects will need to be revised to reflect the new regulatory environment. I understand that the Government construction contracts committee is currently reviewing arrangements in this regard with public works projects. My Department also understands from its ongoing liaison with the key construction professional bodies representing architects, engineers and surveyors that this work is advancing well. My Department officials are available to advise and assist the professional bodies in this regard as necessary. Concerns that the new regulations prevent a self-build situation are unfounded, although all house builders must comply with the new regulations. An owner who intends to self-build will, as before, assume legal responsibility for ensuring that building or works concerned are compliant. The new regulations now require all owners to assign a competent, registered professional to certify the design and to inspect and certify the works. Confidence in the builder will be a key factor influencing a professional’s decision to accept these roles and owners who intend to self-build will need to be aware of this. I am satisfied that arrangements for a smooth transition to the new regulatory environment are well in hand and my Department will continue to work with all parties to ensure they understand their obligations and the steps necessary to meet them. I understand from representations I have received from the Senator and others that there is some concern about people who are not registered with professional bodies but who are draughtsmen or have carried out work on behalf of architects over the years. I have asked the chairman of the admissions panel of the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland, Mr. Garrett Fennell, to consider the routes to recognition of those people in respect of professional bodies. A report should be on the Department’s website that clearly indicates the recommendations for changes to be made, and I have accepted Mr. Fennell’s report in full. I hope to be in a position to implement those changes as quickly as possible, and that will provide an opportunity for people who are worried about their future, as there will be new rules regarding technical assessment. For example, there is a short and inexpensive course in UCD that will help these people. I have asked the RIAI to examine how we can assist people in becoming fully registered and in any other way in achieving that goal. These applies, as the Senator correctly suggests, to people who have been working in the system for many years. I hope that by implementing the recommendations in Mr. Fennell’s report we will be in a position to drive down costs and improve the opportunities for recognition for the professionals involved in building and construction for many years.
The Minister did not expand on the methodology used by the Department to exclude other professionals from the register of competent professionals in his answer. The final version of the code of practice is still not available (at time of writing) a month before implementation.
In relation to key stakeholders there have been repeated requests by the architect’s representative body the RIAI asking for deferral of SI.9 (formerly SI.80). Recent advice to RIAI members from the President Mr Robin Mandal:
“Having regard to the concerns expressed by the RIAI in the letters of 21 November 2013 and14 January 2014, having regard also to the extraordinary tight timescale to complete and road-test the local authority infrastructure for the Regulations, and having regard, finally, to the state of readiness of the construction industry – the RIAI considers that, pending satisfactory resolution of the outstanding issues, members should be cautious to ensure that they can act within their competency prior to accepting appointments as ‘Design Certifier’ or ‘Assigned Certifier’ under the Regulations.
Note that the ‘Assigned Certifier’ role is a separate appointment to that of ‘Architect’ and that the necessary documents (Contracts in particular) have not been amended yet to account for the impact of the new Regulations.
The RIAI is a key stakeholder and has a crucial role in the implementation of this legislation. Earlier this month the President of the Architects organisation the RIAI wrote to the Department of the Environment requesting a deferral of SI9.
Below is the RIAI letter sent on 15th January 2014 to Minister Hogan. Minster Hogan’s refusal is attached dated 16th January 2014. The new SI9 was subsequently signed by the Minister. The RIAI are a key stakeholder in the formation and implementation of SI9.
The above opinion piece was submitted by Maoilíosa Mel Reynolds on 31st January 2014.