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.

Month: March, 2014

Dáil: Proactive vs Reactive Building Control? BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

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Minister Hogan on 18th February 2014 explains the anomaly of the requirement for third party oversight (independent local authority checking) in relation to fire safety and access to buildings, Parts B and M only, of the Building Regulation.

By Bregs Blog admin team

In the following Dáil exchange on 18th February 2014, Eoghan Murphy TD and Clare Daly TD attempted to establish with Minister Phil Hogan that a system of Building Control that seeks to identify faults before they occur, through appropriate third party oversight, is preferable to consumers having to seek redress through the Courts when buildings fail. Clare Daly also sought answers to what enforcement actions have been taken against those who have not complied with Building Regulations in relation to Fire Safety. Claire Daly has previously made numerous representations to the Minister regarding the numerous unintended consequences of SI.9. In this previous post here she requested deferral of the regulations, and we noted that Priory Hall residents representations and key Pyrite Report recommendations were ignored by the Minister in the formation of BC(A)R SI.9. We have discussed an effective and practical system of proactive independent local authority building control in an earlier post “How do we fix BC(A)R SI.9“.

In this Dáil response Minister Hogan stated that:

  • what useful purpose would be served by imposing a requirement for independent verification of design or construction by a third party? (notwithstanding the existing requirement for Fire Safety and Disabled Access Certificate applications)
  •  it is not the function of the local building control authority to quality assure construction projects.
  • enforcement activity under the Building Control Acts and the Fire Safety Act is a matter for local authorities and the Minister has no function in relation to this matter.

Extract:

__________

Eoghan Murphy (Dublin South East, Fine Gael)

344. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 528 of 18 February 2014, where he states it is not clear what useful purpose would be served by imposing a requirement for independent verification of design or construction by a third party, his views on whether this is consistent with departmental insistence on such systems for the upholding of standards in fire safety and universal access, for example, as regulated by Part B and Part M respectively of the building regulations. [11666/14]

Clare Daly (Dublin North, Socialist Party)

364. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government his views on whether the ability to sue a builder or design professional who has certified building works as complying with building regulations when a defect appears after the fact, is of little worth compared to prevention of the defect/non-compliance through robust inspections by competent public building control officials. [11853/14]

Clare Daly (Dublin North, Socialist Party) 365. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government regarding cases of non-compliance with the building regulations (fire safety) that have come to his notice, the measures he is proposing to enforce the building regulations (fire safety) in each of these cases. [11854/14]

Phil Hogan Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 344, 364 and 365 together. The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 which came into operation on 1 March 2014, greatly strengthen the arrangements in place for the control of building activity by requiring greater accountability in relation to compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory certification of design and construction, lodgment of compliance documentation, mandatory inspections during construction and validation and registration of certificates. Since 1 March 2014, a building owner, prior to commencing work on a new building, must assign a competent builder, have the design certified by a competent registered professional and assign a competent registered professional to inspect the works during construction and, in conjunction with the builder, to certify the building on completion for compliance with the building regulations.

Empowering competence and professionalism on construction projects in this way is an important and necessary step forward and will, I believe, greatly improve the quality of construction. It is not the function of the local building control authority to quality assure construction projects. Owners, builders and designers must at all times take responsibility for their statutory obligations in line with the Building Control Act 1990 and take whatever steps are necessary in order to achieve compliance in respect of the building or works concerned.

Requirements in relation to independent verification and third party certification have not been imposed for the reasons already outlined in the reply to Question No. 528 of 18 February 2014.

Notwithstanding the primary responsibility of owners, designers and builders to comply with the law, local building control authorities also have extensive powers under the Building Control Acts which they can and do use to enforce compliance with the Building Regulations. These include the powers to scrutinise proposals and inspect works in progress; to approve, as noted, designs in respect of fire safety (Part B of the Building Regulations) and accessibility (Part M of the Building Regulations) in the case of buildings other than dwellings, to serve enforcement notices for non-compliance; to institute proceedings for breaches of regulatory requirements; and to seek High Court injunctions if non-compliance poses considerable and serious danger to the public. Independence by local authorities in relation to the use of such powers of inspection and enforcement under the Acts is necessary and appropriate.

I see no inconsistency between the requirement to demonstrate by way of certificates of compliance that owners, builders and designers have fulfilled their statutory obligation to design and construct in accordance with the requirements of the Building Regulations and the use by a local authority of its powers of inspection and enforcement where reasonable and appropriate to do so.

Enforcement activity under the Building Control Acts and the Fire Safety Act is a matter for local authorities and I have no function in relation to this aspect of the matter. I have urged, and will continue to urge, local authorities to use all of the powers available to them to address failures to comply with statutory requirements and my Department continues to liaise closely with local authorities in this regard.

 

Press Piece: All you need to know about new building regulations

by Bregs Blog admin team

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The following is an extract off an Irish Examiner Press Piece “All you need to know about new building regulations” from Sunday, March 30, 2014  By Kya deLongchamps

Airwave squawks and industry reservations have cast a pall over new building regulations.

Last month I was driving along listening to Whine Line, I mean Live Line on RTE Radio 1.

Anyway, a large party of members of the public, building contractors, architectural technicians, worriers and even a DIY retailer were storming across the airways deriding The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2013 (BCAR or SI.9) which were approaching at lightening speed the first Saturday of March.

There were valid concerns expressed to Joe Duffy about the sheaf of certificates now mandatory for a standard build — these were joined by some oddly placed moaning about the raising of standards, and some completely inexplicable legend that members of the public would soon not be able to buy materials for a self-build. Confusion hung heavy over the legislation.

By the programme’s end I was confused too, having previously been relieved something had been done to stop the shanty-style efforts committed on hapless clients by rogue builders and legal, self-inflicted disasters committed by home-owners.

Past performance

Let’s go back through the mists of time to 2000 and imagine some brave pioneer family putting up a house with full planning permission in a County Cork field. Now, at that time, the Building Regulations would allow you to hire a team of individuals with qualifications of your choosing, to put up a quite complex house, (like mine), if you were working outside the mortgage system.

The only checks carried out beyond the blessed approval of planning would be a percolation test to ensure the septic system would work and the signing off on the foundation which in many instances amounted to a qualified engineer staring into the trenches and pressing a letter into the contractor’s hand. The Fire Certificate had to be furnished to the local authority on completion by a RECI registered electrician. Quite honestly I was always baffled at how loosy-goosy the process was compared to the rigours of the UK system.

Where compliance certs are required when an extant building is put on the market, or when re-financing, the inspection is largely a visual one. Without a supervising builder/ architect or seasoned project manager many self-builders were flying blind on trust in a shifting gang of strangers working contract-free.

What’s changed?

The recent amendments seek to tighten up this situation, demanding that developers and private home builders demonstrate compliance with the design and the building regulations from the start to the end of the work. It starts with the commencement notice and reaches right through the build to a series of certificates that must be signed off on by an ‘assigned certifier’.

Despite the increased costs that the BCAR will add more to a build or extension dependent on planning permission, these building controls are standard practice in most other developed countries.

You can’t legislate for the nebulous area of ‘quality’ but the amendment will make a statutory stamp on the following adventures and this can only be a good thing in terms of technical excellence and fire safety.

* The design and construction process of a new building

* The design and construction process of an extension requiring planning permission (generally over 40 square metres or in the case of any protected structure)

* Any works where a Fire Safety Certificate is required

How does it work?

Despite the March 1 start date, the new system is still in a frustrating state of development, but in short, a ‘design certifier’ for the plans and ‘assigned certifier’ for the build itself are elected from a small pool of qualified individuals. This individual must sign off on the building start to finish at pre-ordained stages on an inspection plan to ensure it complies with building regulations.

A competent builder must also be elected for the project and named on the paperwork. This does not mean that a suitable member of the public cannot act as their own contractor if they have the relevant experience. Individuals who can act as assigned certifiers include architects registered with the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI), a chartered building surveyor, or a chartered engineer.

Strangely, architectural technicians, a group who would seem most qualified for the job, are not currently included as potential certifiers.

The local Building Control Authority (BCA) must receive a pre-construction document outlining not just the commencement of the build or extension but a whole range of design and technical detail, including the name of the assigned certifier, and their undertaking to inspect the works and co-ordinate with others to do so in regular stages. The all important Certificate of Completion, signed off by the builder and assigned certifier must show that the work has been completed to regulation standards with ‘reasonable skill and care’. Until the BCA office at the local authority receives this final document, the house or extension cannot be used or occupied.

What’s is BCAR 2014 going to cost me?

It has been claimed that the cost of the new building controls could add as much as 13%-15% to a typical ‘self-build’ budget. Paul McNally of the firm PMNA, on the RIAI website, concludes that ‘the estimated additional workload to the architect acting as Assigned Certifier, for a 200 square metre dwelling is 100 additional hours approximately’. This will, in McNally’s estimation, require a charge for this service in the region of €4,000 to €5,000 plus VAT. This takes the percentage to the less terrifying point of around 2.5% plus VAT of say a €200,000 budget. Where an architect or other qualified certifier was already to be on board, this figure mildly inflates the already expected fees due to a project manager, but remember the design itself that goes with the commencement notice must be certified too. The RIAI in their guidelines recommend that the role of assigned certifier is made separate from that of architect. www.riai.ie.

Buried out of sight in a budget, these new building controls might be said to offer no benefit to the consumer whatsoever. However, this presumes the best case scenario in a self-build — one overseen by a skilled set of eyes monitoring every aspect of the works for build compliance, and safety. Surely, knowing that the house or extension is built to code, should be our first priority, and it’s something you can stand over when selling your property in the future. Non-compliance to the BCAR could result in the pulling down of a building or at the very least, fines and a lengthy delay in a sale. We just don’t know those details yet.

Cowboy trap or just red tape?

Where the legislation can be seen to really shake up the whole area of self-building, is in it’s stipulation of a ‘competent builder’.

This will influence the future of self-builders, a range of small firms, individuals and trades who had flown under the radar before March 1 2014, carrying out extensions, renovations and in some cases entire builds, without putting their name to paper with the Building Control Authority or any branch of the local authority.

The assigned certifier has to stand over this building, and he or she may only be willing to work with certain builders that they completely trust, (and that may not be you if you nominate yourself as contractor and/or want to go direct-labour).

The certifier is legally vulnerable in the case of a claim, (and it’s why the RIAI are opposed at present).

Things are tightening up right down to root level, and the direction of flow is that of a registration process through the Contractors’ Industry Federation of Ireland (www.ciri.ie) for contractors and trades in Ireland in 2015.

This would be the obvious stopping off point for those putting their name to paperwork for the BAC, and would over time bring everyone into the VAT net, something avoided in the past in the traditional ‘direct labour’ system that was often cash-in-hand. Obviously, genius tradesmen and idiot cowboys will suffer equally here.

Ultimately, depending on what you believe in the rumours raging through the industry, the BCAR will either decimate the number of self-builds or stand as a brave new era of standards and safety.

It’s certainly a shrewd move in terms of generating government revenue. If you need finer detail of the BCAR 2014, www.localgov.ie lays out the groundwork clearly. The Irish Association of Self Builder’s have some interesting features and feedback at www.iasb.com/buildingcontrol.

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

Need-Help

At around the same time the Building Regulations Advisory Body (BRAB) was suspended mid-2012 (post here), the reporting of Building Control inspection rates was also discontinued. We attach one of the last tables with inspection rates from a Dáil exchange with Minister Hogan from 6th June 2012 (table from 2010). The range goes from 100% in Laois, down to zero in Wexford/ Waterford.

The Department inspection target suggested, if achieved, that 85% of all buildings would not receive any independent local authority inspections whatsoever. The much-praised “Approved inspector” system in the UK system has 100% inspection rates for all building types, at less cost to the consumer, taxpayer and industry. A similar system for Ireland, at no additional cost to the taxpayer, is discussed in a paper by Michael Collins and Eoin O’Cofaigh, two past presidents of the RIAI, in this post “How do we fix SI.9?“.

We have discussed the extraordinarily ambitious performance targets set by the Department for under-resourced local authority Building Control Officers in “Irish Water-a lifeline for Building Control?” In 2007 we had less than 70 dedicated building control inspectors for the entire country. At the peak of the celtic tiger this small dedicated group of overworked public-servants were expected to provide comprehensive inspection rates for a €35bn industry. Quote from post:

“A 15% inspection rate of a €11.5bn industry, for 67 staff, equates to one Building control officer inspecting €171 Million worth of buildings per year; for each officer!. That ranges from once-off houses, kitchen extensions, retail parks, stadia, shopping centres, places of worship- the lot. That’s a pretty impressive target. During the “celtic tiger” years this figure was three times that. I wonder are there any performance targets as ambitious as those set for any other public servants? For Irish Water?”

Under the new building regulations Minister Hogan has suggested inspections will increase. He notes local authorities still have impressive powers of enforcement under the 1990 Act etc. However we are aware now that no additional resources have been allocated to these overworked building-control sections in the country. Given that the lion’s-share of Local Property tax (for a minimum period of 2 years) is to go to re-capitalise Irish Water in advance of a sell-off by the state, the chance of additional experienced and qualified staff being allocated to Building Control is slim.

In a previous post “Are Local Authorities ready?” we wondered whether local authorities were both adequately briefed and resourced for these new regulations. The answer now would appear to be no to both questions. Key stakeholders and representative bodies for surveyors and architects the SCSI and RIAI have expressed serious concerns on the issue. According to media commentators local authorities have joined with the RIAI in a call for a 12 month deferral of the new regulations due to inadequate resourcing.

According to recent statements by Minister Hogan commencement notices have literally “fallen off a cliff” for the month of March. Given the avalanche of commencement notices lodged in February 2014 in advance of implementation (some local authorities had 200% normal level)  these two months may average out. However, if the pattern for March does not reverse quickly we could be looking at a very hard stop being put on the industry’s tentative recovery.

The impact of SI.9 was alarming enough for the another department to insist on a part-deferral for healthcare and school projects. The FDI sector is as vulnerable to the adverse unintended consequences of BC(A)R SI.9 as any other. Let’s hope the SCSI, RIAI  and local authorities are wrong. Currently Minister Quinn is top of the class with his own assessment completed of BC(A)R SI.9- let’s hope Minister Bruton gets his own homework completed quickly.

Link to table: Dáil Éireann – 06/Jun/2012 Written Answers – Building Regulations

Extract:

_______
Deputy Phil Hogan
, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government:   

There is an inspection target of 12-15% of all buildings covered by valid commencement notices and Performance Indicators compiled for 2010 by the Local Government Management Agency (outlined in the following table) show that all but five Building Control Authorities (Galway County, Mayo, Tipperary North, Waterford City and Wexford County) met or exceeded the target Buildings inspected as a percentage of new buildings notified to the local authority

Carlow County Council 44.06%

Cavan County Council 18.48%

Clare County Council 20.23%

Cork City Council 26.49%

Cork County Council 17.32%

Donegal County Council 16.99%

Dublin City Council 28.07%

Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council 18.51%

Fingal County Council 12.71%

Galway City Council 28.85%

Galway County Council 6.28%

Kerry County Council 28.93%

Kildare County Council 58.68%

Kilkenny County Council 15.79%

Laois County Council 100.00%

Leitrim County Council 20.00%

Limerick City Council 60.00%

Limerick County Council 16.78%

Longford County Council 12.00%

Louth County Council 14.12%

Mayo County Council 10.98%

Meath County Council 47.76%

Monaghan County Council 25.69%

North Tipperary County Council 9.55%

Offaly County Council 22.39%

Roscommon County Council 17.37%

Sligo County Council 17.65%

South Dublin County Council 19.80%

South Tipperary County Council 35.16%

Waterford City Council 0.00%

Waterford County Council 24.19%

Westmeath County Council 22.22%

Wexford County Council 0.00%

Wicklow County Council 26.39%

TOP 10 Breg Blog Posts for March:BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

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In case anyone missed them here is a list of the top read topics off the blog for the past 30 days. We encourage posts from any and all interested parties: please send in opinion pieces or information you think is of interest to the public. Send in contribution to : bregsforum@gmail.com

Top posts from past month (click on link to read):

BC(A)R SI.9 Collins & O Cofaigh- A BETTER way: BC(A)R SI.9 Solutions

The cost of professional fees: BC(A)R SI.9

Opinion piece: Architectural Technologists and the register: BC(A)R SI.9

The BCMS System – A Quickstart Guide…

Architect complains to TD: BC(A)R SI.9

Eoin O Cofaigh – two weeks gone: BC(A)R SI.9

Minister Hogan concerned at exploitation by professionals: BC(A)R SI.9

Part Deferral of BC(A)R SI.9

Legal Firms Advice: BC(A)R SI.9

Minister urges draughtsmen to register for BC(A)R SI.9

 

Breg Blog : coming up to 50,000 views!

by Bregs Blog admin team

50k-likes

In celebration of our upcoming milestone of 50,000 views, we will go more lighthearted for the weekend and have a short quiz (thanks to Deirdre Ni Fhloinn for idea!). Here we have an extract from a Law Reform Commission working paper. It has details of a proposal for compulsory registration of Irish building contractors: can you guess the year that this paper dates from? Spot-prize for winner. Extract :

Details of the scheme have not yet been worked out but its main features have been described by a statement from the Government Information Services in the following language:

“Broadly, the agreed scheme provides for the establishment of a body by the Construction Industry Federation for a registration of house builders who are competent, technically and financially, to undertake house building. The purchaser of a house built by a registered house builder will receive a six year guarantee from the builder, which will be backed by the registering body. Every guaranteed house will be inspected by technical officers of the Department of Local Government (or, where appropriate, of Roinn na Gaeltachta) on at least three occasions (foundation, roofing and completion stages) and registered builders will be required to remedy any structural defects then observed. If a builder fails to remedy the defects, his name may be removed from the register and the purchaser will be compensated. A system of conciliation and arbitration will be established to resolve any disputes arising under the scheme. Two observers from the Department of Local Government will attend meetings of the guaranteeing body and the expenses of that body will be met by a small levy (about 1/4 of 1% of the purchase price of the guaranteed house). It is intended to enable builders who are not members of the Federation to be associated with the guarantee scheme.”

(hint: it was the same year the sex pistols were dropped by EMI, SO NOT 2011…)

Answers by email to bregsforum@gmail.com

BLOG INFO

Blog stats suggest interest from the public and professionals is growing in BC(A)R SI.9, rather than waning as one might expect post implementation. Visitors to site appear to be increasing by well over 1,500 unique visitors per month. We have almost 460 followers on twitter and this figure is increasing 30% per month. Here are some stats on the blog (as of 28th March 2014):

In total we have nearly received over 47,000 views since the end of November when Blog started with 15,500 unique visitors since end November 2013. The Blog contains 180 factual posts and opinion pieces on many aspects of the new regulations. 460 follow us on twitter and 228 follow us on facebook.  We have had 6,385 referrals from facebook and 5,003 from twitter. Visitors referred by search engines (google etc) are 4,604. We have been referred by boards.ie over 1,700 times. Our highest ever number was 1,487 views in one day (26th February). To date for March alone the blog has had over 6,000 unique visitors to the site.

stats per month (views):

nov      dec      jan      feb         mar (to date)

2870     6676    4959    13688    18840

We are followed by members of key stakeholders SCSI, ACEI, RIAI, CIF, the Department (DOELG) and other numerous stakeholders and consumer groups. Also we are seeing posts quoted in the public domain in Seanad and Dáil. We hope to continue to deliver factual based posts and opinion pieces and continue the debate. Huge thanks to all of our valued contributors and Social Media team for continued efforts to progress and inform the public. To celebrate we are giving the team the rest of the day off! (blog team only- twitter still 24/7)

 

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Competition Authority complaint: CIF & BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

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Self-builder Amanda Gallagher has written the following complaint to the Competition Authority regarding the Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). Self-builders have set-up an online petition to highlight the plight of self-builders and farmers who have bee adversely affected by the new regulations. Link to petition:  Online petition- Self Build in Ireland- BC(A)R SI.9

The intention of the government is to put the construction industry federation’s (CIF) privately owned and operated register of builders (CIRI) on a statutory footing in March 2015. The IAOSB opinion is that promotion of a private register by Government is a restrictive practice which precludes many experienced owners form undertaking builds themselves and is the subject of an appeal by the representative body for self-builders (IAOSB) to the european ombudsman. See previous post here. CIRI is the only government recognised and endorsed register of builders in Ireland.

According to the CIRI website, the cost for joining the register in its first year is €600 + VAT at 23%.  This fee is not fixed and may well increase year on year. No estimates of how many people or firms will join the register are available. Industry estimates are that approximately 60,000 persons are directly involved in contracting in Ireland at present. If 10% of these were to register either as individuals or companies, the additional membership income to the CIF for the register alone would be €3.6m per annum.

Presumably people and firms registering and paying the annual fee will hope to recoup that cost from customers. The main issue farmers and self-builders have with SI.9 is that they will be required to employ main contractors (preferably registered with CIRI) for qualifying works that otherwise they would manage themselves. This could add over 10% to the cost of a project on its own. Costs for additional professional duties are in addition to this figure. IAOSB estimate this year 1,800 self-builders will abandon house projects due to the increased costs incurrent under BC(A)R SI.9.

Extract from Letter to follow:

______________

Important Letter for The Competition Authority

Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2014

Re: Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 9)

Dear Competition Authority,

My name is Amanda Gallagher and along with my husband, Raymond, we were hoping to ‘self build’ our new family home in Co. Sligo.  We were featured on various RTE Radio & TV Shows in the week preceding Saturday, March 1st last.  We were absolutely devastated when Minister Hogan went ahead with implementing the Regulations. The Minister has essentially ‘banned’ self building / direct labour in Ireland – (the only country in the world to do so by the way) – he has basically made it impossible for a ordinary person to construct a home for their family – by the way even if we were millionaires my husband would have enjoyed the experience of constructing a home for myself and our 5 children.

The reason I write to you now is if you could kindly enlighten me in the regard of Competition Issues with the implementation of the CIRI (Construction Industry Register Ireland) which is set up and managed by the CIF (Construction Industry Federation), a private company. I think the whole notion of a Statutory Register of Builders is nonsensical in itself – as there are no ‘school’ for builders – there are however, schools for tradesmen – they are the ‘builders’ – the constructors of homes – they can prove they are ‘competent’ as they will have a qualification that says they are.

How can our Government put this CIRI on a statutory footing on March 1st, 2015? Why can’t the Irish people have a Register of Qualified Tradesmen available at each Local Authority?  A Register that is not privately owned, a Register that actually means the people listed on it do in fact hold an actual qualification. A Register that will not ‘rob’ the poor tradesmen with extortionate annual fees. A Register that will actually mean they have some hope of employment from – some degree of fairness. Because under the SI 9 – all construction work must go through a main building contractor – therefore it is up to that contractor which sub-contractors he brings with him to each project – therefore many, many tradesmen on CIRI have no hope whatsoever of employment – and they don’t even know it!

The CIF are charging 730 Euro plus a 50 induction fee to each person on this Register – they are welcoming applications from builders, tradesmen, anyone at all involved in Construction.  All you need to do is ‘prove’ 3 past projects you have been involved in!

The Certificates within the SI 9 have made a provision for the CIRI No for the Builder to fill in.

Now, there already is a Register of ‘competent’ builders and tradesmen in Ireland – they are the National Guild of Master Craftsmen – they charge 295 Euro to register. I would like to know what happens to the men on this Register next year when CIRI is put on a statutory footing? Do these men have to Register with the CIF if they have any hope of employment in the Construction Sector? I take it that the National Guild of Master Craftsmen have yet to be told of this unfortunate fate – i suppose they won’t be informed – just like us, the self builders – we will have to find out for ourselves the totally unjust laws we have to live by.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out that a Building Contractor is actually a Self Builder.  We do the exact same thing – we both study the plans – we both shop around for materials – we hire some trades in – we both listen to the architects, engineers and surveyors advice – we do exactly the same thing – the only difference is the Building Contractor is a business man and does it for PROFIT and puts a lot less Love into the build!

There are many questions here to be answered.  My main and most urgent one is: How can the Irish Public be FORCED to choose a ‘competent builder’ from a Privately owned Company when there is actually NO WAY they can be guaranteed that the person they are picking is in fact competent?

Thanking you,

Amanda Gallagher

Co. Sligo

Minister Hogan explains part-deferral SI.105

by Bregs Blog admin team

Stephen-Donnelly-2 In the following Dail exchange Stephen Donnelly TD puts a number of interesting questions to Minister Phil Hogan. Principally he asks “…the rationale for deferring implementation of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014; in respect of educational and hospital projects…” We have previously posted on SI.105 here “Ghost estates and public housing: BC(A)R SI.9 no 3?” In his answer the Minister notes the timeline for SI.105: part-deferral for hospital and school projects.

  • “On 15 January 2014, the President of the RIAI wrote to me, and I understand to several other Ministers, seeking deferral of the implementation of the Regulations
  • On 5 February 2014 the Minister for Education and Skills wrote to me seeking that the planned implementation date of 1 March 2014 be deferred by at least 12 months, to ensure the planned school building programme is not put at risk
  • My Department immediately consulted with relevant Departments/ agencies … in relation to the implications of the Regulations for the public capital programme
  • Several Departments/ A gencies , including the Department of Education and Skills, the National Development Finance Agency and the Health Services Executive, expressed concerns that the new requirements may cause delays in the Public Capital Programme.
  • On this basis, the Regulations were amended to provide for an alternative but equivalent means of complying with the requirements…This alternative means of compliance applies to a limited range of public and privately owned buildings”

This sequence of events suggests Minister Hogan consulted with other departments and agencies on BC(A)R SI.9 after 5th February, following-on from the representation by Minister Ruairi Quinn.We have previously noted that Minister Quinn is an architect himself and is very well briefed on the unintended consequences of the new regulation. We wonder is SI.105 the first in a sequence of part-deferrals? We wonder, when other Ministers and departments are brought up to speed, will a series off part-deferrals be requested? Political Q+A to follow.

Link here: Building Regulations Amendments: 26 Mar 2014: Written answers

__________

Question Nos. 127 , 128, 129 , and 130 Chun an Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil:

To the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government:               

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the rationale for deferring implementation of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014; in respect of educational and hospital projects, if he will provide all data and analysis used to reach this decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider deferring the implementation of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 in respect of educational and hospital projects on all public sector projects, including social housing, art buildings, State offices and more, above and beyond educational and hospital projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider extending the implementation of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 in respect of educational and hospital projects to cover crèches, child care facilities, old peoples’ homes and convalescent homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will consider extending the implementation of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 in respect of educational and hospital projects to cover all publicly funded housing projects in view of the skills in local authority engineering and architecture departments and their effective management of housing construction and refurbishment projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Stephen S. Donnelly.     

 

For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 26th March, 2014.    Ref No s : 14231/14 , 14232/14, 14233/14 and 14234/14

REPLY    Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Mr. P. Hogan)   

I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 , 128 , 129 and 130 together.    The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 came into effect on 1 March 2014 and require greater accountability in relation to 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 of compliance.

On 15 January 2014, t he President of the RIAI wrote to me, and I understand to several other Ministers , seeking deferral of the implementation of the Regulations. I refer to the reply given to Questions Nos. 137 and 138 dated 12 February 2014 which deals comprehensively with the concerns raised in this correspondence. On 5 February 2014 the Minister for Education and Skills wrote to me seeking that the planned implementation date of 1 March 2014 be deferred by at least 12 months, to ensure the planned school building programme is not put at risk.

My Department immediately consulted with relevant Departments/ a gencies represented on the Government Contracts Committee for Construction (GCCC) , in relation to the implications of the Regulations for the public capital programme . Several Departments/ A gencies , including the Department of Education and Skills, the National Development Finance Agency and the Health Services Executive, expressed concerns that the new requirements may cause delays in the Public Capital Programme. Large-scale public infrastructure projects, in particular, are prone to costly delays due to strict national and EU procurement rules which do not generally apply to private sector projects. Other agencies, notably the OPW, reported that the necessary arrangements were in place to administer contracts in accordance with the new requirements.

Following discussions at GCCC level, an oversight group will be established to deal with issues arising in the first twelve months of the new arrangements. This will ensure that a process is in place to signal at an early date, and resolve, any difficulties in relation to public capital programme projects and major investment projects.

On this basis, the Regulations were amended to provide for an alternative but equivalent means of complying with the requirements to assign a person to inspect and certify the works (the Assigned Certifier) in line with a plan lodged at commencement and implemented during construction. Subject to the oversight g roup’s determination of the matter, this requirement may be fulfilled by lodgement of such inspection plan, inspection records and certificates as may be deemed appropriate and necessary by the group in order to demonstrate that compliance with the Building Regulations has been achieved for the building or works concerned.

This alternative means of compliance applies to a limited range of public and   privately owned buildings classified as first – , second – or third – level places of education;   hospitals or primary care centres for which planning permission has already been obtained and for which c ontract documents will be in place before 1 November 2014 and works will commence before 1 March 2015. It does not amount to a deferral or a derogation of the requirements of the Building R egulations. The sole accommodation given is an alternative means of compliance with the inspection and certification requirements fulfilled by the Assigned Certifier that will apply to a narrow range of buildings for a temporary period .

I understand that in excess of 100 commencement notices have been lodged on the Building Control Management S ystem since 1 March 2014 suggesting that the necessary arrangements for the successful implementation of the Regulations are in place and are working effectively in practice.   In the circumstances , I am satisfied that the concerns raised did not warrant a deferral of the necessary reform of the building control system and I have no plans to broaden the scope of transitional arrangements to other public sector or privately owned projects .

Appeal to Minister Hogan: BC(A)R SI.9

by bregs blog admin team

self-build-is-childs-play-with-buildstore

Self-builder Amanda Gallagher has written the following appeal to Minister Phil Hogan regarding the Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). The unintended consequences of the new building regulations on all building types, on the self-build and the farming sector in particular, are remarkable given that from a legal perspective BC(A)R SI.9 provides no additional consumer protection. Quote from Deirdre Ni Fhloinn, specialist construction lawyer and consultant at Reddy Charlton Solicitors, author of previous post “Will BC(A)R SI.9 bring any benefit to consumers?“: “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.” Amanda Gallagher’s letter to the Minister to follow:

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Re: Self Builders role under SI 9

Dear Minister Hogan,

My name is Amanda Gallagher, and myself and my husband, Raymond were going to self build our new family home in Co. Sligo.  I say ‘were’ because on Saturday, March 1st last you essentially banned self building / direct labour in Ireland – by implementing the SI 9 you have taken our dream from us, our five young children were looking forward to a new life in the country – and you have erased it all. We have outgrown our 3 bed council house and were going to construct a beautiful home – at all times we would comply with the Building Regulations – including Part L – and we were open to inspections from the Building Control Authority at any stage.

Minister, the reason I write to you is that I am utterly shocked at the deplorable treatment we are receiving from you and your Department – and not only us, by the way, the entire Irish Nation.  I cannot fathom why you cannot be truthful with us Minister?   I have just seen Parliamentary Questions from yesterday, March 26th, where Stephen Donnelly questioned you about SI 105 – in your answer you state that the President of the RIAI asked you to defer the implementation of SI 9 on January 15th last.  Minister, on Friday, February 28th last, you were interviewed on RTE Radio’s Morning Ireland Programme and when you were asked about the RIAI pleading for a deferral on that day and you answered ‘I don’t know why they are coming out a day before seeking a deferral when they have been ‘on board’ for the past two years’ or words to that effect.  I knew that day when I heard that interview that you were misleading the nation – and yesterday you confirmed it.

I wrote to you on January 13th last, your Private Secretary emailed me back with this Ref.  REP4355/PH/13 and told me he would answer our questions as soon as possible – well you must be extremely busy in your Department as it is now March 27th and I am still awaiting his reply! I suppose my questions were too hard to answer – I don’t think so – one of them was: Why can a building owner not choose his ‘builders’ from a public Register of Qualified Tradesmen as opposed to your idea of a private Register of ‘competent’ Builders (CIRI).  I’m not sure if you realise, but it is not possible for a building contractor to guarantee he is ‘competent’. as the only guarantee of competence would be if a builder could show me his qualification, just like a registered nurse for example, she can guarantee me that she is competent because she has a tangible qualification in her hand, and as there is no ‘school for builders’ then i’m afraid he can’t prove he is competent. I do hope you take note of this fact before you put CIRI on a statutory footing next year, you must consider a Register of Qualified Tradesmen available to the general public at each Local Authority.  This would ensure that each man on this list would have a fair chance at employment.  You know if you need a water connection you MUST choose a Registered Contractor from the Local Authority’s List – a water connection costing approx 1,400 euro – but for a house costing approx 200,000 you are saying we MUST choose a builder, who cannot beyond any shadow of a doubt prove that he is ‘competent’- from a private Register of ‘builders’ – nonsense! Why was CIRI not made statutory before you implemented the SI 9 – because for the next year – the general public may still employ a ‘cowboy’ to construct their homes – it is the same thing as opening a restaurant without the ‘menu’ being in place? It is laughable.

Minister, the SI 9 really is the most confusing piece of legislation I have ever come across.  One of the purposes of laws is to maintain social order – well the SI 9 have all the ingredients for social unrest.  My husband sees his friend nearing completion of his beautiful self build home a few fields down from our site. Meanwhile you have put handcuffs on my husband and basically told us to stay where we are – we will never, ever be able to double our budget to have enough to employ a main Building Contractor, an Assigned Certifier and Project Supervisor – how do you think my husband feels?

We are one of 1,800 families this year alone – families who have to abandon their futures.  You made no provision for people who were in the planning process already – we had spent thousands on architects fees and site tests – have you no regard for the Citizens that you are elected to protect? I see you made provision for other Departments with the implementation of SI 105 – I must tell you Minister, that was a real ‘kick in the teeth’ to self builders.

Minister, I wouldn’t be half as upset about all of this if the SI 9 actually protected consumers in the future against the building control disasters such as Priory Hall – but they do absolutely nothing to protect anyone.  It is a scandalous sham. It is quite clear to me that the clear winners here are the CIF – i’m sure their worst nightmare would have been an Independent Building Inspectorate!

There has been alot of talk of you and the Dept. ‘clamping down’ on the black market – this is supposedly one of the reasons for the citizens having to employ a main building contractor under SI 9.  My husband pays his taxes, the USC etc.. he is a fine electrician and was going to construct our home with his blood, sweat & tears – at weekends, evenings and during his holidays – all materials would be top spec, purchased from he local builders merchants etc.. we would be employing some trades, plasterers for example – now we presume they are all tax compliant – as they presume we are. It would have also been a ‘hobby’ for my husband to build our home.  I don’t see where the black market fits in to all of this?

Surely when you talk of the black market you couldn’t be talking about plumbers doing a favour for their electrician friends and vice versa – this Minister is called ‘good will, being neighbourly, expressing charity’ surely you haven’t forgotten what these are? Why must everything revolve around money?

Minister, there has also been confusion surrounding the cost of the SI 9 to the building owner.  You say 1,000 to 3,000, I say 20,000, the actual professionals estimate nearer to mine than yours, and we could go on and on about costs till the cows come home but the actual truth is at the moment, under SI 9, anyone intending to self build will NOT FIND AN ASSIGNED CERTIFIER to work with them – therefore as you well know – self build / direct labour does not exist in Ireland anymore. This is a very sad statement  – self build does not exist in Ireland anymore.  The Irish are a nation of Self Builders, I would even go so far as to say you nor I would exist to day if our great grandfathers were told they could not build family homes.  What would our ancestors think of these restrictive laws? You would be in big trouble with them!

You may not realise the torment that the SI 9 have caused the citizens of this beautiful nation since March 1st. I do.

There are families with shattered dreams – their house plans in the bin, there are tradesmen nervous about the future – they are not ‘in’ with a main building contractor – they cannot even come up with the 738 euro to register on CIRI  – they may never work again – they are in the same boat as Draughtsmen, Architectural Technologists, Architects (who never just got on the RIAI’s Register) who have literally lost their livelihoods, there are Assigned Certifiers who have to face clients and give the ‘bad news’ of the actual cost to certify a project and have the client look at them in horror because the cost is nowhere near the minute amount you said it would cost, the same Assigned Certifiers are upset at your suggestion that some of them may try to exploit their client, there are Building Control Authority staff that can’t cope with the confusion in their office, there are Local Election Candidates getting doors slammed shut on them, there are the farming community who haven’t even began to comprehend what your after doing to them, and then there are the three professional bodies who don’t know what to tell their members in relation to self building – because they are waiting for you to make the statement first. You have done no favours for the local authority housing lists – they have just got alot longer or for the general mental health of the nation. These are no ‘wild exaggerations’ by the way – I kid you not.

Minister, no matter what you ‘say’ on Radio, via email or in the Dail regarding self building – this will not change the Law of the Land – and that Law now states that to construct a home you must be a principal or director of a building company ONLY.  We are not directors of a building company.  Minister, you really only have three options now – you either amend the wording on these certificates to include the words ‘self builder / building owner’, you make a public statement informing the nation that they CANNOT self build or you can revoke SI 9 and implement one of the other sensible solutions that have been put forward to you – a solution that would not inflict so much hurt on people.  You must stop the silly antics – too many people are affected. Remember it is always the right time to do the right thing.

I am looking forward to your reply and your reply from my original correspondence!

Regards to you at this most difficult time in Building Control,

Mrs Amanda Gallagher

Co. Sligo

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

law-books-and-gavel

In a recent Law Society Guidance Note on BC(A)R 2014 to members a number of issues are noted concerning the Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). Here is a link to the Law Society Guidance note:

Update On Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014

In particular we note advice regarding self-builders:

  • “As mentioned above, there is as yet no Construction Industry Register. Until such a register is in place, it seems that an owner could nominate him/herself as the builder provided that he/she is prepared to say that he/she is satisfied that he/she is competent to undertake the work. A self-build owner would then have to sign the form of undertaking by the builder confirming to the Building Control Authority that he/she was competent to undertake the work concerned and further undertaking to ensure that any persons employed or engaged by him to undertake any of the works involved would be competent to undertake such works. It is unlikely that most of the people who self-build would be able to correctly say that they were competent to undertake the work. The main contribution they would be providing would be a lot of hard labour rather than expertise in building technology and they generally would rely on friends, neighbours and contacts with expertise such as electricians, block layers, plasterers, roofers, etc. to provide the necessary expertise in these specialist areas.
  • As mentioned above, it seems clear that the intention of the Department is that in due course it will only be possible for an owner to appoint a registered builder under these Regulations. It seems inevitable therefore that, from the date the register of builders is put on a statutory basis, it will no longer be possible to self-build as we know it.
  • In the meantime, however, 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.”

The advice note confirms self-building will end once the privately owned and operated register of builders CIRI is established on a statutory footing in March 2015. This is clearly the intention of the government and is the subject of an appeal by the IAOSB to the european ombudsman (see previous post here “Self builders escalate to europe: 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.

Here are other posts with legal advice, senior council opinions or views on other aspects of BC(A)R SI.9 (click on title for link):

Legal firms advice on BC(A)R SI.9

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

Legal Perspective: consumer benefit?

Senior Council Advice on BC(A)R SI.9

 “extraordinarily loose and vague”: Legal Implications of BC(A)R SI.9

Builder’s Completion Certificate (extract of SI.9):

SI9 Builder's cert

 

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

In case anyone missed this earlier in the week heres a post on the legal conveyancing end: main certifiers may be the single-point of responsibility (solicitors may not request any ancillary certificates)

BRegs Blog

pcHelp

Following the puzzling suspension of the Building Regulation Advisory Body (BRAB) in 2012 a stakeholder group was set up to progress SI.9 (post: “BRAB and BC(A)R SI.9“). This smaller steering group consisted of the representative bodies for surveyors, engineers and architects (SCSI, ACEI and RIAI respectively), along with the Department and the Construction industry Federation (CIF) only. Everybody knows the National Consumers’ Association, the Competition Authority, the National Competitiveness Council, ISME, IBEC, IDA and many more weren’t at the table. From a legal point of view, the one influential group not invited was the Law Society of Ireland.

There have been numerous legal and senior council opinions to date on SI.9. We have commented on some of these in previous posts “Legal firms advice: BC(A)R SI.9“. The law society’s members will be involved in day-to-day conveyancing of properties- this is the cliff face where legal determinations on the regulation will…

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TD’s suggest independent local authority inspectorate: BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

prevention

In this exchange Eoghan Murphy TD and Clare Daly TD ask Minister Hogan what benefit a reinforced system of self-certification will bring to the consumer. We have already noted no new consumer protection under SI.9 in a previous post “Will BC(A)R SI.9 bring any benefit to consumers?” Clare Daly suggests BC(A)R SI.9 “…is of little worth compared to prevention of the defect/non-compliance through robust inspections by competent public building control officials”.

A system of 100% independent inspections was proposed recently by two past presidents of the representative body for architects (RIAI) here:  How do we fix BC(A)R SI.9?. This system was at no cost to the consumer, would be self-financing and establish a comprehensive local authority inspection system based on the much praised UK model.

Inadequate enforcement of building standards and lack of resources allocated to local authorities for this purpose has been the subject of much criticism in the industry by industry and commentators. Key stakeholder representative bodies such as the SCSI and RIAI (surveyors and architects) have been very critical of this aspect of the new regime. The compelling case for deferral made by the RIAI was noted in our previous blog post riai confirms call for deferral of BC(A)R SI.9. A key issue was lack of industry readiness and inadequate resourcing of local authorities. Inadequate building control enforcement is discussed in the debate.

Link to debate here: Kildarestreet.com: 2014-03-Building+control#g898.q

Government Reports & Professional Opinion Ignored in S.I.80

by Bregs Blog admin team

Here is a good recap for anyone not familiar with some of the submissions received in 2012 either ignored or disregarded by the Minister and Department in the formation of the new regulations. The figure of over 500 submissions has been often quoted as received during 2012. Some of the more important submissions are listed below. Click on links for original submissions.

BRegs Blog

As Minister Hogan prepares to sign off on the final wording of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations, we take a look at some of the government commissioned reports and the professional opinion that were ignored in the design of S.I.80.

Government Commissioned Reports:

The National Consumer Agency (2012): “the NCA would point to the undesirability of a situation arising whereby one entity could design, build, inspect and certify a building while no inspection by a Building Control Authority takes place.. Should a consumer purchase a dwelling become aware of non-compliance with building regulations, and bring the issue to the notice of the relevant Building Control Authority, the legislation allows the consumer to be designated as the party responsible for bringing the dwelling into a state of compliance. Consideration should be given to providing means by which responsibility for bringing a building up to a compliant state rests with the party…

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Self builders appeal to Priory Hall residents: BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

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The following is a letter written by Amanda Gallagher, self-builder, to the residents of Priory Hall. She asks for their support of an online petition protesting the abolition of self-building under Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). Spokespersons for residents have previously been very critical of the new regulation and the continuation of self-certification, and lack of appropriate independent local authority inspections: see our previous post “Lessons of Priory Hall were not learned in the creation of new Building Control Regulations“.

In a recent post here “ Legal perspective: consumer benefit?” Deirdre Ni Fhloinn, specialist construction lawyer and consultant, noted “..no new legal rights or remedies for consumers created by BCAR 2014.” Amanda Gallagher’s letter to follow.

___________

Dear Priory Hall Residents,

Please take a few minutes to read the following letter!

I am writing to you to implore your help at this difficult time in the Construction Sector in Ireland.

We are a Sligo family with 5 young children – we are in the planning process at the moment and my husband was going to ‘self- build’ our new family home as we have outgrown our current 3 bed council house.  We are a one income family and we had a tiny budget. We have spent thousands in architects fees and planning already and we are in a state of shock at what Minister Hogan is after doing to the citizens of this country.

Here is a link to an article I wrote on the issue; Self Build opinion piece

The Minister has used the example of Priory Hall to essentially ‘ban’ self building in Ireland.  He has the audacity then to say the reason he is doing this is so the likes of Priory Hall can never happen again.  The actual truth is unfortunately, he has just gone and enshrined the Developers and Builders who brought this country to its knees, into law – he is protecting the very men who have most of the country crippled with debt – instead of protecting the people he is elected to.

Building a home in Ireland right now with these regulations (known as SI9) is only for the very rich. This is not fair. We need to get them debated in the Dail and revoked and we need a better solution – there have been sensible solutions put to the Minister but he refuses to listen. Please sign our Petition so that this has a chance of happening:

Self builder’s petition

Residents – this Government and the Construction Industry Federation are the clear winners here – we, the ordinary people, lose yet again.  I want to tell you that they may have burdened us with debt, wiped out our future, shattered our dreams, trampled on us and made us cry but by God, do not let them do the same to our children.  Let us fight them on this.

You tell your little girls and boys, one day they may meet their Prince Charming or their Princess, they may come across a little plot of land – to build their dream home – their little Palace – where they can live happily ever after – they have every right to have this dream.  They have every right to have this dream without a severe financial burden being placed on them as well – I for one will not let any Minister rob my children of their hopes and dreams and I hope you feel the same.

Thinking of you,

Amanda Gallagher

Sligo

Eoin O’Cofaigh: SME’S & BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

challenges-for-small-businesses

In this opinion piece from Eoin O’Cofaigh on 26th March 2014, past president of the representative body for architects (RIAI) and current council member outlines some of the unintended consequences of Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) for small and medium-sized businesses.

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BUILDING CONTROL (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 2014

KEY ISSUES FOR SMALL- AND MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES

Context

These regulations (S.I. 9 of 2014) came into force on 1 March. They were drafted primarily to respond to failures in the speculative residential sector (the “Priory Hall” and pyrites scandals). However they impact on every significant building project in the State, as well as on most smaller ones.

The regulations impose new statutory duties on building owners commissioning building design services and construction works. The owner must employ a Design Certifier and an Assigned certifier and pay these people in respect of services they are required to provide.

Among those services are a requirement to make submissions to local building control authorities of drawings and specifications, both at commencement and again before completion of the building works. The building or works may not be opened or occupied unless and until the local authority validates those submissions.

By the Building Control (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2014 (S.I. 105 of 2014), the Minister has subsequently deferred introduction of the regulations for schools and hospitals.

Key issues for small- and medium-sized enterprises

Why, when the regulations responded to failures in the residential sector, did the Government choose to impose an increased regulatory burden on all sectors?

Who considered it necessary to introduce these regulations for non-residential work?

By requiring the building control authority to validate the “Completion Certificates” before building or works may be opened or occupied, the regulations increase uncertainty around completion of all projects. This will impact adversely on all projects where timely completion is of the essence.

These projects include retail projects in the run-up to Christmas, Hotel and pub licensing applications at many times of the year, and short-period fit-out projects where the job will often be finished before the timescales in the regulations apply.

Why did the Government consider this necessary?

Who did the Government consult outside the construction sector about the content of these regulations when drafting them?

By requiring building owners to submit drawings and specifications to building control authorities in the expectation that these will be available to interested parties, the regulations threaten the integrity of intellectual property in buildings with commercially sensitive data on, for example, manufacturing processes.

Did the Government consider the adverse impact of this requirement on projects (whether small or large) funded by Foreign Direct Investment and why did they consider it necessary to impose the requirement in that regard?

In the commercial sector, unlike in the State sector, the cost of regulatory compliance must be borne within the “closed circle” of income derived from the sale of goods and services.

The cost of paying the certifiers must be recouped from our customers by way of increased prices, or by reducing profits or overheads.

Why did the Government consider this before imposing this cost on business, given the lack of demand from business or consumer organisations alike to impose the regulations outside the residential sector?

Given that the Irish system of construction sector regulation was already one of the least competitive in the Developed World, why did the Government not take the opportunity to simplify – which is not the same as to remove – the entire system of building regulations, instead of introducing more costs and uncertainty into the system?

Why did the Government defer the regulations for most State-funded projects but not for privately-funded projects, given that calls for deferral were in respect of all projects, public and private sector alike?

Finally, given the view of the National Consumer Association, the report of the Pyrites panel, and the views of the RIAI that self-certification is not an appropriate method of consumer protection, why did the Government proceed to bring just such a system into force and not introduce a self-funded system of independent inspectors such as has been in operation for many years in England and Wales?

Eoin O Cofaigh

Architect complains to TD: BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

images-6

Here is a personal complaint sent by an architect to a Fine Gael TD. As the complaint is personal the author has requested their name be removed from the post.

Good morning,

We spoke yesterday evening regarding the Building Regulations and I must express my concern regarding your apparent lack of knowledge of the current practical application of the Building Regulations 2014. I can only conclude that you accept without question the miss-leading statements made by your Minister and his Department. There are numerous flaws in the Regulations and too numerous to identify in this email and I deal with only a few.

It is generally recognised, without argument, that the Building Industry collectively in specific and well documented instances failed to meet the reasonable expectations of the consumer and changes are required. The State contributed significantly to the past situation and will continue to do so because of its endorsement of self-regulation. I will not attempted to defend the Priory Hall situation, however in addition to that fiasco Minister Hogan’s has often stated that the pyrite problem is yet another example of the Construction Industry and professionals’ callous disregard for the consumer. (I can dig out the exact quotes if necessary).

To put the record straight, Minister Hogan/the Government commissioned the Pyrite Report of 2012 and I quote from the Executive Summary:-

Over the last five years in Ireland, while there has been a wealth of
expert knowledge developing on pyrite the Panel accepts, at face value, that
the design professional and the construction sector at large, were unaware
of the problems associated with pyrite heave prior to 2007

It is a gross miss-representation and a cheap “sound bite” by Minister Hogan to blackguard my profession and the construction industry at large fora problem which, in the words of the Minister’s appointed expert panel, acknowledges that the industry was unaware of. The industry must take responsibility for such incidences but it does not equate to negligence.

I, as you know, run a small practice in (deleted) and the majority of my work is for the residential market and the implications for my practice of the 2014 Regulations are far less onerous than many of my colleagues who are involved with much more complex projects.

You, as a long standing TD for a semi-rural constituency, must be aware of many examples of constituents who have built their own dwellings. Your situation would be no different to most rural T.D’s. In many instances, your constituents have used available standard plans or have engaged the services of an unqualified person (as defined by the S.I.) to prepare Building Regulations compliant designs. The construction is then organised and supervised by say, a relative, who has many years’ experience as a tradesman/ technician in the construction industry and collectively they produce an end product at minimal cost in full compliance with the previous Building Regulations.

Minister Hogan has now produced regulations that prevents all the above as a qualified Architect, Engineer and/or Building Surveyor must be engaged for and certify the design, I accept that there may be a question about the legality of self-build but the relative, as described above, despite his experience and knowledge from many years of experience in the construction industry cannot “sign off” the completed project as he is not suitably qualified as defined by the S.I.

The Minister has publically stated that to engage a professional (as defined by the S.I.) to certify design and construction compliance, requiring many hours of on-site supervision and a paperwork procedure which in principle would be the same procedure as if the project was as complex as, for example, a hospital, should cost the consumer only an addition €1,000. I will not do the mathematics for you but if this is equated to a realistic salary level of say a mid-grade professional in state employment, taking into account of overheads and modest profit, the €1,000 represents a professional involvement of 6 – 10 hours. In realistic terms, we as a profession will not have even completed the paperwork in that duration. It would be seriously negligent and contrary to consumer protection for any professional to undertake the role/s now require by the Regulations which could involve approximately 100 –150 man hours for a once off rural dwelling the €1,000 quoted by the Minister. For clarification, as you seem to be unaware, the Assigned Certifier certifies for all including the works of other specialists, work covered up or carried out when absent for site etc.

The Government/Ministers engage many consultants to advise them and who, to my knowledge, are not held accountable to the public. You might enquire, for comparison, the hourly rate of those consultants and their staff. Do the Government get 100-150 hours consultancy for €1,000?

Minister Hogan has stated that the industry is ready and no deferral is justified. Unannounced, S.I. No. 105 of 2014 is introduced – others would say sneaked in, which, in essence clearly concedes that, as far as many state sponsored projects are concerned, the Civil Service are not ready despite the Minister and his Department’s pronouncements to the contrary.

Finally, these Regulations are intended to provide better consumer protection and render the industry more accountable. The new Regulations will identify the Assigned Certified – the mark -. It is more than likely that “the mark” will deny responsibility, in particular if he/she can obtain P.I. Insurance and, to prove responsibility/negligence, the consumer must take the risk and refer the matter to the Courts with the resultant delay and potential costs. This is no improvement to the previous procedure and the consumer’s is no better off but that could easily and effectively been resolved by mandatory Latent Defects Insurance where the consumer will be a speedy remedy of the defect. It has been stated, in error in my opinion, that this lets the professionals and the industry of the hook. Quite the contrary, the L.D.I. Companies will no doubt seek to recover their costs from those responsible for the negligence.

The principle of the regulations is fine but the method of implementation is serious flawed. Deferral has been requested by many stakeholders but only the interests of state sponsored projects and the state departments have been listened too and despite the Minister’s pubic statement that all is ready. The implementation of the Regulations and the anticipated implication for the consumer requires further engagement with the steak holders and procedural amendments are required to produce a workable balance between consumer protection and professional responsibility.

DEFERRAL IS IMMEDIATELY NECESSARY.

I do not want a response to this unless it is constructive and not defensive. I hope that it expresses clearly the well founded frustration by many If not the majority within the industry.

Regards,

 

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

pcHelp

Following the puzzling suspension of the Building Regulation Advisory Body (BRAB) in 2012 a stakeholder group was set up to progress SI.9 (post: “BRAB and BC(A)R SI.9“). This smaller steering group consisted of the representative bodies for surveyors, engineers and architects (SCSI, ACEI and RIAI respectively), along with the Department and the Construction industry Federation (CIF) only. Everybody knows the National Consumers’ Association, the Competition Authority, the National Competitiveness Council, ISME, IBEC, IDA and many more weren’t at the table. From a legal point of view, the one influential group not invited was the Law Society of Ireland.

There have been numerous legal and senior council opinions to date on SI.9. We have commented on some of these in previous posts “Legal firms advice: BC(A)R SI.9“. The law society’s members will be involved in day-to-day conveyancing of properties- this is the cliff face where legal determinations on the regulation will be made. The Society has been remarkably quiet on Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) and we are not aware of any publications on SI.9 after the 1st March 2014.

The Society issued advice offered last year on conveyancing. In the context of BC(A)R SI.9 one could assume where design, assigned and ancillary certifiers provide documentation for conveyancing purposes, solicitors may only retain and refer to the main certifier’s certificates (guarantees) for the works.

This advice would suggest the Law Society has a preference for  a single-point of responsibility for compliance, under SI.9 the design and assigned certifier, for the purpose of conveyancing. While this may come as a relief to builders and other sub-contractors and consultants acting as ancillary certifiers, it may be of some concern to registered professionals, surveyors, engineers and architects, currently considering assuming the new certifier roles. Link to Law Society advice “Update On Important Changes In Building Regulations”:

Law Society: Architects certificates of compliance with Building Regulations /

Extract: “Having considered these submissions carefully, the committee is persuaded that its original guideline is no longer appropriate and that, where an architect’s certificate of opinion on compliance confirms compliance with the Building Regulations and confirms that, in coming to this opinion on compliance, reliance has been placed by the architect on confirmations received from other professionals, it is not necessary for a purchaser’s solicitor to see such confirmations and the solicitor may rely on the architect’s certificate of compliance itself. One of the RIAI forms refers to copies of the confirmations being attached and the committee has requested the RIAI to remove these words, and solicitors acting for purchasers being furnished with certificates of opinion on compliance should seek to have these words deleted where confirmations are not being produced. This is not to suggest that solicitors should object to being furnished with copies of the confirmations, but solicitors should not review the confirmations and, if appropriate, should make it clear that they are relying on the architect’s expertise in that regard.”

We wonder have any of the professional representative bodies for engineers, surveyors or architects, ACEI, SCSI and RIAI respectively, consulted with or forwarded on the negative senior council opinions obtained on Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) to the Law Society? Have they sent queries in to the Society about the status of self-builders and whether their members can certify these projects? If they have not it may be the time to do so.

We wonder what the ACEI, SCSI and RIAI are doing to  protect their members’ interests around the “Certificates” and property conveyancing? We haven’t heard anything at all yet. If anybody knows, they might like to tell us…

Dáil: Minister surprised at TD support for architects: BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

024-300x240

In the following exchange Thomas Pringle TD asks questions to Minister Hogan concerning enforcement and independent oversight of Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). The Minister states “I do not intend to defer the regulations as the RIAI advocates…

The RIAI are the representative body for architects, a key stakeholder involved in the formation of  Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) who have repeatedly called for deferral of SI.9 (previously SI.80). RIAI members voted overwhelmingly at EGM in October 2014, that SI.9 was not in the interests of the consumer or industry. An official RIAI letter requesting deferral was sent on January 15th sent to Minister Hogan and subsequent letter to Minister Bruton. The compelling case for deferral made by the RIAI was discussed in earlier post “RIAI call for deferral of BC(A)R SI.9” Minister Hogan introduced a part-deferral SI.105 on 7th March less than one week after implementation of BC(A)R SI.9. This part-deferral mitigated some of the unintended consequences mentioned by the RIAI on school and hospital projects by allowing specific projects apply for exemptions.

Link to 12 Mar 2014: Dáil debates (KildareStreet.com):

kildarestreet.com debates: Building+control

Thomas Pringle (Donegal South West, Independent)

7. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if he has considered the concerns of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland in respect of the new regulations regarding the inspection of building works at key stages during construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11912/14]… …This question relates to the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and its concerns about the new building regulations and asks what consideration the Minister has given to these concerns.

Phil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)

I am surprised that Deputy Pringle has taken upon himself to support the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland. Every effort has been made to ensure that arrangements have been in place for a successful transition to the new building control arrangements on and from 1 March 2014…

… As local authorities and industry now move to full implementation of the new regulatory arrangements, my Department will continue to work with all parties to ensure they understand their obligations and the steps necessary to meet them. I do not intend to defer the regulations as the RIAI advocates

… I expect the regulations will dramatically improve the end result for many customers. The people in Priory Hall and similar buildings around the country deserve no better than to have a proper system in place that will be policed and enforced. I am determined to do that.”

 

Minister Hogan concerned at exploitation by professionals: BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

StanleyBrian

In the following exchange from 12th March 2014, Brian Stanley TD discusses the huge costs incurred under BC(A)R SI.9 with Minister Hogan, and takes issue with the costs noted by the Minister and his Department to date.

link here: Kildarestreet.com: debates Building+control#g33

Extract from debate:

Brian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein):

“My question deals with the new building regulations for the construction of both one-off houses and multi-unit complexes. In those regulations, the Minister has not differentiated between the two, which is the problem and the nub of my question. The regulation process is causing enormous concern. I have heard that professionals are looking for between €20,000 and €50,000 to sign off on construction and I ask the Minister to comment on that, given that he gave estimates of between €1,000 and €3,000 previously. I have a quotation here for €18,012.35 for a modest house in County Laois, for example…

The Minister has given a cash cow to architects and chartered surveyors. He said they will charge between €1,000 and €3,000 but I have seen a quotation for €18,000…

Coming from a rural constituency, the Minister will agree that the quality of self-build is generally good. A farmer who builds his or her own house will stand over the work. We do not want to make the costs prohibitive, however. The experience of shopping around to date is that high prices are being quoted. The aforementioned quote of €18,000 is for a modest dwelling. The Minister clarified the big question of whether the local subcontractor, plasterer or bricklayer can be hired in. He has stated unequivocally that if I am involved in a self-build I can do that. However, the issue of the assigned certifier will still cause problems. The local authority building control officers carried out good work but they were under resourced. This could be a self-financing mechanism. If local authorities charged €1,000 or €2,000 for carrying out final inspections, people would be happy to pay them rather than pay €13,000 or €14,000 to somebody in the private sector. The final point I want to make is that housing extensions will be expensive as a result of these regulations.”

Phil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael):

“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 by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. 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…

I am concerned about the possibility of customers being exploited by professionals under these regulations. I will monitor the situation over the coming weeks and if I detect that the professional bodies are exploiting customers to the extent that the Deputy alleged – he only mentioned one quotation – I am prepared to consider ways of ensuring customers are not financially exploited in the manner to which he alluded.”

Eoin O Cofaigh: The architectural technologist and BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

opinion1 In response to a recent post comment we received the following comment/opinion piece from Eoin O’Cofaigh on 25th March 2014,  past president of the representative body for architects (RIAI) and current council member.

Blog question

Perhaps Eoin O Cofaigh could outline his thoughts on the role of the architectural technologist employed in a design certifier and or assigned certifier practice where the AT plays a significant role in technical design and document production.
 These senior ATs have in the past gone to site on behalf of the practice to inspect the works and represent at site meetings.
 What is the role for these employees now under BC(A)R SI 9?

The architectural technologist and BC(A)R

Publication of our MC/EOC paper “Building Control – A Different Way” has prompted many reactions. While some commentators disagree with some of the detail, the agreement is unanimous: our proposals can lead to better regulations for the public and for the construction sector than those we are now faced with implementing. Disagreement over the detail is natural, and should and can be explored.

As regards the architectural technologist and BC(A)R, one has many thoughts.

In my opinion, these are separate subjects and it’s only S.I. 80 / S.I. 9 which has brought them together. I want S.I. 9 revoked or changed so that there is a system of independent audit by competent persons of design and of construction, with wordings of opinions similar to those in the system in England and Wales. This system will serve the public better than S.I. 9, as it will be more objective and searching than what we now have; it will also serve the profession better as it will reduce the volume of unpaid work and contain the liability to a reasonable degree.

In my opinion, there should be a register of such “competent persons”. That register should be open to all people with appropriate qualifications, training and experience.

Before joining the register of architects, Irish graduates of architectural schools must at a minimum have 5 years’ accredited education + a minimum of 2 years’ accredited experience + pass a tough examination in professional practice. In my opinion, architectural technologists with 4 years’ accredited education + a minimum of 2 years’ accredited experience and who pass a tough examination in the relevant aspects of technical practice should be able to join the register of “competent persons”. No Ifs or Buts.

As regards the exact question put to me, what should happen the experienced AT who, on the face of things, has been put out of a job by S.I. 9?

My honest answer is that I don’t know. I do know that S.I. 9 has already lost me, an architect, a substantial client. It’s not only ATs who are out of a job…

It seems to me that those architectural practices employing experienced ATs will or should “just keep going” and those ATs will inspect the same as hitherto and the architects will, if they want, “certify”. It is unthinkable that everything from now on must be done in the first person by the person who signs these certs.

Yes, I know the word is “certify”, “be certain”, this raises all sorts of professional conduct and ethical issues. Well, good luck to those who wanted the system, for now they have it, is what I say.

For other experienced ATs, those who were self-employed with various ranges of services offered to architects and the public:- whom S.I. 9 has now largely put out of business, this is a matter of basic human rights. I see no reason why the State should get away with this and I would support any initiative to challenge what has happened.

My starting position, however, is opposition to S.I. 9. If architectural technologists wish S.I. 9 to be changed just a tiny bit so they, too, are allowed sign those Design Certificates and Completion Certificates – good luck to them. In language for blogs, the Christmas turkey vote situation comes to my mind.

What should happen is reword, or scrap, or revoke or tweak – use whatever words you like – S.I. 9 to get:-

  • Independent third-party inspection of building designs and sites by competent professionals under the control of the Building Control Authorities.
  • Compulsory LDI in the speculative residential sector (to begin with).

And that should do it. It’s that simple. The huge 70 pages of building control regulations can be boiled down to 1/3 their length.

Let the contractors upskill and get their own registers, to include registers of plumbers, fire stoppers and balustrade manufacturers etc. If the Minister continues promising a statutory register of contractors in 2015 he might as well fix the whole thing properly while he’s at it.

Eoin O Cofaigh

Self-builder alert to farmers: BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

letter

Last week self-builder Amanda Gallagher wrote to varous agricultural representative bodies alerting them to the implications of Bulding Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) on their liveleyhoods and business- her letter is attached. In a previous post “Building red tape to hit farmers pocket: BC(A)R SI.9” the unintended consequences of BC(A)R SI.9 on the farming community and qualifying farm buildings came into focus. Quote from post:

“As most farm buildings are self-built by farmers themselves, self-built, the agri sector now find themselves in a similar position to residential self-builders. Farmers now will have to employ established main contractors to build agricultural buildings that previous to BC(A)R SI.9 they were able to construct themselves. Local Kerry councillors recently estimated that this could, in addition to increased professional fees, add over 20% to the cost of self-built structures and houses”.

The following is a Letter to agricultural bodies by Amanda Gallagher, Self-builder:

__________________

Dear ICA, IFA & ICMSA – could you please forward the following letter to all your Members:

I write to you regarding the new Building Control Regulations that came into effect on Saturday, March 1st.  We are self builders and my husband was hoping to construct our new family home on the family farm.  Our story was featured on Liveline, Morning Ireland and the Morning Edition TV Show on RTE.

These new Building Control Laws are extremely restrictive and will impose an extortionate amount of money onto the cost of an extension or new house build and on to some agri buildings.  All construction must go through a Main Building Contractor –  an Assigned Certifier and a Project Supervisor must also be employed.

I want the farming community to be aware of these laws as I understand most farm construction would be self build / direct labour.  Please click this link below to an article extract from the Independent:

https://bregsforum.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/building-red-tape-to-hit-farmers-pocket-bcar-si-9/

Self builders, have now set up an online petition, in the hope that we can have a Dail Debate on these unjust Building Control laws.  We need your help to do this by signing the petition and forwarding the Link to as many people as you think will be affected by these laws.

The Link to the Petition is below:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/self-build-rights-ireland

I would like to thank you in advance for your help.  This matter concerns all the Citizens of Ireland and I think we cannot let the centuries old tradition of building a home for one’s family disappear before our very eyes. These laws effectively mean that building a home in Ireland will only be for the privileged few.

Regards to you all,

Amanda Gallagher

Co. Sligo

How to complete ghost estates + Priory Hall?:BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

priory-hall

In a previous post “Ghost estates and public housing; Deferral no 2? BC(A)R SI.9” we explored problems now faced in completing so-called ghost-estates under Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). In an article from November 2012 the extent of the problem of unfinished residential developments was outlined: “…there are 1,770 developments which are incomplete and approximately 1,100 developments are said to be in a “seriously problematic condition”. (Link here to Journal.ie article: Ghost estates ireland)

There are four main issues for incomplete projects under BC(A)R SI.9, in particular for Local Authorities:

1. Inadequate provision for exclusions for part-completed works by others (structural work , drainage infrastructure etc) may make professionals reluctant to undertake certifier duties which may effectively mean they will be assuming responsibility and providing a guarantee for previous work which they may have had no professional involvement with.

2. Employee liability issues suggests many local authorities may be unwilling to undertake certifier roles in-house for completion of ghost estates or incomplete projects, instead electing to appoint professionals as external consultants. (link to post here “Extreme caution for employees; bcar si.9“).

3. No retrospective compliance: There is no provision for retrospective compliance under the new regulation. Local authorities are exempt from SI.9. However they will not be able to avail of this exemption from BC(A)R SI.9 if they intend to sell-on properties at some future stage. Projects that are intended to be ultimately sold on, like Priory Hall, may qualify for and need to be completed out under SI.9.

4. Perception: We would assume the media would have a field day if projects like Priory Hall were not completed under the new regulations in full. BC(A)R SI.9, we have been repeatedly told, is a regulation specifically targeted at defective “build for sale” developments. If developments like Priory Hall or the 1,700 unfinished houses in ghost estates around the country were completed under a part-deferral this would suggest that SI.9 is simply unworkable.

These unintended consequences of BC(A)R SI.9 may make completion of ghost estates and indeed developments like Priory Hall very complex and difficult. Minister Jan O’Sullivan was quoted: “My Department will be working with stakeholders to develop a response in relation to this issue over the coming months with a view to having a plan in place by the end of Spring 2013

Will unfinished or defective projects like Priory Hall fully embrace Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) or will some form of part-deferral be sought, like the recent SI.105 deferral introduced for hospitals and schools? We will follow the progress of Priory Hall with interest in the weeks ahead to see if the Local Authority tasked with remedial works apply BC(A)R S1.9 in full, or will they seek an exemption. We wonder if any local authority employees are prepared to accept the onerous legal implications of the regulation as noted in the Code of Practice and act as certifiers, or will they tender the professional services to external consultants on this one?

We wonder how this project and others pertaining to ghost/ part-completed buildings and estates have been affected by BC(A)R SI.9. Have the consequences of the new regulation been fully assessed? Has Minister O’Sullivan been fully briefed on these issues and has her plan for “ghost-estates” changed? Are Local Authorities fully aware of the complexities and difficulties faced under Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014)? If not at the moment, we suggest they soon will.

Legal Firms Advice: BC(A)R SI.9

by bregs blog admin team

Using a solicitor in mediation page

Deirder NÍ Fhlionn’s legal persective post “Will BC(A)R SI.9 bring any benefit to consumers?” noted “…no new legal rights or remedies for consumers created by BCAR 2014…” For professionals our previous post “Legal Advice on BC(A)R SI.9” contained a very negative consolidated senior council opinion of the new regulation. Given the part-deferral SI.105 published on 7th March (less than one week following implementation of SI.9) it would appear that at least some ministers took notice of the representative body for architects (RIAI) calls for deferral. The rationale for deferral was noted here “The compelling case for deferral of Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014)” and was contained in letters to Ministers Bruton and Hogan in January 2014.

Notwithstanding pre-implementation representations by the RIAI there has been a deafening silence from professional representative bodies (engineers, surveyors and architects) regarding the many problematic legal issues for their members in the new regulations since March 1st. Given the lack of direction from the ACEI, SCSI and RIAI it would appear to be up to individual practitioners to research and make up their own minds on whether to undertake new certifier roles or not. As professional members would appear “to be on their own” we thought it would be of interest to see a selection of Legal Firms’ advice to consumers and professionals on Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014).

We wonder if any of the representative bodies will refer SI.9 and the various negative senior council opinions obtained, on behalf of their members, to the Attorney General for review?

Links: 

Reddy Charlton: Building control amendment regulations 2014

William Fry: Building Control Amendment Regulations 2014

McDowell Purcell: Impact of the building control amendment regulations 2014

Arthur Cox: second time lucky building control amendment regulations 2014

Dillon Eustace: The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014.pdf

The Engineers Journal: Building control regulations key features

by Bregs Blog admin team

eng journal

New building control legislation in Ireland is likely to profoundly change the construction and projects industry for many years to come. Quote: “The details and nuances of Regulations will need time to bed down, be further refined over time and supplemented by training. The Regulations will also potentially increase costs on project administration, programming and insurances. Further engagement will be needed with the key participants, including engineers.

How will this impact engineers? Jarleth Heneghan and Cassandra Byrne report. Link to The Engineers Journal article: Building control regulations key features for engineers

______

Extract from article here:

Building Control Regulations – key features for engineers. 13th March 2014 

Author: Jarleth Heneghan, partner and Cassandra Byrne, senior associate, both of William Fry

New building control legislation in Ireland is likely to profoundly change the construction and projects industry for many years to come. How will this impact engineers? In such cases, the Commencement Notice and the Seven-Day notice must now be accompanied by:

▪ Outline Plans and Documentation – general arrangement drawings, plans, sections and elevations, calculations and specifications necessary to outline how the proposed works or building complies with the requirements of the Building Regulations;

▪ Certificate of Compliance (Design) – a certificate (in prescribed form) to be completed by a design professional (the design certifier), confirming that: it has been commissioned by the owner to design, in conjunction with others, the building or works and inspect as appropriate; it is competent to carry out the design and to coordinate the design of others; and the plans and other documents have been prepared by it and the other design professionals (exercising reasonable skill, care and diligence) to demonstrate compliance with the Building Regulations. The design professional must also certify that the design for the building or works is complies with the Building Regulations.

▪ Certificate of Compliance (undertaking by assigned certifier) – a certificate (in prescribed form) to be signed by the assigned certifier, such as a chartered engineer, undertaking to use reasonable skill, care and diligence to inspect the building or works and to co-ordinate the inspection of others and further undertaking to certify, following the implementation of the inspection plan, compliance with the Building Regulations. The assigned certifier may rely on specialist works contractors for ancillary completion certificates for inclusion with the Certificate of Compliance on Completion although must satisfy themselves as to certification provided by such specialists.

▪ An assigned certifier must be named on prescribed registers (including that under Section 7 of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland (Charter Amendment) Act 1969). Currently, there is no mandatory registration system for builders, but this on the horizon for introduction. Consideration should be given as to whether the assigned certifier should be an independent professional and/or contained in a separate appointment. While generally this can be a single appointment, it is recommended under the Capital Works Management Framework Contracts that in a contractor-designed public works contract, it would not be appropriate for the design certifier to be the same service provider as the assigned certifier.

▪ Preliminary Inspection Plan (including the Inspection Notification Framework).

▪ Certificate of Compliance (Undertaking by Builder) – a certificate (in prescribed form) to be completed by the builder confirming that it has been commissioned by the owner to build and supervise the works and that it (and any employee or other person engaged by it) is competent to do so. Builders should also be mindful of obtaining necessary ancillary certificates. The builder must also undertake to: construct the works in accordance with plans and other documents detailed in the Commencement Notice/Seven-Day Notice; co-operate with the inspections carried out pursuant to the inspection plan; and certify the works comply with the Building Regulations.

The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (the Regulations), which came into effect on 1 March 2014, will affect how public and private sector projects are run and how stakeholders, ranging from engineers, other design professionals, owners, builders to building control authorities respond to the challenges ahead.

Publication of the Regulations follows recent consultation with industry stakeholders ranging from Engineers Ireland, the Construction Industry Federation, Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, and Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland. This highlighted the real need for a more robust building control regime, appropriate certification and led eventually to revoking Building Control (Amendment) Regulations SI 80 of 2013 before its introduction and the making of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI No 9 of 2014) (the Regulations). Both the Regulations and its accompanying Code of Practice are available here.

The Regulations are to be read in conjunction with existing building control legislation. Even though it is unclear from the Regulations, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has confirmed that if a valid Commencement Notice is received on or after 1 March 2014, the new building control regime (as introduced by the Regulations) will apply. There are two roles identified in the Regulations in which engineers could be involved: design certifier and assigned certifier.

COMMENCEMENT NOTICE AND SEVEN-DAY NOTICE

The form of Commencement Notice and Seven-Day Notice has been revised and is to be signed by the owner of the works. Significant changes have been made to documentation to be submitted with Commencement Notices/Seven-Day Notice where the works comprise:

▪ design and construction of a new dwelling;

▪ extension to a dwelling involving a total floor area greater than 40 square metres;

▪ works to which Part III of the Building Control Regulations 1997 to 2014 applies.

In such cases, the Commencement Notice and the Seven-Day notice must now be accompanied by:

▪ Outline Plans and Documentation – general arrangement drawings, plans, sections and elevations, calculations and specifications necessary to outline how the proposed works or building complies with the requirements of the Building Regulations;

▪ Certificate of Compliance (Design) – a certificate (in prescribed form) to be completed by a design professional (the design certifier), confirming that:  it has been commissioned by the owner to design, in conjunction with others, the building or works and inspect as appropriate; it is competent to carry out the design and to co-ordinate the design of others; and the plans and other documents have been prepared by it and the other design professionals (exercising reasonable skill, care and diligence) to demonstrate compliance with the Building Regulations. The design professional must also certify that the design for the building or works is complies with the Building Regulations.

▪ Certificate of Compliance (undertaking by assigned certifier) – a certificate (in prescribed form) to be signed by the assigned certifier, such as a chartered engineer, undertaking to use reasonable skill, care and diligence to inspect the building or works and to co-ordinate the inspection of others and further undertaking to certify, following the implementation of the inspection plan, compliance with the Building Regulations. The assigned certifier may rely on specialist works contractors for ancillary completion certificates for inclusion with the Certificate of Compliance on Completion although must satisfy themselves as to certification provided by such specialists.

▪ An assigned certifier must be named on prescribed registers (including that under Section 7 of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland (Charter Amendment) Act 1969). Currently, there is no mandatory registration system for builders, but this on the horizon for introduction. Consideration should be given as to whether the assigned certifier should be an independent professional and/or contained in a separate appointment. While generally this can be a single appointment, it is recommended under the Capital Works Management Framework Contracts that in a contractor-designed public works contract, it would not be appropriate for the design certifier to be the same service provider as the assigned certifier.

▪ Preliminary Inspection Plan (including the Inspection Notification Framework).

▪ Certificate of Compliance (Undertaking by Builder) – a certificate (in prescribed form) to be completed by the builder confirming that it has been commissioned by the owner to build and supervise the works and that it (and any employee or other person engaged by it) is competent to do so. Builders should also be mindful of obtaining necessary ancillary certificates. The builder must also undertake to: construct the works in accordance with plans and other documents detailed in the Commencement Notice/Seven-Day Notice; co-operate with the inspections carried out pursuant to the inspection plan; and certify the works comply with the Building Regulations.

CERTIFICATE OF COMPLIANCE ON COMPLETION

Before works or a building (to which the Regulations apply) can be opened, occupied or used, a validly completed Certificate of Compliance on Completion is required to be validated and registered on the statutory register maintained by the relevant building control authority. Certifiers must possess sufficient training, experience and knowledge appropriate and knowledge appropriate to the nature of the work to be undertaken.

This mandatory Certificate of Compliance on Completion must be signed by the builder and the assigned certifier; accompanied by such plans and other documents which outline how the completed works or building differ from the plans and other documents submitted with the Commencement Notice/Seven-Day Notice and comply with the Building Regulations; and the Inspection Plan as implemented.

The Regulations include separate timelines (mandatory and discretionary) within which the building control authority must respond as to validity or invalidity of a Certificate of Compliance on Completion. There is automatic inclusion on the Register is no queries are raised within 21 days.

A statutory Code of Practice for Inspecting and Certifying Buildings and Works has been published to provide guidance on inspecting and certifying works. Compliance with the Code of Practice will, prima facie, be taken as compliance with the relevant requirements of the Regulations.

BUILDING CONTROL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

The Regulations introduce electronic filing through a Building Control Management System as the preferred means of building control administration. The building control authority can levy charges for scanning and uploading hard copy documents to the Building Control Management System. It will operate via www.localgov.ie and the building control authority website. Engineers will need to become familiar with using this system.

Failure to comply with the Regulations is an offence which may result in the imposition of fines and/or imprisonment, together with potential liability in contract and/or tort. Where the engineer as assigned certifier changes this needs to be notified to the building control authority this is also likely to lead to certain complications and potential delays. Engineers will need to be mindful on how to best manage their liability to and for clients and third parties.

The increased responsibility and change in risk-profile for builders, design professionals and owners, under the Regulations is likely to necessitate additional insurances in certain circumstances, such as professional indemnity insurance for contractors. For engineers who typically maintain such insurances, they should confirm that their insurance cover captures their new obligations under the Regulations, be mindful of the insurances being maintained by ancillary certifiers and consider run-off cover implications.

CONCLUSION

The details and nuances of Regulations will need time to bed down, be further refined over time and supplemented by training. The Regulations will also potentially increase costs on project administration, programming and insurances. Further engagement will be needed with the key participants, including engineers.

However, it is hoped that the Regulations will play an important role in the pursuit of an improved culture of building control with an increased focus on care and safety in the construction industry. The Regulations highlight the new roles and increased responsibilities for engineers. Parties should therefore seek advice how their contracts best address the requirements of the Regulations going forward.

Jarleth Heneghan, partner (FSCSI, FRICS, MCIOB, FCIArb & Solicitor) and Cassandra Byrne, senior associate (FCIArb & Solicitor), both of William Fry, law firm in Dublin

 

Online Petition: Self Build in Ireland- BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

BRegs Blog

petitions

A group of self-builders have launched an on-line petition this week to progress their objection against Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). Given the recent part-deferral of the regulations SI. 105 published on 7th March 2014 they feel that the regulations now are particularly discriminatory towards the rights of ordinary citizens to build their own homes. The representative body for self-builders (IAOSB) welcome increased participation of professionals in self-builds but object to the requirement to use an established main contractor. They estimate 17% of all house starts will be abandoned due to the excessive costs of employing established main contractors under SI.9 every year. They have escalated their objections to the european ombudsman against CIRI, the register of contractors which is privately owned and operated by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) and is recognised by government.

There is also unrest amongst established builders due to the cost of the CIF register…

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Press Piece: Blood, Sweat & Tears Tax? BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

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The following ‘Letter to the Editor’ appeared in the Sligo Weekender on Thursday 13th March 2014. Link here: sligo weekender

Blood, Sweat & Tears Tax?

Sir – There has been a lot of confusion surrounding the Building Control (Amendment)Regulations 2014 – SI9. From a Self Builder’s prospective I would like to draw your attention to a few points:

Minister Phil Hogan is telling the Citizens of this country that ‘Self Build / Direct Labour’ can continue as before under this regulation.  I would like to point out that in the entire SI 9 and in the Code of Practice (Building Control) the words ‘Self Build’ or ‘Direct Labour’ do not appear. He also says these regulations are because of shoddy construction in the past like Priory Hall.  The Minister has just created 1,800 more victims of Priory Hall this year alone – as 1,800 self build projects are now abandoned due to these regulation.  We must remember that Priory Hall was signed off by Architects, Engineers and Surveyors – there is absolutely NO change to those bad decisions in these regulations as a Building Contractor / Developer can still employ his own Certifiers – this fact alone is a grave injustice to the victims of Priory Hall.

Problem No.1 a self builder faces now is the signing of legal documents where it clearly states: to be signed by a principal or Director of a building company only.  Now we, as self builders, are not a principal or director of a building company and never will be and to sign such a document is fraud.  How will a Financial Institution react when you produce fraudulent documents when applying for a mortgage?

Problem No. 2 for the self builder is they must employ an Assigned Certifier – this will be impossible as no Architect, Surveyor or Engineer will work alongside a self builder under these new regulations – due to liability issues and I would assume they do not want to be party to fraud.

The Self Build Sector is a viable contributor to the economy and to local employment and we would welcome an Independent Building Inspectorate and a Register of Competent Trades people available in Local Authorities as opposed to the Ministers idea of a privately owned register of builders run by the C.I.F. (Construction Industry Federation)

In the months preceding the implementation of SI 9 – The Irish Association of Self Builders(I.A.O.S.B) made many pleas to the Minister to amend the wording on the legal documents to include the words ‘building owner’ as this would remedy the ‘self builder issue’.  The President of the R.I.A.I (Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland) and 500 of their members also called on the Minister to defer the implementation of the SI 9 as further talks were needed.  Calls for more talks came from many other Architects, Architectural Technlogists and Draughtsmen of Ireland who are now unemployed. Alas, all pleas fell on deaf ears.

We had budgeted for materials only as we are a one income family with 5 small children and we were going to construct our home with our blood, sweat & tears, during our free time, at weekends and during holidays, at the end of the build we were going to hand the keys of our current council house back to the State for another family to have a roof over their heads.  There is no question of the black market / shadow economy for self builds as all materials are purchased from local builders merchants, window & door suppliers etc.. i’m sure they are all tax compliant, and as far as I know there is no Tax on Blood, Sweat & Tears – yet!

Amanda Gallagher

Ballisodare

Co. Sligo

How do we fix BC(A)R SI.9?

by bregs blog admin team

156211885-1 Is a continuation of our current defective system of self-regulation at increased cost the best the industry and government can do? An costly “blizzard of red tape?” We need to examine possible solutions.

Past president and current council member of the representative body for architects (RIAI) Eoin O’Cofaigh posted a thought provoking review of where are now under the new Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). In “Eoin O’Cofaigh- two weeks gone; BC(A)R SI.9” the author outlined the winners and loosers and concluded “The regulations do nothing to prevent another Priory Hall or pyrites disaster. They will not prevent a future Minister having to again dig into the public pocket to underwrite the next round of repairs to distressed homeowners’ dwellings. They are a huge missed opportunity, from a Government who knew the proper solution and who ignored it.”

Deirder NÍ Fhlionn’s excellent legal perspective “Will BC(A)R SI.9 bring any benefit to consumers?“noted “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.”

The question is “How do we fix BC(A)R SI.9?” We suggest the following suite of posts describe in detail a practical and low-cost, appropriate and independent 100% inspection regime for the construction industry.

A joint paper on a solution to SI.9 by two past presidents of the RIAI, Michael Collins and Eoin O’Cofaigh was posted this week: “A BETTER way: solutions to BC(A)R SI.9“. In this carefully considered piece the precedent of the UK system of Approved Inspectors was examined as a useful template for a fully-resourced, local-authority controlled independent inspection system. The advantages of an approved inspector system are:

  • The cost to the State is minimal. The system is better for the State: It will deliver better design and construction, not just better paperwork. It gives the State an additional layer of protection.
  • Peer review of system will drive better design standards.
  • The benefit for a contractor is to have the experienced Approved Inspector arrive on site with local authority backing.
  • The person who buys or rents a new home gets independent third-party audit by experienced professionals, answerable to the local authority.
  • The system will include experienced technologists whose livelihoods are undermined by S.I. 9.
  • It allows self-building and does not affect Foreign Direct Investment.
  • The system requires no change to construction contracts.
  • The system is better for the consumer as per the submission of the National Consumer Authority. It will drive higher standards

The paper concluded “A system as outlined above can be set up quickly. It involves no major change in existing contractual and legal structures. It needs no primary legislation: the Building Control Act already provides for the designation of such persons to act in this capacity…Such a system will have the support of the consumer organisations and the public.”

The cost and resources required to establish a fully-functional independent regulatory system were examined in “The cost of solution: BC(A)R SI.9“. We quantified the number of inspectors required to cater for our current construction industry output. The cost of these inspectors could be self-financing, at no additional cost to the taxpayer. We noted a minimum number of only 200 additional experienced inspectors were required to provide 100% independent inspections nationwide based on UK construction output figures.

The piece noted “…The system would be self-funding, transparent and effective. 100% independent building control inspections throughout the country, real consumer protection. There would be plenty of well-qualified applicants for these roles and a separate simple register could be set up to monitor 200 professional inspectors…No millions of euros in consultants fees needed to work out the feasibility or costs…Even being conservative and over-staffing by double all local authorities to bed-down the new regulation system, we would need 400 new inspectors, a fraction of the resources allocated to Irish Water.”

In post comments, contributors remarked on an earlier opinion piece that indicated the likely consumer cost of a similar inspection system based on UK costs. In “Another way forward: the cost of independent local authority building control inspections” we note “A target of 100% Building Control Authority (BCA) inspections should be in place at the commencement of any new certification process. Now is the time to get a proper system up and running when construction output is depressed. BCA inspections and fees could be a valuable source of income for local authorities given loss of income from the impending roll-out of Irish Water in January 2014…The Department has stated a mid-range additional cost per dwelling of €2000 for S.I.80 (RIA 2012). Why continue a defective system of self-certification at an increased cost when properly resourced independent building control inspections could cost as little as €375 for the same dwelling…?”

Commentators and stakeholders believe the part-deferral SI.105, introduced less than one week after SI.9 for hospitals and schools, is the start of the unravelling of this new regulation. This may be followed by more part-deferrals and exemptions of other building types. As the calls get louder for an immediate transition period to be introduced and SI.9 to be suspended, we hope this outline of a simple, more cost-effective and appropriate system will be examined in more detail by stakeholders, representative groups and government.

We have received a lot of emails on this and hope it will stimulate debate. We do consider the above system is very thought provoking and would appear to be a viable, rapid solution to the unweildy and ill-conceived BC(A)R SI.9.

Amanda Gallagher, Self Builder: Opinion Piece BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

PPF-Hogan & Taoiseach

A SELF BUILDER’S THOUGHTS ON THE FINE GAEL ARD FHEIS 2014

Reading comments via the National Newspapers on the recent Fine Gael Ard Fheis inspired me to jot down some comments of my own.  An Taoiseach Enda Kenny was asked who inspired him in life – he answered the great Muhammad Ali – apparently Mr Kenny loved his use of ‘verbal gymnastics’ – phrases like “It isn’t the mountain ahead to climb that wears you out it; it’s the pebble in your shoe!” I also heard Mr Kenny reassured the crowd that Self Build / Direct Labour is still possible in Ireland.

Minister Phil Hogan also made comments at the Ard Fheis regarding Mr McFeely of Priory Hall fame – apparently Minister Hogan found Mr. McFeely’s BBC Interview “an outrageous waste of free speech” and also that “Fine Gael stand for the people of Priory Hall“.  On hearing these comments I was bemused to say the least.  The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 – known as SI9 which Minister Hogan implemented on Saturday, March 1st, 2014 in NO way stand for the people of Priory Hall, in fact these regulations mean that the likes of Priory Hall could happen time and time again.

The SI9 still allows self-certification – this is a grave injustice to the victims of Priory Hall. Developers and Building Contractors will still be able to walk away from shoddy workmanship and leave the ordinary folk abandoned.

The Minister and the CIF continue to use the ‘cloak’ of Consumer Safety when talking of these regulations.  If only the general public would take a little while to research the SI9, just like we had to, all would become clear to them. Some good resources are available on google –  iaosb.comsi9.ie and bregs blog to name a few. I understand many people think the SI9 doesn’t concern them – but I feel they concern our whole society, for example, 1,800 families this year alone have abandoned their self build projects – their dream of owning their home – many will apply now for Local Authority Housing as they had a tiny budget to build with and will never be able to purchase a home. The Minister has created a major future housing crisis with the implementation of the SI9. The Farming Community will be especially affected as most farm buildings are self build and one off self build homes are what make up the rural countryside. Architectural Technicians, draughts-men and many fine architects have been left with no prospect of employment with these regulations.

We, as self builders, find the Ministers reassurances that self build can continue as before under these regulations an ‘outrageous waste of free speech‘ – we cannot fathom why the Minister cannot just come out and make a statement to the Citizens of this country informing them that self build cannot continue under SI9 – in fact the words ‘self build / direct labour’ do not appear once in the entire SI9 or code of practice for Building Control.  If the Minister does not want to do this then we feel he has no choice but to amend the wording on the legal certificates in the SI9 to accommodate self builders.  They really are his only two options.  You know, self builders too are fond of ‘verbal gymnastics’ – ‘It isn’t the mountain of the build ahead that’s wearing us out; it’s the pebble in our shoes‘ – and that pebble is the SI9 – and we are going to remove that pebble and throw it in to the widest, deepest lake in Ireland!

The above opinion piece was submitted on 22nd March 2014 by Amanda Gallagher

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

In case anyone missed this this is an excellent legal view on the lack of enhanced consumer protection in BC(A)R SI.9

BRegs Blog

consumer-protection-act

This is a guest post submitted on 14th March 2014 for the blog to put slides delivered at the Engineers Ireland CPD event of January 2014 in context by DEIRDRE NÍ FHLOINN, Consultant, Reddy Charlton, Solicitors. Guest post to follow:

I was recently asked to address a CPD event organised by Engineers Ireland on the subject of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (BCAR 2014), with a particular focus on the consumer perspective.

I considered in that respect whether the Regulations created any new rights for consumers.

When publishing the 2013 Regulations in April 2013, the Minister characterised the Regulations as a rolling set of guarantees

http://www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/BuildingStandards/News/MainBody,32735,en.htm.

BCAR 2014 has been described by various commentators, and in the media, as being intended to deal with major building failures such as that which occurred at the Priory Hall development in Dublin.

The residents at Priory Hall had two enormous problems. …

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

water-conservation.gif [Converted]

In recent statements Minister Hogan confirmed that there would be no change to the technical standards or requirements under Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). This opinion piece ponders what if part of the cost of this “blizzard of red tape”, BC(A)R SI.9, was instead spent on technical improvements that would benefit the consumer, taxpayer and industry. In previous posts we have noted the current industry estimate for separate professional appointments under SI.9 at around €15k for a typical house (note: this excludes an further additional €20,000 self-builders may be paying for main contractors fees and costs for self-build projects).

BC(A)R SI.9 or…Water Conservation

One topical area where increased technical performance standards could be usefully applied is water consumption. With the creation of Irish Water and the impending introduction of €600- €1000 per annum water charges water consumption will become a very hot topic in the near future. Costs associated with infrastructure, supply, treatment etc. are considerable. In Ireland the situation is even more acute- we treat most water used for commercial and domestic consumption, including water used for toilet flushing. In parallel our storm water drains are overflowing as a result of years of under-investment, a prolonged building boom and more intense storm “events”.

Rainwater recycling has long been seen as a remedy for both of these problems. Straightforward rainwater recycling in a domestic situation can reduce potable (treated) water consumption by up to 30%, just catching, storing (typically 3,000- 4,000L) and re-using rainwater to flush toilets. In addition this provides localised rainwater attenuation storage, acting as a buffer to a local storm water drainage system during heavy downpours. This is a tried and tested technology and costs in the region of €3,500 for typical new-build houses, depending on size, type and location.

Greywater recycling also is a less popular but also well proven method for reducing potable (treated) water consumption. This involves catching greywater used in sinks and washing machines, short term storage (24 hours max and typically 200L) and re-using to flushing toilets. More popular in the UK a typical system would cost in the region of £2,000 (€3,500).

A simple filtration system (UV) to 5 microns with carbon filter will cost between €1000- €2000. This would treat rainwater to a standard suitable for all “working water”; this can supply water appliances, washing, showers, etc. An added advantage is that this water is naturally soft, reducing wear and tear on appliances. This type of filter also is well proven and is not new technology.

Although both systems are used for toilet flushing it is possible to combine both with a simple filter to reduce water consumption by over 60%. Greywater recycling caters for toilet flushing while rainwater is filtered to a standard to be used for all working water.

A study 2010 Dublin Institute of Technology noted that it was possible, using a combination of these three components, to reduce potable water consumption by over 90%, relying on mains treated water for drinking water only. Link to DIT research paper here: DIT research paper. This system could supply 94% of the water required for a typical house less with only 6%, drinking water, supplied by mains.

So for a little over half the cost of SI.9 for a typical house an owner could have a rainwater/greywater system installed that could reduce water consumption by over 90%. Not only would the projected mains water requirement for the next 20 years be reduced considerably by this, the impact of heavier and more intense storm events on our existing drainage system would be reduced considerably. No costly infrastructure projects importing riverwater to Dublin from the Shannon, environmental benefit, new “green” business stimulus- a “win/win” scenario.

If this requirement applied to, say, domestic extensions over 40Sqm, this method for rainwater conservation could make significant inroads to supply demands for existing housing stock. By stimulating this area considerable economies of scale could be achieved driving down capital costs and making payback periods even less. Based on anticipated annual water charges of over €600 per annum per household the payback period for a system like the above could be a little over 10 years. When the water charge increases to €1000 per annum the payback will become very compelling.

The above opinion piece was submitted by Maoilíosa Mel Reynolds on 20th March 2014.

Self-builders write to Attorney General: BC(A)R SI.9

by bregs blog admin team

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There seems to be numerous conflicting statements concerning the status of the self-builders under Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) by Minister Hogan and his Deaprtment at this point. In previous Dáil exchanges towards the end of 2013 Minister Hogan spelled out the requirement under SI.9 for a “competent builder” to undertake building works. Clearly no mention of owners undertaking the role and CIRI, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) owned and operated private register of builders, is noted as de-facto compliance. Here on 18 Sep 2013 (Dáil written answers): Debate 18 September 2013

Quote from Minister Hogan: “(a) drawings and particulars used for the purposes of construction to be submitted to the local building control authority;(b) design to be undertaken and certified by competent professionals prior to works commencing;(c) owners to formally assign a competent builder to undertake and certify the works;(d) owners to formally assign a registered professional (to be known as the ‘Assigned Certifier’) ...”

In more recent exchanges from the Minister and correspondence from his Department, the view of self-builders appears to be quite different. Link here to recent correspondence from DOELG to the representative body of self-builders (IAOSB): Response from DECLG on SI.9-_13th_march_2014.

This apparent about-turn on the status of self-builders one must assume is as a result of the very high-profile nationwide campaign by self-builders (IAOSB) lobbying local representatives and TD’s with self-builder’s concerns. (Link: People of Ireland, stand up for your rights). This adversely affected group have escalated their complaints about the restrictive nature of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) privately owned and run register of contractors to the European Ombudsman also (Link: IAOSB complaint to European Ombudsman)

Independent legal advice obtained by the IAOSB has confirmed that self-building is no longer possible after 1st March 2014. This view is shared both by two key stakeholder in the formation of SI.9, the representative body for architects (RIAI) and the CIF. The representative body for Engineers the ACEI also have had this confirmed at a CPD event in January 2014. In response to the latest contradictory statement by the Department the IAOSB has written to the Attorney General for definitive guidance on the status of self-builders under BC(A)R SI.9. (Link to attorney general letter here: IAOSB Letter_to_attorney_general).

Text of Attorney General letter to follow (from IAOSB website):

__________

Letter to Attorney General, Máire Whelan SC from Iaosb regarding S.I.9   18th March 2014

Dear Ms, Whelan,

This Statutory Instrument, signed into law by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, took effect from 1 March 2014. The law was drafted in response to certain well-publicised failures in the speculative residential construction sector but affects almost all types of building project. It requires the building owner to make a number of appointments or assignments (“Design Certifier”, “Builder” and “Assigned Certifier”) in advance of construction being commenced and to notify the local building control authority of these. These people, in turn, must certify compliance with the building regulations of the design and the completed works before the works or building may be opened or occupied.

The Irish Association of Self Builders has about 2,000 members. We are primarily private citizens who have built, are building or aspire to building our own homes, usually on land belonging to our families. About 2,800 such homes were completed in 2013, the largest single type of dwelling built in the State in 2013. The Statutory Instrument impacts on such projects.

The way most our Members build their homes in an affordable manner is to retain a qualified professional to prepare a design, and for the “self-builder” to then procure its construction by a combination of their family’s own direct labour, by contracting with specialist tradesmen such as electricians and plumbers, and above all by managing the building works directly themselves.

The Association has expressed concern, both privately to the Minister of the Environment, Community and Local Government and to his Department and also publicly, that the effect of the regulations is to require us to retain and pay a “competent building company” to manage our projects. It is generally agreed that for us to do so will add an average 10% to the construction cost.

This is a very significant cost indeed. €20,000 as an average extra cost will have to be added to the borrowing requirement for our members and will result in many new home projects being delayed or scrapped.

For your convenience, I attach copy of the “Notice of Assignment of Builder” and of the “Undertaking by Builder” which under article 9 the owner of the project must serve on the building control authority when it commences on site.

I also attach copy of the “Certificate of Compliance on Completion” referred to at article 20F of the Instrument which must be lodged with (and validated by) the building control authority before the building or works may be opened or occupied.

You will note that the Undertaking and Certificate of Compliance on Completion are “to be signed by a Principal or Director of a Building Company only”.

Through his Department, the Minister has responded to us to the effect that (a) it was never his intention that the regulations would hinder or prevent “self-builders” from continuing to manage our own projects and (b) that the regulations do not, in fact, so hinder. He has assured the Association that self-builders can indeed legitimately sign the undertakings and “Certificate of Completion” which the regulations require.

I attach in this regard, copy of (a) the “Information Note issued by the Department of the Environment on 26 February 2014 on Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI No. 9 of 2014) and the Self-Build Sector” and (b) a letter which the Department sent to the Association on 13 March 2014.

The Association’s members await our advice as to the implications of the new regulations, for their plans for their families’ homes. If we say to them that the Statutory Instrument requires them to assign a competent building company to undertake the construction of their homes and to sign the required Undertaking and “Certificate of Completion”, this will result at best in their incurring significant extra costs on their projects or at worst in the cancellation of many projects. On the other hand, if we say to them that the Minister for the Environment has advised us that they may themselves act as “builder” and sign the various certificates, this might make “all well”.

If, however, the Minister is found subsequently to be mistaken in his reassurances to us, the consequences are potentially most serious for our Members individually and for the Association upon whose advice our members may legitimately rely. The foreseeable consequences include (a) rejection by building control authorities of the signed “Certificate on Completion” as invalid with our Members’ new homes not being open able or occupiable under law; (b) refusal by banks or other funding agencies of loans to our Members or, worse, demands for the repayment of loans advanced on foot of undertakings which were not fulfilled, loans which it will not be possible to repay upon demand as the money will have been committed to tradesmen and others; and (c) prosecutions of our Members for breach of statutory duty.

In the above context, the Association requests that you ask your officials to examine the text of the Statutory Instrument and to advise us, and if you see fit to advise the Minister also, as to whether in your opinion our members may indeed legitimately appoint themselves as “Builder” under these regulations and sign the various Undertakings and Certificates.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours

Shane McCloud
Irish Association of Self-Builders
www.iaosb.com

Letter to Attorney General from Iaosb regarding S.I.9  Word.Doc

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Why do we favour light-touch regulation, or none at all?

by Bregs Blog admin team

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In the following article from the Irish Examiner on 18th March 2014 Fergus Finlay explores why we prefer “light-touch” regulation in Ireland. This article is very applicable to the new Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) which reinforces “light-touch” self-regulation in the construction industry. Link to article here: why do we irish favour so called “light touch regulation” or none at all

Given that the construction industry is a €10bn business, a multiple of the charity sector (€1.8bn), we wonder why in the light of much quoted pyrite and priory hall scandals no similar call to end self-regulation has been made? In a previous post we noted the calls for an charity industry regulator after recent charity scandals surfaced in the media (link here: what do the charity sector and the construction industry have in common?).

Quote from post: One radio pundit was astonished that the charity industry with an estimated €1.8bn annual value is self-regulated, with no independent government oversight. Imagine an industry sector four times this size which also is self-regulated. This is the construction industry…

A number of the submissions made by major consumer groups to the department in 2012 when SI80 was being formulated made specific reference to the requirement for comprehensive, independent local authority building inspections. Astonishingly these requests have been disregarded…

This is the time to aim to introduce a proper building control inspectorate for buildings with 100% inspection rates- now when the industry is at a low output and a new system can be bedded in. To have such huge part of our economy with no independent government oversight is simply not acceptable: it would not be tolerated in any other sector.

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

by bregs blog admin team

cost_eff

As a follow-on to the Michael Collins and Eoin O’Cofaigh paper yesterday on a solution to BC(A)R SI.9, we look back on an earlier blog post that attempted to quantify the resources and cost of a UK-type system here of “approved inspectors”. Link to previous blog post:  how much for a proper independent building control inspectorate? Quote from post:

“…Let’s look at the costs of a good system of Building Control for a moment. The UK ranks 27th out of 182 countries for “ease of obtaining construction permit” according to the recent by the World Bank Report mentioned recently by Minister Richard Bruton. Their legal and system and building standards are closest to ours so they are a good precedent to look at. How much would it cost us to establish the similar system here?

There are over 3,000 local authority building control inspectors (source: Local Authority Building Control UK) with an additional 600 private licensed Approved Inspectors (source: Construction Industry Council UK). Approved Inspectors complete 20% of all building control inspections in the UK (source: World Bank). So we have a conservative total of 4,000 Building Control inspectors in the UK.

In the UK the current construction industry output for 2012 was €115Bn with Ireland at €7.5Bn (source: Bruce Shaw). Given our construction output is just 6% that of the uk the consequent number of inspectors required should be 270. In 2007 we had less than 70 for the entire country so by employing 200 new inspectors we should have coverage similar to the much praised system in the UK.

…The system would be self-funding, transparent and effective. 100% independent building control inspections throughout the country, real consumer protection. There would be plenty of well-qualified applicants for these roles and a separate simple register could be set up to monitor 200 professional inspectors.

No millions of euros in consultants fees needed to work out the feasibility or costs.”

Even being conservative and over-staffing by double all local authorities to bed-down the new regulation system, we would need 400 new inspectors, a fraction of the resources allocated to Irish Water.

 

Collins & O Cofaigh- A BETTER way: BC(A)R SI.9 Solutions

by Bregs Blog admin team

solutions-ahead

The following is a recent paper submitted by Eoin O Cofaigh and Michael Collins, two past presidents of the representative body for architects (RIAI). In this paper practical workable alternatives to Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) are discussed.

 ___________

Building Control (Amendment) Regulations – A BETTER way

1. Background

The State should not primarily be liable for the cost of building control nor should the State be liable for defects in construction.

Concerns have been expressed that S.I. 9 of 2014 will not protect the householder in the way it sets out to. In 2012, submissions by non-construction sector stakeholders (NCA) and the Pyrites Panel said that an inspection system independent of the designer and the contractor is needed.

There is a wide consensus across consumer organizations and in the media, supported by World Bank and European Consortium of Building Control studies, that self-certification as in S.I. 9 will not work, particularly for speculative residential development. It works in no other sector of the Irish economy and is even less likely to work in construction.

At the same time, the unintended consequences of S.I. 9 for non-residential projects, especially for complex projects such as hospitals, and for FDI projects are such that the system increases costs and uncertainty unnecessarily.

What is needed is a simple measure to improve and sustain the quality of design and construction, particularly with speculative residential development.

This should be backed by compulsory latent defects insurance to guarantee redress to consumers in the case of the small number of residual defects that will occur, or in the case of financial failure of a development/construction company.

2. Proposal

Replace S.I. 9 of 2014 by a new statutory instrument along the following lines:

1. Set up a register of “Approved inspectors”, answerable to the building control authority.

2. This register to be open to architects, architectural technologists, appropriately qualified engineers, and building surveyors, with appropriate qualifications and adequate experience. Admission to be competence-based, with knowledge of building regulations, building control regulations, and building construction.

3. The Approved Inspector to carry an appropriate level of professional indemnity insurance.

4. To start with, the system to apply in the speculative residential sector and to the one-off (“self-build”) house.

5. The Approved Inspector audits the design for compliance with building regulations; and inspects the construction works for compliance with building regulations.

6. Inspection of designs would include Parts B and M for one-off houses. Pending review, fire safety and disability access certificates would still be required for apartments.

7. The design team must still prepare full designs and inspect the works as at present. The contractor must build in compliance with the building regulations as is routinely done on well-organized buildings. The Approved Inspector issues reports to the Local Authority at the start and completion of construction, confirming that he has inspected the design and construction and found nothing wrong.

8. If the Approved Inspector finds non-compliant design, he refuses to issue the Design Certificate until he has been given amended design drawings. Given that the architect will have to explain any such delays to his client, the architect will make sure the designs are right in the first place. This raises design standards.

9. If the Approved Inspector finds non-compliant construction, he tells the contractor and the architect, and he has the ultimate sanction of being able to issue a “Cease Works Notice”. He will refuse a Completion certificate until the matter is put right.

10. The Approved Inspector inspects 100% of designs and 100% of sites. On top of this, the building control authority profiles risk, and inspects a small number of designs and building works as indicated by its risk analysis, to ensure that the overall system is working properly.

11. If the Approved Inspector is negligent, he can be struck off the register and can be sued.

12. Latent Defects Insurance, paid for by the developer with a one-off up-front payment, is put in place to pick up any defects which get past. (The detail needs further discussion.)

3. Approved inspectors, independent company auditors, and the UK

This system resembles the system of independent auditors of company accounts. A company has an internal accountant. The independent auditor inspects the annual accounts and signs off on them. The accounts are lodged to the Companies Registration office. The auditor is paid for by the company and is answerable to the State. The auditor is not responsible for the complex task of preparing the accounts in the first place: his sole task is to check for financial probity.

A developer wants to build a building. The Approved Inspector inspects the design and the construction and signs off on them. The designs are lodged at the Building Control Authority. The Inspector is paid for by the developer, and is answerable to the Building Control Authority. The architect, engineer and builder have the complex task of designing and building the building; the inspector’s task is to focus exclusively on building regulations compliance.

This Approved Inspector system resembles the “Approved Inspector option” in the building control system in England and Wales. The system is also the same as that in Northern Ireland except that here, the Approved Inspector, answerable to the local authority, substitutes for the N.I. building inspector in local authority employment.

4. Why is this system better than that in S.I. 9?

  • The cost to the State is minimal. The developer pays the fee of the Approved Inspector. The only cost to the State is to maintain the register and monitor the operation of the system. This could be funded through an appropriate licence fee.
  • The learning experience for a young architect of having their designs audited by an experienced architect or engineer will be intense and immensely fruitful. This will drive better design standards.
  • The learning experience for a contractor is to have the experienced Approved Inspector arrive on site, who has inspected many such sites and knows what to look for, concerned with nothing except building regulations compliance, with local authority backing.
  • The system is better for the State. It will deliver better design and construction, not just better paperwork.
  • It gives the State an additional layer of protection. The Approved Inspector with annually renewed and proven professional indemnity insurance stands between the building defect and the exchequer.
  • The system has the capability of solving problems around experienced technologists whose livelihoods are undermined by S.I. 9.
  • It solves the self-builder issue. The system gives the self-builder a straightforward independent inspection system which he pays for, the same as anybody else. If his designs are good enough – they pass, at no cost to him. If they are not good enough, he must prepare an adequate design the same as anybody else, however he so chooses. If his building is good enough when the Approved Inspector arrives – that is fine. If not, the self-builder must rectify the defects the same as anybody else.
  • It solves the FDI issue. S.I. 9 was introduced to solve problems in the residential sector but affects all construction projects of any significance. By revoking S.I. 9, it allows the technologically advanced (Intel) FDI project proceed under self-certification, as is better for many reasons.
  • The system requires no change to construction contracts and hence will not cause delays in the construction sector. The Approved Inspector operates independently of the contract administrator (Architect or Engineer) and has statutory authority.
  • The system is better for the consumer. Per the submission of the National Consumer Authority, this will give better results than a system of self-certification.
  • The system protects the consumer from loss with a no-fault system of redress and no litigation is needed.
  • The person who buys or rents a new home gets independent third-party audit by experienced professionals, answerable to the local authority.
  •  The system is better for the construction sector. It will drive higher standards through dedicated experienced inspectors who with larger and recurring workloads will feed-back into better design and better building.
  • Through feedback to the local authorities of the inspectors’ experience across many designs and sites, systemic problems will be spotted earlier.

5. Conclusion

A system as outlined above can be set up quickly. It involves no major change in existing contractual and legal structures. It needs no primary legislation: the Building Control Act already provides for the designation of such persons to act in this capacity.

Such a system will have the support of the consumer organisations and the public.

The above opinion piece was written by Michael Collins (RIAI President 1986-1987) and Eoin O Cofaigh (RIAI President 1998-1999) in late 2013. It has since been updated to refer to the new SI 9 of 2014 and is submitted here by Eoin O Cofaigh.

 

 

Eoin O Cofaigh – two weeks gone: BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

performance_review-5

An opinion piece by Eoin O Cofaigh MRIAI, RIAI President, 1998-1999, RIAI current member of council

So who do the new regulations protect?

The RIAI Council agreed unanimously last January that “self-certification (such as the regulations provide for) will not adequately protect the consumer” for whom the Government introduced these regulations in the first place. No backing there! This position is close to that of the National Consumer Association, who in their submission on the draft regulations said that independent inspections were needed; as, indeed, did the report of the Government’s own Pyrites Panel, who wrote the same thing.

The building regulations which came into law last week create a huge structure under which the construction industry regulates itself, by getting the architect to certify that everybody else has done their work properly. Now who, with the most rudimentary understanding of human nature, could imagine that a system which allows X to dump responsibility for what they do onto some other private person, will result in that same X carrying out their work better?

The winners and losers under the new regulations

The winners? Contractors and subcontractors, who are distanced from liability for their own work, this being covered by the “Assigned Certifier”; lawyers, who are circling the regulations in happy anticipation of future growth in litigation; and the Government, who gain plaudits for, as they tell us, “sorting out the Priory Hall mess” and for some tough talking about construction sector cowboys.

The losers are a rather wider category. They include the self-builders who, notwithstanding Ministerial promises, will be compelled to employ registered builders if they want to borrow to build or to sell their houses. They also include businesses saddled unnecessarily with increased compliance costs in what international surveys identify as already one of the least competitive construction regulation systems in the developed world; architectural technologists, whose livelihood has been largely closed down; and large numbers of architects, lumbered with liability for certifying other peoples’ work, for an hourly recompense in the region of the national minimum wage. But the biggest loser by far is the Irish people, who have once again been sold a building regulations pup.

Loser 1 – The Irish people

The people of Ireland: taxpayers, home buyers and citizens generally: lose under the new regulations. Home buyers lose because they get more paper, not better building; because if the building goes wrong, they face a nightmare of legal cobwebs; and because they have been conned into a second-best system. Taxpayers will lose because they will have to pick up the tab for future Priory Halls and future pyrites problems which the new regulations will not prevent. Citizens generally lose because building control is too important an issue for it to be treated as a second-class subject.

Loser 2 – Small businesses

Small businesses doing building work lose because they are now saddled with extra costs of paying for certifiers and more paperwork for which they never asked. They lose because the regulations require the local authority to sign off on the final paperwork before the building or works can be opened or occupied. This will interfere with licensing applications and delay opening retail premises at busy times of the year. They lose because even projects taking a couple of weeks are subject to the new regulations.

Loser 3 – Foreign direct investment

Large or even small firms investing in Ireland, who never asked for these regulations, lose. The requirement that plans and specifications are to be sent to the local authority to be available to interested parties opens up vital intellectual property issues for firms who have valuable product and facility data to protect. The delay issues they face, added to those around the planning process, make the Irish construction regulation process even less competitive.

Loser 4 – Self-builders

Notwithstanding everything the Minister and his Department have said in recent weeks, the Completion Certificate must be signed by “ the Principal or Director of a building company only”. The Law remains the Law. Nothing a Minister says can change the Law of the Land. When a bank wants evidence of proper completion before handing out a mortgage, they can point to a defective Completion certificate as a reason not to lend. When a self-builder needs to sell a home, a purchaser can do likewise. Self-builders, who never asked for these regulations, have been saddled with totally unnecessary extra costs.

Loser 5 – Architectural Technologists

Architectural Technologists all over Ireland lose. The regulations make it impossible for them to provide the service to their clients which they have been doing for decades. They cannot act as “Design Certifier” or “Assigned Certifier” and their clients must now go elsewhere.

Loser 6 – Certifiers

Architects and other certifiers lose because the extra work which it has become clear is needed to deliver the mountains of paper; and the extra liability of having to certify the work which the builder, plumber, electrician, carpenter, engineer, fire specialist, window maker and more have done, are totally out of proportion to the fee they can expect to be paid. Many architects have had to emigrate in recent years and these regulations will push more of them to the breadline.

Winner 1 – The Government

The short-term reward of tough talk always wins votes, while the long-term failure to sort out the problem of bad building will be somebody else’s problem.

Winner 2 – The builders

The builders now see the architect having to certify that the builder’s work complies with the building regulations! What a let-off! They can escape responsibility themselves, and with the Minister’s repeated promise of a “Statutory Register of Builders in 2015”, they are clear winners.

Winner 3 – The lawyers

The new regulations are so self-contradictory and vague that a leading Senior Counsel has predicted more litigation. Litigation is good for lawyers, but not so good for those – winners and losers alike – who have to pay for it.

Winner 4 – The professional organisations

The last group of winners are the professional bodies who take in the annual retention fees which the certifiers must pay. It is now more or less impossible to work in Ireland as an architect, never mind calling yourself an architect, unless you are on the relevant register. At an annual cost of hundreds of euro, the guaranteed yearly fees will be a boon.

A proper system of regulation

A proper system of independent inspectors of construction design and execution was and remains possible. Analogous to company auditors, such a system would be at no cost to the public purse. It would “tick all the boxes” for people taking responsibility for their own work, leading to better building. Such a system can be seen in operation on the adjoining island, anywhere east of Holyhead. No Priory Hall or pyrites problems there.

The new building regulations spawn mounds of paper and digital information. They distance the local authorities from any duty of inspection. They continue with self-certification in a sector of industry which, of all sectors, needs the most stringent public inspection.

The regulations do nothing to prevent another Priory Hall or pyrites disaster. They will not prevent a future Minister having to again dig into the public pocket to underwrite the next round of repairs to distressed homeowners’ dwellings. They are a huge missed opportunity, from a Government who knew the proper solution and who ignored it.

Eoin O Cofaigh, 18th March 2014

RIAI President, 1998-1999

Clear and auditable trail: consumer protection? BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

pigsG

In a recent Dail exchange the two pillars of BC(A)R SI.9 are reiterated by Minister Hogan, that of traceability and accountability, a clear and auditable trail of those involved in the construction process to enhance consumer protection under the  Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014).

Link to Dáil Questions by Tomas Pringle (Independent TD)

Comment:

Traceability and Accountability:

The online Building Control Management System (BCMS) has been suggested by Minister Hogan and the Department as offering a secure store for all documentation required under the new regulation. Unfortunately this is not the case. In a previous post we noted this was not the case (Link to bregs blog post: no checks of designer,builder,or assigned certifier on bcms):

One of the key omissions of the new Building Control Management System (BCMS) is that there appears to be no checks on the legitimacy and qualifications of the person registering for the system and the legitimacy and qualifications when assigning the Designer, Builder or Assigned Certifier. Currently (as the system stands) it is possible to register for the system under a fake email and user name, as this is all that is required. There would appear to be no checks upon the name or qualifications of the builder. You could possibly use a fictitious name of a builder and the system may allow this to be an Assigned Builder.

clear and auditable trail

The Department and Minister Hogan have suggested that there will be a clear trail of documentation what will be accessible to consumers. In a previous post we noted under the Code of Practice there may not be a  “clear and auditable trail” or record under BC(A)R SI.9. (Link to bregs blog post: irish building magazine: surveyors appeal to government; bcar si.9):

Under the Code of Practice local authorities have avoided the necessity to retain submitted documents made under the new regulation. They are required only to retain a register or list of documents, not the actual documents themselves. In fact the responsibility for maintenance of all records resides with private companies or individuals, the Design and Assigned Certifiers, who could be employees of development companies. This would appear to be a key flaw in the new system. If Certifiers go bankrupt, are wound down or simply mislay electronic records key information required by consumers trying to obtain redress for defects post-completion through the courts may not be available. As this system has no security protocols there is no way to guarantee the veracity of information lodged at present. These are two major shortcomings in the current system.

Consumer protection

Deirdre Ni Fhloinn, specialist construction lawyer and consultant presented that there was no improvement to consumers rights under the new regulation at an Engineers Ireland CPD  on 17th January 2014. This legal perspective was explored in her recent post on the blog (Link to blog piece here: will bcar si 9 bring any benefit to consumers?):

“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.”

Conclusion

Minister Hogan has confirmed in a Morning Ireland RTE radio interview on 28 February 2014 “There is no change in the technical performance standards in respect of a newly finished home……whether you’re a self build assigned certifier or whether you’re a professional person we want to ensure that what people sign up for is actually what has happened along the chain of responsibility in the course of the construction of the home.” Link to audio clip here: Minister Hogan defends BCAR SI9

Currently at time of writing there are no revised versions of either public or private forms of contracts that incorporate BC(A)R SI.9 into standard conditions. This was one of the reasons for deferral tabled by the representative body for architects (RIAI) in letters to Ministers Hogan and Bruton last January and discussed in the same radio programme. The compelling case for deferral was noted in our previous blog post riai confirms call for deferral of bcar si-9

What appears to have been delivered, at enormous cost to the industry and consumer, is an inadequate online system that is not secure and can be easily manipulated; a public record that does not keep any of the technical documentation lodged for access by consumers (only notices received and issued as confirmed in Code of Practice) and finally a regulatory system that does not deliver any improvements to technical standards or enhancements to consumer protection. All with a morass of unintended consequences and increased costs across the entire spectrum of construction industry. Self-builders and farmers in particular will bear the increased cost of the mandatory requirement to use a privately registered main contractor for projects. Industry estimates BC(A)R SI.9 could cost the industry and consumer €3bn by 2020 or 30,000 jobs.

What a wasted opportunity.

In posts to follow we will be concentrating on possible solutions or more effective practical alternatives and “fixes” for some of the problems with BC(A)R SI.9 highlighted. Will we see more part-deferrals like SI.105,  introduced for hospitals and schools on 7th March? Industry and consumer calls would appear to be getting louder for the introduction of an immediate transition period of 12 months. This could afford stakeholders and government an opportunity to come together, address and remedy some of the unintended consequences of Building Control (Amendment)Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). These are impacts on commercial fit-out projects, SME’s, foreign direct investment projects, self-builders and farmers, groups one would not immediately associate with projects like Priory Hall or the pyrite scandal, the specific target of the new regulation.

________

Dáil Extract to follow:

Question No. 7

Chun an Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil:
To the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government:

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has considered the concerns of the RIAI in respect of the new regulations regarding the inspection of building works at key stages during construction; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Thomas Pringle.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 12th March, 2014.

Ref No: 11912/14

REPLY

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Mr. P. Hogan)

Every effort has been made to ensure that arrangements have been in place for a successful transition to the new building control arrangements on and from 1 March 2014.

The new online Building Control Management System (BCMS) has been developed to provide a common platform for clear and consistent administration of building control matters across the local authority sector. Briefing and guidance on the new system has been provided for local authority staff and representatives of the key construction sector professional bodies and the Construction Industr y Federation in recent weeks.

The definitive Code of Practice for Inspecting and Certifying Buildings and Works, was circulated to industry stakeholders on 7 February 2014.

Standard forms of contracts used for both private and public sector projects fall to be revised to reflect the new regulatory environment. The Government Construction Contracts Committee and the key construction professional bodies both report strong progress in advancing this work within their respective sectors. The Government has established an oversight group to ensure no unavoidable delays will occur in relation to critical public infrastructure projects at a time when construction activity and employment depends significantly on public sector investment. Briefing and guidance is available within the public and private sector to deal with contractual challenges and procurement issues that will inevitab ly arise as change takes place.

The above measures (i.e. the BCMS, the Code of Practice and guidance on contracting matters) are the key supports necessary to ensure the new regulatory arrangements can work well in practice.

C oncerns that the new regulations prevent a self-build situation are unfounded although all house-builders/owners must comply with the relevant requirements . An owner who intends to self-build will, as before, assume legal responsibility for ensuring that the building or works concerned are compliant and they will be required, as builder, to sign the Undertaking by the Builder and the Certificat e of Compliance on Completion.

As local authorities and industry now move to full implementation of the new regulatory arrangements, my Department will continue to work with all parties to ensure they understand their obligations and the steps necessary to meet them.

 

Opinion piece: Cost/Benefit? BC(A)R SI.9 of 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team

Cost-Benefit-or-Benefit-Cost-Analysis-242x300

The 1st of March has come and gone and the world has not stopped. With the implementation of BC(A)R SI.9 upon us, let’s look at the possible costs and benefits of this awkward regulation. Under the proposed system what is different? Is it all bad? The answer we suggest is no and yes.

Current system before BC(A)R SI.9 introduction

Department and Ministerial statements suggest SI.9 will bring additional protections to consumers. Reinforcing the current system of self-regulation (light-touch) has been targeted specifically at the speculative residential market, the “build for sale” sector. Previously we had developer-owners procuring developments without competent of formally-trained designers involvement, little or no professional inspections at site stage (no independent inspections) and very cursory inspections at completion stage by professionals who self-certified compliance, frequently based on visual inspections only.

The independence and validity of these certificates were questionable as the service was paid for by the owner-developer. Essentially the certifier was an employee. Owner-developers could create special purpose vehicles (SPV’s) or off the shelf companies that could be wound down after developments had been concluded to minimise liability. If defects occured post completion owners were left to seek redress through the high court. Developers and professionals employed had to have assets or professional insurance to target in actions. Owners were left to seek redress through the courts with no guarantee of success. Small individual owner-builders could elect to self-build, frequently building their own homes to superior standards for less than the cost of speculatively build dwellings. Farmers could build their own agricultural buildings.

Remember big developers (e.g. Zoe Developments) who completed extraordinary numbers of inner city Dublin apartments over a number of years without the involvement of architects. We are left with the legacy of incredibly poor cost-driven design for decades to come. The best way for a consumer to ensure a quality build was to appoint an architect for a full-service appointment from inception to completion.

Current system after 1st March 2014: BC(A)R SI.9

No requirement for professional or appropriately formally-qualified persons to complete planing applications, disabled access certificates or fire certificate applications (i.e. no registration of title). No requirement for professional indemnity insurances to in place post completion of projects. However there is a new requirement for professional inspections at site stage. New certifier roles are a good thing, but their influence is limited to site stage and is only restricted to building control compliance, a duty mostly completed by independent local authority inspections in most countries in the world. As owner-developers employees (in the “build-for-sale” sector) the new certifier roles may be subject to influence. Builder-developers can still create off-the-shelf companies (SPV’s) for specific developments which limit liability for them post completion. There is no requirement for certifiers to have professional indemnity insurance in place for a period after developments have been completed. Owners still left to seek redress through the courts with no guarantee of success. Individual self-builders can no longer elect to build their own homes- they now must employ voluntarily registered main contractors to undertake this role. As a result almost 1/3 of self-builders will not be able to afford to build their own homes. This may lead to a 17% drop in house completions annually. In addition most farm buildings will also be required to have a main contractor involvement along with new certifiers, increasing costs in line with those of self-builders. The best way still for a consumer to ensure a quality build is to appoint an architect (separate to certifier roles) for a full-service appointment from inception to completion.

Delays

Due to the late introduction of the final drafts of both the amendment and the code of practice the industry would appear to be not ready for SI.9. Delays that already have started happening in public and private sector projects (design team appointments etc) may be costly and also pressurise an already difficult situation for many contractors. Ill-conceived wording in the regulations may extend “untenable liability” on new roles and “vague and loose” language used may end up being proven in the courts. Recent Senior council opinion on SI.9 confirms that many serious flaws remain with very onerous implications for professionals undertaking new certifier roles. Various key stakeholders (for example the representative body for architects the RIAI) have made requests for SI.9 to be deferred on these and other grounds. Based on industry estimates the bottom line number of €600m equates to 6,000 jobs lost: the cost to the industry, government and taxpayer for this year . By 2020, in 6 years, SI.9 may cost the country close to €3bn, or 30,000 construction jobs. The recent part deferral published on 7th March 2014 SI.105 would suggest that some state bodies and departments are unprepared for the new regulations and this is confirmation. There is widespread belief by commentators that this part-deferral of hospital and school projects will be extended to other building types similarly affected (e.g. agricultural buildings, public housing, ghost-estate completions, foreign direct investment projects)

Do the benefits of SI.9 outweigh the costs?

How professionals now grapple with the complex and somewhat contradictory issues in the new regulation remains to be seen. With two weeks already gone since the implementation date we still await comprehensive professional guidance from the key stakeholder representative bodies on numerous aspects of the regulation. Two key questions remain:

1. The new system is a highly elaborate form of self-certification, which is a system of regulations by now discredited in the banking, childcare, Garda, clerical and construction sectors. Why?

2. In England, there is a simple system of “Approved Inspectors” which the client pays for but which answers to the local Council. Perfect. Zero cost to the State. Self-building is not only accepted but encouraged. Why not?

Independent Inspections are the answer.

The above opinion piece was submitted by Maoilíosa Mel Reynolds on 14th March 2014.

 

Press Piece: War of words over cost of BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

argument-over-a-card-game

It’s getting hard to keep up with all the exposure Building Control (Amendment)Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) is getting throughout the country. We thought the attention would wane somewhat this month following implementation. However it seems that the topic is just gathering pace as the unintended consequences begin to dawn on various different stakeholders. In this piece from the Connemara Journal on March 12th 2014 the local councillors clash over the new regulation. Some of the local representatives in the article seem to suggest that in 90 days when local elections arrive BC(A)R SI.9 may be a hot topic and an election issue. Certainly with farmers and agricultural buildings joining the ranks of disenfranchised self-builders it would appear the grass roots are not happy at all. Link to Connemara Journal article:

http://connemarajournal.ie/war-words-cost-building-regulations/

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Extract from article:

War of words of cost of new building regulations— March 12, 2014

New building regulations signed into law by Minister Phil Hogan are putting the self-build industry at risk, and piling further financial strain on those planning on constructing their own home.

This was the warning issued last week by a number of current and former councillors, as the war of words over the actual cost of the new regulations – which became law on March 1 – shows no signs of abating.

While both sides of the debate seem to agree that higher standards and a degree of regulation are to be welcomed, the cost of these regulations to the customer is a bone of contention – with estimates of the actual cost per home ranging from €1,000 to €20,000.

The regulations require: the submission of compliance drawings and documentation to local authorities; the development of an inspection plan by an assigned certifier; and the signing of mandatory certification of compliance by the designer prior to construction, and by the assigned certifier and the builder when the building is complete.

The position of the Department for the Environment, Community and Local Government is that the regulations will ‘set out to prevent the future reoccurrence of poorly constructed dwellings, pyrite damage and structures breaching fire regulations left as a legacy of a poorly regulated housing boom.’

Opposing the reguations, Cllr Tom Welby, while acknowledging the need for ‘an element of regulation in the sector’, said: ‘The Minister and Department have gone completely over the top in relation to single rural houses, which have been the preferred option of the majority of young people in rural communities.

‘[These] regulations will add in the region of €10,000 to €20,000 to the cost of construction of a single rural house as the level of inspection from professional architects and engineers will be increased considerably, and the pool of qualifying builders has been greatly diminished.’

Former councillor Josie Conneely, who has been in the building trade for 35 years, says that the new building regulations and planning rules will hit the Connemara area very badly, and claims they will ‘put anything from €10,000 to €15,000 on the cost of a new house’.

Minister Hogan’s department, however, issued a statement which suggested a much lower additional cost – dismissing ‘wild exaggerations’ and saying the requirement will typically add between €1,000 and €3,000 per housing unit to the overall building costs.

Fine Gael TD Seán Kyne also criticised the ‘wildly inaccurate and untrue claims being made’, saying that the new regulations would prevent scandals such as the Priory Hall development and the use of pyrite.

Deputy Kyne said: ‘I’m astounded by the peddling by some public representatives of complete nonsense concerning the new regulations.

‘Sadly, some public representatives, clearly with an eye on the upcoming elections, have opportunistically spread inaccuracies and wild exaggerations to the extent that some constituents have contacted me, concerned that they or their families can no longer build their own homes.

‘The fact is that nothing in the new regulations prevents direct labour or a person from building their own home.

‘Owners are still required to be sure that the persons they engage to carry out works are competent but are also now obliged to ensure that there is a clear point of responsibility at each stage, with each relevant person declaring their work to be of good quality and of meeting the minimum standards.

‘The new Building Control Regulations are very welcome because they establish a clear chain of responsibility for building works. With enhanced traceability and accountability, homeowners will enjoy increased confidence at every stage of the building process.

‘Any problems that might arise will be identified earlier with a clear point of responsibility, which is hugely important in terms of finding a solution.’

Mr Conneely, a Fianna Fáil candidate for Connemara in the upcoming local elections, also warned that the new system will put some smaller builders out of business and will affect local building suppliers badly.

Mr Conneely added: ‘The regulations are a tough blow on community organisations that are involved in worthwhile projects. I know of groups in Carna, for instance, that are in the middle of fine projects and they are now facing very big extra bills for engineers and architects.’

The Department points out that there has been no change to the standards required of new buildings – and say that the regulations simply put in place a series of checks throughout the building process.

Tom Healy, a Chartered Structural Engineer in private practice in Clifden since 1987, said: ‘Unfortunately despite the regulations being signed into law, there has been little advice or support forthcoming to either customers or the construction industry – meaning that the new regulations are somewhat daunting to all concerned.

‘There are now many concerns that this may end the ability of people to build their own homes as well as driving up costs for all involved.

‘It is unfortunate that instead of an incremental and gradual process of improved regulation, the government has seen fit to apply a level of regulation that some would feel overzealous, with no consideration for the individual’s ability to afford the new costs.’

Dáil debates: Enforcement? BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

Are-you-ready-for-the-Touch-Point-Explosion1

In the following Government Debate from last year Minister Phil Hogan notes that statistics on enforcement procedures were due to be published. These will be of great interest to stakeholders in the construction industry. Enforcement of the regulations is one area where there has widespread industry concern recenty. Key stakeholders the ACEI, SCSI and RIAI (representative bodies for engineers, surveyors and architects) have all been critical of the lack of adequate resources allocated to Local Authorities to administer the new regulations. The RIAI recently came under fire for breaking ranks with others and formally requesting deferral of SI.9 in January. A lack of resources at local authoroty level was one of the issues in these formal letters to Ministers Hogan and Bruton.

Statistics on enforcement have not been available for some time. At around the same time as Building Regulation Advisory Board was suspended in 2012 the reporting of statistics relating to local authority procedures seems to have been discontinued by the Department.

In a recent Independent article on implementation on 11th March author Ken Whelan noted “It is understood that the county councils have asked the Department of the Environment to delay the introduction of the regulations until they have the necessary staff capable of dealing with the updated building regulations”. Given recent lay-offs in Local Authorities it is hard to believe there are adequate resources allocated to the new regulations. This is of particular concern to the industry with respect to completion stages: owners may not inhabit complete buildings until completion documentation required under BC(A)R SI.9 has been approved and validated by Local Authorities. In 2007 there were less than 70 building control officers for the entire country.

Link to Fire Safety Regulations: 23 Oct 2013: Dáil debates (KildareStreet.com)

http://www.kildarestreet.com/debates/?id=2013-10-23a.492&s=”Clare+daly”+enforcement+building+control#g493.q

______________

Extract:

Dáil debates Wednesday, 23 October 2013; Other Questions: Fire Safety Regulations

Clare Daly (Dublin North, Socialist Party)

12. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 100 of 23 October 2012 in which he noted that the local building control authorities are empowered to bring summary prosecutions for building code offences in the District Court and have wide powers to make application to the High Court to secure orders where buildings do not comply with the requirements of the building regulations and that local authorities have further strong enforcement powers available under the Fire Services Act 1981 while acting in their capacity as fire authorities, the uses of the above powers to enforce fire safety compliance in the 12 months since he gave this information to Dáil Éireann following the Priory Hall saga and in view of the unknown widespread non-compliance with fire safety regulations leaving whole apartment blocks as fire hazards noted at Foxford Court, Lucan, Thornfield Square, Clondalkin and Belmayne among others. [44769/13]

Phil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)

As indicated in the reply to Question No. 100 of 23 October 2012, local authorities have extensive powers under the Building Control Acts which they can use to enforce compliance with the building regulations. However, there is a time limit of five years after a building has been completed during which an enforcement notice may be served by a local building control authority.

The case at Priory Hall demonstrates Dublin City Council’s effective use of its powers to enforce compliance with fire regulations. Other local authorities have also used the courts to effect compliance with planning permissions, building regulations and fire regulations, all of which are critically relevant to the safety of building occupiers and the quality of the built environment. Results can also be achieved, and often are, through discussion and persuasion with the threat of legal action.

Comprehensive statistical returns on enforcement activity under the Building Control Act and the Fire Safety Act are not yet available for the period in question – I will submit them to the Deputy when I get them – and will be published in line with normal arrangements in due course. The Department continues to liaise with local authorities in regard to significant building control issues that have arisen in a number of multi-unit developments across the country, including those instances that have been raised by the Deputy. I expect local authorities to continue to use all of the powers currently available to them to address serious building defects.

Clare Daly (Dublin North, Socialist Party)

This is an incredibly serious issue which obviously entered the public domain through the fire safety concerns in Priory Hall but it is most definitely not confined to Priory Hall. I am not sure from the Minister’s response if he is saying that all the other developments cited in the question are outside the time limit period and therefore the best that the local authorities can hope for is to nicely ask the developers to comply. The reality, fox example, particularly in case of Foxford Court in Lucan is that a similar developer has built in Balbriggan. I know from a resident who submitted a freedom of information request that the local authority has not rigorously pursued the developer to ensure fire safety compliance and its has adopted a softly softly approach which is not good enough when lives are potentially at risk. an the Minister confirm to the House what was the particular breach of regulations of the fire safety legislation in terms of Priory Hall and can he give us an assurance that the same breach of the regulations has not occurred in respect of other developments cited or any other developments?

Phil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)

As the Deputy will note, we have made substantial progress in respect of Priory Hall in resolving these issues.

Our approach is housing-led. In other words, we would get people into homes as quickly as possible with the necessary supports and thereby ensure that they do not spend any longer than they have to in emergency accommodation. We are very much aware that we are facing into the winter and that people will be looking for housing and emergency accommodation. This is a major problem in Dublin in particular. We are working with the authorities throughout the country to ensure that we address the problem. It is not easy to do that. It is an issue that has been raised over many years. It is one on which we have a policy. An oversight committee is advising me on the policy and I am determined that we will work on that issue with great priority.

Patrick Nulty (Dublin West, Independent)

With respect to the Minister of State, it is all an elaborate fiction. There are 100,000 people on the housing list. I do not think any Deputy in this House is not inundated with requests from people who are unable to access appropriate housing for their needs. The Minister mentioned that she wanted to get solutions. More European funding would be available through the European Investment Bank, for example, if we had a proper regulatory framework for approved housing bodies. When will she bring forward legislation to bring that in and allow us to access the extra funding that would be available?

I ask the Minister of State not to listen to the spin that her officials seem to spinning and to talk to people at the front line. She should go out and talk to homeless people and ask them is the system working. I can tell her that it is not.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)

Will the Deputy put a question to the Minister of State?

Patrick Nulty (Dublin West, Independent)
It is not good enough for Ministers to come into the House and give the same spin, bluff and rubbish when citizens’ lives are being destroyed by austerity and the Government’s policies.

Jan O’Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)

I want to absolutely reject what Deputy Nulty said about spin and bluff. First, we are working with approved housing bodies on a regulatory framework and we have agreed a voluntary framework with them which eventually will move to a statutory framework. Second, we have applied for funding from the European Union under the JESSICA fund and we hope to get an answer on that soon. Such funding would address the problems of flats in Dublin and in other cities that are currently in need of renovation and would provide homes for people. Third, as I said, we have maintained the homeless budget and stabilised the general housing budget and that has been done against a difficult financial situation where we are under the troika whether we like it or not—–

Patrick Nulty (Dublin West, Independent)

Increase the taxation of the wealthy.

Jan O’Sullivan (Limerick City, Labour)

—–and considering the difficulties in the economy, we have a done a very good job in maintaining budgets in the housing area. Admittedly there are huge problems, but it is simply unfair to suggest that we are not addressing them.

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

consumer-protection-act

This is a guest post submitted on 14th March 2014 for the blog to put slides delivered at the Engineers Ireland CPD event of January 2014 in context by DEIRDRE NÍ FHLOINN, Consultant, Reddy Charlton, Solicitors. Guest post to follow:

I was recently asked to address a CPD event organised by Engineers Ireland on the subject of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (BCAR 2014), with a particular focus on the consumer perspective.

I considered in that respect whether the Regulations created any new rights for consumers.

When publishing the 2013 Regulations in April 2013, the Minister characterised the Regulations as a rolling set of guarantees

http://www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/BuildingStandards/News/MainBody,32735,en.htm.

BCAR 2014 has been described by various commentators, and in the media, as being intended to deal with major building failures such as that which occurred at the Priory Hall development in Dublin.

The residents at Priory Hall had two enormous problems.  The first was that the building was defective and uninhabitable.  The second was that the builder did not rectify those defects, with the result that the residents were left facing the cost of repairing the defects themselves. The new systems introduced by BCAR 2014 may go some way to preventing the first problem from arising on another development, but do not deal with the second problem.

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.

The usual contract structure for purchase of a new house or apartment is that the purchaser will into a site transfer agreement with the landowner, and a separate building contract with a builder.  If a defect arises, the primary route for recovering the cost of repairing that defect should be the building contract.  However, homeowners face a number of hurdles in this respect.

The standard Law Society building contract is signed under hand, with a limitation period for actions of 6 years from the date of the breach, rather than 6 years from the date of discovery of the breach.    In  addition, there is a restriction on assignment of building contracts without the builders consent.  Most purchasers buying a house or apartment less than 6 years old will not insist on receiving an assignment of the building contract in their favour, and thus have no remedy in contract if a defect emerges.

Even assuming that the homeowner does have a contract with the builder, the homeowner will need to prove that there was a breach of that contract and that the defect resulted from that breach.  The homeowner may have little in the way of documentation in order to prove this.  One significant development from BCAR 2014 is that the volume of documentation available from the Register (or via the Freedom of Information legislation) should improve the position of litigants in this respect.

Without a contract, the second purchaser can only rely on the law of tort, which generally does not allow recovery of the cost of repairing a defective building against a builder.  The position in tort as against professionals involved in the building process is different, and does allow recovery of the cost of repairing a defective building where there is a relationship of reliance and proximity between the parties.

The homeowner is in a vastly different position to an employer procuring, say, an office building; the homeowner appoints no architect or client representative to monitor the build or to carry out inspections.

The only party (other than a certifier appointed under BCAR 2014) that is legally entitled to carry out inspections during the construction of a residential development is the Building Control Authority, which has extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under the Building Control Act 1990. Building Control Authorities are protected from civil liability for the cost of rectifying buildings that not comply with the Building Regulations by s. 6 (4) and s .21 of the Building Control Act 1990, and via a line of caselaw from the UK that is reflected in those provisions.  The legislation grants powers to BCAs rather than assigning duties to them.

The result is that the party with the most power to intervene in the building process has no financial interest in the outcome, and the party that will ultimately carry the financial risk of a failure to comply with the Building Regulations, the purchaser, has little ability to influence the building process.

A coherent and predictable system of compensation for consumers must take the existing legal environment as its starting point in order to provide a meaningful, accessible financial remedy in the event that defects emerge in dwellings.   Defects insurance should support that legal remedy. This is particularly important in light of the recent calls from the ESRI and elsewhere about the number of new dwellings required to meet demand in the coming years.

Deirdre Ni Fhloinn is specialist construction lawyer and consultant at Reddy Charlton Solicitors. This post is a general commentary on certain issues arising from the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

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Link to: “Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2013 Legal issues – compliance and the consumer perspective Engineers Ireland 17 January 2014” CPD presentation:

DNIF Final PPT 17 01 2014 (draft of Thursday)

Architect’s Opinion Piece: BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

fot tomasz stokowski-2155 architect at work

‘When small children are presented with a situation they don’t like, they do not resort to reason. Rather, they repeatedly assert what they want. “You have to go to bed.” “No.” “Why not?” “Because I don’t want to”. In place of argument, desire… For some years now, denial and fantasy have been the dominant attitudes, not just of the Irish Government but of the country’s establishment as a whole.’

– Fergal Crehan, “Do Not Want,” tuppenceworth.ie

The introduction of Ireland’s new Building Control regime has been a mess. That is not a controversial statement. What frightens many Irish architects – and frightens is not too strong a word – is the very real possibility of facing massive lawsuits due to excessive risk, and the huge bear-traps that are an inevitable consequence of trying to work a system which is not yet fit for purpose. These are real issues, dissected elsewhere on this blog, and there is no need to rehash them here.

However, there’s an equally important if less tangible difficulty with the way that this has worked out. The issue is purely one of trust. We are so used to analysing the reasons for the outcry of the architectural profession that it’s easy to ignore the detrimental results of the outcry itself. Let’s just remind ourselves: more so now than at any point since the Building Control Act was introduced, Irish architects – and a fair chunk of the building trade in general – routinely assume that those in charge have almost no understanding of the industry they’re supposed to be regulating. The root causes of this assumption are, quite obviously, important; but the antitrust situation in which we find ourselves is possibly more even destructive than its root causes.

The situation is highly reminiscent, in fact, of the introduction of the Public Works Contracts which now have an all-round dire reputation. Many concerns around the contracts were related to straightforward legal issues, but others were ultimately rooted in rhetoric surrounding the contracts rather than the terms of the contract themselves – yet this doesn’t make them any less real. To pick a straightforward example, it became a common industry truism that “the building needs to be fully designed” for works designed by the Employer, even though the contracts don’t overtly require anything of the sort. The industry shaped itself around this perception, regardless of what the contracts actually said. However, if a contractual dispute goes to arbitration over something that’s only perceived to exist, then the effects are real enough – even if you’re on the winning side. When people thought the world was flat, they behaved as if it was flat, and the reality of the situation didn’t really matter. Conflicts only arose when people pointed out that it was round.

Right now, Minister Hogan is intent on behaving as if the world is flat.

This brings us to the issue to which the opening quote alludes. Minister Hogan’s public statements repeatedly tell us what he wants to be true, and architects are growing wearily accustomed to hearing the minister make statements that they do not recognise as accurate. There are almost too many obvious examples to list, but let’s take one that is particularly blatant: Minister Hogan stated repeatedly that there is no bar to self-builders under the new legislation, and they can sign the Certificate Of Compliance required. This certificate clearly states that it is “to be signed by the Principal or Director of a Building Company only” [italics mine], and there is little ambiguity in that sentence. The impression is of someone who believes that he can state what he would like the legislation to say, and that this is more important than trifling matters like the actual text.

In a narrow sense, he is correct. The realpolitik of the situation is that, if the Minister directs County Councils to accept certificates signed by self-builders, they will accept them. Legally, this is a real issue – if someone buys a non-compliant house that has been signed off by an uninsured self-builder, and looks to legal action, we have a messy situation. However, this speculative concern is arguably no more important than the corrosive effect of an entire profession – and quite possibly, industry – who take it as read that the Minister doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

If we try and look at the Building Control system that Minister Hogan seems to want, it’s actually not a bad system in the abstract. Not perfect, mind you, but reasonable on the surface: private assigned certifiers, with statutory inspection rights and duties; builders warranting their own work; a system of documenting and lodging all the certificates and information; and state building control authorities with inspection targets to hit and a requirement to choose the buildings on which they most need to check up. Sensible enough, albeit costly.

The issue with S.I. 9. is simply that, whatever legislation the Minister thinks he’s introduced, this isn’t it. This isn’t quite the worst of sins; there are ways of solving shortcomings in legislation, after all. What’s more toxic is that Mr Hogan’s complete failure to recognise S.I.9’s shortcomings no matter how many times they are pointed out, and indeed his refusal to even acknowledge that serious dissenting voices exist, has caused an entire profession to lose trust in someone who is in a sense their regulator. The other numerous examples of the Minister’s words bearing little relation to the experience of architects – the one to three thousand euro claim, the end to self-certification nonsense, the parroting of the same script about extensive consultation that did not actually occur – just make this worse.

The antitrust issue arguably took root when the draft regulations were published. They showed such a fundamental lack of understanding of how any building is built that many within the industry began to  half-believe those drafting the legislation were just incompetent. In a balanced moment, we would all soberly admit this can’t be entirely true; but once the perception exists, then the behaviour of an entire industry shifts in a way that is very real. We have reached a point where constructive dialogue between the Department and the architectural profession is all but impossible.

This is why S.I. 105 is so disastrous. If you wanted to be charitable, you could argue that S.I. 105 is a pragmatic workaround. The reference to Primary Care Centres gives the game away; the primary reason for this measure is almost certainly to catch projects being procured under PPP systems. These are large projects with preexisting contracts, ones that are prone to legal entanglement, and varying the terms and conditions at this stage would be difficult. No, the problem is entirely to do with perception: the Department insisted repeatedly that there was no issue with the timescale of the legislation’s rollout, and then suddenly acknowledges that there is and produces a workaround… for government buildings only. Had this been flagged, signposted and explained, it might just have been palatable. Instead, it’s created a picture of self-serving incompetence.

In short, the Minister’s conduct has been every bit as toxic as the legislation it has engendered. The decision to tacitly go to war with the very people who are enforcing this putative system will, in itself, cause as much chaos as the inadequate legislation itself. The whole debate has been distorted, because any discussion of Building Control in Ireland now takes place in a long shadow. Step back, and it’s easy to see that the shadow is precisely the shape of Big Phil.

The opinion piece was submitted by Mike Morris on 14th March 2014

BRAB and BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

the_questions_our_healthcare_debate_ignores

The Building Regulations Advisory Body (BRAB) is set up under the Building Control Act to advise the Minister for the Environment on the building regulations. So, what does the BRAB think about the regulations brought in last March? Were they consulted about draft regulations in 2012? Presumably so. Do the BRAB think the 2013 regulations protect the consumer against future Priory Halls? Do they think the regulations protect businesses against the risk of intellectual property theft from all the drawings to be given to the local authority? Did BRAB discuss the possibility of independent inspections, which so many organizations called for in their submissions to the Minister on the draft regulations?

Presumably BRAB meets regularly and somebody keeps a record of what is discussed. There is no detail on the Department of the Environment website about this though. Presumably, too, all this information is available under an FOI request. Is there anybody with any information on when the BRAB last met – it must be since these regulations were introduced last March – who can offer any advice on this?

Link to BRAB – Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government

http://www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/BuildingStandards/BRAB/

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extract from site:

BRAB (Building Regulations Advisory Body)

The Building Regulations Advisory Body (BRAB) is a statutory body appointed by the Minister, under Section 14 of the Building Control Act, 1990 to advise him on matters relating to the Building Regulations. Membership of the body includes representatives from the construction industry and regulators at national and local level. BRAB was originally established in 1992. The current BRAB was appointed for a five-year term by Ministerial Order dated 14 June 2007.

The DEHLG (Building Standards Section) provides secretarial services to the BRAB. The DEHLG develops proposals to amend the Building Regulations and related Technical Guidance Documents (TGD) in consultation with BRAB.

Members of the BRAB:

Mr. Jay Stuart, Chairperson, Integrated Sustainable Design Const.

Mr. Michael Brown, National Standards Authority of Ireland.

Mr. Brian McKeon, Construction Industry Federation.

Dr. Eugene Farrell, Home Bond.

Mr. Mark McAuley, Building Materials Federation.

Ms. Denise Germaine, Chartered Inst. of Architectural Technologists.

Mr. Gerard Grogan, Tánaiste’s nomimee

Mr. Jim Keogh, Electro-Technical Council of Ireland.

Mr. Jack Callanan  National Disability Authority.

Ms. Emer O’Siochru, An Taisce.

Ms. Maria Melia, Chief Fire Officers Associations.

Ms. Ann Mills, City & County Engineers Association.

Mr. Johnny McGettigan, Irish Building Control Institute.

Ms. Minka Louise McInerney, Royal Inst. of the Architects of Ireland.

Mr. Jimmy Keogan, City & County Managers Association.

Ms. Krystyna Rawicz, Society of Chartered Surveyors.

Mr. Gary Treanor, Irish Timber Frame Manufacturers’ Association Ltd.

Mr Sean Balfe, National Standards Authority of Ireland.

Ms. Sarah Neary, Senior Building Adviser, Building Standards, DEHLG.

Mr. Noel Carroll, Senior Housing Adviser, DEHLG.

Ms. Jacqui Donnelly, Architect, Heritage Policy & Architectural Protection, DEHLG.

Ms. Terry Prendergast, National Consumer Agency

Mr Cian O’Lionáin, Principal Officer, Private Housing Sector & Building Standards, DEHLG

Ms Edel Collins, Office of Public Works

Mr Kevin O’Rourke, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

Opinion Piece: A Self-Builder’s thoughts on CIF: BC(A)R SI.9.

by Bregs Blog admin team

philip crampton pat rabbitte and tom parlon 

Myself and my husband attended the CIF Roadshow yesterday. Mr Tom Parlon and Mr Hubert Fitzpatrick and others gave their presentation. I raised the question of self build/direct labour and was told its not banned at the moment, a self builder can still go ahead (next year this will change they said) but they fail to see any professional working alongside self builders. I did state that a self builder CANNOT still go ahead as they are not principals or directors of building companies.

They were basically recruiting people for the ciri at a registration fee of €738 incl vat. (Non profit making they said??) My husband asked if he joined would he be guaranteed work? I think you know the answer to that they said. They were then asked why anyone would join the ciri at that money when there was already the national guild list at €295 plus vat? No reply from the speakers – my husband then added ‘i suppose the national guild is in the bin next year as well!’ Finally they were asked will the people have to be qualified to be on this list? That will be a matter for the Board they said.

The fact is that there WILL be unqualified people on this list because there is NO School for Builders – this list will never, ever be credible. The whole notion of a statutory list for builders is nonsense. I am very caring and am a competent mother who can bandage a knee, give out medicine etc. But i cannot go on a Register of Nurses as i am not qualified to do so. We, as self builders will be lobbying for a Register of Qualified Tradesmen to be available at each Local Authority. Maybe the revenue generated from a modest registration fee can go towards salaries of Building Inspectors. Makes perfect sense to us!

The above opinion piece was submitted by Amanda Gallagher on 14th March 2014.

Extreme caution for employees: BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

caution

In a recent members bulletin the representative body for architects (RIAI) noted some insurance difficulties with respect to Professional Insurances for Building Control (Amendment)Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). In a letter dated January 27th 2014 to the RIAI , Marsh Insurances, a private insurance company with close ties to the RIAI, confirmed insurance cover would be available for members acting as Designed and Assigned certifiers under the new regulations. However the letter avoids any mention of resultant increases in premiums.

One significant issue does remain. For employees signing certificates on behalf of employer’s companies (or local authorities). Cover for these employees has been confirmed to be in place so long as the company’s insurances are mantained. 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.

Extract from the RIAI members’ bulletin below:

“The RIAI  has received a letter confirming that Marsh Insurance will provide cover for architects and employees acting as Assigned Certifier and Design Certifier.  Employees will be covered by the practices P.I.I. even when they leave the practice, so long as P.I.I. remains in place.

Employees acting as Assigned Certifier and Design Certifier may be personally liable in the event that their employer no-longer exists after the demise of the practice. Employees are therefore advised to exercise extreme caution before taking on the roles of Assigned Certifier and Design Certifier. RIAI Insurance Services Marsh Ireland are working on a possible solution to provide professional indemnity insurance for the former employee if the practice no longer holds professional indemnity insurance.

Where members are not insured through Marsh Insurance, the RIAI would advise them to contact their PII insurers or brokers, if they have not already done so, to ensure that they are covered under any existing PII policy to undertake the roles of Ancillary, Design or Assigned Certifier if they intend taking on these roles.”

Building red tape to hit farmers pocket: BC(A)R SI.9

by bregs blog admin team

phil-hogan-app

In this article in the Independent on 11th March author Ken Whelan explores the “blizzard of red tape” that Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) will impose on the rural farming community. Commentators have concentrated on other sectors seriously disadvantaged by BC(A)R SI.9. In this article the unintended consequences on the farming community and qualifying farm buildings come into focus. One wonders as to  the rationale that suggests Priory Hall Fire issues and Pyrite problems in the residential sector should have a bearing on the regulatory procedures involved in the construction of most farm buildings.

http://www.independent.ie/business/farming/building-red-tape-to-hit-farmers-pocket-30079557.html

As most farm buildings are built by farmers themselves, self-built, the agri sector now find themselves in a similar position to residential self-builders. Farmers now will have to employ established main contractors to build agricultural buildings that previous to BC(A)R SI.9 they were able to construct themselves. Local Kerry councillors recently estimated that this could, in addition to increased professional fees, add over 20% to the cost of self-built structures and houses. The representative body for self-builders (IAOSB) have escalated objections regarding this requirement. Their objection centers on the restrictive practice of the government recognised privately owned register of builders CIRI, owned and operated by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF). Link to European Ombudsman complaint here:

http://www.iaosb.com/complaint details to the commission of the european communities concerning failure to comply with community law.html

At the end of the article the author notes “It is understood that the county councils have asked the Department of the Environment to delay the introduction of the regulations until they have the necessary staff capable of dealing with the updated building regulations”. The representative body for architects (RIAI) recently came under fire from the Minister for formally requesting a deferral of SI.9 on the grounds of industry readiness and lack of adequate resources in Local Authorities to implement BC(A)R SI.9. In retrospect it would seem the architects’ robust requests for deferral made in letters to Ministers Hogan and Bruton in January 2014 were accurate. Listen to Robin Mandal, RIAI President on RTÉ Radio 1: News At One Media Player:

http://www.rte.ie/news/news1pm/player.html?20140228,20535683,20535683,flash,232

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Extract from article “Building red tape to hit farmers pocket”, 11 March 2014:

Farmers face another blizzard of statutory red tape under new building control regulations circulated by the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan in the Dáil last week.

The amended controls, which the minister says are necessary to bring building regulation up to speed in the wake of the ‘pyrite’ scandal inDublin, came into operation on the first of this month.

However, the control, though primarily aimed at rogue builders of urban housing estates, will apply throughout the rural construction sector and will cover most types of agricultural buildings.

New farm buildings over one storey high or over 300 sq metres in area, extensions to existing farms buildings, and buildings not used exclusively for plant, machinery or agricultural-related materials are affected by the new rules.

Similarly, new buildings not exclusively used for the housing, care or management of livestock come within the ambit of the new regulations.

The new rules will also apply to any new houses built on sites on farmland.

And in future farmers will find it extremely difficult to ‘self build’ and this measure will have implications for rural employment in the agri-construction sector, as will the requirement for building contractors and sub contractors to register under the regulations before any work can be commenced.

Death knell

The Construction Federation of Ireland (CFI) are one of the registration monitoring bodies tasked with ensuring the new regulations are adhered to.

The new regulations will spell the “death knell of construction in rural Ireland”, one agri-construction source told the Farming Independent this week, while another said the amount of new bureaucratic red tape facing farmers wishing to improve farm infrastructure will be “bewildering”.

The cost implications of the regulations are still being counted by the sector but registration fees, higher insurance premiums, new administration costs and the inevitable cost of the red tape will inflate the costs of farm and rural construction plans.

There are also fears that the completion deadlines for whatever building goes ahead on farms this year will be impossible to meet given the level of outside independent certification that is required under the new regulations.

“You can forget about any building being carried out in rural Ireland or on farms this year because of these new rules,” an industry source told the Farming Independent.

The ban on self-build effectively means that a farmer embarking on a farm building which falls within the regulations will have to employ a registered builder/contractor, a designer to prepare compliant drawings and specifications and a design certifier to confirm compliance and to lodge plans with the local county council and then apply for a commencement order.

It is understood that the county councils have asked the Department of the Environment to delay the introduction of the regulations until they have the necessary staff capable of dealing with the updated building regulations.

Irish Examiner: BC(A)R SI.9 to cost 5-10%

by Bregs Blog admin team

PAFF_091913_boostingdonations_rotator

In the following article a Kerry County Council discussion on Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014) is noted. A local councillor and builder is supportive of the new regulation and confirms the additional cost range associated with the new measures of between 5 and 10% . The new regulations have been widely criticised for increasing costs across the board for the construction sector while not improving standards.

Link to Irish Examiner: Fianna Fáil councillor confirms costs BC(A)R SI.9:

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/fianna-fail-councillor-backs-new-building-rules-261637.html

Targeted at the “build for sale” speculative residential sector the broad-brush measure affects a huge range of buildings; private residential, retail and industrial buildings, retail fit-outs, state projects, agricultural buildings and offices. Recently a deferral has been introduced for some categories of state projects specifically to mitigate on delays and costs of the new regulations to Government projects. Under SI.105 hospitals and school projects can apply to a new board for deferral of the regulation.

The Minister has confirmed that BC(A)R SI.9 will not improve or change the regulations. On RTÉ Radio 1 Minister Hogan 28 February 2014 ”  There is no change in the technical performance standards in respect of a newly finished home. ” Link to radio clip here:

http://www.rte.ie/news/morningireland/

Unfortunately many, such as self -builders (and farmers) find themselves the subject of unintended consequences of the regulation. If this councillor is correct (official industry estimates agree), SI.9 may increase normal building costs by between 5 and 10%, with categories like agricultural and self-building paying over 20% more to employ established main contractors. These are huge costs for no increase in technical standards. Many commentators have suggested BC(A)R SI.9 may just add an additional layer red-tape on many non-residential projects which already have a full-service professional design team. Industry commentators and stakeholders have noted that the recent part-deferral SI.105 introduced may be discriminatory to other classes of buildings.

Extract from article Irish Examiner article:

“Environment Minister Phil Hogan has introduced the Building Control Amendment Regulations 2013 to prevent the recurrence of badly constructed dwellings and structures breaching fire regulations left “as a legacy of a poorly regulated housing boom”.

The initiative has drawn mixed reaction, with claims that it will add to building costs and act as a disincentive to the recovery of the construction industry.

However, Fianna Fáil councillor John Brassil maintained that the regulations would benefit people and would help eliminate “horrors” which had happened in the past. “If someone is building a house now, they can be assured there won’t be cracks, or subsidence,” he said.

“If something like that happens, they will be covered because someone will have signed off on the work and it will be the responsibility of those people to put things right. If people have to pay 5-10% extra they will be assured that if anything goes wrong it will be dealt with.”

Online Petition: Self Build in Ireland- BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

petitions

A group of self-builders have launched an on-line petition this week to progress their objection against Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014). Given the recent part-deferral of the regulations SI. 105 published on 7th March 2014 they feel that the regulations now are particularly discriminatory towards the rights of ordinary citizens to build their own homes. The representative body for self-builders (IAOSB) welcome increased participation of professionals in self-builds but object to the requirement to use an established main contractor. They estimate 17% of all house starts will be abandoned due to the excessive costs of employing established main contractors under SI.9 every year. They have escalated their objections to the european ombudsman against CIRI, the register of contractors which is privately owned and operated by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) and is recognised by government.

There is also unrest amongst established builders due to the cost of the CIF register membership. The CIF  and two other key stakeholders involved in the formation of the regulation, the representative body for architects and engineers (RIAI and ACEI respectively), have both confirmed self-building is no longer possible under Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014).

Link to petition here:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/self-build-rights-ireland

Extract as follows:

SELF BUILD IN IRELAND

Ireland is a nation of Self Builders – little homes dot the countryside – they are what make Ireland ‘home’ to millions of people – these homes are set to be no more. Our Fore-Fathers constructed family homes with their bare hands & they fought for our Freedom. Now in 2014 – We the citizens of Ireland have to fight once more – this time we are fighting for the right to be able to provide a home for our families. We have no intention of making building contractors rich.

We petition the Government of Ireland to hear our voice and restore the right for a family to build their own home without severe financial burden. You have taken this centuries old tradition from us with a strict regime of building control and forcing us to pay thousands extra in professional fees when there is absolutely no need. We are all for tight regulation of the building sector and we implore you to treat us with fairness by setting up an independent building inspectorate. Please do not punish the self builder for the mistakes of the big developers, contractors, engineers, surveyors and architects of the past. We have NO OTHER WAY of owning our own family home, we have enough money for materials and we were going to construct our home with blood, sweat & tears. Please listen to the pleas of the people of Ireland.”

Public housing initiative and BC(A)R SI.9

by bregs blog admin team

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Minister Jan O’Sullivan yesterday launched a 2 year local authority housing initiative. Link here:

http://www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/Housing/News/MainBody,36901,en.htm

Minister O’Sullivan has to be commended for being pro-active on ghost estates and other issues in the housing sector. This recent initiative was somewhat co-incidental with a post we did the same day noting possible costs for SI.9 on her Department. We estimated the cost of SI.9 for professional fees and defensive specifications could be as much as €70m for an average Government capital public housing spend per annum. Based on lower Government spending for 2012 period this could be the cost of SI.9 on public housing for a two year period. We are aware that any Government over-runs will be required to be taken out of department annual budgets, so any costs for SI.9 may result in projects abandoned.

This initiative puts in human terms the possible cost of BC(A)R SI.9 for this sector alone. Based on reduced Government spending for the 2012 period; the administrative costs associated with SI9 could fully absorb the construction budget proposed yesterday by the Minister. BC(A)R SI.9 could cost 450 families their homes over a two year period. We wondered yesterday have Departments other than Health and Education realised the implications on budgets and timescales of Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014).

____________

extract from announcement:

O’Sullivan Launches €68m Local Authority Construction Initiative

11/03/14

Minister for Housing and Planning, Jan O’Sullivan, TD, today (11th March 2014) launched a two year €68m local authority home building initiative.  The investment represents the first return to new mainstream local authority house building since the finance crisis began.

Speaking in Darndale in Dublin 17 at the launch of the programme Minister O’Sullivan stated, “Increasing both public and private housing supply is a priority for the Government.  For the first time in many years I am pleased to announce the restart of a local authority mainstream house building programme.”

Over the next two years €68m will be invested across the country to build new social homes for families in need of housing.  Here in Darndale €7.9m will be invested in Buttercup Park to build 35 new homes and improve the area for the residents.”

“The €68m initiative will see some 449 new homes built across the country in the next two years.  It an important investment but, with a very strong demand for social housing, I am of the view that more resources need to be invested in social housing over the coming years to expand supply.”

“At present we are delivering approximately 5,000 new social homes each year through a variety of avenues including regeneration, direct construction, leasing and the securing of NAMA units.  We are also supporting the not for profit housing sector as it expands its amount of social homes.  This mix of supply from a range of sources is important to meet social housing demand.

“This €68m investment is just one of a number of Government-backed initiatives that are launching in 2014 and will provide high quality homes for families.  These include:

• A €15m fund to bring back into use vacant local authority houses

• A €35m investment over 2014 and 2015 for housing for people with a disability, people without a home and the elderly

• A €30m investment in 2014 to improve the energy efficiency of  local authority housing

• A €10m fund to kick start resolution on the remaining unfinished housing developments.

These are valuable programmes.  Not only will they provide new or better housing for people, they will also create and sustain hundreds of jobs in the construction and green energy sectors.”

Ends.

Ghost estates and public housing: BC(A)R SI.9 no 3?

by Bregs Blog admin team

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The recent deferral SI.105 introduced on 7th march for schools and healthcare buildings appears as a result of issues relating to additional costs, unavailability of professionals as certifiers, time delays due to industry readiness and no revised form of building contract (both private and public sector versions) that incorporates new Building Control (Amendment) Regulation SI.9 of 2014. One would suspect recent robust submissions by the architect’s representative body (RIAI) to Minister Ruairi Quinn, himself an architect and well briefed on the technical complexities of the new regulation, were a factor in getting to grips with the issues earlier than others.

BC(A)R SI.9 affects social housing, capital spend by Defence, Social Welfare (employment exchanges in old-fashioned words), Arts/Heritage (Arts Centres but not work to National Monuments), and OPW (State offices but not Garda stations). SI.9 and SI.105 suggests two main issues:

1. The State looking out for its own interests: GCCC Form for public contracts but ignoring the fact that the private sector forms and clients are equally affected (self-builders, SME’s and other private non-residential)

2. Helping only half of the State spenders (admittedly the larger half) but completely overlooking Govt agencies who have not made representations (other departments that are unaware of implications of SI.9 on annual budgets).

For other departments that may not be as well briefed the same issues may well apply. Here is a link to a recent statement by Minister Jan O’Sullivan on 10th March 2014 regarding public housing:

http://www.environ.ie/en/DevelopmentHousing/Housing/News/MainBody,36875,en.htm

Government spend on public housing  from 2010 to 2012 dropped from €969m to €384m. At an average government spend of €675m per annum (source: Forfas report table 2.12 p 16 below), and assuming 3/4 qualifies under BC(A)R SI.9 this would suggest an annual extra cost (based on official industry estimates) of SI9 to be in region of €40m (8%). This figure is for the design and assigned certifier roles only, and excludes additional costs for ancillary certifiers, increased insurance costs and defensive specifications. The latter could be as much as an additional 5% extra on top of the construction cost of a project. This could bring the additional cost figure to over €70m, a huge impact on the department’s annual budget.

Notwithstanding direct costs, the implementation problems associated with hospitals and schools may apply to public housing and indeed completion of ghost estates. Due to vague wording of the Code of Practice it would appear that personal liability for certifier roles may require individual employees to take out individual professional indemnity insurance separate to companies that they work on behalf of (possibly including employees of local authorities). This early criticism of the Code of Practice appears to remain in the final version. This may result in delays for local authority projects where certifier roles are assumed in-house, as well as outsourced projects.

Many part-completed residential projects require multiple commencement notices. Current and future remaining phases will come under the remit of SI.9 as a result. Extended planning permissions may require material alterations to comply with current revised technical guidance documents (Part L for example). As a result they may require commencement notices and trigger compliance with SI.9.

This is an issue that affects completion of ghost or incomplete housing estates. Professionals and local authorities tasked with completion of these could discover  the legally “loose and vague” language of S.I9 may incur liability for previous stages completed (e.g. drainage or structural infrastructure). Currently there is inadequate provision for exclusions on the certificates issued under SI.9. Future legal actions may well determine these certificates are guarantees for entire developments, even though certifiers may only have been part-involved for works to finish out projects.

Given the technical complexity of SI.9 and the vague liability boundaries in the Code of Practice, Local Authorities may find out pretty soon that public housing/ghost estate projects may encounter similar problems to those that generated the SI.105 deferral for hospitals and schools.

How long will it be before BC(A)R No. 3 of 2014 appears? Deferral for ghost-estates and public housing?

______

Link to Forfas report:

Self-Builders demand answers from DECLG: BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

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In a further letter from the representative body for self-builders (IASOB) to the Department of Environment requesting clarification regarding the status of self-builders under the Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014), one self-builder describes the experience of visiting a local authority last week.

This anecdote illustrates industry concerns regarding the recent building regulation SI.9 and subsequent SI.105. Key industry stakeholders the SCSI and RIAI (chartered surveyors and architects representative bodies) have both aired concerns regarding industry readiness and resources allocated to local authority building control departments to implement SI.9. Inadequate resources and contradictory guidance issued by the Department to date may result in differing interpretations of the regulation in different local authorities. The RIAI has written separately to Ministers Hogan and Bruton outlining the compelling reasons for deferral of SI.9.

At a time when the industry is scrambling to come to grips with the new regulation we see a subsequent statutory instrument SI.105 has been published on 7th March 2014. This is a part-deferral of BC(A)R SI.9 and provides for particular projects to be excluded from SI.9. There is a widespread belief in the industry that it is only a matter of time before SI.9 is revoked in its entirety as the difficulties associated with implementation become more apparent.

Extract off letter from IAOSB letter to Department:

____________________

I personally decided to test this and visited my Local Authority and I would like to tell you what happened and maybe you can explain this to me as well in your reply.

I walked in through the doors as a self builder without any knowledge of how this Amendment could effect me and firstly came across the lady at the reception who knew about the Amendment but could not answer most of my questions as they were not informed. She finally gave up and asked the County Engineer to help me with this issue.

The following are my questions and his answers:

Can I Self Build? Yes

Can I use Direct Labour for my build? Only if they are competent and experienced

So, who decides if they are competent? You do

What else do I have to do? You have to choose a person to design and inspect the house for you and give you a certificate of commencement and completion.

Who else has to sign this? You as the building owner and the builder.

But I am the builder, so who signs the certificate? You do but if you are using the Direct Labour, they also have to sign the form.

But what is the procedure on that? On the commencement notice you have to name your labourers and we will be sending them an email telling them that you have chosen them as the contractors and they need to have all the necessary insurance and documentation.

Where do they sign? on the certificate of commencement and completion.

I have seen these certificates on line and in the place where the builder has to sign, it says (To be signed by Principal or Director of a Building Company Only) so where do I sign? Where it says to be signed.

But you are telling me to sign as someone who clearly I am not? Yes but it does not matter as we would not be questioning it.

Do you agree with me that by signing as the Principal or Director of a Company I would be breaking the law? Yes but that would be OK.

If I give you a legal document and ask you to sign as a Fireman even though you are clearly an Engineer, would you break the law and sign it? No way

So how do you expect me to sign it? We do understand that there is a big issue regarding this sentence and we accept that by signing this you will be breaking the law but it is ok.

What, to break the law? In a way yes as we would not follow on with it.

Can you please give me some paperwork with this information on it? No, everything is online. We have not been given anything to hand out. This is also knew to us and we have not got a lot of information on it.

So if someone who does not understand how to use a computer wants to know about this, what can they do? They have to ask for help from someone else.

If I write all that you mentioned above on a piece of paper, will you sign and stamp it for me? Ehhhh, yes

…I have also found out that there is a new Amendment out today to the Building Control which is S.I.105. You must understand our disappointment to find out that even though you do understand there is a major issue for the self builders in the amendment S.I.9, you still have not made any effort to clarify, explain and correct the situation for us.”

____________________

Link to complete letter here- “Letter from Iaosb to Mr Martin Vaughan, DECLG”:

http://www.iaosb.com/letter_from_iaosb_to_mr_martin_vaughan_declg .html

 

The Irish Times, Letters: BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

letters-to-the-editor-graphic

The Irish Times, Letters: Building regulations, Link:

http://www.irishtimes.com/debate/letters/building-regulations-1.1716853#.Uxsbmfwu01A.twitter

Extract:

___________

Building regulations

Sir, – Michael Finan (March 7th) writes of the recently published revised regulations which have come about as a result of the Priory Hall fiasco, in which a firewall, which, by law, should have been capable of withstanding fire for a certain amount of time in order to give residents a chance to evacuate the building, was not, according to media reports, actually a firewall.

Mr Finan complains of numerous flaws with the legislation. It is a pity, if he is correct, that these regulations do not achieve the purpose which they should have been intended to achieve. Namely, that any individual who participates in the construction of a building, from the architect who designed the building right through to the plasterer who finishes it, and all engineers and tradesmen between, are all personally liable for the portion of the work which they carried out.

Obviously, the architect who designed the building can’t be responsible for the actual hands-on construction of that building, nor a bricklayer for the under-specification by the architect of, for example, a structural column.

Rather, if every individual has personally to sign for the work that they have carried out, certifying that the work is built to, at least, the minimum standard as laid down in law, and they understand that they are personally liable with personal sanctions for their portion of the work, it is highly likely that shoddy construction work would disappear overnight, when people realise that they could end up in jail and drummed out of the industry.

The aviation industry uses a similar system. Every job, no matter how small, is signed off by the technician and their supervisor and the records are retained for the lifetime of the aircraft. So the system would be workable. – Yours, etc,

DAVID DORAN,

Royal Oak Road,

Bagenalstown,

Co Carlow.