Ghost estates and public housing: BC(A)R SI.9 no 3?
by Bregs Blog admin team
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:
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:
Extract off Forfas report table 2.12 p 16