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.