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