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

by Bregs Blog admin team

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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,

 

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