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.

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

eu-subservient-us-clare-daly

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.

 

Advertisements

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

by Bregs Blog admin team

untitled

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%