Dáil: Why not an independent inspection system?
by Bregs Blog admin team
In the following exchange Stephen Donnelly asks the Minister if his Department had considered introducing a system of independent inspection of design and construction, such as can be seen operating in England and Wales, to be self-funded and at no cost to the tax payer. This question will be of interest today, day 2 of the Irish Building Control Institute conference in Sligo.
The Minister’s answer is pretty simple:
“A move to a full local authority approval system (even one which allowed for the involvement of private sector operators) along the lines of the England and Wales model or otherwise would involve significant increase in building control staffing and resourcing and would be difficult to contemplate in the present economic environment.”
So, no extra staff wanted. We have previously discusses such a system from a number of angles: see post here. We noted the cost for the slight increase in staffing would be self-funded at no cost to the taxpayer. Such as system would improve our world bank rankings and give consumers the confidence of 100% independent inspections by third party experienced architects, engineers and technologists on a registered basis with local authority enforcement backing. A procative system which would go some way to preventing building failures. This would cost the State next to nothing and is attainable with little legislative change. Such a system is on offer already in England and in Northern ireland.
Instead we have continued the defective system of light-touch self-certification that gave us recent high-profile building failures. Consumers trudging through the courts seeking redress with little guarantee of success. Previously Deirdre Ni Fhloinn, specialist construction lawyer and consultant at Reddy Charlton Solicitors 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”. See her post here.
The vast cost of BC(A)R SI.9 to the taxpayer, industry and consumer was discussed also. This estimate was very conservative- agricultural buildings were excluded (agricultural buildings will qualify under SI.9). See previous post here.
So a proposed efficient system of 100% independent inspections, self-funded as suggested by Stephen Donnelly, versus our current defective “self-certification” version that saves the Department re-deploying 200 experienced local authority employees at an annual estimated additonal cost to industry and consumer of €500m (as introduced by Minister Hogan). We wonder.
For March commencement notices have literally “fallen-off a cliff”. Minister Hogan has confirmed only 100 commencement notices were lodged for qualifying works for March 2014. Out of this number we believe only 70 residential commencement notices were lodged for the month- this is an 80% drop from March 2013 levels (March 2013 there were 320 residential commencement notices).
Dáil exchange to follow:
Question No. 374
Chun an Aire Comhshaoil, Pobail agus Rialtais Áitiúil:
To the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government:
To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department considered introducing a system of independent inspection of design and construction, such as can be seen operating in England and Wales, to be self-funded and at no cost to the tax payer, which could offer improvements on the self-certification system, notwithstanding the submission to him by the National Consumers Association on the draft regulations in Summer 2012 and the recommendations of the Pyrite Report..
– Stephen S. Donnelly.
For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 1st April, 2014. Ref No: 15218/14
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Mr. P. Hogan)
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, lodgement of compliance documentation, mandatory inspections during construction and validation and registration of certificates.
The new regulations are necessary following the widespread instances of failure by owners, designers and builders to comply with their statutory obligations under the Building Control Act 1990 to design and construct buildings in accordance with the Building Regulations.
The new regulatory approach was preceded by a review by a high level working group, which included representatives of my Department and of local government (nominated by the County and City Managers Association), which reviewed the building control regulatory framework. This review process was informed by awareness of developments in relation to building control generally in other jurisdictions, including in England and Wales.
In broad terms t he building control system in operation in England and Wales can be characterised as a full approval based system whereby local authorities inspect and approve all buildings . Significantly it is understood that a decision to step back from full local authority approval in all cases was implemented in 2005 and since that time the England and Wales systems allow for approval by independent professionals. The cost of full approval by a local authority and the need to optimise the use of Government resources were understood to be key considerations in this change.
A move to a full local authority approval system (even one which allowed for the involvement of private sector operators) along the lines of the England and Wales model or otherwise would involve significant increase in building control staffing and resourcing and would be difficult to contemplate in the present economic environment.
The legal obligation on owners, builders and designers to design and construct in accordance with the Building Regulations would continue to apply . The requirement to demonstrate compliance for approval purposes, whether by a building control authority or an approved independent operator, w ould mean that the person who owns or commissions the work would necessarily incur the requisite design, building and inspection/certification costs , over and above the administrative charge required to cover the approval fee payable to the local building control authority or approved operator.