Why S.I. 9 of 2014 has failed – Choice

by Bregs Blog admin team


Why S.I. No.9 of 2014 has failed – Choice

An opinion piece by Chartered/Registered Architect and Certified Passive House Designer Mark Stephens CPHD RIBA MRIAI

I can understand the motives behind the Building Regulations amendments that concluded in S.I. No.9 of 2014; that is the attempted prevention of fails such as Priory Hall and the improvement of construction standards in Ireland. But as we have seen in the numerous posts on this web site, it is unlikely that this will be the case; the exact opposite could occur that there is nothing effectively stopping a Developer employing his own Assigned Certifier and registering as a builder on the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) register.

This post however explains what I believe is the biggest failure; the lack of choice the consumer now has in his construction project.

Any person now wanting to construct his own house or an extension over 40 sqm can only employ a restricted number of personnel for the project; the ‘Designer’ and Assigned Certifier can only be a  Registered Architect, Chartered Engineer or Chartered Building Surveyor. The builder can only be a construction company registered with the Construction Industry Federation (from 2015). Where is the consumer choice in this?

You may ask why a person who is one of the chosen professionals is raising such an issue? Firstly a large percentage of my clients were self builders; under the new regulations they are now forbidden from constructing their house or extension, Amanda Gallagher (in a previous post) pointed out was something even North Korea allowed! Secondly, I believe in customer choice; a person should be able to decide whether they want the cheapest, or the most expensive, a building that is architecturally designed or straightforward but built well. I’m not saying which profession equates with each characteristic; there are plenty of well designed buildings not designed by architects and there are plenty of well engineered buildings that don’t look well. What I am saying however is that the consumer should have a choice and at the moment they do not. I am well aware that my fees are not the cheapest in the market; anyone that can afford an architect over a ‘draughtsman’ will still be able to afford an architect; what is important however is that the consumer should be able to choose which person will design and construct his house and again, at the moment they cannot.

But surely the construction standard would drop if anyone can design and certify? The problem is that the entire self-certification system in Ireland is wrong; you should be able to have anyone design and construct your house as long as you meet all the planning and Building Regulations requirements. This is the system in the UK, the consumer has a much greater level of choice, they can choose from draughtsman to architect, from Architectural Technologist (whose lack of inclusion  as Designers/Assigned Certifiers is a criminal injustice) to Chartered Engineer. So how do we ensure that the Building Regulations are met in a new construction without self-certification? The answer is in the full deployment of Building Control Officers inspecting all the drawings and regular site visits on all construction projects to ensure that all aspects of the construction are compliant with Building Regulations – exactly as they do in the UK.

In conclusion the failure of S.I No. 9 of 2014 lies in the Government implementing legislation that reduces consumer choice and as we have seen in previous posts offers no better consumer protection.