Audio Clip: Dáil Debate 27th May- Architectural Technologists & SI.9

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Audio Clip: Dáil Debate 27th May- Architectural Technologists & SI.9

In case anyone missed the Dáil debate yesterday 27th May 2014 at 4pm on Architectural Technologists and the new regulations here is an audio clip of the debate: Click link to listen to audio clip here (duration of clip approx. 13.12).

For transcript of Dail debate: click here. Extract as follows:

___________

Topical Issue Debate Tuesday 27th May 2014

Building Regulations Qualifications

Mick Wallace TD:

As the Minister will be aware, I have some serious reservations about the new regulations introduced in March this year. Before I deal with the issue of architectural technologists, however, I want to say that I still believe the Government is missing the point and that independent supervision by people working for the State is the best way forward. I still insist that it cannot possibly work to have members of the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland, RIAI, signing off on projects unless they have somebody present on the site. At the moment, those allowed to practise as assigned certifiers are persons registered with the RIAI, chartered engineers registered with Engineers Ireland, and persons registered with the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, SCSI. The Minister is telling me that a quantity surveyor who comes under the SCSI is more qualified to sign off on work than an architectural technologist. This beggars belief. I spent 35 years in the industry. I can tell the Minister that while there are plenty of architects who are familiar with the technological dimension of putting schemes together, there are also many architects who are not.

An architect’s primary job is to design. The job of an architectural technologist is to make sure that the building is put together properly and will stay up. However, these are the people the Minister is omitting from consideration as assigned certifiers. It does not stack up. The Minister said he is worried about situations similar to Priory Hall, which happened to be signed off by an RIAI member, although that is irrelevant at this stage. For the people who are most technically capable and most technically involved, this is their bread and butter. The architect, who is the designer, is actually employing these people to make sure the building will be constructed properly, will meet building regulations and will stand the test of time.

I do not understand the Government’s thinking in omitting these people from the list of assigned certifiers. I cannot help but feel the Minister is being dictated to by the RIAI, which can be a bit of a club. He is protecting a protected profession at the expense of an awful lot of people who work day in, day out, and who are responsible for making sure things are done right. It does not stack up.

As I heard just before I came to the House, there is now an online petition asking the Minister to prepare a register in order that architectural technologists can be included. While I do not know what sort of information the Minister is getting, my experience is that I have employed design architects to do work for me, and there were times when I also had to get an architectural technologist to make sure all the building regulations were met. Architects are wonderful at design, and this country has some wonderful architects, but guaranteeing that the building is going to stay up and meet building regulations is a different game. These are the people the Minister is excluding. He needs to have a re-think on this issue.

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Minister Phil Hogan):

I thank Deputy Wallace for raising this important matter. The Deputy knows the Building Control Act 2007 is not working satisfactorily for the people we are all trying to help, namely, the person who is going to be the owner of the property and the consumer. There are hundreds of problems around the country arising from the implementation of the present building control regulations, although, of course, Deputy Wallace chose to ignore that.

The statutory certificates of compliance prescribed under the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 must be signed by a registered professional. At present, this is a person who is included on the statutory registers of architects, building surveyors or engineers, as the Deputy mentioned. Neither I nor my Department have a role in the assessment or validation of professional qualifications. That is a matter for professional bodies in their roles as registration bodies under the Acts and as competent authorities for the purposes of the mutual recognition of professional qualifications in line with EU and national law.

The statutory registers prescribe and maintain the standard of competence that is required for each of the professional groupings subject to the protection of title. Inclusion on the registers is not restricted, however, to members of the professional bodies recognised in law as a registration body.

(Speaker Continuing)

[Minister Phil Hogan:  ] Depending on their personal circumstances, it is open to architectural technologists who possess the requisite experience and competence in the design and survey of buildings to seek inclusion on one of the statutory registers. It has been difficult to do this up to now. Architectural technologists who consider that they possess the requisite competence in the design and survey of construction works should identify the route to registration most suited to their own individual circumstances.

There is no question of persons who are not included on the statutory registers being permitted to sign the statutory certificates of compliance. The services of architectural technologists will, of course, continue to be in demand. Currently, architectural technologists who do not pursue inclusion on the statutory registers may continue to provide services in support of the role of an architect or other professional bodies and sign off on their work by way of ancillary certificate.

It should be noted that due to my concern, as outlined by Deputy Wallace, that it was difficult for people who had been involved in work as draughtsmen or architectural technologists to get recognition from statutory bodies, I commissioned an independent review. Upon publication of the report, I confirmed that I intended to implement the 20 recommendations in full. I am glad to say that a number have already been progressed to improve the technical assessment route to ensure that people are registered in the particular prescribed body. A number of recommendations will require legislative change, which will be effected as soon as possible. I will try to do so in this session.

I should also mention that my Department has engaged with the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists, CIAT, in respect of its desire for recognition of its chartered members. My Department has outlined a number of options open to CIAT that will observe the Building Control Act 2007, but it is also open to some of the suggestions that have been made by CIAT. This engagement has led to CIAT presenting separate cases for recognition of its chartered members under both the surveyor and the architect registers based on benchmarking the competence of its chartered members against the existing routes to registration.

As indicated earlier, neither I nor my Department has any role in the assessment or the validation of professional qualifications, and I cannot pre-empt the outcome in either case. However, I assure him that I am very conscious of what he is saying and that I have an open mind in respect of the correspondence and submissions that were made by CIAT last week where it indicated that it now wishes to see instead a stand-alone statutory register of architectural technologists instead of a situation in which architectural technologists apply to become members of existing professional bodies. I am examining this at the moment and have an open mind in respect of whether this possibility can be pursued in order to ensure we have competition in the marketplace for the assigned certifier role while also catering for the many people who have built up much experience and competence over the years, as outlined by the Deputy.

Mick Wallace TD:

There is no doubt that unless a structure is formed whereby architectural technologists can constitute a statutory registered body on their own, architectural technologists will be second-class citizens. The Minister’s new regulations insist on the submission of working drawings before work begins. I would have no problem with that. I always waited too long to get them from architects. It is not a bad idea. It is the architectural technologists who actually do the working drawings, but they are not allowed to sign off on them. Architectural technologists carry out the site visits but they are still not allowed to sign off on them. These people are being put in an inferior position compared to that of the architect. This is unfair and does not stack up on the ground.

The people who work in the industry know who does what. The architectural technologist is vital to guarantee that buildings are designed properly and meet fire safety and building regulations and that things are done the way they should be done. As the principal individual driving how the building is designed, the architect has a different role. One might as well have a hairdresser service one’s car. It is completely different. This is not an insult to any architect, because his or her role relates more to design than to making sure building regulations are complied with. The architectural technologist has a far stronger involvement and link with the chartered engineer who designs the building to ensure it does not fall.

Aside from competition and rising costs, from the perspective of the health of industry, the Minister must have a rethink. I am very concerned that he is being fed the wrong information by some leading institutions. If one talks to the people on the ground, one finds that the architectural technologist is vital to a healthy industry in the years ahead.

Minister Phil Hogan:

I thought I gave a reasonable and positive response to the Deputy. I said I was prepared to examine these issues. I am concerned about the fees that are being quoted by some existing members of the statutory bodies, particularly for self-build projects. It seems they have developed into a cartel, particularly in rural areas where they are actually talking to each other about the level of fees, which are 10% of the cost of the project in many cases.

Deputy Mick Wallace:

And 12%.

Minister Phil Hogan:

I am surprised that these professional bodies have done that, because all we are trying to do here is protect the consumer from some of the practices the Deputy knows about, which I have dealt with in many cases. The building regulations will ensure that these issues will not arise again insofar as I have anything to do with it. I am dissatisfied with the level of fees being quoted. I am certainly conscious of the competitive issues and am also conscious of the good people out there who can provide themselves with the work about which the Deputy is speaking if they pursue the route to registration with the changes I have made in recent times. However, sometimes people do not like to take that route. They feel that the existing statutory bodies and their representatives are not exactly generous in respect of the level of competence they have built up over the years through the individuals mentioned by the Deputy.

I am keeping this matter under review and looking at the submission that has been made recently by CIAT. I will make a decision very shortly about whether architectural technologists will be recognised. They are recognised through the UK process and it would be no difficulty for both of us to agree that we can have an Irish solution to a British problem, or the other way around

 

Other posts of interest:

RIAI NEWS ALERT: Architectural Technologist Register – click link here

Message from Mick Wallace TD to Architectural Technologists – click link here

Architectural Technologists’ Petition – click link here

Phil Hogan TD to Minister Gormley on “premature” and “market distortion effects” of register in 2010  – click link here

Architectural Technologist’s personal letter to TD – click link here

An Architectural Technologist Dáil letter – click link here

Architectural Technologists’ Dáil QUESTIONS – click link here

Dáil Debate 27th May on Architectural Technologists: help needed! – click link here

Collins & O Cofaigh- A BETTER way: BC(A)R SI.9 Solutions – click link here

 

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