Press- RIAI: High-rise buildings and quality developments the way forward

by Bregs Blog admin team

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Press Piece: RIAI: High-rise buildings and quality developments the way forward

In today’s Irish Independent article on 29th May 2014 current president of the representative body for architects (RIAI) Robin Mandal discusses some of the issues affecting the construction industry at present. Mr Mandal is quoted as saying that high rise buildings and quality developments are the way forward.

General issues are discussed in the press piece however there is no mention of the recent Dáil debate called by Mick Wallace TD on 27th May 2014. This was requested to discuss the continued exclusion of Architectural Technologists from the RIAI register of competent persons to undertake new duties under new building regulations introduced in March 1st 2014. However it is possible this interview was conducted before the debate last Tuesday 27th May.

This debate has generated considerable interest in the industry with this blog receiving a record 3,000+ views on this issue in the past two days.

Listen to an audio clip of the Dáil debate here.

Mr Mandal appears to use incorrect Department figures for commencement notices lodged since 1st March 2014: we previously noted the discrepancy between figures noted by the Minister and Department and the actual levels recorded by Government in previous posts here. The confirmed lower level of commencement notices was the subject of an article by Frank McDonald in the Irish Times later objected to by Minister Hogan in a letter to the editor on 23rd May the previous week. Links to these are provided at the end of the blog piece.

Previous comments by Minister Hogan in the Dáil and Seanad regarding exploitative practices by professionals under the new regulations have not been commented on by the RIAI. Recent statements by the Minister admonishing the behavior of professional bodies (engineers, surveyors and architects) acting as a “cartel” to charge high fees for new duties and roles under SI.9 similarly has not received any commentary by any of the representative bodies.

Quote (Minister Hogan): “ I am concerned about the fees that are being quoted by some existing members of the statutory bodies…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…

RIAI members have been offered an opportunity of an audience with the RIAI President, at the Merrion Square H.Q. at 5 p.m. this evening Thursday 29th May 2014. Attendance is by invitation only with prior submission and approval of questions and topics to be discussed.

If any BReg Blog followers are in attendance the Blog would like to hear about what matters are discussed.

Here is a link to the Independent article- click here

Extract from article to follow:

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High-rise buildings and quality developments the way forward, says Mandal – Independent.ie

PAUL MCNEIVE – PUBLISHED 29 MAY 2014 02:30 AM

RAISED in Calcutta by an Indian father and Irish mother, Robin Mandal had an early introduction to a variety of architecture and cultures.

Latterly schooled in Ireland, the president of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) availed of many opportunities to visit cities across Europe and Asia as his father worked in the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. His experience of world cities and a passion for buildings will stand him in good stead as he leads a profession devastated by recession.

But Robin Mandal says “the tide is turning for Irish architects and the opportunity now is to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past”.

It was a pleasure to chat with the charismatic President at the RIAI headquarters on Merrion Square. The RIAI has approximately 2,700 architects practicing in Ireland and the profession has had to adapt fast to survive.

It was interesting to learn that about 28pc of Irish-based architects’ work is now overseas, with commissions arising in Europe, the Middle-East, China and Africa in that order. There has also been a structural change in the profession as there are now less than 10 firms with over 20 employees and the vast majority of practices are two or three people.

Mandal stresses that Ireland’s next phase of development “must be driven by an agreed vision of what we want our country to look like rather than the cyclical nature of the market”. He refers to projections about our increasing population.

“We need enough buildings for an extra one million people in 25 years, and that’s not just houses – it is offices, factories, schools and hospitals,” he said.

The RIAI president stresses the need for “quality” in the next phase of development. “We have an opportunity now to develop a vision of free-thinking, mixed use, sustainable development that offers long-term value to society. The opportunity is not to repeat the mistakes of the past. This time we must get the right buildings, in the right places at the right cost.”

Mandal believes that three factors must be in place in order to produce a high quality environment; a robust development system, finance, and a deep understanding of the needs of the end-user. It is this latter point, an understanding of the home dweller, the office worker or the patient, which he feels has been forgotten in the past.

He points to Dublin‘s docklands as an example of good urban planning and design. “It’s seamless development with very good public spaces and integration of social and affordable housing. It shows what we can do with the right planning, architecture and vision.”

That said, he agrees with my suggestion that the docklands skyline is too low. “Instinctively my personal view is that the buildings are too low. Many of the three storey buildings should be eight storeys high. A normal height in a city should be the treeline, which is higher than people think at about six storeys.”

Mandal welcomes the newly announced Special Development Zone for the docklands, designed to speed up the development process. His only reservation is that the public space provisions that now apply under the Dublin City Development Plan are lower than those successfully utilised under the original Dublin Docklands Development Authority plan.

He walked into the eye of a storm with the advent from March 1 of the new Building Control Regulations. The RIAI supports better building and has “consistently asked for adequate inspection and enforcement measures”. The Department of the Environment says that 800 “Commencement Notices” have already been served under the new system, which relies on “assigned certifiers” to inspect works, rather than the local authority. Mandal feels that the biggest weakness is a lack of an insurance system for “latent defects”. He adds: “If the only solution for a consumer is to go through the courts, then the system is flawed.”

Whilst fee levels are “barely sustainable”, business is improving for architects and most firms expect to employ more people in 2014. Mandal believes that the vision of architects will be crucial to developing this next phase of “where we want to live”.

Indo Business

Other posts of interest

Minister Hogan rejects Irish Times Article – click link here

Irish Times: Dramatic fall in number of buildings being started– click link here

Commencement notices fall: BC(A)R SI.9– click link here

(Robin Mandal) RTÉ TV: Six-One news 27th February 2014: RIAI on BC(A)R SI.9– click link here

Architectural Technologist: Minister “disrespectful and misleading” in Seanad– click link here

Complaint to Minister re Seanad Debate: BC(A)R SI.9 (SI.105)– click link here

Thoughts on a Register for Architectural Technologists– click link here

Audio Clip: Dáil Debate 27th May- Architectural Technologists & SI.9 – click link here

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

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