Who should be a Certifier- Part 3: Chartered Engineers + Building Surveyors?

by Mark Stephens



The following is an opinion piece submitted on 4th June 2014 by registered architect (UK and Ireland trained) Mark Stephens RIBA MRIAI.

Who should be a Certifier- Part 3: Engineers + Building Surveyors?

This post follows on from ‘Who should be a Certifier – Architectural Technologists’ and ‘Architects?’ and focuses on the training and skills that make Chartered Engineers and Chartered Surveyors suitable as Designers and Assigned Certifiers.

I say originally as I believe the current debate over who should be Designer and Assigned Certifier is a Red Herring (currently focussed on getting Architectural Technologists onto the ‘list’) and diverts attention away from what is the true problem and hence the solution to Building Regulations reform in Ireland.

As an architect I work closely with many Chartered Engineers and I have the upmost respect for the qualifications, skills and experience that they bring to projects.

However answering why Chartered Engineers or Chartered Surveyors should be classified as suitable to be Designers or Assigned Certifiers is a difficult question. You can become a Chartered Engineer through several routes. If you look at the list of Programmes and Courses that are accredited as suitable leading to Chartered status you’ll see a wide variety of engineering; including Civil, Computers, electrical, manufacturing, building services, civil, mechanical and structural (to name a few). So, in theory any of these Chartered Engineers could be Designers or Assigned Certifiers?

BC(A)R SI.9 does not preclude an electrical or computer engineer, if Chartered, from undertaking the roles of Design and Assigned Certifier under the new building regulations. However  the Engineers Ireland Code of Ethics states:

3.3 Members shall accept and perform only work for which they are qualified and competent to undertake and shall obtain whatever advice and assistance is necessary to discharge this responsibility.

So why does SI.9 automatically assume that registered Architects, Chartered Engineers and Chartered Building Surveyors are suitably qualified to be Designers and Assigned Certifiers under S.I. No.9 of 2014 ? And how have these ‘Chosen’ professions become accredited as suitable?

The answer may be three fold:

1. It is Minister Hogan’s view that it is these professions that are the professionals involved in the majority of construction projects:

“…the position is that these are the construction professions typically involved in the design of construction works in Ireland”,letter from Phil Hogan T.D to Senator Paschal Mooney.

2. The relevant professional institutions protected the interests of their members (not with standing the omission of the Architectural Technologists)

3. Historical basis:

  • Engineers were chartered by ICEI since at least 1877 but statutory since The ICEI Act, 1969
  • The Royal Institute of Architects was founded in 1839
  • The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors can trace its history back to 1792 when the Surveyors Club was formed.

But how do you, a consumer, actually know whether your architect, Chartered Engineer or Chartered Building Surveyor is competent to act as Designer and/or Assigned Certifier? The answer is that you don’t; you’re relying on the Professional Institutions to have good that that registered professional has the correct training and experience in order to fulfil the new certifier roles. It is the opinion of Malachy Mathews (Lecturer at DIT) that even a large percentage of registered Architects cannot adequately meet the technical requirement of Article 46 of  the European Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament

And as we have seen throughout our blog: self-regulation is no regulation.

In fact arguing over who should be ‘Designers’ and ‘Assigned Certifiers’ is a red-herring and diverts us away from the true crux of the problem: that we are still relying on professionals to self-certify and regulate a construction economy worth €10bn. Professional organisations are quite happy to continue a defective system of self-certification, trumpeting the benefits of the “new regulations: while knowing there is little additional consumer protections.

For the Department and Minister they get a political solution- something that sounds like a proper system, looks like a proper system, but is in fact the same thing with no additional resources.

Professionals effectively take up the slack by monitoring themselves (and additional fees + onerous liability) whilst the Local Authorities continue a dreadfully under-resourced building control system that effectively only enforces the law when lives become endangered through fire regulation breaches.

The answer as we’ve seen throughout this blog is for a full drawing and site inspection system along the lines of the UK system; and the consumer to have the choice over who should prepare his/her drawings in the knowledge that these drawings will be fully checked by a Local Authority Building Control Officer and the construction will also be checked at intervals during the construction. This system works perfectly well for planning, for disabled access certificates and for fire certification. These three areas involve applications made with drawings and documents which are assessed by local authorities.

I have written previously on this subject HERE about why S.I No.9 of 2014 has failed due to the consumer offered less choice with no better consumer protection.

Other Posts of interest:

Who should be a Certifier- Part 2: Architects? – click link here

Who should be a Certifier- Part 1: Architectural Technologists? – click link here

Architectural Technologists and BC(A)R SI.9: CIAT – click link here

Architectural Technologist – Platitudes, Head Nodding and BC(A)R SI.9. – click link here

O’Cofaigh letter to Mick Wallace TD – click link here

Opinion piece: Architectural Technologist and certification – 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