Pyrite & SI.9- what happens now?

by Bregs Blog admin team

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Pyrite & SI.9- what happens now?

Recent publicity regarding the discovery of pyrite in block work in Leinster has focused on the resultant demolition of the buildings concerned and the potential liabilities for the suppliers, contractors and professionals involved. There has been less discussion of the implications of such a pyrite discovery on an Assigned Certifier, involved on similar projects, following the introduction of S.I. 9.

Under the new Building Control Regulations the Assigned Certifier (AC) – who may be an Engineer, Surveyor or Architect – will have obtained a ‘Declaration of Performance’ i.e. a self-declaration from the supplier of the blockwork. The AC could easily have missed the fact that a Declaration was incorrect, no matter how often the AC inspected the site or no matter how thorough the inspection. The unfortunate reality is the fact that there is no on-site testing equipment for detecting pyrite. If the self-declaration by a blockwork or precast concrete manufacturer is incorrect there is no means for an AC to discover this. The Pyrite Panel in their 2012 report to the Minister for the Environment commented that even if everyone on-site was doing their job correctly they would not be able to detect pyrites in building materials.

So no one, including the AC, could be aware of the defective pyrite-affected component until the building was well-advanced or even completed and an obvious defect appeared. In such a scenario can the AC be held liable for making a serious professional error? Responsibility is unclear from the legislation. We will need to see what transpires in the Courts when cases come to be heard. However the following situations are likely:

  • The building owner or their AC cannot rely on any Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) policy to cover this situation. Policy holders should read the small print of their PII. It doesn’t cover certifying materials!
  • Buildings and contractors’ insurers (as they have done in the past) saying, “we don’t pay-out for pyrite, we told you that the last time”.
  • Global concrete product manufacturing companies, like the one alleged to have supplied pyrite affected blockwork, may look around and consider the Irish market to be too problematic and too tiny a part of their market and retreat to larger markets thereby abandoning the Irish consumer
  • Builders operating with too tight margins and faced with processing a pyrite claim will be tipped over into insolvency
  • Professional design teams, currently on bottom-feeder fees, will be financially exhausted by a pyrite claim alone

The recent cases in Leinster cases seem to involve a school and social housing so the tax payer will be paying for this. THIS TIME. It’s been reported that the builder and supplier have sorted it out between them THIS TIME. That might be negotiated for a relatively small project, but what if it’s a multi-million Euro development? What if the building is occupied? How long before limited companies owning quarries and contracting firms are voluntarily liquidated to limit potential liability?

We strongly recommend checking with your insurer regarding situations where defective materials are used and for projects that may be affected by this problem.

READ THE SMALL PRINT: Many professional indemnity insurance policies exclude pyrite.

The above opinion piece was written by Breg Blog Team on Saturday 28th June 2014.

Other posts of interest:

RTÉ News: Louth housing scheme to be demolished over pyrite – click link here

Dáil : Pyrite Remediation Programme: 10th June 2014 – click link here

Government Reports & Professional Opinion Ignored in S.I.80 – click link here

RTÉ Radio: Pyrite Alert – click link here

7 posts all architects (surveyors + engineers) should read – click link here

RIAI PRACTICE ALERT: Pyrite in blocks – click link here

Practical Post 16: Pyrite and certification? – click link here

The regulations ignore key recommendations of the Pyrite Panel – click linkhere

Assigned Certifiers facing jail? BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

Clear and auditable trail: consumer protection? BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

Legal perspective: consumer benefit? BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

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