O’Cofaigh: fit-outs that are exempt from SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

exempt-full The following opinion piece was submitted by a previous president of the representative body for architects (RIAI), Eoin O’Cofaigh, on the 27th June 2014. He outlines the criteria and rationale where SI9 may not apply to some modest non-residential fit-out projects.

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Opinion upon the procedures required to achieve statutory compliance under the building regulations and the building control regulations in respect of an office fit-out project- 27 June 2014

I have been asked twice by colleagues in recent weeks about the maze of regulation surrounding a simple office, shop or industrial fit-out project. Colleagues working on such a project may find it helpful to note that in my opinion, the “certification provisions of S.I. 9” do not apply in many circumstances, as follows. 

I will be delighted to hear from any colleague holding a view different to mine, as to the “whys and wherefores”.

1. Project description

This Opinion sets out the building regulations and building control regulations applicable in the following circumstances.

Fit out as offices of a storey (or of several storeys, or of part of a storey) of an existing building in office use, or a shop in retail use; or of an industrial building in industrial use.

  • The existing building has a fire safety certificate for office/shop/industrial use as appropriate (so, no change of purpose is involved) and is statutorily compliant.
  • No subdivision of an existing building is involved (otherwise, a fire safety certificate is required).
  • The building does not contain any residential use (otherwise, a fire safety certificate is required).
  • The reader should note that a shop is not a “unit in a shopping complex”. A material alteration to a unit in a shopping complex requires a fire safety certificate. It is also subject to the full rigour of S.I.9 so that, for instance, a weekend’s work in a small unit in a shopping complex requires the submission of certificate of completion and allows the BCA three (or five) weeks to validate the material before the shop unit may be opened, used or occupied.

2. Fit out of a floor in an existing building in office/shop/industrial use

Work will inevitably involve, inter alia, new partitions and doors, the installation or modification of the fire detection and alarm system, and the emergency lighting.

The work involves new partitions etc.

In the writer’s view, this is not work involving only “minor works”, which are defined at article 5(4) of the building control regulations as 

Works consisting of the installation, alteration or removal of a fixture or fitting, or works of a decorative nature.

3. Compliance with the requirements of the building regulations

All new work must comply in full with the requirements in Parts A-M of the building regulations and the work must not trigger any new or greater contravention of those requirements, in the existing building.

4. Compliance with the requirements of the building control regulations

The requirements for compliance with the building control regulations vary depending on whether the works constitute a “Material Alteration to an existing building”, or not.

5. Whether the works constitute a “Material Alteration to an Existing Building”

Article 5(4) of the Building Control Regulations 1997—2014 defines a “material alteration” as follows.

“material alteration” means an alteration (other than a repair or renewal), where the work, or any part of the work, carried out by itself would be subject to a requirement of Part A or B of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations.

The work involves new partitions.  In the writer’s view it is therefore not work of “repair or renewal”.

In the writer’s view, the proposed works are subject to requirements of Part B of the building regulations and therefore constitute a material alteration to an existing building.

For example, the partitions are subject to building regulation requirement B2:-

B2 (Linings) For the purpose of inhibiting the spread of fire within a building, the internal linings – (a) shall have, either a rate of heat release or a rate of fire growth and a resistance to ignition which is reasonable in the circumstances (b) shall offer adequate resistance to the spread of flame over their surfaces.

The partitions are subject to the Part B requirement to achieve the Class 1 surface spread of flame rating. One cannot make them, for instance, out of raw chipboard as this would breach building regulation requirement B2. That is a compliance issue under building regulations and not building control regulations. But whether the partitions are actually to be built from chipboard or gypsum board is irrelevant to the consideration of compliance with building control regulations.

6. Whether a fire safety certificate is required for the proposed works

The circumstances in which a fire safety certificate is required are set out in Part III of the building control regulations, at article 11:- 11.

(1) Subject to sub-article (2) and articles 3 and 6, this Part applies to—

(a) works in connection with the design and construction of a new building,

(b) works in connection with the material alteration of—

(i) a day centre,

(ii) a building containing a flat,

(iii) a hotel, hostel or guest building, or

(iv) an institutional building, or

(v) a place of assembly, or

(vi) a shopping centre, but excluding works to such buildings, consisting solely of minor works,

(c) works in connection with the material alteration of a shop, office or industrial building where —

(i) additional floor area is being provided within the existing building, or

(ii) the building is being subdivided into a number of units for separate occupancy,

The text which is relevant is in bold. A fire safety certificate is required in connection with the material alteration of an shop, office or industrial building where, and only where, the building contains a flat, or where additional floor area is being provided, or where the building is being subdivided into a number of units for separate occupancy.

Given that this project involves none of these circumstances, it follows that no fire safety certificate is required in respect of the proposals.

7. Whether a Commencement Notice must be served 

Article 7 of the Building Control Regulations 1997—2014, sets out the circumstances in which a Commencement Notice must be served on the building control authority and, further along, what documents ((if any) must accompany that notice.

7. (1) Subject to sub-article (2) and articles 3 and 6, this Part applies to—

(a) the erection of a building,

(b) the material alteration or extension of a building, and

(c) a material change of use of a building,

to which the Building Regulations apply.

Specifically in relation to the material alteration of a shop, office or industrial building or part thereof, article 7 says:-

(b) This Part applies to works in connection with the material alteration (excluding a material alteration consisting solely of minor works) of a shop, office or industrial building to which Part III, or Part III of the Building Control Regulations, 1991 and 1994, do not apply.

It is clear that the proposed works constitute a material alteration, that the material alteration does not consist solely of minor works, and that Part III doesn’t apply.

It follows that a Commencement Notice must be served in connection with the proposed works.

8. What documents must accompany the Commencement Notice (The “new requirements of the 2014 building regulations”)

Article 7(1)(b) of the building control regulations as amended states that an inspection plan, assigned certifier, drawings, specifications, certificate of completion etc etc are required for all projects subject to paragraph (2).

Paragraph 2 of Article 7 then states:-

(2) The requirements of paragraph (1)(b) shall apply to the following works and buildings –

(a) the design and construction of a new dwelling,

(b) an extension to a dwelling involving a total floor area greater than 40 square metres,

(c) works to which Part III applies

As the proposed fit out is not works to which Part III applies (i.e., the works do not require a Fire Safety Certificate), it follows that the requirements of paragraph 7 (1)(b) do not apply to the proposed works.

In simple terms, one must serve the Commencement Notice, and apart from the fee, no accompanying documents per 7(1)(b) are required.

9. Conclusion

Compliance with statutory duty in respect of a project of a type described at (1) requires service of a Commencement Notice on the building control authority, without submission of any supporting documents such as an Inspection Plan, appointment of Assigned Certifier, Certificate of Compliance on Completion and the rest of it laid out at article 7(1)(b).

No fire safety certificate is required for the proposed works.

To submit any supporting material along with the Commencement Notice, or to apply for a fire safety certificate, would be an error.

Eoin O’Cofaigh 27th June 2014

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NOTE: Opinion posts are not meant to undermine or be in opposition to any professional advice from registered representative bodies: rather it is to offer additional technical aids to those that find themselves in the position of having to deal with SI.9 in it’s current form at present. As with all information posted on the Blog we urge all practitioners to check with their respective professional bodies before assuming any roles or duties under Building Control (Amendment) regulation (SI.9 of 2014). We hope this information that may be useful to professional implementers working within these new and difficult regulations. 

If there are any registered engineers with similar concerns we would be interested in hearing from them also. As this is an opinion piece, we do not endorse or recommend any practices, interpretations or comments in this post. We suggest professionals contact their respective professional bodies with concerns or queries.

Other posts of interest:

Eoin O’Cofaigh: SME’S & BC(A)R SI.9  – click link here

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

O’Cofaigh: Competitiveness issues & BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

RTÉ Radio: self-builders & RIAI past presidents Collins + O’Cofaigh – click link here

O’Cofaigh: self building, self-regulation & the consumer – click link here

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

Eoin O Cofaigh: The architectural technologist and BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

O’Cofaigh letter to Senators: BC(A)R SI.9 (SI.105) – click link here RTÉ

Radio 1 Clip: RIAI confirms call for deferral of BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

RTÉ.ie Radio 28th Feb. ’14: Morning Ireland: Storm in a tea-cup? BC(A)R SI.9 – click link here

Radio Clip: Joe Duffy “what government in their right mind would make people unemployed?” – click link here  

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