BRegs Blog

A blog to debate the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations (BCAR): The BRegs Blog presents an opportunity for free expression of opinion on BCAR and their implementation. The blog is not representative of any professional body or organisation. Each post represents the personal opinion of that contributor and does not purport to represent the views of all contributors.

Dáil: CIAT & RIAI- 2 Architectural Technologist Registers

by Bregs Blog admin team

We believe the department met with organisations representing ARchitectural Technologists yesterday (CIAT and RIAI) to progress the establishment of an independent register for ARchitectural Technologists. We will post details of this meeting shortly.

BRegs Blog

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In the Dáil this week the Minister stated he may be placing two new Architectural Technologist registers on a statutory footing following receipt of proposals recently.

In response to questions from Claire Daly TD and Jim Daly TD on the status of Architectural Technologists under SI.9, Minister Phil Hogan confirmed he would be meeting with both CIAT and the representative body for architects (RIAI) in July 2014 concerning separate registers for Architectural Technologists for the new building regulations. Link to Dáil exchange here.

Extract as follows:

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Written answers, Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Department of Environment, Community and Local Government- Architectural Qualifications

Clare Daly (Dublin North, United Left)

301. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if he will respond positively and promptly to the proposal to operate a voluntary register for architectural technologists in Ireland with a view to it becoming statutory subject to ministerial…

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Press: Shocking CSO figures detail startling slump in building sector

by Bregs Blog admin team

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The following article in the Westmeath Examiner on 14th July 2014 illustrates the two-tier construction sector recovery previously commented on in Breg Blog. In “Shocking CSO figures detail startling slump in building sector” – Westmeath Examiner, recent figures from the Central Statistics Office for Westmeath are discussed. See full article here.

Extract to follow:

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Shocking CSO figures detail startling slump in building sector

by John Madden, engineer (pictured), Monday, 14th July

The way the startling slump in Ireland’s building trade has manifested itself in Westmeath is displayed clearly in figures released recently by the Central Statistics Office.

The figures show that in the first quarter of 2014, planning permission for just 20 houses was granted in Westmeath – all of them one-off dwellings.

Even more strikingly, just 66 housing estate houses have been granted permission in the six and a half years since the end of 2006.

By contrast, when the Celtic Tiger was at its peak, the number of permits granted for houses in Westmeath reached four-digit levels.

The fall is dramatic when set against the peak figures. For example, in the final quarter of 2005, permission for some 739 houses was granted; in the final quarter of 2005, permission for 7111 houses was granted.

In fact, in the whole of 2005, the number of houses granted permission amounted to 1,497 – and permission was also granted for the construction of 871 flats or apartments.

Over the 12 months of 2004, permission for 1,449 houses was granted, together with permission for 569 flats/apartments.

However, the figures show that in the final quarter of 2013, just seven houses were approved for construction by the council – and in the entire 12 months of 2013, permission was granted for just 73 houses in Westmeath, together with seven flats/apartments.

Engineer John Madden, of John Madden and Associates, confirms that firms such as his, in the business of preparing house plans and submitting applications for clients, have seen a massive slump since the peak.

However, the introduction earlier this year of new planning regulations means that there is something of a mini-boom going on in the construction sector.

“A lot of people put in their commencement notices before the end of March, so that kicked off a bit of a building boom,” he says.

In the last few weeks, he has had a number of clients approach him with a view to having him draw up plans for one-off houses.

“But not one of them has been sitting opposite me,” he declares, explaining that the clients are in good jobs in Australia or Canada or elsewhere, and sending family members in to start the ball rolling for them.
Another trend he has noticed is that a lot of foreign-born workers are buying houses in estates here.

“They’re from all over the world,” says John, explaining that mostly, they are in the market for family homes to live in.
That said, eh recently had an enquiry from an investor in Australia – not Irish – interested in having two houses here surveyed, as he saw potential in the Irish rental market.

Floor size

The CSO figures also show that while the house numbers are well down, the average floor area per house has shot upwards – due, most likely, to the fact that practically all the houses granted permission going right back as far as 2008 have been one-off houses.

Back in 2001, the typical one-off house squared up at between 182 and 188 square metres. That began creeping up gradually from 2002, and increasing on a more or less consistent basis right through the mid 2000s until, by 2008, one-off houses ranged, on average, from 275 to about 288 square metres in size.

In 2013, those one-off sizes were back somewhat, ranging from an average of 217 square metres to 291 ssquare metres.

An increased taste for innovation in design, and for something other than the old style “bungalow bliss” type houses, fuelled a lot of the growth in house sizes, says John, adding that increased energy efficiency construction made it feasible to build larger house.

Other posts of interest:

Construction Recovery- watch this space. – click link here

CSO: (Q1 2014) planning permissions for dwellings -30% drop – click link here

Taoiseach: get building back to ‘sensible, sustainable levels’- click link here

Press: Construction and property bouncing back as jobs surge – click link here

Press: Fears construction recovery will stall – click link here

CIF Construction Confidence Survey – click link here

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

BC(A)R SI.9- BCMS: “must do better” – click link here

Eoin O’Cofaigh: missed opportunity? BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

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Having identified that these new building regulations will bring “peace of mind” to nobody, your correspondent Mr. Michael Finan writes (Irish Times letters to Editor on 7th March) that “It is surprising that any professional institute would be prepared to back this regulation”.

Indeed.

The RIAI Council agreed unanimously last January that “self-certification (such as the regulations provide for) will not adequately protect the consumer” for whom the Government introduced these regulations in the first place. No backing there! This position is close to that of the National Consumer Association, who in their submission on the draft regulations said that independent inspections were needed; as, indeed, did the report of the Government’s own Pyrites Panel, who wrote the same thing.

The building regulations which came into law last week create a huge structure under which the construction industry regulates itself, by getting the architect to certify that everybody else has done their work properly. Now who, with the most rudimentary understanding of human nature, could imagine that a system which allows X to dump responsibility for what they do onto some other private person, will result in that same X carrying out their work better?

The new regulations do bring winners and losers.

The winners? Contractors and subcontractors, who are distanced from liability for their own work, this being covered by the “Assigned Certifier”; lawyers, who are circling the regulations in happy anticipation of future growth in litigation; and the Government, who gain plaudits for, as they tell us, “sorting out the Priory Hall mess” and for some tough talking about construction sector cowboys.

The losers are a rather wider category. They include the self-builders who, notwithstanding Ministerial promises, will be compelled to employ registered builders if they want to borrow to build or to sell their houses. They also include businesses saddled unnecessarily with increased compliance costs in what international surveys identify as already one of the least competitive construction regulation systems in the developed world; architectural technologists, whose livelihood has been largely closed down; and large numbers of architects, lumbered with liability for certifying other peoples’ work, for an hourly recompense in the region of the national minimum wage. But the biggest loser by far is the Irish people, who have once again been sold a building regulations pup.

A proper system of independent inspectors of construction design and execution was and remains possible. Analogous to company auditors, such a system would be at no cost to the public purse. It would “tick all the boxes” for people taking responsibility for their own work, leading to better building.

Such a system can be seen in operation on the adjoining island, anywhere east of Holyhead. No Priory Hall or pyrites problems there.

The new building regulations spawn mounds of paper and digital information. They distance the local authorities from any duty of inspection. They continue with self-certification in a sector of industry which, of all sectors, needs the most stringent public inspection.

The regulations do nothing to prevent another Priory Hall or pyrites disaster. They will not prevent a future Minister having to again dig into the public pocket to underwrite the next round of repairs to distressed homeowners’ dwellings. They are a huge missed opportunity, from a Government who knew the proper solution and who ignored it.

The above letter to the editor (Irish Times) was submitted on 16th March 2014 by Eoin O’Cofaigh RIAI President, 1998-1999