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

by Bregs Blog admin team


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”.


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