Mick Wallace: Building Control needs Strengthening
by Bregs Blog admin team
In the following website page posted on Mick Wallace T.D., the public representative considers recent Dáil exchanges regarding the new building regulations- see link here.
Public Building Control needs Strengthening…
Dáil Diary no 32. 1st July 2014
Public Building Control needs Strengthening…
The problem of Pyrite in building products has not gone away, in fact. It may get worse before it gets better. I had an opportunity to discuss the issue with Minister Phil Hogan in the Dáil, and here’s my contribution-
“ The Association of Consulting Engineers published an advice note on 15 May about cases of apparent pirate content in concrete blocks provided by block manufacturers. The Minister has been assuring us for a while that with the new regulations everything would be well but clearly everything is not well.
Minister Hogan replied– “Harmonised European product standards provide the methods and criteria for assessing the performance of construction products in relation to their essential characteristics. The harmonised standard includes the technical data necessary for the implementation of a system of assessment and verification of constancy of performance including third party oversight. The National Standards Authority of Ireland has also produced additional guidance to some harmonised European product standards in the form of national annexes or standard recommendations which set out appropriate minimum performance levels for specific intended uses of certain products in Ireland.
The relevant building control authorities are taking appropriate actions under applicable legislation to deal with this issue and the Department, in conjunction with the building control authorities, will continue to monitor the situation. Testing has been carried out in a number of affected developments which has confirmed the presence of deleterious material in the concrete blocks, including pyrite and sulphate.
My Department understands that in each case, the costs of the resolution are being pursued, in the first instance, with the contractors and suppliers. The actions taken thus far by the relevant parties involved suggest the regulatory system is functioning effectively and that an appropriate means of redress is being pursued through those who were responsible for this building failure.”
Mick Wallace– “He has stated the system is working well because the culprits are being chased. While he has told me about all the wonderful European legislation and regulations that are place, we must go back to the same chestnut. If pyrite has arrived in blocks, the threat is dangerous to any block that has additional sulphate and that gets moisture. Many blocks do, such as all the blocks under the ground, as do the blocks in the outer leaf even though they are plastered. The reason there is a cavity is because the outer leaf gets damp.
There will be huge problems if this is widespread. The point is that were the system working properly, this would not have happened. Quarries are not regulated well enough and while they are regulated for dust and for movement of trucks in and out, there is no real quality regulation of standards. For example, in the case of quarries quarrying 1,000 tonnes and 20,000 tonnes, respectively, of stone per week, is there a stipulation as to how often they are tested? The big elephant in the room again is that while the Minister has stated there is a facility for third-party checks, the major problem is the local authority lacks the facility, the manpower and the money to be a serious third party that checks to ensure everyone is behaving well.”
Minister Hogan relied: “The issues raised by the Deputy have nothing to do with the new building regulations yet, as they have only been in operation since 1 March. However, standards have been in place for these concrete blocks going back to 1987. The problem is with enforcement and I completely agree with the Deputy that the building authority must do more to enforce the regulations that already are in place. The standards in place, which initially commenced in 1987, were revised in 2003. Consequently, I am conscious that there are people who are not observing what already is in regulation. Moreover, there probably is not sufficient enforcement or visits to sites, as the Deputy advocates, by the local authorities. I intend to take up this matter with the local authorities to ensure they actually engage in more enforcement. An opportunity has arisen in recent years, because of the revised manner in which staff operate in local authorities, particularly in planning sections, for them to have more time to carry out more enforcement works regarding these problems of pyrite and sulphate in concrete blocks. However, there are people in all these cases who have not gone into liquidation or receivership. There are people who certainly have decided they do not intend to observe the regulations and they will be pursued.”
Mick Wallace: “It was obvious back in 2007, when the first regulation on checking for pyrite in stone was brought in, that the regulation in question was not as onerous as the British standard. I acknowledge this was changed in February 2013, which is welcome but the major problem is that all along, the Construction Industry Federation and not the State appears to determine what is happening. Public building control must be strengthened if these problems are to be addressed in the future. The Minister mentioned that what I am referring to has nothing to do with the new regulations which came in March but the principle is the same. The Minister’s system of assigned certifiers will crack up within the next couple of years. He should not ask me how they will deal with the insurance implications arising from trying to stand over absolutely everything without on-site checks. Does the Minister honestly believe the architect will employ someone to be on site continuously to check that things are done right? As I have stated previously, if a load-bearing beam is being used for which a 32 mm steel bar is specified but where no such bar is on site and if the builder substitutes a 16 mm bar instead, how will the architect know what is in it, even though he will be signing off on it? The Government remains reactive, not proactive.”