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.

Month: November, 2014

November 2014 breaks Blog record! | Top Ten Posts

by Bregs Blog admin team

elephant-framed

Top 10 posts | 30 November 2014

November was the busiest month since the BReg Blog began with a record 24,600+ views. By comparison our first month in November last year received only 2,870 views for the entire month. Some of the posts are described below and you can click on the links to the top ten posts at the bottom of the page.

  • Our top read post was about an EGM for the representative body for architects (RIAI) held on 4th November 2014. Events leading up to, and after the night continue to exercise the minds of both the Institute and its members. In many respects it seems as if issues and events not discussed on the night were of more importance than the motions tabled and voted upon.
  • HomeBond’s current technical manual was the topic of a widely read analysis by architect Joseph Little, as was the subject of a current pilot offering of an ‘all-in’ €2000 BC(A)R insurance and certifier package.
  • A recent post which made it onto the list was the recent announcement by Minister Alan Kelly of his firm intention to change and amend BC(A)R SI.9. As with all statements from the Department of the Environment the devil is in the detail so we await further information on this.
  • The continuing exclusion of Architectural Technologists from the register of competent professionals was again widely read and two posts on this issue occupy spots on the top 10.
  • The Social Media topic of the past two months is the continuing confusion around the area of cumulative extensions and the 40 sq.m. exemption from provisions of SI.9 (still unresolved at the time of posting) – this occupies two places in the list and was hugely popular last month also.
  • Jack Kavanagh, Past President of the ACEI and IEI (engineers’ representative bodies) had a thought provoking piece where he suggested that SI.9 is “…unjust to both engineer and society”.

Remember that reading these ten blog posts qualifies for CPD (unstructured) points, so record and start your CPD for 2015 now!

  1. RIAI EGM | 4th November 2014 | Who said what?
  2. The Latest Homebond House Building Manual: A Critique | Joseph Little Architects
  3. Homebond | Assigned Certifier + defects liability policy for €2,000?
  4. Imminent changes to SI.9 announced | Minister Alan Kelly T.D.
  5. Dáil | Architectural Technologist update
  6. RIAI PRACTICE NEWS : 40SqM BC(A)R SI.9 Exemption
  7. Engineers Ireland Journal | Jack Kavanagh- is SI.9 unjust to both engineer and society?
  8. RIAI Update | What happened at EGM
  9. RIAI | Architectural Technologist update
  10. ± 40 sq.m. exemption from SI.9 | Kevin Tyrrell Architectural Technologist
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‘Onerous’ Building Regulations must be amended – Minister Kelly

by Bregs Blog admin team

Alan-Kelly-Building-Regs-620x350

Here is a more detailed piece on the content of Minister Alan Kelly’s address to the Construction Industry Federation on 25th November from the The Engineers Journal. In the following article ‘Onerous’ Building Regulations must be amended – Minister Kelly from 27th November 2014, Environment Minister Alan Kelly has stated that he will propose amendments to the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 as they are “too onerous”, especially with regard to self builds and extensions, writes David Jackson. Extract to follow:

___________

‘Onerous’ Building Regulations must be amended – Minister Kelly

Environment Minister Alan Kelly has stated that he will propose amendments to theBuilding Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014, as the current Regulations are “too onerous”.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) on 25 October to mark the launch of the Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI), Minister Kelly said, “We can never have another Priory Hall. It was absolutely outrageous what was allowed to happen in the past… but we can’t use a mallet to crack a nut in relation to some aspects of the Building Regulations.

“I’ll be proposing that there’ll be amendments to the Regulations – particularly in relation to self-build, one-off houses and extensions – because I believe there’s a need for some change in that whole area,” he continued. “I think the Regulations, as they currently stand, are a bit too onerous. In fact, I know they’re too onerous. They need to be amended and myself and Minister Paudie Coffey [Minister of State at the Department of the Environment with Special Responsibility for Housing, Planning and Coordination of the Construction 2020 Strategy] will be working on that.”

CIRI is a register of construction companies, sole traders and builders that are vetted by Government nominees and industry professionals. It has been set up to help members of the public find competent, experienced construction practitioners. In order to be listed on CIRI a company must comply with the building regulations and an industry code of ethics, it must prove its tax compliance and it must meet the health and safety regulations relating to the construction industry.

In CIRI’s first year, over 400 construction companies are listed with a further 800 companies at various stages of the application process. The CIF expects that approximately 1,500 companies will be listed on CIRI by the end of 2015.

CIRI and statutory legislation

Minister Kelly also discussed the Government’s perspective on the Register ahead of the publication of the legislation that will set CIRI on a statutory footing in 2015. He emphasised the importance of learning from past mistakes brought about by what he described as “bad decision making, greed, a lack of statutory provision and a lack of regulation”.

“CIRI and the reforms of building control activity now provide a robust and reliable registry framework that I believe will prove fit for purpose in ensuring that we leave behind the bad old days, when sharp practice and a quick buck were the order of the day, when clients and consumers found themselves short changed and with little hope of recourse from the industry or from public authorities,” he added.

Minister Kelly acknowledged that public tolerance for defective building and shoddy workmanship had been exhausted and concluded by outlining the impact CIRI will have on the future of the construction industry. “This is something that’s imperative for the future of the industry, the future development of the industry, the branding of the industry and also to create a control mechanism to ensure that we have an industry fit for purpose, to ensure that we don’t go through again what we went through in the past,” he said.

It is hoped that CIRI will strengthen the arrangements in place for quality construction by:

  • Providing a means by which developers, owners and construction professionals can satisfy themselves that the contractors they use will be competent and experienced for the work that they undertake;
  • Ensuring that responsible and compliant firms can compete on a level playing field and are not subject to unfair competition from unscrupulous operators;
  • Ensuring that clients, including public bodies, are aware of the compliance record of any CIRI registered entity with which they engage;
  • Supporting the continuous development over time of the professionalism and competence of individual firms, and thus the industry as a whole; and
  • Providing an effective means for responding to client or consumer complaints against CIRI registered entities.

CIF president Philip Crampton reiterated the Minister’s points and backed the focus on quality and competency that CIRI promotes. “It [CIRI] will allow those who carry out good, quality work, and who meet all the eligibility criteria, to stand out from those who don’t,” he said.

“We have some fantastic companies and sole traders in the Irish construction sector and CIRI provides them with the platform to stand out. It also provides a register which construction professionals such as architects, chartered surveyors and engineers, as well as the general public, can rely upon,” he concluded.

Other posts of interest:

Imminent changes to SI.9 announced | Minister Alan Kelly T.D.

When is an extension not extensions? | The 40M2 question…

SI.9 Cost for 2014 = 3 x Ballymun Regeneration Projects

RIAI | Architectural Technologist update

Donegal Pyrite update

Iaosb letter to Minister Kelly – Revoke or Revise S.I.9

Dáil | Architectural Technologist update

Ronan Lyons | Regulations pushing up the costs of homes

Revoke SI.9 | IAOSB / Self-Builders’ Letter to TD’s

by Bregs Blog admin team

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The representative body for self-builders (IAOSB) have recently commenced a nationwide campaign to highlight members’ concerns on the impacts of BC(A)R SI.9. This letter was sent to all Dáil TD’s from the IAOSB on November 25th 2014- see original letter here. This follows on from a letter to Minister Alan Kelly sent on 19th November 2014.

_____________

Iaosb letter to TD’s – Revoke S.I.9
25th November 2014

Dear ……………………. ,

Re: Building Control (Amendment) Regulation S.I.9 of 2014

I am writing to you following on from our letters earlier in January of the year about the impacts of the new building regulation BC(A)R SI.9 on self-builders.

A confidential stakeholder process entered into by former Minister Hogan following on from a public consultation in May 2012 resulted in SI.9 being implemented in March of this year. The small stakeholder group involved was comprised of groups with vested commercial interests- these were representative bodies for architects, engineers and chartered surveyors (RIAI, ACEI and SCSI respectively) along with the Construction industry Federation (CIF) only. Consumer groups such as ourselves were excluded from any discussions regarding the new regulations.

The regulation that resulted was of benefit to these vested interests, while impacting on many consumer groups such as ourselves with an array of unintended consequences. The RIAI, ACEI and SCSI now have protected positions with private registers, and adequately qualified non-members of these organisations are precluded from occupying new roles under SI.9.

The main restriction in SI.9 that continues to impact self-builders most is the restriction to use “competent” builders, which only seem to be members of the new privately owned CIF register CIRI. The Department of the Environment has in effect, given CIF a monopoly on all residential building in the state as a result. We would like to point out that there are other well-established industry standards for competence, such as RECI or the National Guild of Master Craftsmen.

We have received numerous estimates of SI.9 adding over €40,000 to the cost of a typical €180,000 self-built dwelling. The bulk of these costs are associated with the requirement to employ a CIF registered main contractor. SI.9 is pricing many lower-end self-builders out of the market. These are at the lower cost end, where owners were hoping to build better quality homes at a realistic cost, on a phased basis, than speculative housing. These are the real-world numbers our members are coming back to us with. We have undertaken surveys of members and to date, for this year, we estimate between 800 and 1,000 dwelling projects have been abandoned by self builders trying to build a home for their families.

Why the former Minister and DECLG would insist on CIF’s new register CIRI be written in to legislation at the expense of other proven and well-regarded similar registers of competent builders is a question that needs to be asked. CIRI has no track record. Why has the CIF, a private organisation, has been made the beneficiary of this restrictive practice by our elected representatives?

It would appear that the Minister and Department continue to have a very small circle of friends when it comes to matters pertaining to Building Control and the construction industry. What benefit do self-builders get for the huge costs of SI.9- The security of using a CIF contractor?

The IAOSB are supporters of greater professional involvement and oversight in the construction industry generally, and in the speculative residential sector in particular. Most self-builds employed professionals for planning, tender, site and other stages of the building process. We completed homes using industry standard contracts, and all work was undertaken in a safe fashion under current Health and Safety legislation.

There is no evidence that we are aware of to indicate that self-built homes were subject to the shoddy building practices of speculative built housing. We are insulted by CIF suggestions that self-builders were involved in the “black economy”.  This is simply lobbyist propaganda. If the CIF are aware of instances where proper revenue practices were not adhered to they should then simply report the matter to the authorities. I would like to point out that If similar allegations were made by consumers against CIF members there would be outrage.

Why are ordinary citizens denied the age-old tradition of being able to build their own home, frequently on their family farms where they grew up, for a reasonable cost? In most cases, these are the only option available to them. Self-builders were not responsible for Priory Hall so why should we be punished for the mistake of others?

Many self-builders are experienced tradespersons themselves, members of RECI and also the National Guild of Master Craftsmen, itself a well-established register of builders with 7,500 members. We now have a situation where an experienced well regarded tradesperson has to employ a CIF registered main contractor at huge expense to oversee the build of their own house. Some members in CIRI may well have no building experience, or construction skills- they well may just be construction managers like an typical self-builder.

In March 2015 the CIF’S private register CIRI is due to be put on a statutory footing which means that a lot of self builders would no longer be able to participate in building their home for their families, In most of these cases these self builders are people who have children and are already struggling financially due to lack of jobs and extra charges and taxes brought in by this government.

BC(A)R SI.9 simply is not working. It needs to be revoked. We need a simple low cost system of independent inspections by Local Authorities similar to the UK where self-building is not only tolerated but encouraged.

Our members see their dreams falling away due to the casual introduction of a reckless regulation that not only makes no sense, but is being defended by civil servants and our political representatives.

Looking at another problem, there are a lot of people who are waiting on a very long housing list and in certain circumstances a house built by a self builder would leave a vacant house for these families in need.

Many public representatives have built their own homes, and if not they know of someone who has done so or plans to self-build. Many we have talked to are against the impacts of S.I.9. We are appealing again to you, our elected representatives, to hear the voices of self builders of today and thousands of others who are planning to build their own homes in the future. We need your help to stand up for the right of the Irish people that has been taken away from them by this amendment. You need to take action now before the construction industry in Ireland has been handed back to similar developers and contractors who got us in the mess in the first place.

According to the Central Statics Office a little over 1,300 dwellings were speculatively built out of  a total of 8,300 dwellings completed in 2013. This means that almost 7,000 homes were once-off houses by owners, many self-built. SI.9 should be restricted to apply to speculative residential developments only, and removed for all other sectors. If necessary set up a simple system of Local Authority inspectors to inspect and approve self-built or once-off houses.

Minister Kelly this month at the Swords event “Future of Housing in Fingal” said that SI.9 was like “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut” and stated his intention to reform the regulations. Unless action is taken immediately to rectify the mess his predecessor former Minister Hogan left in his wake, we will be facing into another Irish Water as the huge costs and  multitude of consequences of this legislation play out soon over the coming months.

Building Control (Amendment)  Regulation S.I.9 of 2014 is a mistake by this government and we ask you as a representative of the people, to stand up and fight for the right of these people.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards,

Shane McCloud

Irish Association of Self Builder

www.iaosb.com

http://www.iaosb.com/building_control_(amendment)_regulation_s.i.9_of_2014_has_failed_self_builders_of_ireland.html

http://www.iaosb.com/letter_to_attorney_general,_maire_whelan_sc_from_iaosb_regarding_s.i.9.html

Other posts of interest:

SI.9 causing major delays to school projects

by Bregs Blog admin team

Site_Closed

By Breg Blog Admin on 28th November 2014

In a previous post we noted a press article where the impact of S.I.9 on the schools’ building programme was identified- see “SI.9 causing major delays to school projects“.

Attached are the source documents for this article – a list of school projects scheduled to be completed in 2014, and a list of school projects underway in 2014. As you can see the substance of the press article is indeed accurate- there would  appear to be a significant delay on capital spending this year for school projects. This is another unintended consequence of the introduction of the poorly conceived S.I.9 legislation.

School Projects to go on site in 2014– click link here

Download PDF here: Scheduled-for-construction-in-2014-Announcement-

Monthly School Projects update 2014 (September 2014) – click link here

Download PDF here: Projects-to-go-to-Construction-2014

We wonder if any of the relevant public representatives have put questions to the Department of Education or Minister as to why the bulk of these proposals have been delayed, and what steps they are taking to ensure delays due to the new building regulations are addressed.

It would be interesting to know if these significant delays are replicated in other government departments e.g. delays to hospital projects or other primary care facilities due to the new building regulations?

For contractors delayed projects have similar turnover consequences to postponed or abandoned projects. Any capital spending delays may be positive for department with spending under pressure- however the same delays have significant impacts on construction employment.

Other posts of interest: 

60 new schools delayed due to SI.9 | Independent.ie 

Public Sector projects – is SI9 necessary?

Time needed for School Certifier 

Jobs in Construction

Drop in Commencements

Imminent changes to SI.9 announced | Minister Alan Kelly T.D.

by Bregs Blog admin team

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28 November 2014

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly T.D., has given a strong indication that amendments to S.I 9 are imminent. The likely sea-change in the policy introduced by his predecessor, Phil Hogan,  follows widespread criticism of the S.I.9 Building Control legislation and the many practical and financial problems being encountered by building owners, design professionals and building contractors. The announcement came about on Tuesday last at a Construction Industry Federation function.

The Minister is quoted as saying:

“we can’t be using a mallet to crack a nut…

I’ll be proposing that there’ll be amendments to the Regulations– particularly in relation to self-build, one-off houses and extensions– because I believe there’s a need for some change in that whole area…

I think the Regulations, as they currently stand, are a bit too onerous. In fact, I know they’re too onerous. They need to be amended and myself and Minister Paudie Coffey will be working on that.”

His statement follows intensive lobbying and consultation  in recent weeks between his Department, representatives of self-builder groups and a very wide range of stakeholders including contributors to this blog on the array of unintended consequences of S.I.9 to date. This is the second public statement from the Minister in as many weeks that signal his own concerns about the new Building Control system, introduced  in March of this year. Both Minister Kelly and Minister Coffey have sent a clear message that they are personally aware of the problems and very committed to putting them right. Coming just 24 hours after the launch of the Housing Strategy, the two ministers are keenly aware of the impact of the new regulations on housing supply. Irish Building Magazine posted the following video of the above address by Minister Alan Kelly . The Minister may be heard from 7:16-20:14.

Link to Irish Building Magazine here.

Village magazine| What’s happening with housing policy in 2014?

by Bregs Blog admin team

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Village magazine| What’s happening with housing policy in 2014?

In the following Village magazine article from November 6th 2014, author Michael Smith discusses government housing policy, budget changes, planning bills and homelessness problems.

Current government policy for social housing and tackling the growing homelessness problems are noted. The Labour Party and the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, have made it clear social housing is a priority. For the main article click here.

We have previously noted the drag on housing output the new bulding regulations BC(A)R SI.9 is having at present, with an estimated cost to the industry and consumer of €5bn by 2020.

Given the continuing lower level of commencements, planning applications and completions of new dwellings it is difficult to predict how recent budget changes will meet the ambitious aims of the government 2020 strategy without reform of our regulatory framework.

Extracts to follow:

Minister Alan Kelly:

“Under these plans, we expect in the region of 4,000 additional social housing units built by 2020”.

The upcoming Planning Bill is noted as aiming to triple housing output by 2020 and adding up to 60,000 jobs to the construction sector. The proportion of Ireland’s workers employed in construction is now 5.4pc, which is more than one-fifth below the EU average. The new legislation will also see the introduction of a vacant site levy where local authorities will have the power to apply levies to property owners who leave their sites vacant. The article goes on to comment on homelessness:

“As to homelessness, in May the Government approved the Implementation Plan on the State’s Response to Homelessness, which outlines how the objective of ending involuntary long-term homelessness can be achieved. It is about ending homelessness for people who are long-term homeless; that is, people who are in emergency accommodation for a period of longer than six months on a consecutive basis or those in emergency accommodation for a period of more than six months on a non-consecutive basis in the previous 12 months…

…However Peter McVerry, a Jesuit priest working with homeless people, considers that the budget fails to address the major cause of homelessness today, namely the increase in rents in the private rental market, particularly in Dublin. While rents have been increasing substantially over the past 18 months, the State’s rent allowance has remained static

Nevertheless at a rate of 2,500 social housing units per year, it would take 36 years to clear the social housing waiting lists at this rate of construction. It is well below the 18,680 social housing units which were completed in the three years from 2006 to 2008 inclusive.[emphasis by BRegs Blog]

…Focus Ireland highlights that it will take at least 18 months until this investment delivers the first homes for people in need. The charity stresses that there also needs to be a clear and effective short-term strategy to tackle the current crisis in family homelessness and in access to affordable housing for single people.”

The article concludes with a critique of the government decision to drop an 80% rezoning windfall tax, a measure introduced to curb land speculation which was the subject of lobbying by the Construction Industry Federation in advance of the last budget. Quote:

“We have not heard the end of the lobbyings of the resurgent property industry, an industry which never learns and only ever forgets. Coming soon: reduced quality, reduced densities, reduced open-space requirements and reduced development levies. Quality of life will have to wait, again.”

Other posts of interest:

Dr Rory Hearne | + 168,000 empty houses in the country

CSO- Dwelling units approved down 16.6% in one year

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

12,000 social + affordable houses at no cost to taxpayer?

€ 5 billion | The extraordinary cost of S.I.9 self-certification by 2020

Room for improvement on social housing policy

World Bank Report 2015 | Ireland’s poor construction regulations are the biggest drag on our ranking

Karl Whelan: “…raft of cost-increasing building regs are at least partly responsible”

Irish Times: Housing measure will help Dublin’s crisis, but not in the short term

“Size isn’t important” | Are shoe box apartments really the solution?

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing?

BCMS Alert | Last day for Christmas Completion!

by Bregs Blog admin team

BCMS Christmas 2014

27th November 2014

The Building Control Management System (BCMS) has just published a notice on its website with regard to arrangements for the submission of Commencement/7-Day Notices over the Christmas and New Year period (Link).

Extract:

“BCMS will not accept the final submission of Notices during the period from midnight on [Sunday] 21stDecember 2014 to midnight on 1st January 2015. (Similar arrangements are being made for counter submissions). However, the BCMS site will continue to allow access to create and assemble Commencement / 7Day Notices up to submission stage. For Certificates of Compliance on completion you should liaise directly with your Building Control Authority to ensure that appropriate arrangements are made.”

This is a surprising development and not one that appears to have been referred to in the Building Control Regulations. It is further surprising that the BCMS did not utilise its ability to notify its 6,000 registered users of this early Christmas shutdown i.e. get the information to the relevant people in real time.

The implication of these dates, if you want a one day Certificate of Compliance on completion to be processed by the Building Control Authority and put on the Register BEFORE Christmas 2014 is that the Certificate of Compliance must be lodged on Thursday 18th December 2014 to ensure it is on the Register on the last working day [Friday 19th December 2014].

Accordingly you have to lodge your prospective Completion documents TODAY [27th November 2014]*

*This early Christmas shutdown supercedes advice given in a previous post: ALERT | SI.9 Christmas Completion Countdown

Links:

Holiday Workload – BCO Response:

Practical Post 2: “We want to be in for Christmas

Code of Practice for Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (SI.9 of 2014)

RIAI Prospective Compliances: BC(A)R SI.9

Catherine Murphy TD | Today’s Housing Promises Won’t Bear Fruit for at Least Two Years

by Bregs Blog admin team

CM-In-front-of-Leinster-House-Small

Dealing with the housing crisis has become a major challenge for the Government parties. The BRegs Blog has received many inquiries as to possible ‘quick’ solutions to the problem. In addition to a pretty simple and immediate measure, revoke S.I.9, we will be posting other possible solutions shortly. In relation to alternative solutions for the housing sector, issued by the Government, the BRegs Blog received the following  statement from Independent T.D.,  Catherine Murphy on 25th November 2014. See link here. Extract:

Today’s Housing Promises Won’t Bear Fruit for at Least Two Years

Independent TD has today drawn attention to the timescale involved in today’s signing off by the Cabinet on the commitment to provide €2.2 billion for Social Housing over the next three years.  Ms Murphy has highlighted the fact that this €2.2 billion is actually committed as a total over the next three years – up to 2017, long after this Government’s term is due to end.

“When this measure was announced in the budget, I drew attention to the timeline. We are talking here about funds being committed for a period after the lifetime of this Government. The announcement today that this fund will be invested will not translate into actual housing being made available in the near future. We are still looking at a minimum of two years before we’re likely to see any houses completed.”

“While any investment in the area of housing is much needed and therefore very welcome, this is a longer-term response when in fact we urgently need a short-term response to deal with what is currently an emergency situation in housing. With over 90,000 on housing lists nationwide and private sector rents sky-rocketing, we need to be looking at measures that can address this in the here and now and not just two to three years down the line; measures such as a relaxing of the rent supplement limits for example. ”

“Even with this €2.2 billion investment, there is still only the promise of 30,000 new and refurbished homes in total and that is simply not enough to deal with the massive housing crisis that is underway. In the long term we must focus on developing a National Housing Strategy that takes all factors into account and also offers alternative housing options such as the provision of a viable long-term rental option and a professionally managed rental sector.”

The BRegs Blog are happy to consider for publication any similar suggestions, comments or proposals in relation to housing and construction issues. Please email: bregsforum@gmail.com

Other posts of interest:

SI.9 Cost for 2014 = 3 x Ballymun Regeneration Projects

Ireland – What’s Next?| TV 3 Series on Ireland’s Housing Crisis

Ronan Lyons | Regulations pushing up the costs of homes

Dr Rory Hearne | + 168,000 empty houses in the country

Sunday Business Post | Karl Deeter “Building regulations – rules don’t deliver results”

CSO- Dwelling units approved down 16.6% in one year

Want to live in Dublin? | Only the wealthy need apply!

World Bank Report 2015 | UK v Ireland the real cost of “Dealing with construction permits”

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

When is an extension not extensions? | The 40M2 question…

by Bregs Blog admin team

TheTwilightZoneLogo

Opinion Piece submitted by a registered architect: 26th November 2014.

DECLG trying to discover meanings in SI.9

We are currently in an unusual position. We have the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) attempting to discover the meaning of basic components of legislation they introduced nine months ago. Even more remarkable is that this is as a result of a simple query coming from the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, a key stakeholder group, whose own staff and selected Council members were involved in the drafting of the same legislation!

Normally technical queries on building control regulations  set most people, including professionals, to sleep. However this question concerns the most basic aspect of SI.9, introduced in March 2014.

The ordinary bystander or even the famed “man on the Clapham bus” might wonder where the fuss is, given the simplicity of the contested clause – Article 9(2) which  sets out the circumstances where the full provisions of SI.9 applies:-

(9) (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

Ergo, if you are building an extension to a dwelling involving a floor area of less than 40 square metres article 9(1)(b) shall not apply [the section dealing with Certificates of compliance etc]. This seems pretty straightforward. Well, in the unusual world of the DECLG and building regulations this is not necessarily the case!

It would appear that due to poor drafting, the regulations may actually permit multiple and possibly concurrent extensions of less than 40 square metres, as long as each has the appropriate planning permission. Indications from the DECLG, in correspondences to folk querying the matter, suggest that this was not what the drafters of the legislation intended.

It appears in their rush to get the legislation out to satisfy the then Minister, Phil Hogan, the DECLG may not have crossed their T’s properly or dotted their I’s, or even understood the basic workings of the English language.

This is not the first example of vague and poor wording in SI.9 legislation. Self-builders have already been told to effectively ignore the wording on the completion certificate requiring the signature of a principal or director of a building company, which of course, most self-builders are not!  The DECLG does not seem to be overly concerned for those who might follow its non-statutory advice.

We all know the Courts will not have any regard to what a civil servant or even a Minister has said. They apply law as written and not what people imagine it should have said.

In previous advice [dated 24th October 2014] the DECLG seemed to try to close this 40 square metres loophole. Through an information note issued, by both the BCMS and the RIAI, it was suggested that the Article 9(2) clause actually meant that any extensions completed cumulatively could not exceed 40 square metres without offering any evidence as to how this could be elicited from the clause as worded.

Due to widespread criticism of this advice the RIAI went back to the DECLG [on 7th November] and asked for confirmation of the official position. And there, for RIAI members at least, the trail goes cold. This process has taken over 10 weeks to date from the initial queries when this misinterpretation by Local Authorities became apparent in early September, so one thing for sure, the clarification will not be rushed. It is now over a month since the BCMS weighed in with their cumulative opinion, totally unsubstantiated by any reference to the legislation itself.

Remember this is Ireland, where an “extension” may be “many extensions” and your problems may be cumulative even without those in charge knowing. Imagine the reaction if it was claimed that in Civil Marriage legislation “spouse” was actually intended to mean “spouses”, so that we could become a rainy version of 19th century polygamous Utah?

Many owners and their agents who attended RIAI CPD’s [on 4th July] will have already submitted (and had validated) short form commencement notices confirming SI.9 does not apply, where the relevant works were less than 40 square metres (in accordance with advice at the time). They are building away or have completed these projects now happy in the knowledge (at the time) that they were exempt from SI.9.

If the DECLG confirm that there is a cumulative interpretation this means many owners will have commenced  extensions, with valid commencement notices, that are  officially illegal builds. No method for retrospective compliance (another flaw) means that to rectify the situation owners will need to demolish and rebuild. It is estimated that this may affect hundreds of house extension projects throughout Ireland and will have major conveyancing implications, to put it mildly, when properties come to be sold.

This is quite an embarrassing position for professionals to find themselves in after giving apparently incorrect advice on commencement (in retrospect).

If the DECLG come out and say that this is not the case, and no such interpretation of SI.9 involves cumulative areas, then it will be equally embarrassing, for the Department which has been shipping a lot of water over their performance in establishing the law setting up Irish Water. A gambling man would not bet the house (even one with a non-compliant extension) on the Department admitting to another mistake.

As a registered professional I have found this quite difficult to explain to clients- they simply do not believe me. Would a proper informed legal opinion on this be too much to ask for from the stakeholders?

Other posts of interest:

40 SqM SI.9 exemption update | 18 November 2014

RIAI PRACTICE NEWS : 40SqM BC(A)R SI.9 Exemption

Legal Alert | Commencement Notices since 1st March 2014 

ALERT | Owners may need Certifiers on porch extensions?

RIAI: OPW Interactive Tools for the Design Certifier 

 

Applications for dispensation or relaxation of Building Regulations

by Bregs Blog admin team

340x227c

The following opinion piece was submitted by Simon McGuinness DipArch, BArchSc, MRIAI, CEPHD November 25th 2014

Applications for dispensation or relaxation of Building Regulations

Given the recent ruling by the BCMS administrators in relation to the cumulative area calculation for 40 sq. m. extensions and the profound legal difficulties that have arisen for building owners and practitioners as a result, I feel it only right to bring to public attention a potential means to regularise the otherwise intractable, and unintended, legal conundrum this has been created.

There is a formal process established under The Building Control Act 1990, the principal act, for anyone (presumably including designers, design certifiers, building owners or assigned certifiers) to request a relaxation of any part of the Building Regulations from a Local Authority.  The procedure is outlined in Section 4 of the Act, as follows:

__________________

BUILDING CONTROL ACT, 1990.

[…]

Dispensation or relaxation of building regulations.

4.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, a building control authority may, if it considers it reasonable having regard to all the circumstances of the case, grant a dispensation from, or a relaxation of, any requirement of building regulations in respect of buildings or works which are situated within the functional area of the building control authority and 

( a ) which are designed, constructed or carried out by or on behalf of the building control authority, or

( b ) in relation to which an application for such dispensation or relaxation has been submitted pursuant to subsection (2)

(2) An application for a dispensation from, or a relaxation of, any requirement of building regulations shall be made in the prescribed form, and any such application shall be accompanied by the prescribed fee (if any).

(3) Building regulations may provide that in respect of any specified requirement of the regulations, subsection (1) shall not apply.

(4) Where, within a period of two months beginning on the date of an application, or within such extended period as may at any time be agreed in writing between the applicant and the building control authority, the building control authority does not notify the applicant of the decision on the application, a decision by the building control authority to grant the dispensation or relaxation, as the case may be, shall be regarded as having been made on the last day of the period or such extended period, as the case may be.

(5) A building control authority may make a dispensation from, or a relaxation of, any requirement of building regulations granted pursuant to subsection (1) subject to such conditions (if any) as it sees fit.

__________________

The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations, S.I.9 of 2014, specifically recognises the process by requiring relaxations and dispensations to be entered onto the BC(A)R register held by the Local Authorities:

__________________

21. (1) A building control authority shall keep a register and shall enter in the register particulars of—

(a) any valid application for a dispensation or relaxation, including the name and address of the applicant, the date of receipt of the application, and brief details of a building or works forming the subject of the application

__________________

It is not clear whether this aspect of the electronic BCMS has been activated as yet, but a paper-based system already exists, as envisioned in the principal act. It should be borne in mind that the electronic BCMS system is merely a convenience for Local Authorities in fulfilling their duties under the building regulations, it is not in any way a prerequisite of either the regulations or the principal act.

In the broader context of the need for absolute certainty, as envisioned under S.I.9, 2014, designers of buildings might usefully employ the dispensation/relaxation process to mitigate their risk for other matters that, however well considered, may not be appropriate for adjudication at the level of absolute certainty.

Disclosure: I made one application for a relaxation of building regulations under this provision in relation to the handrail height in a historic building in 1998 (or was it 1999?).  I am still waiting on a response.  Given the wording of sub-section (4), I took this to be confirmation of a dispensation having been granted by default and was happy to issue an Opinion on Compliance accordingly, once the date had passed. The handrail in question was almost 200 years old, of carved Brazilian walnut and was 20 mm below the requirement for a public staircase. I did not consider the cultural vandalism involved in adding a brass rail to be worth the effort for the sake of 20 mm, especially since there was no record of an injury to a member of the public having occurred in all that time.  However, nor did I consider myself, a mere architect, competent to make such an important decision in relation to public safety and was grateful to have been relieved of the burden by the local authority.  I may have neglected to thank them at the time and now offer Galway City Council my belated thanks.

As far as I can remember, there was no proscribed fee for requesting a relaxation of building regulations.

Finally, I would recommend that any such application be sent by recorded delivery.

Simon McGuinness DipArch, BArchSc, MRIAI, CEPHD

Other posts of interest:

Attorney General asked if S.I.9 is in breach of Constitutional Rights

Letters to the (BRegs Blog) Editors: Simon McGuinness MRIAI 

Part L compliance – Who wants a building control service provided by cowboys?

Design Certifiers – 3 things about certifying Part L… 

Why the design certifier and architect need third party building fabric assessments

Opinion piece: new building regulations and materials risk analysis

SI.9 and Part L | Specialist ancillary certifiers Part 2

SI.9 and Part L | Are specialist ancillary certifiers needed? Part 1 

Dispensations and Transition Arrangements

Practical Post 10: No retrospective compliance – BC(A)R SI.9

Practical Post 13: Duties & conflicts- BC(A)R SI.9 

SI.9 Cost for 2014 = 3 x Ballymun Regeneration Projects

by Bregs Blog admin team

Ballymun

BRegs Blog 25th November 2014

In a recent Dáil exchange the cost of the Ballymun Regeneration Project, over the five-period from 2008 to 2013, has been identified as €248 million with a further projected spend this year of €10 million. It has been one of the most ambitious regeneration projects in the history of the state.

By comparison, the cost of BC(A)R SI.9 to the construction industry, consumer and taxpayer for 2014 has been estimated at €700 million. This cost, for only one year, for a reinforced system of self-certification with no technical improvement in the standards of construction would fund almost three major redevelopment projects of this scale.

Is BC(A)R SI.9 worth it?

Link to Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. here. Quote from the Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. website:

“Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. (BRL) is the Dublin City Council company, set up in 1997, to plan and implement a regeneration programme which will result in a new town with new and improved facilities for the 30,000 people who will live there. BRL is working with the community to develop and implement the Masterplan for the physical, economic and social regeneration of Ballymun.

…The seven fifteen-storey tower blocks, nineteen eight-storey blocks and ten four-storey blocks of flats will be demolished. They will be replaced by at least 5,000 new homes in a variety of styles and sizes in five existing neighbourhoods.

Link to Dáil exchange here.

Extract:

Department of Environment, Community and Local Government

Regeneration Projects Funding

All Written Answers on 12 Nov 2014

Dessie Ellis (Dublin North West, Sinn Fein)

157. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide a detailed breakdown in tabular form of his Department’s funding to the Ballymun regeneration project for each respective year from 2008 to the present and the future funding plans in place.[43366/14]

Alan Kelly (Tipperary North, Labour)

A breakdown of the funding by my Department to Ballymun Regeneration Ltd over the period 2008 to 2013 in respect of the physical, social and economic regeneration of Ballymun is set out in the following table:

Year Amount €
2008 75,000,000
2009 63,577,376
2010 40,001,618
2011 20,519,155
2012 30,000,000
2013 18,919,515
TOTAL 248,017,664

A capital provision of €10 million has been made available in respect of 2014. Drawdown of this funding is ongoing and is subject to the standard arrangements regarding the submission of claims. While it is expected that the housing element will be substantially completed this year, my Department will continue to support certain social and economic interventions in Ballymun over the medium term. Funding will be allocated on the basis of annual work programmes agreed between my Department and Dublin City Council.

Other posts of interest:

€ 5 billion | The extraordinary cost of S.I.9 self-certification by 2020

12,000 social + affordable houses at no cost to taxpayer?

Ronan Lyons | Regulations pushing up the costs of homes

Government Reports + Professional Opinion Ignored in SI.9 | look back 5

Sunday Business Post | Karl Deeter “Building regulations – rules don’t deliver results”

CSO- Dwelling units approved down 16.6% in one year

IAOSB submission to DECLG

World Bank Report 2015 | Ireland’s poor construction regulations are the biggest drag on our ranking

S.I.9 – Where are we now? 27 October 2014

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

Ireland – What’s Next?| TV 3 Series on Ireland’s Housing Crisis

by Bregs Blog admin team

MattCooper

Matt Cooper – TV3 Ireland

In a new TV series to commence tonight at 9 pm on TV3 Ireland, broadcaster Matt Copper aims to tackle the issue of Ireland’s housing crisis. Advance indications of contributions from developer, Michael O’ Flynn, and the Chairman of the Housing Agency, Conor Skehan, make for what promises to be an interesting programme.

In an article in today’s Independent on the programme Conor Skehan, chairman of the Housing Agency, the government body set up in 2010 to advise on policy for housing, is quoted as saying he rents his home and has no intention of changing that. Asked about the perception that many people have of rent as ‘dead money’, Mr Skehan replied:

“Well, I’m the chairman of the Housing Agency and I will never buy a piece of property again. I rent.”

In today’s Irish Examiner’s article on the same programme developer Michael O’Flynn was critical of current attitudes towards developers and suggested increasing housing output could not happen without speculative input. O’Flynn is quoted as saying:

“I can’t see this market recovering without developers. But there are people who don’t believe there is any role for developers. And when that crazy misunderstanding exists by a lot of people in this country, you are not going to solve the development situation.”

It remains to be seen if the implications on housing output of the Building Control Regulations (SI.9), introduced earlier this year, get an airing in the programme particularly on the self-build sector. Recent Central Statics Office figures would appear to suggest that speculatively built dwellings account for a small percentage of current housing output. In 2013 approximately 8,300 dwellings were completed. Only 16%, 1,326, were registered with House Guarantees and speculatively built. This suggests that almost 7,000 homes constructed in 2013 were once-off houses commissioned by owners or self-built.

The representative body for self-builders (IAOSB) have conservatively estimated the percentage of houses built by owners at over 30% of the total in any given year. The percentage may currently be much higher.

In a recent IAOSB letter to the Minister for the Environment,  Alan Kelly T.D.,  the catastrophic effect of the hastily introduced and vaguely worded SI.9 building regulations, accelerating a slump in this significant sector of home building, was described:

“SI.9 is pricing many lower-end self-builders out of the market. These are at the lower cost end, where owners were hoping to build better quality homes cheaper, on a phased basis, than speculative housing. Over €40,000 extra to build a €180,000 house is an extraordinary cost, and these are the real-world numbers our members are coming back with to us. …What benefit do self-builders get for the huge costs of SI.9? 

We have undertaken surveys of members and to date, for this year, we estimate that between 800 and 1,000 dwelling projects have been abandoned by self builders trying to build a home for their families.”

It would appear that policy and indeed regulation is being driven by responses to the speculative residential sector, and at 16% of the market we wonder is the tail wagging the dog?

Links:

Independent / Skehan: I’ll never buy a property again:

O’Flynn: Housing bounce impossible without developers:

IAOSB letter to Minister Kelly – Revoke or Revise S.I.9 | BRegs Blog:

 

RIAI | Architectural Technologist update

by Bregs Blog admin team

stand-up-for-yr-rights

By Bregs Blog on 24th November 2014. 

On 20th November the BRegs Blog inquired in a post “Dáil | Architectural Technologist update” (Link:) as to the status of Architectural Technologists and the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI) register. There has been quite a shake-up at the RIAI recently with the resignations of seven Directors from the RIAI Board. One of these was the Architectural Technologist board member, Darren Bergin. In addition the chair of the Architectural Technologist Committee (ATC), Joe Byrne, resigned two months ago from the ATC and the RIAI completely.

In fact there has been a succession of Architectural Technologist resignations from the RIAI ATC over the past two years – four in total.

The list of Architectural Technologist Committee resignations is as follows:

  1. Darren Bergin- October 2014
  2. Joe Byrne- September 2014
  3. Brian Maher- May 2013
  4. Malachy Matthews- May 2012

At a recent RIAI EGM on 4th November 2014, one RIAI architect noted, speaking in support of BC(A)R SI.9, that it would put “clear blue water” between Architects and their competitors, Architectural Technologists.

This statement was startling to many architects present.

Unfortunately many Architectural Technologists perceive that most architects share this view. They suspect that this attitude is slowing the pace of change within the RIAI and in particular, delayed the inclusion of appropriately qualified Architectural Technologists on the RIAI register of competent professionals under SI.9. The view from the ground is not good as Architectural Technologists’ livelihoods and careers continue to be negatively impacted upon by SI.9.

The Fennell Report (September 2103), specifically mentioned by Minister Kelly recently in the Dáil, was critical of the current restrictive situation relating to Architectural Technologists and the register. Quote:

In his letter requesting me to conduct the independent review of the registration arrangements for Architects under the Act, the Minister indicated that he wanted to see how the system could be improved…

Membership of the registration body should not of itself create eligibility for registration…the current provision frustrates the independence of the model and it removes any discretion or power that the Admissions Board has to review the basis upon which registration is being granted – it effectively allows the registration decision to be taken by the RIAI decision making structures, in which Architects predominate. 

..the process undermines the intention behind the Act that substantive decisions on Admissions should rest with an independently chaired Admissions Board with a majority of non-Architects members.

To view the full report click Fennell Report 2013

We believe the numbers of Architectural Technologist (RIAI) members have declined from a peak of 400, to 220 last year to less than 200 this year.

Are Architectural Technologists voting with their feet?

Other posts of interest:

BREGS Blog Archive 6 | APRIL 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team

archive-moving

BREGS Blog Archive 6  |  APRIL 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team 18th November 2014

Don’t forget our archives! Click on the following link and read through our 58 posts for April 2014. Our first post “fees and numbers of inspections” is a topic many implementers are still struggling with 7 months later. This month there was a Seanad Debate on SI.9 and self-building- problems still beset this sector months later. Scroll through our posts which are in reverse chronological order. Enjoy!

Click link: BREGS Blog Archive 5- APRIL 2014

  • In April the Irish Building Control Institute conference wash held in Sligo and numerous concerns by Officers were discussed. See posts here and here
  • Employee’s concerns were highlighted in our popular “practical post” series see here.
  • Minster Hogan received a personal complaint about fee fixing from a registered professional here.
  • There were a number of submissions made in advance of the Seanad debate on SI.9 (SI.105) on April 10th. Former presidents Pádraig Murray and Eoin O’Cofaigh  made submissions to Senators- read here and here. An unregistered architect also made a submission (here).
  • In the Seanad debate (listen here) former Minister Hogan suggested that “professionals were “…engaging in financial extortion” see here. Following on from the debate the representative body for self-builders (IAOSB) made a complaint against statements made by former Minister Hogan in the Seanad “You have stated your department is in discussion with us and we have not risen any objections. This is a grave misrepresentation of our organisation and the interests of all self-builders in the Seanad. We would support any independent inquiry into these statements.“- see here.
  • An Architectural Technologist’s letter expressing frustration at comments made by former Minister Hogan in the debate were posted here.
  • Former president Eoin O’Cofaigh wondered at the increased cost and re-tape in SI.9 and the effect on international competitiveness (see here).
  • Architect and key stakeholder negotiator Orla Fitzgerald MRIAI noted the time required for new certifier roles under SI.9: “there is…a requirement for an additional 18 days of input“. See post here.
  • Self builders issues came to the fore in a radio piece with past president of the RIAI- listen here. Concerns were echoed by Senator Paschal Mooney in another radio piece here. The IAOSB escalated concerns to the Law Society (read here).
  • A Chartered Surveyor brought concerns regarding SI.9 to the attention of local TD’s here.
  • The first of a number of County Councils voted to ask Minister Hogan to scrap SI.9- see Press Piece: Co. Council votes to scrap BC(A)R S.I.9
  • Pyrite in homes in Mayo was highlighted (here).
  • We highlighted some of the problems with design certifier roles here
  • We pondered if developers were being promoted over self-buidlers? see here.
  • Barrett Chapman, Partner, Contruction Department, McCann Fitzgerald Solicitors suggested that certifiers should make sure they have professional indemnity insurance. Regarding advice is to assigned certifiers in light of his presentation, whether to act in the new certifier roles, Barrett offered this advice: “Don’t“- see here.

Previous Archive posts (click title):

BREGS Blog Archive 5- MARCH 2014

BRegs Blog Archive 4 – FEBRUARY 2014

BREGS Blog Archive 3- JANUARY 2014

BREGS Blog Archive 2- DECEMBER 2013

BREGS Blog Archive 1- NOVEMBER 2013

Other popular “top read” posts:

Donegal Pyrite update

by Bregs Blog admin team

constructionGeneral_large

Donegal Pyrite update

In media coverage surrounding more recent Pyrite affected dwellings in Donegal, it is believed as many as 2,000 homes are affected. It looks like consumers are still paying the price for inadequate Department of the Environment (and Local Authority) policing of materials in the construction sector. Has anything changed under the new building regulations to protect homeowners against pyrite or mica?

In an Examiner article on 19th November 2014 recent meetings and the extent of the problem are discussed. Link to article: Faulty Blocks may affect up to 2,000 homes. Extract:

“The meeting heard a promise from a junior minister, Joe McHugh, that he would take the issue to Environment Minister Alan Kelly with a view to a meeting.

A spokesman said: “It was a very positive meeting which was attended by all our TDs and a lot of county councillors.

“But we were very disappointed that nobody from Donegal County Council was there as they were invited to attend.

“We have evidence that the structural damage is so bad that it is only a matter of time before a bison [concrete] slab is affected, resulting in a house coming tumbling down. That is the reality as blocks get weaker and weaker and more and more cracks appear. Our survey has shown that it takes 5.6 years for signs of the defective blocks to appear in houses so many houses may not even be showing the signs of cracks yet.”

The group said it would continue to seek members from people who were sold the defective blocks. “We believe that up to 2,000 houses could be affected. If people see cracks they should contact the group.”

Among those present was Damian McCauley from Letterkenny who has been forced to spend €30,000 taking down the outer “leaf” of his house due to defective blocks.”

More Links to recent radio coverage below- click on titles to get to radio clips for first two links, press article at end.

In previous posts we asked the question, as the Local Authority in Donegal and the Department were aware of pyrite blocks in 2013 why did they not issue an industry alert immediately? The Minister for the Environment has stated in the Dáil that he was only made aware of the problem of pyrite in blockwork on 7th April 2014 (see Dáil statement here).

It is imperative that the Department explains what and when they knew about pyrite problems and what action was taken by its officials.

There are many questions that remain to be answered on the handling of the Donegal pyrite problem to ensure that consumers and construction professionals are protected.

Other posts on this topic:

Dáil update | Pyrite in Mayo 

Irish Mirror | Call for an end to pyrite mess

Was pyrite discovered in concrete blocks in 2013?

Homebond | Assigned Certifier + defects liability policy for €2,000?

Why did Phil Hogan think SI.9 would cost less than €3000 ?

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections

Are Design and Assigned Certifiers risking professional suicide with Pyrite and S.I.9?

Pyrite & SI.9- what happens now?

RTÉ News: Louth housing scheme to be demolished over pyrite

Dáil : Pyrite Remediation Programme: 10th June 2014

Government Reports & Professional Opinion Ignored in S.I.80

The regulations ignore key recommendations of the Pyrite Panel

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

Iaosb letter to Minister Kelly – Revoke or Revise S.I.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

wpca62ada7_05_06

The following letter was sent to Minister Alan Kelly from the representative body for self-builders (IAOSB) on November 19th 2014. For link to IAOSB letter click here.

_____________

Iaosb letter to Minister Kelly – Revoke or Revise S.I.9
19th November 2014

Dear Minister Kelly,

Re: Building Control (Amendment) Regulation S.I.9 of 2014

I am writing to you following on from our letter to you on 15th September 2014. We still have not received any response from you or your Department.

We have been informed that the DECLG has asked the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland to examine self-build problems post implementation of BC(A)R SI.9.

While it is a positive development to receive acknowledgement finally that self-building has been impacted upon by the new regulations, we are at a loss as to why you have asked any key stakeholder to “solve” our problems. The confidential stakeholder process entered into by former Minister Hogan following on from the public consultation in May 2012 was comprised of stakeholders with vested commercial interests- these were representative bodies for architects, engineers and chartered surveyors (RIAI, ACEI and SCSI respectively) along with the Construction industry Federation (CIF).

Consumer groups such as ourselves were excluded from any discussions regarding the new regulations. It is therefore understandable that the regulation that resulted was of benefit to these vested interests, while impacting on many consumer groups such as ourselves with an array of unintended consequences.

The RIAI, ACEI and SCSI now have protected positions with private registers, and adequately qualified non-members of these organisations are precluded from occupying new roles under SI.9. We believe various government departments have extended the restrictive nature of these appointments further by insisting that architects only are allowed to occupy the certifier roles for many public projects such as schools and hospitals. The result of this are fees quoted for SI.9 certifier duties many multiples of those envisaged by former Minister Hogan.

Why are vested interests again being tasked with review of the impacts of BC(A)R SI.9 and not consumer groups? Why are consumers, home owners and self-builders excluded from this process? It would appear that the Minister and Department continue to have a very small circle of friends when it comes to matters pertaining to Building Control and the construction industry.

Notwithstanding these restrictions, the IAOSB are supporters of greater professional involvement and oversight in the construction industry generally, and in the speculative residential sector in particular.

We have received numerous estimates of SI.9 adding over 22% to the capital cost of a typical self-built dwelling. The bulk of these costs are associated with the requirement to employ a CIF registered main contractor. SI.9 is pricing many lower-end self-builders out of the market. These are at the lower cost end, where owners were hoping to build better quality homes cheaper, on a phased basis, than speculative housing. Over €40,000 extra to build a €180,000 house is an extraordinary cost, and these are the real-world numbers our members are coming back with to us. Most self-builds employed professionals for planning, tender, site and other stages of the procurement process. We completed builds using industry standard contracts, and all work was undertaken in a safe fashion under current Health and Safety legislation. What benefit do self-builders get for the huge costs of SI.9? The security of using a CIF contractor?

We have undertaken surveys of members and to date, for this year, we estimate that between 800 and 1,000 dwelling projects have been abandoned by self builders trying to build a home for their families.

There is no evidence that we are aware of to indicate that self-built homes were subject to the shoddy building practices of speculative built housing. We are insulted by CIF suggestions that self-builders were involved in the “black economy”. If the CIF are aware of instances where proper revenue practices were not adhered to, they should then simply report the matter to the authorities. I would like to point out that If similar allegations were made by consumers against CIF members there would be outrage.

Why are ordinary citizens denied the age-old tradition of being able to build their own home, frequently on their family farms where they grew up, for a reasonable cost? In most cases, these are the only option available to them. Self-builders were not responsible for Priory Hall so why should they be punished for the mistake of others.

The one restriction in SI.9 that continues to impact self-builders most is the restriction to use “competent” builders, which only seem to be members of the new privately owned CIF register CIRI. The Department of the Environment has in effect, given CIF a monopoly on all residential building in the state as a result. We would like to point out that there are other well-established industry standards for competence, such as RECI or the National Guild of Master Craftsmen.

Why the former Minister and DECLG would insist on a new register (with no track record) CIRI be written in to legislation at the expense of other proven and well-regarded similar registers of competent builders is a question that needs to be asked. We would assume these similar established bodies have made representations to the Minister, Department, Competition Authority and Ombudsman as to why CIF, a private organisation, has been made the beneficiary of restrictive practice.

Many self-builders are experienced tradespersons themselves, members of RECI and also the National Guild of Master Craftsmen. Why now should an experienced well regarded tradesperson have to employ a CIF registered main contractor at huge expense to oversee the build of their own house? Some members in CIRI may well have no building experience, or construction skills- they well may just be construction managers like a typical self-builder.

Self-builders have 3 main obstacles at present: are;

1. We have noted the completion certificate issue previously where the builder must be “a principal or director of a building company only”. This line must be removed.

2. The code of practice does not mention self-building at all, being defined as owners occupying the role of management or main contractor. It does state that “competent’ means someone with at least 3 years similar building experience. This excludes most owner-builders. This must be revised.

3. There is a lack of willing certifiers, architects in particular, due to the Law Society advising professionals not to get involve in self-building projects. This would appear to be as a result, remarkably, of the Law Society being excluded from key stakeholder negotiations. The Law Society need to be consulted as a matter of urgency on alterations/ changes required to SI.9 to facilitate participation by professionals as certifiers in self-build projects, and confirm conveyancing arrangements are in place to facilitate same.

As far as we know the stakeholder now tasked with sorting out the self-builders, the RIAI, are the one set of professionals who are not currently participating in self-build houses. It is over 9 months ago that we made an official complaint against the CEO of the RIAI Mr John Graby regarding statements made concerning self builders and we are still waiting for an appropriate response from them. We have no confidence in this organisation or any vested key stakeholder in providing solutions to the array of unintended consequences that self-builders are experiencing at present.

There are many self-builders who have used the services of practically trained architects and Architectural Technologists successfully in the past, experienced professionals who are well capable of dealing with the technical requirements of one-off housing. This group are now unable to assume SI.9 certifier roles. We suggest the establishment of a separate register to accommodate these persons as a matter of urgency. A separate register of competent Architectural Technologists and practically trained architects would go some way to minimising professional costs and increasing the pool of certifiers available to self-builders at present.

Your Department recently invited submissions on DECLG strategy this month and many self builders responded. They are written not by lobbyists, professionals or advisors. They are ordinary people who see their dreams falling away due to the casual introduction of a reckless regulation that not only makes no sense, but is being defended by their political representatives.

We reiterate that the Self-builders of Ireland have been let down by the former Minister and your Department. In March 2015 CIRI is due to be put on a statutory footing. Do you want your political legacy to be one where you continued the mistakes of the former Minister and confirm the unfairness of S.I.9 on self builders who are no longer able to provide a home for their families? In most cases these are people who have children and are already struggling financially due to lack of jobs and extra charges and taxes brought in by your government.

We had hoped a new Minister would bring a new pair of eyes to the issue. Unfortunately we still await a response to our letter sent to you in September.

Again I would be grateful to you if you do not reply with false promises and politically correct answers like the ones we have had in the past two years from Mr Hogan, or oblique responses like the ones we have received from your Department.

BC(A)R SI.9 simply is not working. It needs to be revoked and comprehensively revised. We need a low cost system of independent inspections by Local Authorities like in the UK where self-building is not only tolerated but encouraged.

There are people who are waiting on a very long housing list in Ireland and in certain circumstances a house built by a self builder would leave a vacant house for someone else.

Many public representatives have built their own homes, and if not they know of someone who has or still intended to self-build. Many we have talked to are against the impacts of S.I.9. We will be appealing again to these people, our elected representatives, to hear the voices of self builders now and thousands of others who are planning to build their own homes in the future. We will ask them to stand up for the right of the Irish people who have been treated unfairly by this new regulation.

“ Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.” Pope Francis.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards,

Shane McCloud

Irish Association of Self Builder

www.iaosb.com

http://www.iaosb.com/building_control_(amendment)_regulation_s.i.9_of_2014_has_failed_self_builders_of_ireland.html

http://www.iaosb.com/letter_to_attorney_general,_maire_whelan_sc_from_iaosb_regarding_s.i.9.html

Other posts of interest:

IAOSB submission to DECLG

Government Reports + Professional Opinion Ignored in SI.9 | look back 5

The self build world has been thrown into disarray

S.I. 9 | Self-builders – 6 months’ update 

SI.9 costs for a typical house

Sunday Business Post | Karl Deeter “Building regulations – rules don’t deliver results”

3 County Councils ask Minister to Revoke SI.9

Senators ask Minister to Revoke SI.9 (2 of 4)

Clampdown on self-building is stymying construction industry | Irish Examiner

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

12,000 social + affordable houses at no cost to taxpayer?

How much would 100% independent inspections by Local Authorities cost?

 

RIAI Past Presidents Paper #1 | The Building Regulations and Consumer protection

by Bregs Blog admin team

first-birthday

To mark the first 12 months of the BRegs Blog, and the occasion of this our 700th post, we are publishing the first in a series of 7 information papers that were issued by past presidents of the representative body for architects (RIAI) towards the end of 2013. These have not been posted before. SI80 in an earlier version of SI.9 which was implemented in March 2014. These papers contain informed analysis and are still very relevant to the current situation, nearly 9 months post implementation of SI.9. Thanks to all our readers who have visited the Blog over 213,000 times in our first year and to all of our contributors who have made the BRegs Blog the go-to source for information on building regulations in Ireland.

Paper No 1 to follow:

RIAI Past Presidents Paper #1  | The Building Regulations and Consumer protection

________________

Building Control (Amendment) Regulations, 2013

– and –

The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland

Information Paper No. 1

The Building Regulations and Consumer protection

In the wake of the Priory Hall and pyrites scandals, the Government introduced amended building control regulations. These come into force on 1 March 2014. The regulations fail to incorporate key attributes of an effective building control system, and ignore relevant recommendations in the Pyrite Panel Report. They will also fail in the Government’s stated goal of strengthened consumer protection in building design and construction.

1 A building regulations system, and consumer protection

Real consumer protection involves (a) better buildings, to reduce construction defects; (b) proper policing of design and construction; (c) a speedy, straightforward and effective system of redress where things go wrong. Having called for over 20 years for a proper inspection regime on the part of building control authorities, in the lead-up to the 2013 regulations, the RIAI identified six key attributes for effective building control:-

  • Real (and not token) involvement by building control authorities in inspecting designs and in visiting construction sites to inspect the work;
  • A statutory register of building contractors, including subcontractors, to underwrite their competence;
  • Certificates of compliance for design and construction, with liability correctly aligned with the responsibilities and inputs of everybody involved in the project;
  • A standardised national system for electronic lodgement of drawings, test certificates and specifications with the building control authority;
  • Mandatory project insurance against latent defects, which would provide proper protection for consumers.
  • A system of dispute resolution and feedback on construction problems to designers and contractors, to reduce recurring defects.

Despite well-sounding words (“move towards registration”, “seek expressions of interest”, “welcome a scheme of latent defects insurance”), the 2013 regulations incorporate none of the above and in consequence do not provide adequate consumer protection.

2 The building regulations, and the Pyrite Report

After the scandal of pyrite-contaminated fill, which damaged thousands of houses, the Government commissioned a report on the causes of the problem with recommendations on how to prevent its recurrence. Issued in June 2012, the Pyrite Report made recommendations on building control, registration of contractors, and project insurance. The appropriate mechanism for incorporating those recommendations into law is the building regulations. None of these recommendations have been implemented:-

Pyrite Panel Report recommendation 18:-  “the system of independent inspections, carried out by the building control officers, should be strengthened to complement the mandatory certification process for buildings.” For the residents of Priory Hall, proper inspections by the building control authority might have made all the difference. The 2013 building regulations fail to implement this recommendation.

Recommendation 19:-  Registration of builders: “A mandatory registration system for builders with specific requirements for appropriate insurance cover (supported by regulation). Registration of builders should require demonstration of technical competence, financial capacity and adequate insurance cover.” The regulations fail to implement this recommendation, but rely instead on the stated intention of the industry to set up a voluntary register of main contractors. There is no requirement within the regulations to use such a registered contractor.

Recommendation 21:- Project-related insurance whereby cover for each specific project is available and adequate and is related to the project only.” A properly financed and regulated system of building project insurance for a fixed period of six or 10 years operates in most Member States of the EU. This is the most effective means of providing protection to consumers in cases where buildings go wrong, such as in pyrites-affected dwellings or for the Priory Hall residents.

The most acute of all the problems in recent years has arisen with dwellings built speculatively for sale. Where, as is often the case, a speculative development company is liquidated on completion of a project, distressed homeowners have no redress against the wrongdoer. Project insurance can overcome this scandal. However, the Government have not set up a statutory system and intend instead to rely on such systems being set up in the private sector, which may or may not happen.

3 Architects are not insurance companies

Announcing the regulations, the Minister for the Environment said:-“The mandatory certificates will be clear, unambiguous statements on statutory forms stating that each of the key parties to a project certifies that the works comply with the building regulations and that they accept legal responsibility for their work,” adding that “If anyone signs a statutory certificate for a building which subsequently proves to be non-compliant, they can be held legally liable for the consequences.”

The system requires the architect or engineer to certify full compliance of the entire construction, which they are expected to underwrite by means of their professional indemnity insurance. Unlike project insurance, which is paid for in a single payment up-front for a full six or 10 year defects liability period, professional indemnity insurance must be renewed every year. It therefore cannot be guaranteed to be in place when a defect becomes evident.  Reliance on PI insurance offers no real consumer protection.

The extent of liability, and the volume of claims which authoritative legal opinion has identified will be made against professionals acting as “Assigned Certifier” under the regulations is likely to make professional indemnity insurance unavailable or unaffordable. Professionals will be uninsured and uninsurable, and salaried architects will be vulnerable to direct litigation. The result: no insurance at all: affords no protection to the consumer.

4 Self-regulation is no regulation

Instead of introducing a comprehensive set of reforms to the building control system, such as those promoted by the RIAI, the Government opted for a system devolving on one person, the “Assigned Certifier”, who must take total responsibility for the outcomes of the entire building process. This is to be the architect or engineer or building surveyor, who will be employed by the builder/developer and who is then expected to direct and control his employer, without the support of any state agency. The building control authority is reduced to acting as a repository of documents.

Just as has been tried unsuccessfully in other sectors, the State has opted for a system which transfers its own responsibility onto the private actors in the process. Recent experience in the banking, healthcare, food safety and childcare sectors – to name but a few – shows that light touch regulation or self-regulation does not work. The construction industry is no different from other sectors of economic activity in Ireland, indeed some would argue that it is more in need of proper regulation than many of the sectors which are properly regulated.

There has been no effective building control in Ireland for over 20 years and, instead, the State has relied on a weak form of self-regulation which has not worked. The consequences of this failed policy are abundantly clear and the need for reform was never more evident and timely.  The State must face up to its responsibilities in this regard.

5 RIAI policy in the light of the above, and the need for an EGM

There is clear evidence that few if any of the primary elements of a proper building control system as sought by the RIAI will be in place when the new regulations come into force in March 2014.

The issue now for the RIAI is whether the system now proposed will be effective in improving the quality of construction and in protecting the public interest, and whether it is sustainable by the architectural profession.

These questions need to be discussed by the membership and it is for this reason that over 200 Registered Members of the Institute have requisitioned an Extraordinary General Meeting.

Michael Collins, 

Peter Hanna, 

Arthur Hickey, 

Padraig Murray, 

Eoin O Cofaigh, 

Joan O’Connor, 

Sean O Laoire

Dublin, 10 September 2013

________________

BRegs Blog Footnote: The breg forum was set up due to industry concerns concerning BC(A)R in 2013. The forum was a non-representative industry group comprised of professionals intended to debate and analyse the unintended consequences of the proposed building regulations. The BReg Blog grew out of this interest group.

Archive posts:

BREGS Blog Archive 5- MARCH 2014 

BRegs Blog Archive 4 – FEBRUARY 2014

BREGS Blog Archive 3- JANUARY 2014

BREGS Blog Archive 2- DECEMBER 2013

BREGS Blog Archive 1- NOVEMBER 2013

Dáil | Architectural Technologist update

by Bregs Blog admin team

dail-eireann

By Bregs Blog on 20th November 2014. Blog notes [ ].

Dáil | Architectural Technologist update

On November 18th Minister Alan Kelly in the Dáil discusses issues surrounding Architectural Technologists continued exclusion from duties associated with BC(A)R SI.9 (see link to Dáil transcript here). Both the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) and the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) “…have recently agreed to the development through Quality Qualifications Ireland structures of an agreed common standard for Architectural Technologist in line with the National Qualifications Framework“.

We have discussed the CIAT register previously in our post CIAT Architectural Technologists Register goes live today!

One might well inquire as to where the status of the Architectural Technologists and the already established RIAI register is at. Are Architectural Technologists soon to be allowed in?

Out of 7 recent Board resignations from RIAI council in the past month, one  was the Architectural Technologist Council representative, who resigned on 22nd October. This was hot on the heels of another senior Architectural Technologist resignation from the Architectural Technologists Committee (and from RIAI entirely) in September. Excluding architect board members and ex-presidents that’s two senior Architectural Technologists in two months.

“ To lose one… may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness”. 

The current situation regarding registration in general appears to be far from satisfactory for many Architectural Technologists.

We believe numbers of RIAI Architectural Technologist members has declined sharply. The lifeblood of any representative organisation is members, and a reduction in numbers, for whatever reason, should be given very careful examination.

Transcript from Building Regulations Compliance: 18 Nov 2014:

_____________

Dáil Written answers, Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Department of Environment, Community and Local Government

Building Regulations Compliance

Terence Flanagan (Dublin North East, Independent)

519. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the new regulations introduced in March 2014 that apply to architectural technologists; the way he expects architectural technologists to operate considering the extra costs now involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44212/14]

Alan Kelly (Tipperary North, Labour)

The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI No. 9 of 2014), which came into operation on 1 March 2014, greatly strengthen the arrangements in place for the control of building activity by requiring greater accountability in relation to compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory certificates of design and construction, lodgement of compliance documentation, mandatory inspection during construction and validation and registration of statutory certificates. The statutory certificates of compliance must be signed by a registered professional, i.e. a person who is included on the statutory registers of architects or building surveyors established in accordance with the Building Control Act 2007, or who is a Chartered Engineer. These are the construction professions typically involved in the design of construction works in Ireland and reference to these professions in regulation is entirely appropriate.

Architectural Technology is not currently classed as a regulated profession in Ireland which means that there is no designated competent authority which has the power to approve or restrict access to the profession in Ireland under national or EU law. That said, I am aware of the valuable contribution to the construction industry that is made by architectural technologists and I welcome and support the recent moves made by both the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI) and the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) to put this important discipline on a professional footing. Both bodies have recently agreed to the development through Quality Qualifications Ireland structures of an agreed common standard for Architectural Technologist in line with the National Qualifications Framework.

The regulation of professions is in the first instance a matter for industry representatives working in concert with relevant industry stakeholders. Neither I, as Minister, nor my Department, have any role in the assessment or validation of professional qualifications. Nevertheless, where robust arrangements for the regulation of key disciplines such as that of Architectural Technologist can be achieved, in a manner capable of serving the public interest for quality and safety in the built environment at a reasonable economic cost to consumers, I would be happy to sponsor legislation to place such arrangements on a statutory footing.

It is also worth noting that, depending on their personal background and experience, it may be open to persons who are Architectural Technologists, and who possess the requisite experience and competence in the design of buildings, to seek inclusion on either of the statutory registers in respect of Architects or Building Surveyors. A number of Architectural Technologists have already succeeded in gaining inclusion on the statutory registers to date and are thus in a position to avail of the many opportunities to act as Design Certifier and Assigned Certifier that will continue to arise as a consequence of SI No. 9 of 2014.”

Other posts of interest:

Is there a regulation for thermal bridging condensation risk? | Part L

by Bregs Blog admin team

Open letter Part L

BRegs Blog on November 20th 2014

We received a recent query to the BReg Blog on 20th October 2014:

I have seen several posts on condensation risk analysis and Regulations compliance.

Correct me if I am wrong but no REGULATION is concerned with condensation risk due to thermal bridging. Part L is concerned with limiting heat loss. Part F with limiting moisture in the air that might contribute to condensation. The TGD is addressing matters outside of the regulations.

That’s my learning from the RIAI design certifier course and my defence in court. Wish me luck.

We asked Simon McGuinness to help out with an answer. Here is what he said:

“There is no REGULATION covering any of the following either:

  1. Backstop u-values
  2. EPC or CPC targets
  3. Window area/u-value limits
  4. Y-factors
  5. Minimum/maximum air change rates
  6. Minimum vent sizes and locations
  7. Location of openable windows or mechanical extract vents

If your correspondent expects to be able to ignore these provisions of the TGDs on the same basis as he proposes to ignore fRsi, he will find himself in deep water.  As a compliance strategy it is delusional.

Building regulations are become increasing complex and it is inevitable that they will become more like enabling legislation, setting out broad strategic goals which are then backed up by technical guidance, standards, codes of practice, and the like, to afford practitioners adequate means to demonstrate compliance to the satisfaction of the courts.

I doubt if the RIAI training advised members to ignore fRsi, in fact I know that it is a matter that is exercising RIAI who are drafting an advice note for members on the subject.

Let me put it this way: in a court of law there is no legal difference whatever between the fRsi requirement (0.75) and the EPC requirement (0.6). Neither are mentioned in the relevant Statutory Instrument. Both have a numerical calculation methodology proscribed in the TGD and a threshold value that must be attained.  Why should one be considered irrelevant and the other mandatory?

An fRsi failure in a block of apartments could require a partial rebuilding of the block and the temporary rehousing of its occupants for a number of years. It will also result in a large claim for damages.  That could be significantly more costly than an obstetrics failure which results in an infant being born with brain injuries as a result of the negligence of a doctor.  Do architects really want to carry the kind of PII cover that obstetricians carry?  Failure to calculate the fRsi for a curtain walling system could require the complete replacement of the curtain walling, necessitating a new planning permission, all at the architect’s expense – don’t laugh, there is just such a case pending at the moment.

There were 9,500 members of the Irish defence forces: a maxim total of less than 19,000 ears in all. A fraction of their owners were awarded damages by the courts. By comparison, there are 1.3million houses, each of which may have 40 linear thermal bridges, any one of which could exhibit mould as a result of an fRsi design (or construction) failure. All it takes is for one homeowner to be awarded damages as a result of mould appearing in a new house or apartment and queues of litigants, and lawyers, will form outside the Fourcourts.

It is difficult to see a way back into practice after an unsuccessful defence of an fRsi claim, and the shock to the PII market, should a flood of litigation appear, could even undermine the viability of the construction industry in Ireland.

These regulation are unprecedented, no other country has enshrined three dimensional numerical mesh calculation in its building regulations for surface temperature calculation. But it is there for a reason: fRsi > 0.75 is both necessary and justified as we seek to build to the nZEB energy standard.  We should be grateful to have regulators who understand the importance of these issues and have had the courage to legislate to keep people safe.  We now need the professions to step up to the plate and upskill to cope with the liabilities they are accepting by signing design certificates. ”

Simon McGuinness is an architect in private practice, a passive house design consultant and a part-time lecturer in digital analysis and retrofit technology at DIT.

Other posts of interest:

Part L compliance – Who wants a building control service provided by cowboys?

Design Certifiers – 3 things about certifying Part L… 

Why the design certifier and architect need third party building fabric assessments

Opinion piece: new building regulations and materials risk analysis

SI.9 and Part L | Specialist ancillary certifiers Part 2

SI.9 and Part L | Are specialist ancillary certifiers needed? Part 1 

Dispensations and Transition Arrangements

Practical Post 10: No retrospective compliance – BC(A)R SI.9

Practical Post 13: Duties & conflicts- BC(A)R SI.9 

Attorney General asked if S.I.9 is in breach of Constitutional Rights

by Bregs Blog admin team

MaireWhelan

The following letter to the Attorney General Mairead Whelan (pictured) by a Chartered Surveyor was sent on 6th November 2014.

_____________________

Attorney General Office

The Office of the Attorney General

Government Buildings

e-mail: info@ag.irlgov.ie

 

To Whom It May Concern:

S.I. No. 9 of 2014 – Building Control Amended Regulations (SI.9)

A Planning Application, Fire Certificate, Disabled Access Certificate or a Dispensation Application can be submitted to a Building Control Department for consideration on their own merits.  The decision of these applications, or conditions contained within these decisions, as issued by a Local Authority correctly open to appeal to An Bord Pleanala.  This correctly represents an applicant’s statutory rights, administration rights, possibly the applicant’s constitutional rights & is likely to be consistent with European Law.  After the Statutory 4 weeks to lodge an appeal to An Bord Pleanala has passed, the application is then determined.  Only then can a Commencement Notice be issued for Validation.

I bring to the attention to the Attorney Generals office that S.I. No. 9 of 2014 which was introduced into the Building Control Act on March 1st 2014, moves away from this established, statutory & administration application procedure & sets a new unique validation procedure in place. SI.9 now merges a substantial set of drawings, certificates & documentation etc., together with a Commencement Notice for validation via an online Building Control Management System (BCMS).  I emphasise that this submission can only be considered by means of a Validation process & not an Application process.  The submission required is complex one & in many cases the information submitted for new notices will way exceed the information submitted within a typical Planning Application or a Fire Certificate Application.  I bring to the attention of the Attorney General’s office that new notices for developments under SI.9, is clearly a building control application process cleverly & disingenuously disguised as a Commencement Notice validation process. There is simply way to much information to be submitted & scrutinised by a Local Authority to classify this as a validation procedure.

I bring to the attention to the Attorney Generals office that under this disingenuous validation system, An Bord Pleanala cannot in any circumstances consider ay appeal issues with matters relating to SI.9 as every part of it comes under the remit of ‘validation’ & not as an ‘application’.

Therefore;

  1. Any invalidation decision due to the opinion of BCMS or a Local Authority that inadequate information was submitted with the complex documentation that accompanied the Commencement Notice cannot in any circumstances be appealed to An Bord Pleanala.
  2. Any request of onerous information or decision by a Local Authority that the client believes is onerous, biased or detrimental to the build prior to the validation of a Commencement Notice or during the building process its self, cannot in any circumstances be appealed to An Bord Pleanala.
  3. No Determinations Appeals process to An Bord Pleanala is set in place whatsoever.
  4. Should the Local Authority refuse to validate a final completion due to the opinion that inadequate information accompanied the Certificate of Compliance, which inurn proves detrimental to the client, or in the opinion of the client is incorrect, biased or onerous, this cannot be appealed to An Bord Pleanala.

I bring to the Attorney Generals office attention that today we have now a situation where the Building Control Department are free to request any additional information they see fit at validation, during the build or at the completion stage.  The principal of this self seems on the face of things fine, however as there is no appeal option permitted within SI.9 to An Bord Pleanala, the system is now wide open for bias, onerous requests & currently allows incorrect decisions to be made unchallenged to the Bord.  Under SI.9, any Building Control Department can act as judge & jury & are akin to a Kangaroo Court, bar challenges made through an expensive & in many cases a highly stressful Judicial Review process.  A building owner is clearly under duress to consent to any Local Authority requests, as bar a very expensive Judicial Review process, there is no other alternative opinion to seek an independent opinion.  This therefore is a clear breach of the legitimate expectations, statutory & administration rights of the Irish public & I ask the Attorney Generals office to take the appropriate measures that is within its remit to comprehensively address this.

To uphold statutory & administration rights of the Irish Public Building Control, ‘approval’ must occur through a clear unambiguous application process & not through a validation process.  A submission of an application form, specifications, documentation, drawings etc., should be lodged to the appropriate Local Authority under an official application for the granting with conditions or refusal.  The Building Control Department must decide an application on its own merits over a statutory period & if successful, the applicant/building owner must wait a statutory appeal period between the decision to grant Building Control Approval & submitting a Commencement Notice for validation.  If the application is refused, the applicant must have a right to appeal.  A statutory Determination Appeals process must also be introduced into SI 9.

When the application process is completed, then only then, should a Commencement Notice be submitted to the BCMS system for its validation.  This can continue to occur via the existing on line BCMS system that currently validates Commencement Notices.

I bring to the attention to the Attorney Generals office, that I do not know of any newly established Building Control system within Europe where the initial application for Building Control ‘approval’ & subsequent decision by a Building Control Department is not open to an independent appeal process such as An Bord Pleanala.  I am struggling to find anywhere in Europe where there is a 4-week statutory appeals process for some parts of the Building Regulations (e.g. Fire Cert or a Disabled Access Cert) & not for others.  This is a unique situation.  Legally this will remain this case until the Commencement Notice & accompanying documentation submitted to BCMS are made independent of each other.   I ask the Attorney Generals office to take the appropriate measures that is within the remit of its office to address this.

Our Building Control process is governed both by statutory requirements and the principles of natural justice and fair procedures under administrative law. I therefore formally ask the Attorneys Generals office to take the necessary measures within its remit to respond to the following questions.

  1. Has SI.9, compiled or breached the legitimate expectations of the Building Control Act?
  2. Has SI.9, compiled or breached statutory requirements, fair procedure rights or administration rights of the Irish Public?
  3. Is SI.9 in keeping with Irish & European Law?
  4. Has SI.9 provided disproportionate decision-making powers to a Building Control Authority or Building Control Officer?
  5. Are there adequate procedures within the Building Control Act to facilitate challenges of bias by a Building Control Department on matters relating to SI.9, or is the only avenue to challenge bias through legal Judicial Review?
  6. As there is no Appeals possibility to An Bord Pleanala is the Attorney Generals office satisfied that the procedures under SI.9 will not place a building owner under duress to consent to any Local Authority requests, as bar a very expensive Judicial Review process, there is no other alternative opinion to seek a second opinion?
  7. To uphold statutory & administration rights of the Irish Public Building Control can the Attorney General’s office confirm that that Building Control ‘approval’ should occur through a clear unambiguous application process & not a validation process?

Finally, should any of my concerns prove to be founded & correct, where appropriate I formally request that the Attorney Generals office take the appropriate measures it sees fit to comprehensively address them with the DECLG or relevant department.

I thank you for taking the time to address the matters raised within this letter.

Yours faithfully

______________

Other posts of interest:

Summary of Legal Posts- BC(A)R SI.9

SI9- where do I start?

Gurdgiev | PMI “a bit bubbly, a bit bonkers…”

by Bregs Blog admin team

1b8aa8d759832ea7f94747126a370023

As readers of the BRegs Blog are aware we are keen followers of Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev’s blog “True Economics” as he gets beyond spin and anecdote on topics into actual hard facts and figures. Link to: True Economics 14/11/2014: Irish Construction Sector PMIs: A Bit Bubbly, A Bit Bonkers…

In his latest post from True Economics November 14th 2014 he suggests that Ulster Bank’s PMI indicator is, in fact, a contrarian indicator of construction activity: the higher the reading, the lower the construction activity.

Extract:

Irish Construction Sector PMIs: A Bit Bubbly, A Bit Bonkers…

Posted by Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev

Ulster Bank and Markit published Construction PMI for Ireland, and the numbers signal huge uplift in activity across all sub-sectors, excluding Civil engineering. However, Civil Engineering post an above 50 reading (albeit consisted with virtually no growth) for the first time since Q1 2006.

So here we have it:

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 18.28.37

0

“…All of which suggests we should be seeing a massive boom. Of course we are not. Why? Because the levels from which the activity is rising are… well, microscopic.”

1

It is worth remembering that Construction Sector PMIs seem to have little bearing to the reality in the sector activity on the ground as shown below, so it is worth taking these numbers with a grain of salt.3

Just how bonkers is the above PMI data? Or just how much salt to be used with that fish:

4

Other posts of interest:

Ronan Lyons | Regulations pushing up the costs of homes

Sunday Business Post | Karl Deeter “Building regulations – rules don’t deliver results”

Gurdgiev: Irish Residential Property Prices: Q3 2014

CSO- Dwelling units approved down 16.6% in one year

Want to live in Dublin? | Only the wealthy need apply!

World Bank Report 2015 | UK v Ireland the real cost of “Dealing with construction permits”

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

Karl Whelan: “…raft of cost-increasing building regs are at least partly responsible”

Construction Recovery- watch this space

‘Recovery’ is Still Worse than the 1980s Crisis

CSO: (Q1 2014) planning permissions for dwellings -30% drop

40 SqM SI.9 exemption update | 18 November 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team

confused-300x199

For those that wish to catch up on the ongoing controversy surrounding the 40SqM exemption under BC(A)R SI.9 please find attached, in reverse chronological order, 12 selected posts from February 2014 to today. Key dates and events are shown in bold. It is remarkable that the industry still waits for a definitive interpretation of this most basic requirement of SI.9, 8 months post implementation. Early drafts of SI.9 (previously SI.80 ) did not contain this provision and are mentioned at the end.

  1. 12th November 2014: An opinion piece from a registered professional: Opinion | 40SqM BC(A)R SI.9 Extensions. Quote:”…there is only one reason in my opinion why this fiasco has occurred.  The definition of an extension has been up in the air for months now.  Our stakeholders & governmental departments have not listened nor have they addressed it.  This has left the interpretation of an extension to be worked out by amateur opinion for months & this has lead directly to where we are now.
  2. 7th November: the RIAI query is sent to DECLG re advice previously issued on 24th October: RIAI PRACTICE NEWS : 40SqM BC(A)R SI.9 Exemption. Quote “The RIAI had previously published, initially without comment,  the BCMS advice of the 24th October to the effect that the 40Sqm SI.9 exemption limit is cumulative (see post here). Following requests from members who cannot see how this can be case, the RIAI are now seeking clarification from the DECLG of this previous advice issued. We are not aware of any legal advice on the issue or other stakeholder interpretations at time of writing.”
  3. 6th November: a Registered Building Surveyor submitted an opinion piece: HOUSES + 40Sqm #BCAR. Quote “It appears that a Building Control Authority confirmed to the author yesterday that if one have used up the 40m2, any increase in floor area (internal) requires Long Form Commencement Notice (LFCN). This advice has also been confirmed and re-issued by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland to members also…
  4. 2nd November: an opinion piece from Architectural Technologist: ± 40 sq.m. exemption from SI.9 | Kevin Tyrrell Architectural Technologist. Quote “And I believe that because Building Control Regulations relate and comment only to a single Permission then they can have nothing to say about the cumulative size of any extensions on the house. You could have a total of 300 sq metres of extensions to the house and they may as well not exist at all as far as the Building Control Regulations are concerned.
  5. 31st October: an opinion piece from a Registered architect: Commencement notice problems | Does size matter?. Quote “There must now be real  anxiety, that based on the proposed BCMS advice, that professionals, acting in good faith, and having read the S.I.9 legislation carefully, have submitted and had validated the wrong commencement notice – and by the implications of the BCMS advice, these people now have projects under construction illegally on site!
  6. 30th October: we noted commencement notice problems: Commencement Notice issues. Quote “On 12th May the RIAI issued an advice note* to members (see link here). On 19th May the RIAI issued a further advice note* to Practices  about Short Form Commencement Notices lodged between 1 March and 19 May 2014. This was contrary to the advice issued just one week earlier on 12 May…The RIAI Practice Advice* is evidence that for the first 11 weeks of S.I.9, Local Authorities issued and validated the wrong form for Short Form Commencement Notices (seemingly unaware that S.I.9 required them to be in the new format signed by the building owner). ” This related to previous post on this issue on July 15th (see below).
  7. 24th October: RIAI issue advice from BCMS on and include own more onerous interpretation on demolition: Legal Alert | Commencement Notices since 1st March 2014Quote: “Hundreds of homeowners have been left in a legal mess following new advice from the government run Building Control Management System (BCMS). The RIAI issued the new BCMS advice to their Practice members at around 5 pm on Friday of the Bank holiday weekend just gone and Building Surveyor, Nigel Redmond, received the advice from the BCMS yesterday, 27th October (Link:).  This is 8 months after the new rules were introduced and means that many domestic extensions started since 1 March 2014 may be illegal.      BCMS FAQ
  8. 19th September: letter from Ciaran Ferrie architect to Aidan O’Connor, DECLG. See pdf here: Letter_DoECLG_AOC_140919. Quote “Can you also confirm that this exemption applies to each individual extension separately i.e. there is no cumulative measurement of extensions as would be the case if you were assessing the project for exemption under Planning legislation. It would appear that some Building Control Authorities are interpreting this to include the measurement of any previous extension to the dwelling although there doesn’t seem to be any justification for this interpretation within the wording of S.I. 9:2014.
  9. 16th September: an opinion piece by Nigel Redmond: “Dangling Participles” and why all extensions may now require compliance with S.I.9: 2014. Quote “It must be pointed out there is no retrospective compliance for illegal developments. Therefore, until this matter is clarified, a view could be taken that it is inadvisable for professionals to issue Commencement Notices, supervise and certify any extensions constructed to a 40 square metre plus dwelling house after March 1st 2014…
  10. 8th September: BRegs blog post piece on confusion surrounding 40Sqm invalidations as alerted to by readers: ALERT | Owners may need Certifiers on porch extensions?. Quote: There are now serious concerns that the generally accepted application of the new regulations may be wrong. Perhaps it is a drafting error or perhaps the guidance did not spell it out, either way it looks as if it does not matter if you build under 40 m2  because every previous addition of floor area to the house may be cumulative! If this is the case, there are a number of very serious consequences…Many domestic projects may have gone on site (post March 2014) illegally without any appointment of Certifiers and there are no legal remedies…Works about to go on site may have to be held back to regularise their situations…Tiny projects (like a domestic porch) may need full appointments, inspection plans, multiple certificates and even- the family having to use the back door waiting for the completion certificate to be validated! Terraced home owners pay special heed to this one.
  11. 15th July: Bregs Blog post on illegal short-form commencement notices. See post CATCH 22 COMMENCEMENTS. Quote “We are now receiving reports from many parts of the country of these CATCH 22 COMMENCEMENTS- once you start building you cannot turn back the clock and start again so these illegal works can never be rectified. There is no provision for retrospective compliance under SI.9 (see post here)….This has very serious implications for all of the owners involved as they may have difficulty selling or financing these buildings in the future. More worryingly some owners have now been told to stop illegal building work by the local authority and they are currently caught in an impossible Catch 22 situation…Under the law, the only remedy is to demolish the part-completed building, lodge a new Commencement Notice and ‘start”
  12. 4th July: OPW commencement notice interactive tools issued at RIAI CPD event, circulated to members subsequently on 8th July: RIAI: OPW Interactive Tools for the Design Certifier. These were issued at RIAI CPD events and fully endorsed by both organisations. There is no mention of cumulative extensions or demolition issues. There are two download options: the Full Version (72MB) contains a repository of Legislation, Regulations and Guidance Documents, while the Lite Version (36 MB) has these elements removed.  Full Version – RIAI Interactive Process Diagram [incl Document Repository] Rev A (72Mb) Lite Version – RIAI Interactive Process Diagram Rev A(35.6Mb)

February 2014: We also include the early guidance documents issued by the DECLG as they inaccurately suggest 40 Sqm equals 400 SqFt. For DECLG Local Authority guidance note – extension of a dwelling by more than 40sqm (400 sqft) feb 21st 2014 see post Conflicting information from localgov.ie: BC(A)R SI.9.

2013: We also have the SI80  ‘drafting error’ which said extensions “no greater than 40 square metres” and had to be reissued as SI9 of 2014. For link click here. For pdf click: SI80 of 2013.

2012: Interesting that the public consultation in May of this year actually excluded domestic extensions. Quote:

The above additional information is required for new dwellings and for buildings/works for which a Fire Safety Certificate is required in accordance with Part III of the Building Control Regulations. In other cases the Commencement Notice form and the appropriate fee will suffice”

For PDF of the consultation document click Strengthening the system (incl RIA) 2012

The Latest Homebond House Building Manual: A Critique | Joseph Little Architects

by Bregs Blog admin team

In case you missed it over the weekend here’s a great review of the Homebond Manual by Joseph Little Architects- enjoy!

BRegs Blog

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The Blog were forwarded this review of the latest Homebond Manual by Joseph Little architect on 12th November 2014. For original please click here. For more info on the author please click on his website here: Our Team | Joseph Little Architects

This article was published in Aug-Sept 2012 (issue 12, volume 5) in Construct Ireland’s last edition (the magazine then rebranded as Passive House Plus). It was therefore prompted purely by disappointment at how little had been revised and how inadequately the impact of new common types of construction and the complexity of Part L(2011) compliance were represented. The implementation of onerous amendments to Building Control Regulations and Homebond’s provision of Assigned Certifier services since then has brought the question of the value of this edition of the Manual into even starker relief. Article to follow:

The latest Homebond House Building Manual: a critique

By Joseph Little

The…

View original post 1,983 more words

Press | 170% rise in home improvements

by Bregs Blog admin team

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In this article in Waterford Today on Tuesday 18th November a 170% increase in minor residential works is discussed. Quote:

170pc rise in home improvements reported as homeowners invest in renovations and extensions and avail of Government tax incentives…Spending on extensions and conversions remains the highest outlay in the home improvements sector and the number of homeowners opting to source building professionals to work on their properties through Tradesmen.ie increased by a significant 230% in the three year period 2010-2013.

…Financial initiatives such as these, in addition to the Government’s tax incentives, have hugely helped improve construction and employment growth and will continue to benefit consumers and the industry into 2015.

This article would confirm the Central Statics Office (CSO) recent data that the current recovery in the residential sector is based on smaller improvement works rather than new dwellings. However it remains of concern that recent CSO data indicates new home completions are falling in tandem with falling levels of planning applications for dwellings. Even with elevated levels of residential small-works activity, commencement notice levels (registered with the Building Control Management System) are 30% below 2013 levels, a historic low in construction activity.

In a recent Independent article (see here) Minister James Reilly has said :

“Minister Noonan has unveiled innovative measures in Budget 2015 to improve the supply of affordable housing options…The Home Renovation Incentive has been very successful to date… The Incentive is generating employment in the tax compliant construction sector and increasing sales in building supplies, hardware and related…The Government will also work to significantly increase the provision of social housing with a view to providing 10,000 social housing units by 2018.”

For policy makers facing in to housing supply issues and spiraling rents, this small-works upswing may well mask underlying issues associated with housing supply being brought to the market.

Link to Waterford Today article here

Extract:

Huge increase in home renovations and extensions

170pc rise in home improvements reported as homeowners invest in renovations and extensions and avail of Government tax incentives

The number of property owners opting to renovate and extend their homes has increased by almost 170pc since 2010 according to the website http://www.tradesmen.ie. The launch, earlier this year, of the Government’s Home Renovation Tax Scheme has supported economic growth and employment and the website recently celebrated the 100,000th job posted on the site with a value of more than €90 million for tradesmen and the local economy. Spending on extensions and conversions remains the highest outlay in the home improvements sector and the number of homeowners opting to source building professionals to work on their properties through Tradesmen.ie increased by a significant 230% in the three year period 2010-2013.

Last October, the Government announced significant tax incentives for home improvements and this was followed by an announcement by Bank of Ireland of a €75m fund that would provide vital finance for homeowners to avail of the tax breaks. The Bank has now announced a new discounted personal loan at 9% APR, in addition to the offer of a mortgage top-up from 4% APR, giving customers the option of funding home improvements with a discounted personal loan or a low mortgage lending rate over a longer term. The new loan is available on amounts between €5,000 and €65,000 over terms up to 7 years. Financial initiatives such as these, in addition to the Government’s tax incentives, have hugely helped improve construction and employment growth and will continue to benefit consumers and the industry into 2015.

Speaking on the upturn in home improvements, Sarah Ann Hennessy, Branch Manager at Bank of Ireland Waterford says, “Last year Ireland saw home-owners spending amounts from €5,000 and up to €100,000 on home improvements, with more than half of those opting for house extensions. Attic conversions have also increased in popularity, as families grow, with a 78pc increase in homeowners seeking attic conversion finance between 2010 and 2013.

There are a number of incentives out there for home owners to improve their home. For example, the Government Home Renovation Initiative (HRI) which runs until 31 December 2015 gives tax relief amounting to the VAT portion (13.5pc) of a bill for repair, renovation or improvement works carried out by an authorised contractor for amounts between €5,000 and €30,000. This could result in a tax credit of up to €4,050 which is granted after the work is carried out. There are also grants available from Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) for making energy efficient upgrades to your home such as roof and wall insulation, boiler and heating control upgrades and solar panels. According to the SEAI website, since the grants were introduced in 2009 they have paid out nearly 400,000 grants totaling €167m.”

“Our doors are very much open to those interested in financing home improvements and we don’t require customers to have savings to pledge against loans. Our 24-hour promise means customers get a quick turnaround on approvals and we also offer the option of deferring repayments for three months. The combination of Government incentives, SEAI grants and great rates augurs well for the construction industry into 2015”, Sarah Ann concluded.

Other posts of interest:

Ronan Lyons | Regulations pushing up the costs of homes

Dr Rory Hearne | + 168,000 empty houses in the country

Sunday Business Post | Karl Deeter “Building regulations – rules don’t deliver results”

CSO- Dwelling units approved down 16.6% in one year

Want to live in Dublin? | Only the wealthy need apply!

World Bank Report 2015 | Ireland’s poor construction regulations are the biggest drag on our ranking

Gurdgiev: Irish Residential Property Prices: Q3 2014

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

Construction Recovery- watch this space.

Dáil update | Pyrite in Mayo

by Bregs Blog admin team

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By Bregs Blog admin on 17th November 2014

As reported earlier this year, Mayo homes are excluded from the Pyrite Remediation scheme: “[Mayo Owner] has also been told that she is not entitled to apply for the government’s pyrite remeditation scheme because Mayo is not included in the scheme” see previous press article here.

The following Dáil question on Pyrite in Mayo was tabled by Michelle Mulherin (Mayo, Fine Gael) on 21st October 2014.

In his answer Minister Kelly confirms under the new regulations, owners of completed dwellings affected by pyrite will likely end up seeking redress through the courts, with no guarantee of success. We know this was a major problem for pyrite affected dwellings pre 2012 and due to public pressure the taxpayer has ended up paying for remediation.

Pyrite costs are seen as an example where inadequate local Authority enforcement and policing, combined with a reliance on private insurance, has resulted in major costs for the taxpayer. Industry sources suggest based on DECLG estimated numbers of houses affected the cost of remediation could be in the region of €780m for pre 2012 dwellings.

Quote from Minister Kelly:

While I fully appreciate and acknowledge the extremely difficult and distressing situations that householders have to deal with when faced with the consequences of the use of defective materials or poor workmanship, building defects are, in general, matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, i.e. the owner, the builder, the manufacturer, supplier, quarry owner and/or their respective insurers. In the event that the contracting parties cannot reach a settlement by negotiation the option of seeking redress in the Courts can be considered.

Local Authorities are tasked with policing of construction material markets.

Under the new regulstions SI.9 the situation remains unchanged and Local Authorities have not received any additional resources for this task.

For a link to the Dáil exchange click here. Transcript is below.

Written answers, Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Department of Environment, Community and Local Government

Pyrite Incidence

Michelle Mulherin (Mayo, Fine Gael)

563. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the number of houses, both private and social, in County Mayo that have been reported to his Department as having pyrite damage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39889/14]

Alan Kelly (Tipperary North, Labour)

In late October 2013, Mayo County Council submitted a report to my Department on problems with the cracking of concrete blocks used in the construction of two local authority estates. In May of 2014, the Council notified my Department that two houses in another local authority estate may also be affected. As matters stand, my Department understands that a total of 17 houses in the three local authority estates are affected by the cracking in the blockwork. The majority of these dwellings appear to have been constructed between 2000 and 2002.

In early March 2014, my Department also met with a number of private homeowners whose homes are similarly affected by structural problems. The problems appear to concern approximately 15 houses and the period of construction for the houses involved was 1997 to 2002. My Department has not been made aware of other dwellings affected by structural problems in the blockwork in County Mayo.

While I fully appreciate and acknowledge the extremely difficult and distressing situations that householders have to deal with when faced with the consequences of the use of defective materials or poor workmanship, building defects are, in general, matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, i.e. the owner, the builder, the manufacturer, supplier, quarry owner and/or their respective insurers. In the event that the contracting parties cannot reach a settlement by negotiation the option of seeking redress in the Courts can be considered. In this regard, I believe that the responsible parties should face up to their responsibilities and take appropriate actions to provide remedies for the affected homeowners. [emphasis by Bregs Blog]

The Building Regulations 1997 – 2014 set out the legal requirements for the construction of new buildings (including houses), extensions to existing buildings as well as for material alterations and certain material changes of use to existing buildings. The regulations are divided in to 12 Parts (classified as Parts A to M), and Technical Guidance Documents (TGDs) are published to accompany each of the parts and provide guidance indicating how the requirements of each part can be achieved in practice. Where works are carried out in accordance with the relevant technical guidance, such works are considered to be, prima facie, in compliance with the relevant regulation(s).

Primary responsibility for compliance with the requirements of the Building Regulations rests with the designers, builders and owners of buildings. Responsibility for enforcement is delegated under the Building Control Act 1990 to local building control authorities who are independent in the exercise of their statutory powers. The use of these powers is, however, subject to a statute of limitations of five years from the date of completion of the buildings concerned.

Other posts of interest:

Irish Mirror | Call for an end to pyrite mess

Was pyrite discovered in concrete blocks in 2013?

Homebond | Assigned Certifier + defects liability policy for €2,000?

Why did Phil Hogan think SI.9 would cost less than €3000 ?

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections

Are Design and Assigned Certifiers risking professional suicide with Pyrite and S.I.9?

Pyrite & SI.9- what happens now?

RTÉ News: Louth housing scheme to be demolished over pyrite

Dáil : Pyrite Remediation Programme: 10th June 2014

Government Reports & Professional Opinion Ignored in S.I.80

The regulations ignore key recommendations of the Pyrite Panel

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

Ronan Lyons | Regulations pushing up the costs of homes

by Bregs Blog admin team

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The following Primetime piece was recorded by Ronan Lyons on Thursday 13th November 2014. From 16.00 to 34.13

Click here to view: Primetime- Housing Crisis

In the RTÉ piece the author makes the case that unnecessary regulation and increased cost is negatively impacting upon our construction and housing sector. The author has written on this subject previously.

On the subject of costs of building and affordability, particularly in Dublin- see previous post on his article Want to live in Dublin? | Only the wealthy need apply!.

There are a number of factors feeding into the recent rise in property values and the lack of supply of quality residential developments in Dublin in particular. Other factors affecting the residential market are explored in by Ronan Lyons in the Independent article on Sunday 3rd August 2014. For original article view here. Extract to follow:

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The Housing Ecosystem: What the decade to 2007 tells us is that planners should be very wary of directing where buildings and people should go

Dublin house price rises are not a bubble but are cause for concern

by Ronan Lyons

PUBLISHED 03/08/2014 in the Sunday Independent

It is fashionable at the moment to argue that there is a bubble in the Dublin housing market. And at first glance it is easy to see why. House prices in some parts of Dublin are up almost 40pc in just two years, leaving a small group of delighted purchasers and a much larger group of would-be first-time buyers feeling that they blinked and missed the boat.

However, the term “bubble” means something in particular. This matters because dealing with a bubble is different from dealing with other reasons prices may rise rapidly.

A bubble is when the price of an asset such as housing departs from the fundamental value. Charles Kindleberger has written a book on bubbles throughout history and there is one common thread across all of them.

You cannot have a bubble unless there is loose credit to fuel unrealistic expectations. This has been true from the earliest bubbles of the modern era, such as the famous South Sea Bubble of 300 years ago, and it remains true today.

Looking at the loan-to-value offered to first-time buyers today, and just as importantly at what they expect to happen to house prices over the medium term, it is hard to argue we are in the midst of another credit-fuelled bubble of exuberant expectations.

First-time buyers struggle to get a mortgage with anything less than a 10pc deposit (and rightly so, for reasons of financial stability). But when surveyed, they revealed they expected annual house price increases over the next five years of the order of about 3pc a year, which looks far from excessive.

The reason why what is going on now is different to what was happening 10 years ago – when it most certainly was a bubble – is the rental market.

Ten years ago, when house prices throughout the country were rising rapidly, rents were falling, as tens of thousands of new homes were being built. Now, rents are rising just as rapidly as house prices.

So if it is not a bubble, what is going on? House prices in Ireland are determined by five key factors. The first two are about the fundamentals of demand – household incomes (which are flat at best), and demographics (which move slowly).

The other three are the supply of housing, the availability of credit and what economists call user cost (which is interest rates less expectations). Credit and user cost are the drivers of bubbles, but as discussed above, neither is at the heart of recent increases.

Certainly, the normalisation of expectations – where people went from expecting falling house prices to stable or rising ones – has played a role in flushing out demand.

But the underlying reason for house price rises is more obvious. The population of Dublin is growing by roughly 17,000 people a year, which translates into roughly 7,500 units a year. But over the entire three years from January 2011 to December 2013, just 4,000 new dwellings were built in the capital, about one sixth of what Dublin needed.

This chronic lack of housing is at the root of most of the housing difficulties we see currently, from homelessness to rising rents, from the student accommodation crisis to dramatic turnaround in house prices.

And there is no over night fix in terms of vacant housing in Dublin. In mid-2013, there were 23 unfinished developments in the capital with a total of 6,370 dwellings – not far off one year’s worth of supply.

However, more than half of these units are already occupied, while
most of the remainder are not even started. Just 617 units stood vacant in Dublin last year, barely one month’s supply.

In a sense, you could view all this as good news. House price rises due to a bubble are notoriously difficult to stop in a way that doesn’t damage your economy, as the UK is discovering currently.

“If building is not happening now – when both prices and rents in Dublin are near their limit relative to incomes – then something has gone horribly wrong with our planning and regulatory system”

House price rises due to a lack of supply have an obvious fix – build more homes. This generates employment and also boosts competitiveness, by driving down the cost of accommodation.

Perhaps this sounds too optimistic. After all, wasn’t building too much part of the problem?

Actually, in Dublin, there was very little over-building. Where Ireland went wrong was in its planning system, which encouraged sprawl in a world economy that thrives on density. More units were built in Connacht and Ulster during the bubble than in Dublin, even though Dublin has twice the population.

What the decade to 2007 tells us is that planners should be very wary of directing where buildings and people should go.

We are our own best judges of where we want to live. If building is not happening now, when both prices and rents in Dublin are near their limit relative to incomes, then something has gone horribly wrong with our planning and regulatory system. Those unconvinced that regulation is at the heart of the problem would do well to consider this: the development which won the Urban Land Institute’s prestigious global award for housing last year is illegal under Irish building regulations.

We currently have a Junior Minister for Housing, who in reality has only the homelessness aspect of that portfolio, with the rest of the policy tools relating to housing divided out between the Departments of Finance, Taoiseach and Justice, as well as the Central Bank.

What we need is someone who is responsible for the housing ecosystem.

Such a minister could set the target of reducing the cost of building a family home by 33pc by the next election and achieve it.

Sadly, there is no political appetite for this – so even medium-term respite for Dublin’s dysfunctional housing market is likely to be underwhelming.

Ronan Lyons is assistant professor of Economics at Trinity College, Dublin, and is author of the Daft.ie report

Other posts of interest (click on title):

Dr Rory Hearne | + 168,000 empty houses in the country

Sunday Business Post | Karl Deeter “Building regulations – rules don’t deliver results”

Engineers Ireland Journal | Jack Kavanagh- is SI.9 unjust to both engineer and society?

CSO- Dwelling units approved down 16.6% in one year

Want to live in Dublin? | Only the wealthy need apply!

60 new schools delayed due to SI.9 | Independent.ie

World Bank Report 2015 | Ireland’s poor construction regulations are the biggest drag on our ranking

Gurdgiev: Irish Residential Property Prices: Q3 2014

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

Construction Recovery- watch this space.

ALERT | SI.9 Christmas Completion Countdown

by Bregs Blog admin team

 

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By Bregs Blog admin on 17th November 2014

ALERT | SI.9 Christmas Completion Countdown

Today is the start date for lodging your prospective completion documents if your client plans to occupy a building or extension for Christmas.

For occupation on Tuesday 23 December, you must lodge the final Completion Certificate on Monday 22 December and the Prospective Completion documents must be lodged  3-5 weeks in advance. This means that the window for lodging completion documents is from today Monday 17 November until Monday 1 December.

As the BCMS is not yet available for completion stage, it is recommended that you make one complete submission of all of the ancillary certificates, testing records, inspection plans etc to the local authority before Monday 1 December.

Information on prospective completion is available in the Code of Practice, Section 8.3 – click link HERE

As this is the first year of operation, Assigned Certifiers are advised to avail of Prospective Completion and not to wait to make a full submission in the week before Christmas. There is no mechanism for the local authority to agree additional time, as there is with a Fire Safety Certificate or Disability Access Certificate application. A building control officer faced with a deluge of Completion Certificate documents on Christmas Eve has to work within the regulations and the only legal option available, if the file can’t all be checked in time, is to invalidate the Completion Cert or to delay the completion by asking for more information. These regulations put building control departments, some of whom are one-man operations, in a very difficult position especially when owners are looking to occupy homes and extensions for Christmas.

Assigned Certifiers need to start today to make sure that the full Completion Document package is finalised in the next 2 weeks.

RIAI Advice: click link here

Q.: How will the Prospective Certificate work?

A: 3-5 weeks in advance of “a nominated date for completion of the building” submit information so that the authority may consider the validity with a view to facilitate the inclusion of the details of the Certificate of Compliance on Completion on the statutory register on the nominated date, plus one day. (Ref Code of Practice section 8.3).

Other posts of interest:

SI.9 completion stage and the BCMS | Clouds are gathering!

5 Tips for Completion Certs

Press: RIAI fearful Local Authorities will start “finding something to invalidate as a method of workload control”

BC(A)R SI.9- BCMS: “must do better”

Build in 8 hours, wait 3 weeks for a Completion Cert!

Practical Post 19: Phased completion & BC(A)R SI.9 

Practical Post 10: No retrospective compliance – BC(A)R SI.9

Practical Post 19: Phased completion & BC(A)R SI.9

Are Local Authorities ready? Industry concern for completion stage: BC(A)R SI.9 of 2014

5 Posts every builder must read- BC(A)R SI.9

7 posts all architects (surveyors + engineers) should read 

Top 10 for week ending 16th November 2014

by Bregs Blog admin team

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Top 10 for week ending 16th November 2014

This week Homebond’s new €2000 all-in certifier/defects insurance scheme was the most popular post. Issues associated with conflicting and confusing advice issued by both the Building Control Management System, Department of the Environment and stakeholder bodies still exorcised readers, with this topic occupying 4 of the top 6 this week.

Joseph Little Architects posted a considered critique of the Homebond manual of details, a document that yet may become very important in the speculative residential sector.

Our 5th most popular post was Jack Kavanagh, past president of the ACEI and EI (representative bodies for engineers) who wrote a compelling article in Engineers Journal and wondered is SI.9 “…unjust to both engineer and society

Increased costs associated with building and the negative effect on construction output hit the media this week with a press article by Karl Deeter last weekend in the Sunday Business Post. Finally we have Dr Rory Hearne with a thought provoking article on a more radical approach to our housing issues, noting the considerable extent of vacant dwellings throughout the country.

Enjoy!

  1. Homebond | Assigned Certifier + defects liability policy for €2,000?
  2. RIAI PRACTICE NEWS : 40SqM BC(A)R SI.9 Exemption
  3. ± 40 sq.m. exemption from SI.9 | Kevin Tyrrell Architectural Technologist
  4. The Latest Homebond House Building Manual: A Critique | Joseph Little Architects
  5. Engineers Ireland Journal | Jack Kavanagh- is SI.9 unjust to both engineer and society?
  6. Opinion | 40SqM BC(A)R SI.9 Extensions
  7. HOUSES + 40Sqm #BCAR
  8. Sunday Business Post | Karl Deeter “Building regulations – rules don’t deliver results”
  9. Social Media | BRegs Blog Help + Advice
  10. Dr Rory Hearne | + 168,000 empty houses in the country

Government Reports + Professional Opinion Ignored in SI.9 | look back 5

by Bregs Blog admin team

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Government Reports + Professional Opinion Ignored in SI.9 look back 5

In No 5 of our “Look Back” post series we re-publish a December 5th 2013 post Government Reports & Professional Opinion Ignored in S.I.80 on consumer bodies and reports that were ignored in the formation of SI.9, previoulsy SI.80.

The “comprehensive consultation” undertaken in 2012 has frequently been quoted, most recently by Minister Alan Kelly on 11th November 2014 in the Dáil:

 “An extensive public consultation process was undertaken in 2012 to inform the development of the revised building control regulations which came into effect on 1 March 2014…

Over 500 submissions were received in response to that public consultation from construction industry stakeholders, individual practitioners and members of the public

… However, the time available for public consultation is finite and my Department’s consideration of this matter has effectively concluded given that SI No. 9 of 2014 is now in place and is fully operational”

Our post below outlined some of the major contributions and submissions ignored by the Department in the formation of BC(A)R SI.9.

Original post below:

________________

As Minister Hogan prepares to sign off on the final wording of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations, we take a look at some of the government commissioned reports and the professional opinion that were ignored in the design of S.I.80.

Government Commissioned Reports:

The National Consumer Agency (2012): “the NCA would point to the undesirability of a situation arising whereby one entity could design, build, inspect and certify a building while no inspection by a Building Control Authority takes place.. Should a consumer purchase a dwelling become aware of non-compliance with building regulations, and bring the issue to the notice of the relevant Building Control Authority, the legislation allows the consumer to be designated as the party responsible for bringing the dwelling into a state of compliance. Consideration should be given to providing means by which responsibility for bringing a building up to a compliant state rests with the party responsible for the non-compliance in the first place”

The Pyrite Panel 2012: “…the Panel recommends that the system of independent inspections, carried out by the building control officers, should be strengthened to complement the mandatory certification process for buildings.. Project-related insurance whereby cover for each specific project is available and adequate and is related to the project only”

The Competition Authority 2012: “These concerns are (a) whether the proposed regulations would, in fact, afford proper protection to citizens, (b) whether the additional costs imposed by the proposed regulations are in proportion to any benefit they might bring, and (c) whether placing the onus for compliance on certain individuals involved in the construction process, rather than on an independent arm of the State, is appropriate”

The National Disability Authority 2006: “The findings of the Rogerson (2005) research and DoEHLG’s own 2003 survey suggest the need for vigilant on-site inspection for compliance with accessibility requirements. The provision of Disability Access Certificates does not preclude the requirement for strengthened enforcement and on-site inspection of buildings against Part M”

Chief Fire Officers Association Conference 2012: “Better Paperwork does not mean Better or Safer buildings!”

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland 2013: “It is believed that Latent Defects Insurance (LDI) would provide a cost-effective means of providing long-term protection for the recovery of the costs of repairing or replacing works following discovery of a latent defect. The insured party does not need to prove negligence and defects would be covered even were the contractor company is no longer in existence. Given the complexity involved in contractors individually providing their own policies, there would be a clear benefit in having a single LDI policy, where all works carried out under the Scheme were covered by a single provider, offering a single point of contact for claimants at an optimal cost.”

Professional & Registration Bodies:

The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland 2013: “Registration of builders must be part of the new system.. It is essential that the new monitoring and inspection systems provide for planned and random audits – on a risk analysis basis – of the documentation submitted to a local authority before building work actually commences, as well as inspection of buildings during construction… If such systems of inspection and analysis by building control authorities are not in place, then the danger remains of shoddy building practices continuing with consequent risks to the consumer”

Engineers Ireland 2012: “An appropriately strong and active inspection/auditing function being delivered by the appropriate state authorities is equally critically important in strengthening the existing Building Control System”

The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland 2013: “The regulations do not address the Building Control Authority’s side of the equation and it will also be incumbent on the Government to ensure that appropriate review of operations occurs in this respect.” Alan Isdell, Surveyors

Other posts of interest:

SCSI | “Highly unlikely Priory Hall would happen in Britain”- Look Back 4

BRAB and BC(A)R SI.9- Look Back 3 

Inadequate Regulatory Impact Assessment for S.I.9- Look Back 2

World Bank Rankings, Ireland & SI.9 – Look Back 1

BREGS Blog Archive 4- FEBRUARY 2014

BREGS Blog Archive 3- JANUARY 2014

BREGS Blog Archive 2- DECEMBER 2013

BREGS Blog Archive 1- NOVEMBER 2013

The Latest Homebond House Building Manual: A Critique | Joseph Little Architects

by Bregs Blog admin team

joseph-2012

The Blog were forwarded this review of the latest Homebond Manual by Joseph Little architect on 12th November 2014. For original please click here. For more info on the author please click on his website here: Our Team | Joseph Little Architects

This article was published in Aug-Sept 2012 (issue 12, volume 5) in Construct Ireland’s last edition (the magazine then rebranded as Passive House Plus). It was therefore prompted purely by disappointment at how little had been revised and how inadequately the impact of new common types of construction and the complexity of Part L(2011) compliance were represented. The implementation of onerous amendments to Building Control Regulations and Homebond’s provision of Assigned Certifier services since then has brought the question of the value of this edition of the Manual into even starker relief. Article to follow:

The latest Homebond House Building Manual: a critique

By Joseph Little

The Homebond House Building Manual had the distinction of being called the ‘bible’ for many building during the boom. It was a commonly-used reference book, even for many builders and architects who never built housing estates and therefore had little need of a Homebond guarantee. One might design a construction detail of a dwelling differently, but one did it with an awareness of what the manual showed. It gave the insurance scheme great credibility and standing. This architect remembers reluctantly getting involved with an external wall insulation self-build project in rural Ireland in 2006 (far beyond his normal travel distance) because the local engineers wouldn’t build anything that wasn’t in the Homebond manual. The 6th edition came out just after TGD L(2008) and the new seventh edition has just hit the shelves, some months after the latest TGD L.

A sea change in knowledge and standards

Significantly the latest edition is the first since the boom. The Construction Industry Federation and Homebond (like the rest of the industry) have had time to think about the lack of construction quality that was such a hallmark of mass housing built in the boom, and how to do it better. The mediocre Acceptable Construction Details (ACDs) [1] came out after the manual’s sixth edition, as did a remarkable series of papers (focusing on the ‘performance gap’) from Leeds Metropolitan University based on their study of the construction of the Stamford Brook housing estate near Manchester (which resulted in changes to UK building regulations). The passive house movement and ethos has also gained ground – indeed FÁS and MosArt recently created the world’s first Passive house builder’s course in Finglas in 2011, as many Construct Ireland readers will be aware. Finally there have been countless papers and exemplar projects in the UK, Ireland and further afield showing how mainstream housing construction can and should change.  This writer, who owns a well-thumbed copy of the fifth edition, was therefore genuinely excited to part with €80 in Easons and sit down with the new manual to see if it encapsulated some of this sea change and would regain the place it had earned during the period of the 1991-2005 regulations. Sadly, as you will see, it has not.

The fifth edition related to TGD L(2005) and to energy efficiency standards for new dwellings more than 60% poorer than they are since December  2011. Think of all the industries where a 6% change would result in root and branch changes. A 60% change is seismic and demands a full re-evaluation and profound change and re-education on all sides. However the best way to explain the contents of the new book is that the building culture and technology of 2005 has been re-presented, dressed-up in the latest backstop values.

Technical details

The section on airtightness is welcome but it is not integrated into the rest of the book. Detail after detail in the seventh edition is identical to the fifth: many, if not most, feature bad thermal bridges that could be easily resolved, such as can be seen in figure one. Incredibly, drawings show 100-100-100 cavity walls with 50mm partial-fill insulation, discredited hollow block with internal wall insulation, floor joists built into walls and duplex housing conditions that have been known to run with condensation. Details such as back sills and pressed metal lintels – which were relegated to what I consider the ‘sin bin’ of appendix two of the ACDs due to their unacceptable thermal bridge impact – are presented here as good practice. There are no external insulation details shown, no full-fill wide cavities, no ‘warm stud’ approaches to timber-frame or joists, no closed panels or SIPs and no under slab insulation.

figure_1_-_figure_one_outdated_details_extracts_from_the_seventh_edition_of_the_homebond_house_building_manual

Figure one: outdated details Extracts from the seventh edition of the Homebond House Building Manual

It may be argued that the (mostly) re-used graphics show key concepts and designers and builders are expected to extrapolate from these, but why should they if they bought a new book? How does that help limit risk and deliver high quality buildings?

It may also be argued that the manual is fundamentally about avoiding settlement, cracks and leaks – not about the use of insulation – but this is also unacceptable. As energy efficiency standards rise and rise insulation and structure cannot be separated. They impact upon each other continuously and the solutions used must be integrated. Architecture students in college are taught that if you haven’t drawn it you haven’t thought about it. If the authors of the manual had drawn a wide cavity they would have seen that the window frame is too narrow to act as a fire-rated cavity closer. They would then have had the opportunity to discuss acceptable and non-acceptable cavity closers, and propose methods of holding the window in place: all practical issues builders need to know about.  They would also have had the chance to talk about blown bead insulation and low thermal bridging cavity ties.

By not showing under slab insulation or external wall insulation the opportunity to discuss the structural implications of insulation continuity was lost. New details could have shown how thermal and structural continuity is possible with AAC or Foamglas blocks. Showing woodfibre sarking boards on a warm roof buildup could have given a chance to discuss the types of fixings necessary as well as the practical advantages for roofers, besides the reduction in repeat thermal bridges and improved decrement delay.

EPC & U-values

Builders and designers need practical guidance on what U-values are acceptable.

The average maximum U-values (also known as ‘backstop’ U-values) in table one of TGD L in 2005 were better than the values most housing estate builders used – the overall heat loss method of proving compliance allowed relaxations, such as from 0.27 to 0.37 W/m2K in the case of walls. In the 2011 update table one backstop values have become far more onerous – for instance the backstop is now 0.21 W/m2K for walls – yet to ensure compliance building fabric components should be designed and built to a far higher standard again – close to 0.14 W/m2K. This is a world apart from Boom-time values, as figure two makes graphically clear. This is because compliance with the whole-dwelling energy performance coefficient (EPC) value (calculated in DEAP) has been driving building fabric performance since TGD L(2008). Complying with backstop values is a second – and typically much easier – target.

Of course it is possible to build a wall to 2012 0.21 W/m2K but – without opting for an absurdly large renewable energy system – this would then almost certainly necessitate large levels of compensation in all other elements, resulting in a compliant but unnecessarily expensive dwelling. The best and most sustainable way to achieve compliance is always to minimise energy demand first through use of simple, ‘dumb’ technology that does not need a power source and has low maintenance requirement: i.e. appropriate, well-designed, well-applied insulation! This approach is often called a ‘fabric first focus’.

figure_2_-_the_progression_of_wall_u_values_since_2005

Figure 2 – the progression of wall U-values since 2005 Extract from Building Fabric Design, an RIAI CPD event

The new manual gives a caveat at the bottom of page 469 without further explanation that “one or more of the backstop minimum performance levels outlined above may need to be exceeded”. Elsewhere it warns that “by using the back stop value above, overall compliance with TGD L(2011) may not be achieved”.  But it’s not a case that “one or more” value may need to be exceeded – in practical terms all of them should be! To not stress or explain such a crucial and complex issue is unacceptable.

In contrast the Department of the Environment’s own Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) document – which was published in summer 2010 when the latest changes to TGD L were out to consultation – made exactly this point very clearly. Amongst other features it shows a useful chart of nine house types listing the key performance characteristics needed for each to merely comply. Despite every backstop values being exceeded in all cases – for everything from heating systems to thermal bridging to airtightness, not just U-values – each of the nine dwellings just reach the maximum permitted EPC of 0.4. This author believes that much of the Industry doesn’t yet understand this regulatory change. Sadly the seventh edition will not help.

The text & taking a position

The manual’s text has been revised to a greater extent than its details but it repeats much of the dry explanations found in TGD L. Unlike the government, Homebond has the ability to be selective; to take a strong position; and to rule-out or promote practices, or forms of construction and technology.

Indeed the manual does this in several places, such as in relation to fire or the construction of foundations or walls, but not when it comes to thermal performance. For instance, a builder may wish to build with internally insulated hollow blocks, and may find some guidance on this in TGD L, but the manual has the chance to educate the builder and show why this is a sub-standard form of construction and what other forms will serve the buyer or client better. If the manual were re-written with this approach it could become a voice for change and higher standards which – after 60% increases in standards of  and a disastrous crash in construction – we all need.

This author feels that this edition will inadvertently encourage non-compliant construction. It may also increase the risk of claims against Homebond insurance itself. If the manual is intended to be used by those seeking related insurance, and is promoted as up-to-date and reliable and yet is not, it surely becomes a risk to its authors.

To ensure that the performance gap between required standards and the reality on Irish building sites that has been such a feature of the Boom starts narrowing, instead of widening further, we suggest this manual is either withdrawn and extensively revised, or the industry turns to new, more relevant, sources of guidance and training.

Construct Ireland wrote to Homebond prior to going to print to offer a right of reply to many of the points raised in the above article. A spokesperson said “We note your comments […] & will pass them to our technical department for review,” adding that the review “will not be complete before your deadline”. Construct Ireland has offered Homebond the chance to respond via the Construct Ireland website and awaits the organisation’s response.

figure_3_-_table_2_ria

Figure 3 – An edited version ( to remove non envelope related data) of table 2 from the department of the environment’s regulatory impact analysis document, which shows that wall U values as low as 0.14 and triple glazed windows may be required to comply with part L

Joseph Little is principal of Joseph Little Architects and the Building Life Consultancy. His practice recently completed what he claims will be Ireland’s first EnerPHit house, which is due to be certified shortly. He and his team teach thermal bridge analysis and hygrothermal risk evaluation(using WUFI. They created and teach two CPD courses for the RIAI on designing new and retrofitted dwellings to

[1]Limiting Thermal Bridging and Air Infiltration: Acceptable Construction Details; July 2008, a document produced by the Department of the Environment in conjunction with SEAI and Homebond

Other posts of interest:

Homebond | Assigned Certifier + defects liability policy for €2,000?

Part L compliance – Who wants a building control service provided by cowboys?

Notes from the (thermal) edge: Part L Compliance (2 of 2)

Part L compliance issues – S.I.9 (1 of 2)

Design Certifiers – 3 things about certifying Part L… 

Why the design certifier and architect need third party building fabric assessments

Opinion piece: new building regulations and materials risk analysis

SI.9 and Part L | Specialist ancillary certifiers Part 2

SI.9 and Part L | Are specialist ancillary certifiers needed? Part 1 

BCMS | Chambers Ireland Excellence in Local Government Award

by Bregs Blog admin team

IMG_3756

Fingal County Council has won the category Joint Local Authority Initiative in this year’s Chambers Ireland – Excellence in Local Government Awards” for the Building Control Management System. This year’s awards ceremony took place last night Thursday 13th November in The Ballsbridge Hotel, Pembroke Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. For more information click here. Quote:

“The Excellence in Local Government Awards showcase best practice in local government and highlight some of the great projects that local authorities are undertaking. The Awards are judged by a panel of expert judges working in the field of Local Government and have been taking place since 2004.”

The shortlist for  this category were:

Joint Local Authority Initiative

  • Dublin City Council – Children’s summer reading programme
  • Fingal County Council – National Building Control Management System (BCMS)
  • Monaghan, Meath & Louth County Councils – Action for Biodiversity

Previously we assembled a number of reader’s questions and sent on to the BCMS- we posted our reader’s questions here BCMS: Open Letter. Mairéad Phelan, Project Manager for the BCMS (Local Government Efficiency Review, Programme Management Office) issued swift and comprehensive responses which were broken into three posts:

  1. BCMS Q+A: Part 1 | General Issues 
  2. BCMS Q+A: Part 2 | I.T. Issues
  3. BCMS Q+A: Part 3 | Process Issues

BCMS update on 12 Nov 2014 (slick here for website)- extract:

“The Building Control Management system (BCMS) was implemented in March 2014 and allows property owners, builders, developers, architects and engineers to submit notifications, applications and compliance certificates online.  It provides an internal management system for the processing of notices received online and over the counter in local authorities.  It is now successfully operational in all 31 local authorities.  To date the system has processed approximately 4,000 commencement notices, has over 12,000 unique public users registered and approximately 57,000 documents on a centrally hosted system…”

Other posts of interest:

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

SI.9 completion stage and the BCMS | Clouds are gathering! 

BCMS: My First Validation | Mark Stephens MRIAI 

No checks of Designer, Builder or Assigned Certifier on #BCMS

Engineers Ireland CPD 10th June

BCMS: Data protection or tax collection?

BC(A)R SI.9- BCMS: “must do better”

ALERT: Cork CoCo guide to BC(A)R SI.9

BReg Blog ALERT: Data Protection & BCMS

Building Control Officer issues: Conference April 2014

Building Control Officers need help! BC(A)R SI.9

Press: RIAI fearful Local Authorities will start “finding something to invalidate as a method of workload control”

Irish Mirror | Call for an end to pyrite mess

by Bregs Blog admin team

I141108_140016_424345oTextCS_72329606

Pyrite protest

Pyrite is never far from the headlines and in this recent article in the Irish Mirror by Mary McDonnell  “Call for an end to pyrite mess”, uncertainties, costs and the difficulties associated with obtaining relief from property tax for houses affected by pyrite are discussed. For direct link to article on November 8th 2014 click  here.

Previously we posted a “Quick history of pyrite- press articles” to give an overview of the history of pre 2012 cases of pyrite. Other posts of interest are listed below including some more recent cases discovered, which have led to the complete demolition of buildings. Based on Department estimates the cost to the taxpayer of pyrite remediation for pre 2012 affected properties, 12,250 homes, could be in excess of €780m.

Extract:

Call for an end to pyrite mess

Couple forced to leave their ravaged home

Thousands of broke families are being forced to fork out up to €3,000 to prove their homes are riddled with destructive pyrite, the Irish Sunday Mirror can reveal.

Around 10,000 homeowners were assured they would get an exemption from Property Tax for three years.

But it has emerged they’re still being taxed on “valueless” homes – as

legislation forces them to pay thousands to officially show the property was damaged by the mineral.

Socialist TD Clare Daly told the Irish Sunday Mirror: “The Government brought in an exemption so that

somebody can benefit from not having to pay a couple of hundred euro every year. But for them to get that they have to pay thousands.”

“It was never intended to be like that. Clearly they messed up in designing the statutory instrument,” she said, adding that the situation must be corrected.

Mersiha and husband Emir bought their three-bed dream home in Meath nine years ago for €240,000.

 I141108_141356_473547oTextCS_72329610

Pyrite damage

It’s since been ravaged by the destructive substance, forcing them to abandon their property. Now they have to pay Local Property Tax on a house they can’t live in – which Mersiha said is “like salt in the wounds and they’re rubbing it in”.

The Finance (Local Property Tax) Act 2012 provides for a temporary exemption of at least three years from Local Property Tax for homes with “significant pyritic damage”. Houses must undergo a Building Condition Assessment and be given a Damage Condition Rating of two by a qualified engineer to qualify.

This costs up to €600 and all funds are repaid by the Pyrite Resolution Board.

But to be exempt from the hated Property Tax, homeowners have to prove the damage was definitely caused by harmful pyrite – with an invasive core test which can cost €3,000.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told Deputy Daly his officials are “examining the alternatives other than testing” which will grant struggling families a tax break.

Other posts of interest:

Homebond | Assigned Certifier + defects liability policy for €2,000?

Why did Phil Hogan think SI.9 would cost less than €3000 ?

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections

Are Design and Assigned Certifiers risking professional suicide with Pyrite and S.I.9?

Was pyrite discovered in concrete blocks in 2013?

Pyrite & SI.9- what happens now?

RTÉ News: Louth housing scheme to be demolished over pyrite

Dáil : Pyrite Remediation Programme: 10th June 2014

Government Reports & Professional Opinion Ignored in S.I.80

The regulations ignore key recommendations of the Pyrite Panel

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

Dr Rory Hearne | + 168,000 empty houses in the country

by Bregs Blog admin team

GhostEstatesGeneric_large

In his second interesting article “Radical change of policies is required” in the Irish Examiner form October 29th 2014, Dr Rory Hearne argues that current vacancy rates show the way to a more radical, sustainable and fair housing policy. Link to article here. Dr Hearne is author of chapters on social housing in two new edited books on housing in Ireland: Renting In Ireland (IPA) and Spatial Justice and the Irish Crisis (RIA). He is also author of Public Private Partnerships in Ireland.

There are over 168,000 empty houses in the country.

If you don’t believe the numbers, and if you don’t believe that there are 17,597 vacant houses and 25,333 vacant flats in Dublin alone, scroll down to the end of the post to see a detailed breakdown county-by-county.

Extract from article:

________

“The residential vacancy rates from the 2011 census highlight the necessity of a radical change in housing and regional economic development policy.

They make it clear our housing system is fundamentally dysfunctional. We now have the scandalous and untenable situation whereby 90,000 households are defined as ‘in housing need’, and up to 5,000 homeless, and yet over twice that amount (230,056) of housing and apartments units lie vacant.

…This is because far too much of the housing built over the last two decades was done as a speculative investment rather than providing an affordable home.

…According to the ESRI, even though there will be an increase in household demand of 180,000 housing units by 2021, because of the oversupply, only 90,000 new units will need to be built. Significantly, 86% of all new build is needed in the Greater Dublin region.

…Part of the problem is that most of the analysis in the media of housing and property issues is being provided by economists and analysts with a direct interest in the property industry.

They articulate the perspectives and analysis of those who have wealth to accumulate and profit from investment in housing. They advocate policies that aim to achieve rising prices.

…There is an absence of an alternative analysis that questions for whom such price rises benefit and uses different assumptions and indicators for housing, such as fair, sustainable and balanced policies focused on what needs to be done to address housing need, separate from those seeking owner occupation.

…For example, there are 2,000 households on the housing waiting lists in Clare, yet there are 7,172 vacant properties.

It is very likely many of the 40,000 buy-to-let properties in mortgage arrears are vacant. The Government could buy these and provide them as social housing or low cost rent. It could instruct and empower local authorities to implement vacant and derelict property taxes (not just sites as proposed) or fines that would bring units in to use.

It could compulsory purchase the vacant units using funding from the strategic infrastructure fund and provide local employment and social housing. Overall, the high vacancy rates show we have to move away from a housing system based on promoting finance-led owner occupation and speculative investment and implement policies that provide genuinely affordable, high quality, long term secure housing as a home.

It also highlights the need for proper planning and regional development that can develop indigenous employment rather than an unsustainable reliance on low-tax multinationals.”

“There are over 168,000 empty houses in the country, finds Stephen Rogers

NATIONAL

  • -168,427 — vacant houses
  • -61,629 — vacant flats
  • -59,395 — vacant holiday homes
  • -1,994,845 — housing stock
  • -14.5% — overall vacancy

LEINSTER

  • -58,401- vacant houses
  • -36,702 — vacant flats
  • -11,555 — holiday homes
  • -1,030,902 — housing stock
  • -10.3% — vacancy rate

CARLOW

  • -2,287 — vacant houses
  • -632 — vacant flats
  • -283 — vacant holiday homes
  • -23,165 — housing stock
  • -13.8% — overall vacancy

DUBLIN

  • -17,597 — vacant houses
  • -25,333 — vacant flats
  • -777 — vacant holiday homes
  • -527,665 — housing stock
  • -8.3% — overall vacancy

DUBLIN CITY

  • -7,995 — vacant houses
  • -16,321 — vacant flats
  • -322 — vacant holiday homes
  • -241,678 — housing stock
  • -10.2% — overall vacancy

DÚN LAOGHAIRE-RATHDOWN

  • -2,746 — vacant houses
  • -3,750 — vacant flats
  • -120 — vacant holiday homes
  • -85,896 — housing stock
  • -7.7% — overall vacancy

FINGAL

  • -4,070 — vacant houses
  • -2,823 — vacant flats
  • -311 — holiday homes
  • -102,793 — housing stock
  • -7% — overall vacancy

SOUTH DUBLIN

  • -2,786 — vacant houses
  • -2,439 — vacant flats
  • -24 — vacant holiday homes
  • -97,298 — housing stock
  • -5.4% — overall vacancy

KILDARE

  • -4,432 — vacant houses
  • -1,691 — vacant flats
  • -188 — vacant holiday homes
  • -78,794 — housing stock
  • -8% — overall vacancy

KILKENNY

  • -3,569 — vacant houses
  • -654 — vacant flats
  • -401 — vacant holiday homes
  • -39,005 — housing stock
  • -11.9% — overall vacancy

LAOIS

  • -3,277 — vacant houses
  • -661 — vacant flats
  • -149 — vacant holiday homes
  • -32,664 — housing stock
  • -12.5% — overall vacancy

LONGFORD

  • -3,202 — vacant houses
  • -556 — vacant flats
  • -317 — vacant holiday homes
  • -18,823 — housing stock
  • -21.6% — overall vacancy

LOUTH

  • -4,207 — vacant houses
  • -1,406 — vacant flats
  • -619 — vacant holiday homes
  • -51,186 — housing stock
  • -12.2% — overall vacancy

MEATH

  • -4,311 — vacant houses
  • -1,565 — vacant flats
  • -297 — vacant holiday homes
  • -69,697 — housing stock
  • -8.9% — overall vacancy

OFFALY

  • -2,858 — vacant houses
  • -544 — vacant flats
  • -218 — vacant holiday homes
  • -30,750 — housing stock
  • -11.8% — overall vacancy

WESTMEATH

  • -3,480 — vacant houses
  • -1,141 — vacant flats
  • -300 — vacant holiday homes
  • -36,659 — housing stock
  • -13.4% — overall vacancy

WEXFORD

  • -5,840 — vacant houses
  • -1,574 — vacant flats
  • -6,915 — vacant holiday homes
  • -68,143 — housing stock
  • -21% — overall vacancy

WICKLOW

  • -3,341 — vacant houses
  • -945 — vacant flats
  • -1,091 — vacant holiday homes
  • -54,351 — housing stock
  • -9.9% — overall vacancy

MUNSTER

  • -54,958 — vacant houses
  • -14,120 — vacant flats
  • -23,807 — holiday homes
  • -561,532 — housing stock
  • -16.5% — overall vacancy

CLARE

  • n5,936 — vacant houses
  • n1,236 — vacant flats
  • n4,610 — vacant holiday homes
  • n55,616 — housing stock
  • n21.2% — overall vacancy

CORK

  • -20,123 — vacant houses
  • -5,864 — vacant flats
  • -7,342 — vacant holiday homes
  • -227,675 — housing stock
  • -14.6% — overall vacancy rate

CORK CITY

  • -3,342 — vacant houses
  • -2,766 — vacant flats
  • -60 — vacant holiday homes
  • -55,633 — housing stock
  • -11.1% — overall vacancy

CORK COUNTY

  • -16,781 — vacant houses
  • -3,098 — vacant flats
  • -7,282 — vacant holiday homes
  • -172,042 — housing stock
  • -15.8% — overall vacancy

KERRY

  • -9,860 — vacant houses
  • -1,657 — vacant flats
  • -8,202 — vacant holiday homes
  • -74,747 — housing stock
  • -26.4% — overall vacancy

LIMERICK

  • -7,133 — vacant houses
  • -2,528 — vacant flats
  • -453 — vacant holiday homes
  • -82,156 — holiday homes
  • -12.3% — overall vacancy

LIMERICK CITY

  • n1,499 — vacant houses
  • n1,764 — vacant flats
  • n10 — vacant holiday homes
  • n26,681 — housing stock
  • n12.3% — overall vacancy

LIMERICK COUNTY

  • -5,634 — vacant houses
  • -764 — vacant flats
  • -443 — vacant holiday homes.
  • -55,475 — housing stock
  • -12.3% — overall vacancy

NORTH TIPPERARY

  • -3,339 — vacant houses
  • -509 — vacant flats
  • -679 — vacant holiday homes
  • -30,790 — housing stock
  • -14.7% — overall vacancy

SOUTH TIPPERARY

  • -3,809 — vacant houses
  • -571 — vacant flats
  • -437 — vacant holiday homes
  • -38,184 — housing stock
  • -12.6% — overall vacancy

WATERFORD

  • -4,758 — vacant houses
  • -1,755 — vacant flats
  • -2,084 — vacant holiday homes
  • -52,364 — housing stock
  • -16.4% — overall vacancy

WATERFORD CITY

  • -1,787 — vacant houses
  • -1,454 — vacant flats
  • -59 — vacant holiday homes
  • -22,341 — housing stock
  • -14.8% — overall vacancy

WATERFORD COUNTY

  • -2,971 — vacant houses
  • -301 — vacant flats
  • -2,025 — holiday homes
  • -30,023 — housing stock
  • -17.6% — overall vacancy

CONNACHT

  • -35,964 — vacant houses
  • -7,041 — vacant flats
  • -12,232 — holiday homes
  • -259,726 — housing stock
  • -21.3% — overall vacancy

GALWAY

  • -12,204 — vacant houses
  • -3,160 — vacant flats
  • -3,457 — vacant holiday homes
  • -111,177 — housing stock
  • -16.9% — overall vacancy

GALWAY CITY

  • -1,887 — vacant houses
  • -1,685 — vacant flats
  • -183 — vacant holiday homes
  • -33,655 — housing stock
  • -11.2% — overall vacancy

GALWAY COUNTY

  • -10,317 — vacant houses
  • -1,475 — vacant flats
  • -3,274 — vacant holiday homes
  • -77,522 — housing stock
  • -19.4% — overall vacancy

LEITRIM

  • -3,463 — vacant houses
  • -573 — vacant flats
  • -1,490 — vacant holiday homes
  • -18,128 — housing stock
  • -30.5% — overall vacancy

MAYO

  • -10,194 — vacant houses
  • -1,582 — vacant flats
  • -4,454 — vacant holiday homes
  • -65,792 — housing stock
  • -24.7% — overall vacancy

ROSCOMMON

  • -5,630 — vacant houses
  • -640 — vacant flats
  • -1,062 — vacant holiday homes
  • -31,585 — housing stock
  • -23.2% — overall vacancy

SLIGO

  • -4,473 — vacant houses
  • -1,086 — vacant flats
  • -1,769 — vacant holiday homes
  • -33,044 — housing stock
  • -22.2% — overall vacancy

ULSTER (part of)

  • -19,104 — vacant houses
  • -3,766 — vacant flats
  • -11,801 — holiday homes
  • -142,685 — housing stock
  • -24.3% — overall vacancy

CAVAN

  • -5,325 — vacant houses
  • -952 — vacant flats
  • -1,000 — holiday homes
  • -33,711 — housing stock
  • -21.6% — overall vacancy

DONEGAL

  • -11,048 — vacant houses
  • -2,312 — vacant flats
  • -10,636 — holiday homes
  • -83,918 — housing stock
  • -28.6% — overall vacancy

MONAGHAN

  • -2,731 — vacant houses
  • -502 — vacant flats
  • -165 — holiday homes
  • -25,056 — housing stock
  • -13.6% — overall vacancy rate”

Other posts of interest:

Room for improvement on social housing policy 

S.I.9 – Where are we now? 27 October 2014

12,000 social + affordable houses at no cost to taxpayer?

Want to live in Dublin? | Only the wealthy need apply!

SI.9 costs for a typical house

SI.9 to Cost €532m in 2014 | Residential Sector 

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

Karl Whelan: “…raft of cost-increasing building regs are at least partly responsible”

How much would 100% independent inspections by Local Authorities cost?

Opinion | 40SqM BC(A)R SI.9 Extensions

by Bregs Blog admin team

Questions

The following opinion piece was submitted on 12th November by a registered professional. At time of posting the Bregs Blog is not aware of any commissioned legal opinion published or issued to members by the ACEI, SCSI or RIAI, stakeholder representative bodies. Bregs Blog notes are shown [ ]. 

An Opinion piece on 40m2 extensions

From looking at the BCMS FAO in my opinion it is quiet evident to me personally, that its presentation if the recent addition to the definition of a 40m2 extension was carried out in a rushed manner & without much care to its content.  It is looking very likely that this advice is incorrect however until this matter is comprehensively clarified, the number of Commencement Notices that stray into 40m2 cumulative territory will dramatically drop solely for one reason – Assigned Certifiers & professionals will be afraid to hand in the incorrect Commencement Notice.

It is also noted that other inaccuracies are contained within the FAO such as the possibility of self-build.  While both these sections remain, they will continue to undermine the confidence in any advice issued by BCMS.  Similarly, conflicting advice has been issued regards attic conversions & small-scale extensions by BCMS & to me personally this has now destroyed any confidence within the BCMS to issue accurate & genuine guidelines.

It beggars belief that 9 months into SI9 professionals do not know a 40m2 extension is.  It is now looking like we will run from one interpretation to another with the definition of what constitutes a 40 m extension under SI9 until the matter is – absolutely – clarified to the satisfaction of Assigned Certifiers & stakeholders.

Bar the obvious questions that have been raised, another typical example of what else needs to be clarified is if an attic conversion constitutes an extension under BCAR.

Certainly when you read TGD L 2011 Section 0.4 Dimensions, a ‘floor area’ is clearly defined:

“DIMENSIONS 0.4.1 Except where otherwise indicated linear measurements for the calculation of wall, roof andfloor areas and building volumes should be taken between the finished internal faces of the appropriate external building elements and, in the case of roofs, in the plane of the insulation. Linear measurements for the calculation of the areas of external door, window and roof light openings should be taken between internal faces of appropriate sills, lintels and reveals.”

I understand that this may refer to the calculation matters etc, relating to DEAP & Part L, however it is also clear to me personally that this section is contained within its own stand alone section.  It is my opinion that this is not specifically just geared solely to new build as it’s also incorporates the floor area of existing buildings.  Should this section be specifically be interlinked with SI9, (which it must be remembered SI9 directly applied to matters within TGDL 2011) the converted floor area of attic conversions are included as part of a 40m2 extension, because as quoted on SI9, “an extension to a dwelling involving a total floor area greater than 40 square meters”.  It might be argued that SI9 may be avoided however if the roof is already constructed as a warm roof ‘in the plane of the insulation’.  So can an attic conversion occur free of SI9 within a warm roof & not under a cold roof?  The argument is getting more bizarre every day!

This problem was flagged early in September as I personally reported the interpretation of an extension to BCMS & DECLG & questioned its interpretation.  I was disregarded by one body & ignored by another.  Now due to the horrendous definition of a 40m2 extension within SI9, this issue will run on & on & like self-build, Assigned Certifiers will soon have no confidence what so ever to the interpretation of what it truly means.

It is blatantly obvious that this matter cannot be cleared up by the addition of a couple revised lines within the COP or the revision of the FAQ within BCMS.  It has gone way beyond that now.

There is now no other solution to this fiasco other than issuing a ‘Doing Works Around the House’ guideline.  This MUST be issued on a statutory basis specifically geared to the Building Control Regulations.  This is the only way to restore confidence & allow BCMS, stakeholders, Assigned Certifiers & professionals to read off the one hymn sheet.  With this guideline, renovation works, internal alterations & extensions can be carried out in confidence that the client is not breaking the law & that correct guidelines can be followed.

Our stakeholders must request the DECLG to publish this guideline.  If stakeholders truly have their member’s best interests at heart, they will request this immediately.  If they do not, it is my personal opinion that they will loose a lot of creditability.  It is also in my opinion in the interest of the CIF to request this guideline, as if renovation works happen to stray into Commencement Notice territory & the works it is carried out independently to a supervising professional, will the building contractors PI insurance may make them the last man standing?

Finally, there is only one reason in my opinion why this fiasco has occurred.  The definition of an extension has been up in the air for months now.  Our stakeholders & governmental departments have not listened nor have they addressed it.  This has left the interpretation of an extension to be worked out by amateur opinion for months & this has lead directly to where we are now.

Other posts of interest:

RIAI PRACTICE NEWS : 40SqM BC(A)R SI.9 Exemption

Legal Alert | Commencement Notices since 1st March 2014 

Commencement notice problems | Does size matter?

HOUSES + 40Sqm #BCAR

Owners may need a Certifier for a Porch?

“Dangling Participles” and why all extensions may now require compliance with S.I.9: 2014

Catch 22 Commencements 

S.I.9 CPD | Questions for Assigned Certifier 

Design Certifier | RIAI advise separate appointment

Results | S.I. 9 Assigned Certifier Survey

Sunday Business Post | Karl Deeter “Building regulations – rules don’t deliver results”

by Bregs Blog admin team

advisors.ie.home

This piece by Karl Deeter originally appeared in the Sunday Business Post on the 9th of November 2014. The pdf of the article is available here. For link to article online click here.

Extract:

_________

Building regulations – rules don’t deliver results

When we look at the various property markets in Ireland we face a conundrum of sorts, apart from having a highly segmented market, both horizontally and vertically, it is also a nation where supply constraints are evident only a few short years after one of the most impressive property crashes the world over.

Added to this you have legacy issues of developments like Priory Hall where keeping professionals out of the process as a means to cost cutting lead to some awful outcomes.

And thus there is the natural cry for ‘more regulation’, but as always we must remember, rules of themselves don’t create better results, and laws don’t equate to enforcement. It is by that metric that the new building regulations are as shambolic as the old ones but they now have some lipstick on to make them look better.

The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations (BCAR)  also known as ‘Statutory Instrument  No. 9, 2014’ or just ‘S.I. 9 for short, were introduced on 1st March 2014 and now affect all buildings. That introduction date was behind the huge surge in commencements at the start of the year, people brought forward start dates in order to avoid having to abide by the new rules.

We are told that the Government have things under control, that there will be more housing, but the statistics indicate that commencement notices (which indicate the start of construction) are averaging 100 per week this year, in 2013 it was 130 per week, we are about 23% below last year’s figures even when you account for the pre-March rush.

There is a statistical exercise beyond this required because a commencement can be for one house or several so the underlying volumes need further quantification, but the headline figures indicate there is no ‘building boom’ to match the price boom.
In Ireland most large projects like offices, hospitals and schools have full design teams and inasmuch as we can determine, we didn’t have a history of problems with them.

The issue was specifically housing schemes, speculative housing schemes, in particular those with almost no professionals actively involved prior to and during the build process.

So we responded by making regulations that affect everybody, even the innocent. It’s lots of paperwork without any guarantee of better enforcement and nothing to stop a cowboy who can do what they did before because the system allows for a ‘builder/building owner/assigned certifier’ all to be the one entity.

What is missing is the guarantee of ensured third party oversight and independent audit.

One large change is the need for an ‘assigned certifier’ who oversees and signs off on each stage. An assigned certifier needs to be a qualified architect, building surveyor or engineer, but you could get an architect from anywhere else in the EU who is licenced to operate in Ireland, or somebody who is under financial pressure and push them to certify to receive payment – something near impossible to police.

At the same time these regulations make self-build virtually obsolete, stripping out about 800 houses a year, with adverse effects on people in rural Ireland who won’t obtain any upside from the higher costs and regulations.

It also put power into the hands of those who are on the CIRI list (construction industry registrar Ireland) – the certificate as it stands includes the phrase ‘where the builder says they are the director of a building company’ so self-employed builders cannot sign off, and direct labour are disadvantaged.

To my knowledge we never had a crisis with self-build not working out, so why did we kill it off?

As for ‘protection’, here’s the ‘how to’ to be a rogue developer. Simply set up a limited company and get a vulnerable engineer from abroad who is considered competent to run it, to do this you register with one of the organisations, the rejection rate is low, if you have the qualifications you’ll likely get through the application process.

You then get that firm to do all the forms and certificates and once the units are all sold you shut down the company and fire the assigned certifier, there is nothing to control the directorships where the builder is the director of the firm doing the assigned certification.

The building control authorities claimed that would be a red flag issue that would alert them to do inspections, but a commencement notice is either valid or not, there is no ‘project of concern’ status.

The other issue is that if a building control authority doesn’t get in early – to inspect at foundations, then they can’t really inspect much at all, you can’t un-bury foundations or open a wall to check for fire blocks, and there isn’t any code of practice for what these inspections constitute other than a draft framework (this hasn’t been agreed in full with the local government agencies).

Perhaps what we should really do is ponder why we are ranked 128th out of 189 nations by The World Bank when it comes to our construction process. Our neighbours in the UK are 17th.

We dropped 11 rankings in the last year alone, we now rank below such luminary economies as Algeria and strife torn Democratic Republic of Congo, but we are ahead of Bolivia (only by one place though).

In the OECD we are third last in terms of getting things done. Nobody can argue with the idea of better building being a good idea, but these regulations are simply more ruinous ingredients into an already badly baked cake.

A special thanks to the team at the BRegs Blog, and the builders, engineers and one architect who all chose to remain nameless in helping me research this article.

Other posts of interest: 

How developers are “adapting” to the new Building Control regulations

Opinion: Are builders + developers off the hook with BCAR?

How much would 100% independent inspections by Local Authorities cost?

CSO- Dwelling units approved down 16.6% in one year | BRegs Blog

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

Construction Recovery- watch this space

‘Recovery’ is Still Worse than the 1980s Crisis

World Bank Report 2015 | UK v Ireland the real cost of “Dealing with construction permits”

World Bank Report 2015 | Ireland’s poor construction regulations are the biggest drag on our ranking

€ 5 billion | The extraordinary cost of S.I.9 self-certification by 2020

RIAI PRACTICE NEWS : 40SqM BC(A)R SI.9 Exemption

by Bregs Blog admin team

 

 

image-137469

Mr John Graby, Registrar & CEO of the RIAI pictured

On 7th November 2014, the representative body for architects (RIAI) emailed practice members the following letter from CEO John Graby requesting clarification on the 40 Sqm exemption under BC(A)R SI.9. The RIAI had previously published, initially without comment,  the BCMS advice of the 24th October to the effect that the 40Sqm SI.9 exemption limit is cumulative (see post here). Following requests from members who cannot see how this can be case, the RIAI are now seeking clarification from the DECLG of this previous advice issued. We are not aware of any legal advice on the issue or other stakeholder interpretations at time of writing.

This might seem like a technicality but it’s of major concern to the majority of architects who are in small practice doing domestic work. It means that, eight months into the new regulations, many will have advised clients incorrectly and could find themselves with illegal extensions can can’t be remedied.

Extract off email to follow:

_________

RIAI PRACTICE NEWS : 40SqM BC(A)R SI.9 Exemption

BUILDING CONTROL (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 2014 – EXTENSIONS TO EXISTING DWELLINGS

The RIAI has written to Mr. Aidan O’Connor, Principal Advisor, Arch/Building Standards, at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, seeking clarification, regarding the advice note from the Building Control Management System on their interpretation of the application of S.I. 9 in respect of extension to existing dwellings, where an existing extension is to be demolished, and reconstructed, together with an extension not greater than 40 sq. metres.

The RIAI dispute the interpretation by BCMS that the two floor areas, existing and proposed, are cumulative, and if greater than 40 sq. metres, when constructed would become within S. I. 9.

To read the RIAI letter to Mr. Aidan O’Connor click here.[see .jpeg below]

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Other posts of interest:

Legal Alert | Commencement Notices since 1st March 2014 

Commencement notice problems | Does size matter?

HOUSES + 40Sqm #BCAR

Owners may need a Certifier for a Porch?

“Dangling Participles” and why all extensions may now require compliance with S.I.9: 2014

Catch 22 Commencements 

S.I.9 CPD | Questions for Assigned Certifier 

Design Certifier | RIAI advise separate appointment

Results | S.I. 9 Assigned Certifier Survey

Engineers Ireland Journal | Jack Kavanagh- is SI.9 unjust to both engineer and society?

by Bregs Blog admin team

Building-Control-Regulations-620x350

In this thought-provoking article in The Engineers Journal from 10th November 2014 “Building Control Certification: to sign or not to sign?”, author and past president of the representative bodies for Engineers (EI and ACEI), Jack Kavanagh looks at the negative aspects of BC(A)R SI.9 from an engineer’s perspective and wonders is SI.9 “…unjust to both engineer and society”.

This article is in response to an earlier one by fellow engineer Cormac Bradley on 15th September which was broadly supportive of the new regulations (see posts below). In his concluding section the author notes:

Certainly, the 2014 regulations are now the law of the land and must be observed. But does that mean Engineers Ireland, as the representative body of professional engineers, should adopt a policy of apparent advocacy on their behalf? I find it disturbing to read apparent assurances being offered to a chartered engineer who may be ‘requested’ by his/her employer to sign these certificates that all will be well so long as they continue to do their own work conscientiously just as before. There appears to me to be no logical basis at this stage for offering such assurances.

We note from contributors that a majority of larger engineering practices (like large architectural firms) are unwilling to undertake the new certifier roles under SI.9. Smaller rural-based engineering practices unfortunately see no option but to assume the new roles. As a result many engineers find themselves faced with the same implementation issues, legal and liability problems, as their architect and building surveyor counterparts. Link to article here.

Extract:

__________

Building Control Certification: to sign or not to sign?

Jack Kavanagh looks at the issues of personal liability and insurance under the Building Control Regulations, and queries who must provide Ancillary Certificates and carry out inspections under the Regulations.

Author: Jack Kavanagh, EurIng BE MEngSc FIEI FIAE FIStructE,FICE FConsEI, past president, Engineers Ireland and past president, Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland.

In ‘Building Control Regulations and Ancillary Certificates’ (15 September eJournal), Cormac Bradley presents a sanguine view of the new regulations, S.I. 9/2014. He concludes by urging us to welcome the “prospect of increased exposure”, to “embrace the opportunity” and to be grateful to the DoECLG for granting us the opportunity to “put our house in order”. However, I believe there are robust, rational reasons why engineers should be more circumspect, and I outline below my understanding of, and opinions on, some of those for consideration.

Personal liability

Signing a statutory certificate is a serious business. In agreeing to act as the assigned certifier (AC) (or as design certifier) on a project to facilitate his/her employer, a chartered engineer working for a design consultancy may be accepting personal, enduring legal liability not only for their own work but, to an extent which is as yet unclear, for the design work and the building work of many other parties involved on the project (including off-site construction) over much of which work the AC will have little personal control.

These regulations impose no new statutory duties directly on any designer who does not agree to undertake the new role of AC (or design certifier). However, if the role is to be undertaken, it is the engineer, not his/her employer, who will be the statutory AC. A consulting engineering firm, company or partnership cannot itself enter into a contract with anyone to act as AC (or as design certifier).

The AC must be a natural person who must inter alia sign the undertaking certificate and the completion certificate with his/her own name, giving his/her own professional registration number. The certificate is written in the first person singular throughout. It does go on to say: “Where the signatory is an employee) on behalf of: … (company name).”

However, David Nolan SC, whose opinion was sought on this specific formulation, advised: “It may well have been the intention of the drafters of the certificate to give some protection to the named AC, but the manner in which the certificate has been drafted does not give such protection. It simply gives those who may seek legal recourse the option of suing the AC, or his employer, or more likely, both […]. The fact that [the AC] may be an employee does not obviate or negate or reduce his own personal responsibility.”

So it seems the named AC may at some time in the future be required to bear, on his/her own account, legal liability arising on foot of his/her certification of a building. The Building Control Regulations mean the AC is the readily available first port of call should there be problems with the building; or, to quote solicitor Rory O’Donnell: “The assigned certifier is the one in the lion’s den.” Of course, personal responsibility/liability for our own work is nothing new, and to date it is only in rare circumstances that individual employees have been pursued personally to finality (a factor in that, no doubt, being they normally have few assets). But while personal liability has not arrived with the role of the AC, it appears to have taken on new dimensions.

Even before the point of certification, the triangle of relationships – engineer/employer/’owner’ – is complex and rich in potential for conflict and legal disputation. Owners must certify to the building control authority (BCA) that they have ‘assigned’ a named chartered engineer (if not a registered architect or building surveyor) as AC, and the AC must personally certify s/he has accepted the assignment. So, will the engineer’s employer stay at arm’s length allowing the engineer the freedom of action required to implement whatever s/he must decide is necessary in order to properly carry out the statutory role?

One can easily envisage scenarios arising as the project proceeds where a conscientious AC’s considered view on what is necessary to comply with his/her own undertaking to the BCA (e.g. increased inspection intensity, rejection of work executed, or even refusal to accept as properly completed) may not align with the best interests of the AC’s employer and its own contract with the owner. In the case of conflict of views, the AC is surely not in a position to concede, to the employer or anyone else, on his/her statutory duties (which trump his/her contractual duties). Possibly even more problematic will be the engineer’s position when he/she is a salaried employee of a developer who is both statutory building owner and builder.

If the AC is an owner/director of a consultancy company (or, similarly, a partner or sole trader) s/he will have more control over contractual arrangements but will have identical statutory duties and liabilities.

Insurance

The instinctive reaction of potential ACs who work in a firm of consultant designers is to say: “But I will always be protected by the firm’s professional indemnity insurance (PII).” It is the case that a company’s PII would be expected to cover from year to year such personal liability arising from work carried out as an employee (within the terms of the policy, and up to the limit of cover, as determined by the company from year to year). But will it be there, and will cover be adequate, in the event of a claim arising down the line? (NB: PII cover comes from the policy in force at the time when a claim is made, not the time when the work is executed; thus, a certificate signed this year is not protected by this year’s policy against a claim made in future years but by the terms of whatever policy may be in force at the time when a claim is made.)

Firstly, should there be mounting consultants’ claims in relation to AC certification, insurers may start to limit or even exclude cover for AC certification in a few years time. Insurance representatives have repeatedly pointed out that PII is not designed as a proxy for latent damage insurance and that insurers follow the market but only until such time as experience indicates a review of their product is necessary from the insurer’s point of view.

Many expect that, should that happen, the DoECLG would have to agree to review the wording of the certificates so as to ensure PII would remain reasonably available; however, experience indicates that such reviews come about only by way of extreme political necessity (although hopefully it would become such a necessity if the role of AC became uninsurable). However, certificates cannot be amended retrospectively so those signed between now and then will remain on record and their signers exposed and uninsured into the future.

Or what if an employee who has signed certificates wishes to move between employers? Although generally in his interests to do so, the current employer may not keep an ex-employee covered for certificates signed during his/her employment (and potential new employers will not cover that risk). In that case, the employee is not insured for old AC certification (unless s/he takes out an individual policy). Or, of course, one’s current employer may at any time close its doors or change its business arrangements (e.g. changing to a different insurer with inferior cover) and insurance cover for all activities of the company and its employees ceases or alters as the case may be. The prospect of retirement in due course, uninsured and with continuing liability for past certification, could be a particular concern.

But what does a certificate say? To what is the engineer putting his/her name to? Unfortunately, that is not at all clear. Looking at the critical concluding statement, clause 8, of the Completion Certificate, it reads: “Based on the above, and relying on the ancillary certificates scheduled, I now certify, having exercised reasonable skill, care and diligence, that the building or works is in compliance with the …Building Regulations…”

The insertion of the words “having exercised reasonable skill, care and diligence” appears as an attempt at qualification, an attempt to allow for possible error or inaccuracy in certifying that the building is compliant. Dictionary definitions of “certify” offer such as: “attest as certain”, “vouch for”, “give reliable assurance”. So, can such apparent certainty be qualified in the above manner?

SC David Nolan’s view is yes: “…the Final Certificate…is based upon [the AC] exercising reasonable skill, care and diligence at all times…” However, Denis McDonald SC opines explicitly that the insertion of the words “having exercised reasonable skill, care and diligence [does not] in any way cut down or mitigate the use of the words I certify”.

Further vagueness and uncertainty can be said to attach to the words “Based on the above” in clause 8, and to the reference to “relying on the ancillary certificates scheduled”. It seems difficult to argue all this has resulted in anything less than ambiguity and ambivalence. During the consultation process, I was pleased to give some assistance in the consideration and drafting of potentially qualifying clauses but, reading the certificates as finalised and the various legal opinions on them that I have seen, I regret to say I am not confident they will ultimately be deemed effective by the Courts.

Ancillary Certificates

The Building Control Regulations do not prescribe who must provide Ancillary Certificates. When a company provides an ancillary certificate it, unlike the statutory certificates, does not have any prescribed wording, need not be written in the first person singular and can be signed by any person authorised by the company. It is of interest to note, from the point of view of the AC, that, as pointed out by Eoin O Cofaigh (14 OctobereJournal), the advice of the Law Society Conveyancing Committee to solicitors conveying property is that they need not bother collecting ancillary certificates, all they need is the AC’s signed Completion Certificate.

Regarding relying on ancillary certificates, it should be noted that several legal opinions indicate that an AC cannot simply do so without investigation; s/he has a liability in that s/he is certifying that those who provided certificates have themselves exercised skill, care and diligence. If this is to be done in any way other than superficial form-filling, it is surely not a simple task (particularly considering an AC is, more often than not, trying to assess the performance of other experts in areas beyond his own expertise).

We are well aware that one can never be certain about the absolute validity of second-hand information; there must always be some possibility/probability of inaccuracy. (Indeed, engineering is fundamentally about dealing with probabilities, not certainty – see e.g. Eurocode EN 1990 ‘Basis of Structural Design’.) And since there will be a great number of parties from whom an AC must seek to collect ancillary certificates (see e.g. Code of Practice, item 4.2.2), the overall probability of unreliability will almost certainly compound to a significant figure.

Quite apart from statutory considerations, the above is not to say that in the event of a civil dispute arising, ancillary certificates will play no part. From the point of view of anyone providing an ancillary certificate (including those proposed by Engineers Ireland ), it may possibly increase their liability beyond what it would otherwise have been; and any person or company asked to provide ancillary certification would be well advised to give it careful, case-specific consideration before agreeing to do so.

The inspection plan

But why, you may ask, should any defects or other problems arise that will result in the AC being sued if s/he just does the work properly, relying on QA and other systems and, in particular, the inspection plan? Certainly, it is reasonable to argue that, notwithstanding the possibility that there may be more paper-shuffling than anything else, standards of construction should improve, to a greater or lesser extent, as a result of an implemented inspection plan. But it is a racing certainty that buildings will continue to be built with defects.

A basic issue with any inspection regime is that there cannot be an intensity and frequency of inspection that would ensure full compliance, that is, that would lead to certainty there could be no possibility of latent defects. As engineers we know that no inspection regime can be comprehensive. Even industrial production of cars or pharmaceuticals or satellites, with QA systems far, far superior to anything that is practical on a building site, cannot ensure fault-free output.

The Code of Practice deals with intensity and frequency of inspections in section 7 and, quite correctly, it acknowledges this fact, saying that it is “not practical [for certifiers] to examine every item of work to which the requirements of the Building Regulations relate”. This statement, and similar others in the Code, are redolent of realistic phraseology like “substantial compliance” used heretofore in non-statutory certification to cover the same idea.

The Code would appear to be attempting, similarly to clauses on the certificate itself as discussed above, to qualify the certainty otherwise inherent in “I certify”. But, being in a Code of Practice subsidiary to the regulations themselves, one would expect it will succeed only insofar as one or more of the attempted qualifications on the certificate itself are deemed to have succeeded.

Also, if it is eventually judged that such guidance in the Code does validly qualify the certification, an AC, in the event of a defect coming to light later, would have to justify why that particular item of work was left off his inspection regime. (Note that, in the list of factors determining the inspection plan (7.1.1), the relationship between intensity of inspection and available resources, i.e. essentially fees as determined normally by market conditions, is not broached by the Code.)

The Code also says that deciding on appropriate levels of inspection is a matter of professional skill and judgement – in other words, that it is a matter of subjective opinion for ‘inspection staff’. This implies the AC certifies the building on the basis of not only what s/he can know as fact, but of professional opinion – his or her own and that of others. Professional engineers may feel this reality should be obvious to any third parties who rely on his/her certificate, but again we must await a definitive judgement from the Courts.

Refusal to acknowledge that judgement and opinion underlie the AC’s certification was clearly a red-line issue for the DoECLG. Nor was the idea of substantial compliance acceptable. Rather, they said, what were required were professionals’ certificates that “do what they claim to do: they certify compliance”. If the intention had been otherwise, it could easily have been made much clearer than in the current fuzzy wording of certificates. What does seem clear is that the Minister and the public generally believe that what they will be getting is not merely a professional opinion (such as a doctor or lawyer might be expected to provide).

Engineers Ireland

There are many other concerns one could ponder about the Building Control Regulations. Many of these have been raised by O Cofaigh, a former president of the RIAI. In general, the certificates must be regarded as significantly ambivalent, from the point of view of an AC at least. As such, in my view, they are unjust to both engineer and society. (Note, our Code of Ethics enjoins us as consulting engineers to agree a “clear definition” of what is required of us by our client.) They strive to promise more than can be delivered while the amendments attempt to introduce tests of reasonableness.

It will be the Courts who will decide, well down the road, what may actually be read from an AC’s certificate by those who come to rely on it; that is: is it a professional opinion or a statement of factual certainty from a particular, named, registered professional that the building, both in its design and its construction, is fully (not just substantially) compliant with the building regulations? It is one thing for a limited liability company to await that decision with some equanimity, another for the employee who signed the certificate and who may feel his personal assets and/or peace of mind are at stake.

That the certificates may have been “the best that could be achieved” by the hard work of the representatives of the professions in the DoECLG’s consultation process is, unfortunately, neither here nor there; the judge will not have regard to the drafting history, just the end product.

Certainly, the 2014 regulations are now the law of the land and must be observed. But does that mean Engineers Ireland, as the representative body of professional engineers, should adopt a policy of apparent advocacy on their behalf? I find it disturbing to read apparent assurances being offered to a chartered engineer who may be ‘requested’ by his/her employer to sign these certificates that all will be well so long as they continue to do their own work conscientiously just as before. There appears to me to be no logical basis at this stage for offering such assurances.

Incidentally, apropos protection of consumers/society, for two decades Engineers Ireland made submissions to the DoECLG (the drafting of which I contributed to) about the inadequacy of Irish building control legislation, and asserting, inter alia, that all aspects of the engineering design of buildings, such as structural design, where public safety/health are at risk should be legally reserved functions to be carried out by or under the direction of chartered engineers only. Ironically, despite their welcome by Engineers Ireland, these regulations introduce no statutory requirement that such engineering design of buildings must be under the control of professional engineers.

Jack Kavanagh, chartered engineer
EurIng, BE, MEngSc, FIEI, FIAE, FIStructE, FICE, FConsEI

Past President, Engineers Ireland
Past President, Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland

Other posts of interest:

Engineers Ireland Journal | Eoin O’Cofaigh FRIAI Ancillary Certificates + Self-certification

Engineers Ireland Journal | S.I.9 “is an opportunity to enhance the reputation of the building sector”

Response to Engineers Ireland article

Engineers Ireland – Building Regulations Certificates 

3 must-read posts for employees

S.I.9 Stakeholders | Your questions please for Engineers

Engineers Ireland CPD 10th June 

7 posts all architects (surveyors + engineers) should read

The Engineers Journal: Building control regulations key features

The Engineers Journal- CIF’s new register of builders 

Summary of Legal Posts- BC(A)R SI.9

RIAI News Alert | Summary of 5 Senior Counsel opinions on BC(A)R S.I.9

± 40 sq.m. exemption from SI.9 | Kevin Tyrrell Architectural Technologist

by Bregs Blog admin team

 

anti-water-charges-campaigns-protests-5-390x285

The following opinion piece was originally submitted by Co. Wexford-based Architectural Technologist, Kevin Tyrrell, to the BRegs Blog as a comment on another post on 2nd November 2014. With his agreement, some editing and a few additions from the author we have formatted into a post here as his case was so well put.

Having read the articles and scare mongering of the last few days in relation to the situation with regards to extensions to dwelling houses, I really have a problem with how the Building Control Authority are viewing no. 1 “a dwelling” and no. 2 “an extension” in relation to S.I.9, because they are redefining them to suit themselves and causing a lot of chaos in the meantime. The following is my attempt to make sense of what each is and how they relate to Commencement and Building Control, specifically in relation to (a) extensions below 40 sq metres and (b) the issue of a cumulative total area of 40 sq metres ,being the total area of all extensions no matter when they were built, which they claim a further extension to the dwelling (which brings this total area above 40 sq m) being commenced triggers full compliance with S.I.9 by the parties involved. That is what I am attempting to sort out, so please dont take this as a legal interpretation, this is just me teasing out the process and relationships of how an extension to a dwelling house relates to S.I.9 and Commencement Notices from the most logical point of view that I can take.

S.I.9 states that its provisions ONLY apply to the following with regards to extensions : an extension to a dwelling involving a total floor area greater than 40 sq metres. Now…to me “an extension” is a singular entity that goes to make something bigger, but until it is comlpete and formally part of the whole at completion, from the view of S.I.9 it has a specific definition. It is an extension which has had Planning Permission granted and is due to be built under the regulation of S.I.9. That is all and entirely what it is. And the crux of the matter relies heavily on this and also a few other facts relating to specificity.

A commencement notice is linked to a specific Planning Application, with a specific register number and attached plans and documents. The two are intrinsically linked and the Commencement Notice refers only to the Planning Permission it is linked to. The Commencement Notice was always the mechanism by which 2 things were alerted to the County Council.

  1. That it was due its contributions and any further information listed in planning conditions must be complied with.
  2. And that the applicant was ready to build on site.

A Commencement Notice is and always has been a project specific entity, and is not and never has been linked to anything else on site.

The Planning Regulations have not changed or been altered in any way, so in actual fact a person can view 2 separate extensions under 40 sq metres as strictly 2 different entities, and as long as they satisfy the Planning and Development Act and Regulations then the amended Building Control Regulations should have nothing to say about them.

The amended Building Control Regulations are not a commentary on Planning Regulations, they are regulations governing the Building Process and how it should be undertaken.

The Planning and Development Regulations deal with the extension in relation to the whole house and its environment, the Building Control Regulations do not and never have. So it is intrinsically impossible in any way to have a link to anything else going on with the development in any way, because of one simple thing….A Commencement Notice is Project and Planning Permission Specific…and doesn’t and cant relate to anything else. It Stands Alone.

To suggest otherwise is scare mongering…and it says nowhere in the Building Control Amendment Regulations that other extensions or a cumulative size must be taken into account.

Why? Because it cant. Why? Because its Planning Permission Specific.

And I believe that because Building Control Regulations relate and comment only to a single Permission then they can have nothing to say about the cumulative size of any extensions on the house. You could have a total of 300 sq metres of extensions to the house and they may as well not exist at all as far as the Building Control Regulations are concerned.

Why?

Because prior to applying for permission the house was seen as a whole, a single dwelling. Not a dwelling with x amount of extensions and other alterations. It is and has to be viewed as a whole object. A House, a dwelling. And since I stated previously the Commencement Notice is Permission specific it relates to an extension to a dwelling…not a dwelling (as was originally granted permission under such a permission), and has been extended and altered under a different one in the past.

Specificity destroys the argument against there being a link to previous extensions which have been granted permission or are pre- 1962 or whenever Planning Regulations came into effect. As long as the dwelling house has been granted permission for its various extensions and alterations it must be seen as a specific single thing…a dwelling house, the sum of its parts.

So as S.I.9 deals with only “an” extension to “a” dwelling which is specifically linked to a single Planning Permission, it can not comment on any other previous extensions. Well….thats how I see it in a logical and hopefully a legal and regulatory sense anyway.

Only Planning Regulations exist to comment on the entire development and how a specific permission relates to the whole. If its being seen otherwise then Building Control Regulations are supplanting Planning and Development Regulations.

Other posts of interest:

Commencement notice problems | Does size matter?

Legal Alert | Commencement Notices since 1st March 2014 

3 County Councils ask Minister to Revoke SI.9

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

Catch 22 Commencements 

Owners may need a Certifier for a Porch?

“Dangling Participles” and why all extensions may now require compliance with S.I.9: 2014

S.I.9 – Where are we now? 27 October 2014 

Press: RIAI fearful Local Authorities will start “finding something to invalidate as a method of workload control”

Homebond | Assigned Certifier + defects liability policy for €2,000?

by Bregs Blog admin team

IMG_0952

By BRregs Blog admin on November 10th 2014.

Homebond | Assigned Certifier + defects liability policy for €2,000?

Given the hesitant start to BC(A)R SI.9 and widespread reluctance of professionals to adopt new cerifier roles, recent developments at Homebond may be of interest.

Vague wording and legal uncertainty, employee liability concerns and also insurance issues have been discussed in connection with the new building regulations. Recent feedback from our Blog Survey indicates widespread unease amongst professionals about the regulations, their ambiguous drafting, and dissatisfaction with supports and templates provided by their respective representative bodies to date.

It appears that Homebond will shortly be launching a certifier service linked  to a defects liability policy. This “one-stop-shop” will be initially targeted at the “build for sale” speculative residential sector where limited professional involvement is normal practice, and where most of the problems that led to the setting up of the revised building regulations occurred in the first place.

The following is the email received from an architect currently working on housing projects for developers:

“Over the last two weeks I’ve had conversations with two representatives of Homebond and two, very different, house builders.  The conversation with Homebond was sparked by a discussion with a long established builder.  He is not a client of mine.  He told me he has a small development of seven houses about to go on site and I asked how he was managing with certification.

He told me his development is one of a few ‘trial’ developments where Homebond are providing a ‘full’ service including the provision of services as the Assigned Certifier.  His firm has been with Homebond for many years and has a good relationship with them.  In relation to costs, he said that Homebond were providing engineering services for the foundations and a complete Homebond service including Assigned Certifier and the normal Homebond costs for an all in figure of €2,000 per house (which includes €250 for foundation design!).

I subsequently spoke with a client of mine who is a substantial and again long established house builder who confirmed that this was a service Homebond intend to provide and I will be discussing this with him over the coming week or so.  In order to corroborate this I spoke with two representatives of Homebond, with whom I am currently involved on a housing development.  They both, individually, confirmed that this was service already being provided to some of its clients.

They said they were careful to select house builders they knew well but intended this to be part of their services offering in the future.  The logic was, as they already provide the insurance and inspect the building development at critical stages, then they would expand the service to include Assigned Certifier and also provide engineering services (for foundations in particular). I asked about the process as the Assigned Certifier has to be an individual as opposed to a corporate.  I was told that they ‘have an Assigned Certifier in the office’, who is fully insured.

So, in this scenario, Homebond will end up controlling the implementation of the Building Regulations, standardising details and driving architects from site for housing and diminishing the potential for innovative design.

Is this particular issue on the RIAI agenda?”*

Assigned Certifier services along with defects liability policy for under €2,000 per dwelling unit?  Sounds too good to be true.

This news will be good news to speculative housing developers, who are keen to minimise the costs of the new regulations on their projects, and wish to retain more control of the project with limited professional involvement and minimise costs. It’s likely given the reservations some professionals have been expressing about the regulations, that Homebond may well be busy employed by clients of reluctant professionals as Assigned Certifier sub-contractors!

Its hard to see how consumers may be as well served as house-builders though.

One of the drawbacks we have noted with the self-certificaton model adopted by the Department is that it relies on private insurance (Professional Indemnity policies or group schemes like the one proposed) as the primary means of redress in the event of a defect post-completion. The problem with any insurance scheme is that it can be either wound-up, or exclude particular items (like pyrite) and policies evolve on the basis of claims made.

In the wake of pyrite claims nationwide some properties were not covered by Homebond policies and are being repaired with public funds. We have noted the cost of pyrite remediation in other posts at €780m to date.

Other specialist sectors like passive house designers may find more innovative details will not be acceptable to panels of private (Homebond) inspectors, and the ongoing development of technical standards and details may take a back seat with conservative eyes looking over designers’ shoulders.

The other impact, of course, is that this new Homebond service may set the market rate for Assigned Certifier services down below €2,000. Professionals who are adopting the new roles may find SI.9 fees seriously impacted by this development.

With the limited likelihood of  site inspections by a genuine third party in the shape of the Local Authority, and the competitive price offered, will this end up being the main defence against repeating the mistakes that were made in the boom?

* Note the RIAI is the representative body for architects

___________

Link to homebond site here. Extract:

**BUILDING REGULATIONS TRAINING PROGRAMME – SEPTEMBER 14 TO DECEMBER 2014** 

HomeBond now offers a Building Regulations Training Programme, through HomeBond Technical Services Ltd., to meet the needs of builders, developers, construction managers, on-site staff, design professionals and construction sector students.

Click on link for Homebond Training Brochure: Pdf link.

Click on link for information on course dates, locations and fees: Pdf link.

Other posts of interest:

Why did Phil Hogan think SI.9 would cost less than €3000 ?

Quick history of pyrite- press articles

What is Latent Defects Insurance and how much does it cost?

SI.9 costs for a typical house 

Quick history of pyrite- press articles

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections 

Inadequate Regulatory Impact Assessment for S.I.9- Look Back 2

S.I.9 – Where are we now? 27 October 2014 

SI9 Schedule of duties for Certifiers

CSO- Dwelling units approved down 16.6% in one year

by Bregs Blog admin team

businessman-avoids-falling-off-cliff

Recent figures released by the Central Statics Office (CSO) on 25th September for residential planning applications note planning permissions for dwellings are down 16.6% on 2013 levels, an historic low point in housing activity. These recent figures are very worrying and point to a fall in residential output, contrary to recent media commentary. When viewed with depressed commencement levels and increased costs associated with BC(A)R SI.9, and lower residential output levels previously issued by the CSO for the same period, these figures must be alarming for policymakers.

For link to CSO site click here.

Extract:

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

CSO statistical release, 25 September 2014, 11am

Planning Permissions  Quarter 2 2014

TABLE 1.pdf [Converted]

Dwelling units approved down 16.6% in year

In the second quarter of 2014, planning permissions were granted for 1,606 dwelling units, compared with 1,926 units for the same period in 2013, a decrease of 16.6%.

The second quarter figures also show that:

  • TABLE 2.pdf [Converted]Planning permissions were granted for 1,492 houses in the second quarter of 2014 and 1,496 in the second quarter of 2013, a decrease of 0.3%. See Table 4.
  • Planning permissions were granted for 114 apartment units, compared with 430 units for the same period in 2013, a decrease of 73.5%. See Table 4.
  • One-off houses accounted for 46.8% of all new dwelling units granted planning permission this quarter. See Table 4.
  • The total number of planning permissions granted for all developments was 4,149. This compares with 3,368 in the second quarter of 2013, an increase of 23.2%. See Table 1.
  • Total floor area planned was 712 thousand square meters in the second quarter of 2014.  Of this, 41.6% was for new dwellings, 34.0% for other new construction and 24.4% for extensions.  The total floor area planned decreased by 14.6% in comparison with the same quarter in 2013. See Table 1.
  • Planning permissions for new buildings for Agriculture decreased to 137 this quarter.  This compares to 153 permissions in the same quarter of 2013. See Table 3(a).

TABLE 3.pdf [Converted]

 Show Table 1 Summary of Planning Permissions Granted, Q1 2005 – Q2 2014

 Show Table 2 Summary of Planning Permissions granted, Q2 2014, classified by region, county and type of development

 Show Table 3a Number of Planning Permissions granted, Q2 2014, classified by region, type of development and functional category

 Show Table 3b Total Floor Area Planned (000 sq.m) in new construction and extensions, Q2 2014, classified by region and functional category

 Show Table 4 Summary of Planning Permissions Granted for new houses and apartments, Q1 2009 – Q2 2014

Other posts of interest:

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

Karl Whelan: “…raft of cost-increasing building regs are at least partly responsible”

FAO Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht- commencement figures

Construction Recovery- watch this space

‘Recovery’ is Still Worse than the 1980s Crisis

CSO: (Q1 2014) planning permissions for dwellings -30% drop

Minister Hogan rejects Irish Times Article

Irish Times: Dramatic fall in number of buildings being started

Social Media | BRegs Blog Help + Advice

by Bregs Blog admin team

If you like the BRegs Blog posts, why not join the daily conversation on social media?

Twitter_icon_logo

BRegs Blog is on Twitter

This is usually where stories break. You can follow the conversation even if you do not have a Twitter account but you need to have an account to tweet.

Set up a Twitter account by clicking on the logo above or here: Signing Up With Twitter 

To kick this off for new followers, on Wednesday 12th November 2014  from 3-4 pm we will be hosting our first #AskBregs for a live session.

BRegs comments from others on Twitter are usually tagged #bregs, but you can also search by keywords for SI9, BCARS, BREGS etc.

Facebook

BRegs Blog is on Facebook

You can follow the conversation even if you are not on Facebook but you need to have an account to post comments.

Set up a Facebook account by clicking on the logo above or here: Create a Facebook Account

HOUSES + 40Sqm #BCAR

by Bregs Blog admin team

The following opinion piece was submitted by a Registered Building Surveyor on 6th November 2014. 

measure

It appears that a Building Control Authority confirmed to the author yesterday that if one have used up the 40m2, any increase in floor area (internal) requires Long Form Commencement Notice (LFCN). This advice has also been confirmed and re-issued by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland to members also (see posts to follow opinion piece).

____________

HOUSES #BCAR

November 6, 2014

The following is provided is an opinion only & should be taken without prejudice.

There has been a lot of confusion over the interpretation of the requirements for domestic extensions following the revision of the FAQ within the BCMS website see https://www.localgov.ie/en/link-type/bcms  It is appearing very likely now that the addition of previously constructed since the house was granted planning permission/pre 1963 is cumulative.

As this is the case I thought I’d provide x2 examples to when a LFCN is required.

I wish to point out that a Building Control Authority has issued an opinion to me, which is similar to mine, & has confirmed to me without prejudice, that a LFCN is required for both of these examples.

Example 1: Closing in an existing open porch

Works required: Existing open porch exists. It is proposed to create a draft lobby, by fitting a new front door into the existing ope.

Previous Works to date: The house was extensively renovated & extended & has fully used up its 40 m2 exempted allocation.   

bregs-extension1-3According to the FAQ issued by BCMS it is ” not possible to avoid certification requirements by building a series of small extensions each of which is less than 40 square meters but which together give a combined extended area greater than 40 square meters”   Currently the open porch is an external area. By closing in this open porch with a door the area within the existing porch is now classified as an internal floor area.

As it is proposed to extend the internal floor area further & this house has already fully used up its 40 m 2 exempted allocation a LFCN is required for this work.

Conclusion: LFCN required.

Note: Opinion from Building Control Department also concluded without prejudice that a LFCN is required for this particular situation              

Example 2: Internal works to shower room

Works required: Deepen the shower room into the crawl space to increase room size by 1.2m2  Previous Works to date: The house (plans enc) was extensively renovated & extended & has fully used up its 40 m 2 exempted allocation.

shower-room-jpeg

According to the FAQ issued by BCMS it is ” not possible to avoid certification requirements by building a series of small extensions each of which is less than 40 square meters but which together give a combined extended area greater than 40 square meters”   As it is proposed to extend the internal floor area further & this house has already fully used up its 40 m 2 exempted allocation a LFCN is required for this work

Conclusion: LFCN required.

Note: Opinion from Building Control Department also concluded without prejudice that a LFCN is required for this particular situation.

Other posts of interest:

Owners may need a Certifier for a Porch?

“Dangling Participles” and why all extensions may now require compliance with S.I.9: 2014

Commencement notice problems | Does size matter?

Legal Alert | Commencement Notices since 1st March 2014

Catch 22 Commencements 

S.I.9 CPD | Questions for Assigned Certifier 

Design Certifier | RIAI advise separate appointment

Results | S.I. 9 Assigned Certifier Survey

 

Room for improvement on social housing policy

by Bregs Blog admin team

examroomforimprovement_large-1

The following is a thought-provoking article by Dr Rory Hearne, Department of Geography, Maynooth University. Dr Hearne is author of chapters on social housing in two new edited books on housing in Ireland: Renting In Ireland (IPA) and Spatial Justice and the Irish Crisis (RIA). He is also author of Public Private Partnerships in Ireland.

Link to article here.

Room for improvement on social housing policy, Irish Examiner, 8th October 2014

Selected extracts:

“There is, unfortunately, little evidence of government policy taking implementation of social housing policy seriously. A Labour minister for Environment would be expected to embark on radical approach to dealing with the housing crisis by moving away from home ownership and providing high quality social housing and a tenant oriented private rented sector.

Perhaps the fact that at least 41 of the 166 TDs in the Dáil are landlords is mitigating against this (with some notable landlords including Alan Shatter who owns 14 properties, Tom Barry 10, Frank Feighen 10 properties and John McGuinness 8).

…Even from a mainstream economic perspective rising property prices and rents affects competiveness and is ‘wasted’ money removed from the domestic economy. The budget, therefore, must take bold and radical steps to address housing through systemic policy transformation.

…Iceland just recently successfully implemented, against the wishes of IMF and the OECD, a second round of household mortgage debt relief to the value of 8% of GDP (the Irish equivalent would be €14bn – a significant part of the €17bn in principal mortgage arrears of more than 90 days in Ireland) part funded by a levy on banks.

It includes a 13% writedown of the principal of mortgages coming to approximately 24,000 from every household’s mortgage. If Iceland, a country with a much smaller economy than ours can do it. Why can’t we?

…Our President described what is needed to be done very well recently when he said: “These are needs that are in fact citizenship needs …it isn’t a matter of waiting for approval from external ratings agencies or for financial matters to be made secure…It’s about democracy. You can’t leave the provision of housing to a residual feature of the market place…We have to accept that we need a great, huge increase in public rental accommodation.”

Other posts of interest:

S.I.9 – Where are we now? 27 October 2014

12,000 social + affordable houses at no cost to taxpayer?

Want to live in Dublin? | Only the wealthy need apply!

SI.9 costs for a typical house

SI.9 to Cost €532m in 2014 | Residential Sector 

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

Karl Whelan: “…raft of cost-increasing building regs are at least partly responsible”

How much would 100% independent inspections by Local Authorities cost?

Why did Phil Hogan think SI.9 would cost less than €3000 ?

by Bregs Blog admin team

evidence-based-design-research-2

Why did Phil Hogan think SI.9 would cost less than €3000 ?

There was much controversy when former Minister Phil Hogan said that SI9 could be done for €1,000-3,000 earlier this year.  At the same time RIAI President Robin Mandal told members that the new regulations would bring an uplift of 30-50% on professional fees.  (see link here). Over the last eight months there has been further concerns about a race to the bottom, because there is still no template available for the site inspections needed. It is proving very difficult for professionals to compete on fees because the diligent operators, writing their own inspection plans,  are being undercut by those who see opportunities in ‘light touch’ certificates. What some have called the ‘yellow packers with binoculars’ who might engage in drive-by inspections and churn out next-day Certificates.

The only basis for the estimated €1,000-3,000 cost is “industry sources”, so if it didn’t come from the professional bodies, perhaps it came from other players in the construction or insurance industry?

The Department (DECLG) noted projected building regulation costs for the new regulations (housing only) in an early Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) for SI.80 in 2012. No estimate was provided for other project types, industrial, ofice, commercial, agricultural etc. The statement from the 2012 RIA is as follows:  “..industry sources suggest this requirement could add say between €1,000 to €3,000 per housing unit to the overall building costs” (see links below).

There was no subsequent Regulatory Impact Assessment completed for SI.9 which replaced earlier versions of SI.80. Despite this the former Minister of the Environment Phil Hogan has stuck rigidly to these figures.

“I am concerned about the potential for costs to be exploitative initially. The same thing happened in respect of the building energy regulations introduced several years ago… People were charged between €3,000 and €4,000 for certification inspections that cost €150 in the market. The professions have tended to jump on the bandwagon to exploit the customer for what they can get…”

(former Minister Phil Hogan 12 March 2014- read full text here).

We noted the the cost of SI.9 for a typical house is a multiple of this figure (€21,000) and the the cost for a self-builder may well be over 10 times the Department’s figures (€42,000)- read post below). We believe we may have discovered the “industry source” for the Department’s cost range.

 The “Industry source”?

This could be it- from National Consumer Association webpage (2008- see link Here) where costs for additional Homebond inspections are mentioned. Quote:

“..Homebond carries out three inspections of a substantial number of dwellings registered with their insurance scheme, and the cost of these inspections is covered within the registration fee for each dwelling…

…one must conclude that a comprehensive inspection system involving a further two inspections per dwelling, could be established at a modest cost…

Could the €1,000- 3,000 cost be for a Building Control system based on Homebond/ Latent Defect Inspectors, and not on professional Certifiers? For current costs see the Homebond website  here:

So perhaps the former Minister wasn’t talking about professional services when discussing costs of SI.9. Perhaps he envisaged Homebond stepping up their two/three visit per site inspection regime as part of a “one-stop-shop”: 6 private inspections with Certification and defects insurance provided?

No extra fees for professionals at all? Perhaps this is what will happen when LDI (Latent Defects Insurance) becomes available.

 Other posts of interest:

SI.9 costs for a typical house 

Quick history of pyrite- press articles

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections 

Inadequate Regulatory Impact Assessment for S.I.9- Look Back 2

S.I.9 – Where are we now? 27 October 2014 

RIAI Update | What happened at EGM

by Bregs Blog admin team

RIAIPresident_RobinMandal.1

On 5th November 2014 the President of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), Robin Mandal, emailed members with a record of the votes taken at the EGM held the previous evening. Bregs Blog note shown [ ]. Extract:

“DEAR MEMBER,

I want to update members who were unable to attend last night’s EGM, which was attended by 340 Institute members, at the Alexander Hotel on the outcome of the motions considered at the meeting.

The three Resolutions put to members were as follows:

ORDINARY_RESOLUTION_1

“For the reasons outlined above and in the interests of the Registered Members, the consumer and the wider construction industry, we the Registered Members, call for the RIAI Council to adopt as their first priority a policy to seek publicly the revocation of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations: S.I.9 of 2014 and its replacement by a system which better protects the consumer and to actively reach out to other groups to seek support for that policy.”

Decision: defeated by 165 to 102 votes.

ORDINARY_RESOLUTION_2_EGM_041114_JKENNEDY

“That the registered members endorse and confirm their support for the decision of the

Council made at the July 2014 Council Meeting to develop a working document on Building

Control that would propose amendments to S.I.9 of 2014 and constructively engage with

stakeholders in order to realise the best interests of the profession for the long term”.

Decision: Carried by a three to one majority (through a show of hands).

ORDINARY_RESOLUTION_3_EGM_041114_OHEGARTY

“In response to the housing crisis and to ensure that the planned house building programme will provide well-built and sustainable homes under a cost-effective Building Control system, we request the Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government Mr. Alan Kelly TD:

  • to bring forward the review of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations S.I.9 that is planned for 2015;
  • to undertake a full Regulatory Impact Analysis of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations;
  • to review the limitations on self-building that is a constraint on housing supply under the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations.”

Decision: Defeated by a four to one majority (through a show of hands).

On behalf of Council I welcome the Members’ endorsement of Council’s strategy and work programme and will continue to keep the membership informed of progress on these important matters.

[BRegs Blog Admin Team Note: The following item was in the email but was not mentioned during the EGM]

I also wish to advise members that the following Council members – who had proposed Ordinary Resolution 3 referred to above – resigned a few hours in advance of the meeting: Caomhan Murphy, Deirdre Lennon, Orla Hegarty, Joan O’Connor, Vivian Cummins and Eoin O Cofaigh. I also regret the recent resignation of Darren Bergin from Council.

I am disappointed that the Council members have decided to resign but respect their decision to do so given their views are divergent from the majority of Council and other members of the Institute as resolved at last night’s EGM. Notwithstanding the six resignations yesterday, 17 Council members remain and under the bye laws will continue to oversee the direction of the Institute as mandated by the majority of members.

I would also feel it important to address some misleading claims of mismanagement of membership finances, corporate governance issues and lack of inclusion of diverse views which were represented in the media this morning.

Contrary to the claim that there is a “recurring and increasing deficit” I would like to reassure all members that the finances of the Institute remain robust with reserves of €2.9 million. While there has been a deficit in recent years, as previously communicated to members, this relates to a strategic decision to invest in the delivery of services in the interests of members and to subvent annual charges.

As President of the RIAI for almost a year I am impressed by the day-to-day management of the Institute and am confident that the corporate governance measures in place are appropriate. However, to ensure governance structures are in line with best practice I have established a review task force which has been reporting to Council. Following its initial phase it will now commence engaging with members. I look forward to sharing any recommendations that this group arrives at once its work is completed.

I would also like to reiterate that I have promoted full and open debate on a broad range of issues at all meetings of the Institute including last night’s EGM and look forward to ensuring that all views can be accommodated while balancing the interests of the majority.

If any member has any queries on any of the issues referred to above, or indeed on any matter relating to the Institute or the profession, I would happy to discuss this with you. You can email me at president@riai.ie

With kind regards

Robin Mandal

RIAI President”

Other posts of interest:

Architects council members resign over ‘governance failings’

RIAI EGM | 4th November 2014 | Who said what?

RIAI EGM | Tuesday 4th November 2014

RIAI AGM | Full Report “On Hold”

RIAI AGM – Topics of Interest 

A Profession Divided? Reflections on an RIAI EGM 

Opinion: “the architectural profession is largely united in opposition to S.I.9″

RIAI EGM | Seven Issues to Consider

SI.9 Is Defective | RIAI EGM Consensus 

News Alert | RIAI EGM Report

Want to live in Dublin? | Only the wealthy need apply!

by Bregs Blog admin team

phpmotyaoam

In the following article by Ronan Lyons “Dublin: An enclave for the wealthy?” in the Village magazine, the author attempts to quantify current development standards for residential development in Dublin, and asks if these standards, more onerous than other parts of the country, are pushing affordability further away from ordinary home owners.

Screen-Shot-2014-11-05-at-16.44.36

The cost impacts may be a contributing factor to lower planning applications for residential Developments in Dublin.

So the final price, which includes VAT, of a two-bedroom unit in Dublin is currently €460,000, as opposed to €345,000 if the standards that apply elsewhere in Ireland applied in central Dublin. Translating this into the monthly rent required for a two-bed to be viable for an investor to buy (at a 6% yield) and thus for a developer to build in the first place, the rent for a Dublin two-bed would need to be €2,750 per month. Under DOE standards, the rent would need to be €2,050. Rents for two-beds in Dublin currently range from €1,150 in Dublin 9 to €1,650 in Dublin 4. What sort of income would you need to have to pay €2,750 a month on your rent?

Screen-Shot-2014-11-05-at-16.44.46

…Accepted financial wisdom is that the highest fraction of your income to spend on housing that is sustainable is 35% of your disposable monthly income. A professional couple earning €120,000 gross per annum should not be spending more than €2,250 on housing costs per month. To afford a DCC-standard two-bedroom apartment, with its two balconies, its lift and basement car parking space, you would need to be earning €140,000 a year. Is it any

wonder that nothing has been built in Dublin in the last few years? DCC’s regulations are effectively turning Dublin – or certainly its new developments – into an enclave for the wealthy.”

We note the author may not have factored the recent additional costs of the proposed 10% social housing requirement introduced in the recent budget, or increased costs due to BC(A)R SI.9. Quote:

“The problem is that, in the rush to prevent another Priory Hall from happening again, the government is making the mistake of thinking that lots of regulation is an adequate substitute for effective regulation. Something like Priory Hall should never have happened – where the system failed was not that it didn’t regulate against it.`”

“The problem was that existing regulation was not enforced.”

Other posts of interest:

World Bank Report 2015 | UK v Ireland the real cost of “Dealing with construction permits”

World Bank Report 2015 | Ireland’s poor construction regulations are the biggest drag on our ranking

S.I.9 – Where are we now? 27 October 2014

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

€ 5 billion | The extraordinary cost of S.I.9 self-certification by 2020

Pyrite: the spiraling cost of no Local Authority Inspections

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

How much would 100% independent inspections by Local Authorities cost?

The cost of a Solution to BC(A)R SI.9?

BRegs Blog @ 200,000 views

by Bregs Blog admin team

 200k

We launched the BRegs Blog at the end of November 2013. Intended as an objective open-source information repository on the new building regulations in Ireland, it aimed to fill an information vacuum that existed for consumers and the industry. It took 6 months for us to hit 75,000 views. We doubled that figure 3 months later at the end of August 2014. By 5pm on 5th November, less than 12 months after the BReg Blog began, we have hit 200,000 views. We now average + 20k views per month.

The past 7 days were the busiest ever on the Blog. Read our 10 most popular posts for the past week below.

Yesterday we had + 1,700 views in one day, a new record.

We would like to thank you for your continuing interest in the issues surrounding the new building regulations. Many thanks to the admin, editorial and social media team and especially all of our valued contributors. We will continue to exist as long as we are relevant to readers.

Where are we now after 12 months? Have a read of our last 100 posts in out 670+ post archive to get an objective impression of where consumers, implementers and stakeholders are doing, almost 9 months post implementation. Look at our November 2013 to March 2014 archives to see earlier posts.

The BRegs Blog would love to hear your views on BC(A)R. If you have already written an article on this topic for another publication we would be happy to reproduce that on our Blog if relevant.

To celebrate we are giving the staff in BReg Blog towers the rest of the morning off- it may be a welcome relief to your computer’s inbox also if you are a subscriber.

New to the topic: don’t know where to begin? look here: SI.9- here do i start?

Where are we now? look here: S.I.9 – Where are we now?

Here are the most popular posts for the last 7 days:

  1. RIAI EGM | 4th November 2014 | Who said what?
  2. RIAI EGM | Tuesday 4th November 2014
  3. 3 County Councils ask Minister to Revoke SI.9
  4. Help Required | Dept. of the Environment | Deadline Monday 3rd November 2014
  5. 60 new schools delayed due to SI.9 | Independent.ie
  6. Commencement Notice issues
  7. No more snag lists | with S.I. 9
  8. “The Assigned Certifier is the one in the lion’s den” Rory O’Donnell, solicitor
  9. S.I. 9 | We have found the Gaps!
  10. S.I.9 CPD | Questions for Assigned Certifier

BRegs Blog Archive 4 – FEBRUARY 2014

BREGS Blog Archive 3- JANUARY 2014

BREGS Blog Archive 2- DECEMBER 2013

BREGS Blog Archive 1- NOVEMBER 2013

IAOSB submission to DECLG

by Bregs Blog admin team

huf-haus-art-9-350

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) invited submissions from the public to help inform the development of their future Strategy on or by last Monday. The following letter was submitted by the representative body for self-builders in Ireland (IAOSB-. letter posted here with permission).

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to you regarding Building Control (Amendment) Regulations: S.I.9 of 2014 which came into effect on 1st of March 2014.

This new regulation was the answer by then Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan T.D., to ensure properties are safe and compliant with Building Regulations. According to Mr. Hogan, this amendment would stop situations like Priory Hall and Pyrite problems and give extra protection to home owners against bad workmanship by building contractors. The idea sounded great but like all his other policies it has done nothing but make life more difficult for the people of  Ireland.

Under the new regulations as a self builder, you need to have a Design Certifier to design the house for you which is not a problem as it is always advisable to get professionals involved for this part of the build. However, you also need to have an Assigned Certifier to sign off each section. This is where the problem starts as there are currently  only a few professionals who are prepared to sign off on a build done by a self builder. It is a general attitude by Architects, Engineers and Building Surveyors that a project done by a self builder would be a huge risk on their practice should something go wrong.

Following legal advice, we were also told that, as a self builder, you will not be able to legally nominate yourself to be the builder . What this means is that  you will not be able to participate in the construction of your build if you wish to do so unless you can find an Assigned Certifier that is prepared to sign off each section off for you. Without a certifier, for you to operate in the role of contractor you will  be deemed to be not in compliance with the building regulations as you do not fulfil the Department’s criteria of a “competent person”: which requires you to have at least 3 years relevant contracting experience and also be the principal of a building firm. Legally, a self builder can not sign the certificates as the builder while the wording’s “(to be signed by a Principal or Director of a building company only)” remain on the documentations. DECLG’s recommendation would be to break the law and declare yourself as someone you are not.

It is a known fact that due to inadequate resources the likely hood of getting a local authority inspection are remote. However should you decide to sell on your property, if the necessary compliance documentation is not in place in the local authority you may not be legally able to sell. These requirements will essentially preclude non-contractor self-builders from operating the role as contractor for their own projects.

According to a recent survey done by Iaosb, we found out that 1/3 of all self-builds this year have either been postponed or abandoned due to the huge costs and unintended consequences of S.I.9. This results in between 800 to 1,000 homes not being built.

Self-building has been a major sector of all the house’s built in Ireland in the past decade and I am sorry to tell you that since the commencement of Building Control (Amendment) Regulation S.I.9 it has denied many of us the centuries old Irish tradition of building a house for ourselves and our families.

S.I.9 has caused nothing but problems for self builders and professionals.

Building Control (Amendment) Regulation S.I.9 of 2014 has failed and needs to be revoked.

Kind regards,

Shane McCloud

Irish Association of Self Builders

www.iaosb.com

Other posts of interest:

Help Required | Dept. of the Environment | Deadline Monday 3rd November 2014

The self build world has been thrown into disarray

S.I. 9 | Self-builders – 6 months’ update 

S.I.9 – Where are we now? 27 October 2014 

SI.9 costs for a typical house

€ 5 billion | The extraordinary cost of S.I.9 self-certification by 2020

Commencement Notices – Update | 22 October 2014

A ‘perfect storm’ for housing? 

Residential construction down in 2014 Q1+ Q2: (CSO statistics)

Law Society response to self-builders

Self building, self-regulation & the consumer

Senator Mooney- BC(A)R SI.9

RTÉ Radio: self-builders & RIAI past presidents 

RIAI EGM | 4th November 2014 | Who said what?

by Bregs Blog admin team

hear no evil

Hear no evil

On a previous occasion when the BRegs Blog reported on what was said at an EGM, held by the representative body for architects (RIAI), we received a request from an RIAI officer to take down the comments. The reason for the request was as follows:

[RIAI] Members on the night believed that they could speak openly, but privately to other members. By publishing what people said, the blog takes this away from people. I don’t believe we will be able to have such open debate at the next EGM if people believe what they say will be published.”

As all of our readers will appreciate the BRegs Blog is firmly on the side of open debate but respects a right to confidentiality where requested. As a result we are respecting the wishes of the EGM organisers and we will not be posting any report of the evening.

An RIAI member in attendance was live – tweeting the entire event so readers may wish to search Twitter for further information. (Link: Here)

In addition Frank McDonald of the Irish Times posted an online report at 10 pm last night including some of the evening’s activities. (Link: Here)

BRegs Blog Admin. Team

Other posts of interest:

RIAI EGM | Tuesday 4th November 2014

RIAI AGM | Full Report “On Hold”

RIAI AGM – Topics of Interest 

A Profession Divided? Reflections on an RIAI EGM 

Opinion: “the architectural profession is largely united in opposition to S.I.9″

RIAI EGM | Seven Issues to Consider

SI.9 Is Defective | RIAI EGM Consensus 

News Alert | RIAI EGM Report

Dáil TD’s want to Revoke SI.9 (4 of 4)

by Bregs Blog admin team

1712012-united-left-alliance-troika-meetings-630x461

United Left Alliance TDs Richard Boyd Barrett, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace with Independent TDs Shane Ross, Catherine Murphy and Mattie McGrath (Photo: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland)

Numerous TD’s have noted the unsuitability and defects of SI.9 in the Dáil. From an informed construction background, Mick Wallace TD brought forward a Dáil debate to highlight the situation of Architectural Technologists, excluded from registers of competent persons under the new regulation in June. In a message to the many contributions received in advance Deputy wallace noted :

“Rather than make many of the strong technical points, which I believe have long been thrown the Minister’s way, I thought it better to focus more on the realities on the ground, the need for common sense to prevail, and the need for the Minister to get real and stop just taking the word of some people with a vested interest in the alternative.”

Read more here: Mick Wallace message to Architectural Technologists

Mick Wallace in the Dáil in 1st July 20-14  :

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? “

Read post here: Mick Wallace: Building Control needs Strengthening

As to why nothing appears to be happening in response to the widespread call to revoke SI.9, Independent TD Catherine Murphy recently spoke of the intensive lobbying by vested interests in the construction sector.

Catherine Murphy TD- Registration of Lobbying Bill- Quote

As a public representative at both local and national level, this is the second time I have experienced a crash in the construction sector. We are moving back into construction without having repaired the problems or addressed the issues involved. We are starting the process again. The Government just has a short time left in office and the important changes that should have been made before construction started again have not been made.

…This is a small country and we are all aware of the informal lobbying that takes place, whether in the Galway tent, on golf courses or wherever else

See Dáil Debate here.

These are just an extract off the numerous Dail exchanges regarding SI.9, teh construction industry, lobbying and its unintended consequences.

Hard to believe there are any tracks left!

Other posts of interest:

3 County Councils ask Minister to Revoke SI.9 

Senators ask Minister to Revoke SI.9 (2 of 4)

Revoke S.I.9 – Fine Gael internal report to Phil Hogan in 2013 (3 of 4)

Going through the motions at speed – Independent.ie

Press piece: Co Council votes to scrap BC(A)R S.I. 9

S.I. 9 | Self-builders – 6 months’ update 

Press Piece: Fingal Councillors call to end BC(A)R SI.9 

Problems with role of Design Certifier: BC(A)R SI.9

Building Control Officers need help! BC(A)R SI.9