Engineers Journal | BCMS 9 months on

by Bregs Blog admin team

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The following article appeared in Engineers Journal on 25th November 2014. It shows a typical inspection plan and notes the 12 most common mistakes made by users of the Building Control Management System (BCMS). Completion stage issues may not be fully visible at this point due to the low level of completions to date. Progress under the new system is noted:

“At the date of writing and post 1 March 2014, the BCMS registered:

  • 68,629 documents uploaded;
  • 4,135 valid commencement/7 Day (CN) notices;
  • 614 invalid CNs;
  • 1,435 CNs in progress i.e. at various stages before submission to BCMS;
  • 204 valid Certificates of Compliance on Completion.”

For link to article “Building Control Management System – how it works in practice” click here. Extract:

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Nine months on since its implementation, Mairéad Phelan offers an update on the Building Control Management System and advises on how to avoid common pitfalls in the submission process

25th November 2014 | Engineers Journal

Author: Mairéad Phelan BE, CEng, FIEI, MBA, project manager of the Building Control Management System

Prior to 1 March 2014 – in spite of the fact that compliance within the building industry was/is basically self-regulation or ‘light touch’ with limited independent inspection – the experience of the local authority (LA) sector was that many ‘builders’, ‘developers’ and ‘designers’ had no technical training, legal and/or professional advice regarding the science of construction. The outcome of this was some of the worst examples of building construction, which ignored the Building Regulations and, in some cases, endangered occupants of these buildings.

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Opinions on compliance with Building Regulations were churned out for a fee, with compliance assured by an ‘opinion’ certifying the works. It has been the experience of building control authorities (BCAs) that a large proportion of buildings were constructed using only the planning permission drawings, with no reference to building regulations and with drainage systems being constructed by anyone who happened to own a JCB. In many of these cases, where things have gone wrong, it has been the local authority/taxpayer that funded the resolution, despite Building Regulations mandating that all building must be ‘fit for purpose’.

BCAs have found it extremely difficult and costly to prove not ‘fit for purpose’ in a ‘building control’ (BC) enforcement case and get costs reimbursed. An effective Regulatory Compliance System for BC within the 31 local authorities as a shared-service initiative was initiated by the County and City Managers Association (CCMA) as a collective response to these challenges and the introduction of the Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR) i.e. S.I. 9 and S.I. 105 of 2014.

Building Control Management System overview

S.I. 9 of 2014 (signed into law on 17 January 2014 for implementation on 1 March 2014) states that the “Building Control Management System [BCMS] means the information technology-based system hosted by the Local Government Management Agency and developed to facilitate the electronic administration of building control matters by building control authorities [is] the preferred means of building control administration”.

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The BCMS is a collective response by the CCMA/Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) to provide oversight of building commencements in Ireland. It is project managed by Fingal County Council and centrally hosted; this online information technology-based Building Control Administration System enables electronic administration and building regulatory oversight of construction by the 31 building control authorities.

The implementation of BCAR provides the industry with a new opportunity to ‘build’ for the future with the introduction of mandatory certification by professionals, BCMS online assessment of projects, inspection plans and supporting documentation. Collaboration with the users was the key to successful system design.

The main focus of the project is:

  • To provide for the health and safety of people in or about buildings,
  • To ensure access for all,
  • To conserve fuel and energy,
  • To ensure sound, well-built homes, amenities and commercial buildings and
  • To provide electronically a public register of what is being built, by whom and where.

For practitioners and professionals in the building industry, the BCMS provides an online repository for lodgement of statutory documents to the LA, thus providing a quicker assessment and validation process. The BCMS has the ability to notify its 6,000 users of issues regarding the building industry – for example, if a fraudulent or defective product was placed on the market, the BCMS can notify all on the system and issue a warning regarding same i.e. can get the information to the relevant people in real time.

For managers and planners, the level and type of construction activity in a county can be gleaned in real time along with materials used, contractor, designer information etc. For building control officers, they have real-time information on enforcement issues in other counties so that a builder can be prevented from replicating breaches of Building Regulations across county boundaries.

At the date of writing and post 1 March 2014, the BCMS registered:

  • 68,629 documents uploaded;
  • 4,135 valid commencement/7 Day (CN) notices;
  • 614 invalid CNs;
  • 1,435 CNs in progress i.e. at various stages before submission to BCMS;
  • 204 valid Certificates of Compliance on Completion.

The chart illustrates the valid and invalid web and counter submissions registered on the BCMS to date. These BCMS submissions to the 31 BCAs are constantly reviewed by a BCMS oversight group and it is noted that the quality of the submissions have greatly improved since 1 March.

BCMS nine months on: submission issues & common mistakes

Roles and duties: It is important that all the stakeholders (owners, builders, designers and assigned certifiers) involved are clear on their roles and familiarise themselves with the requirements of the Building Regulations and Building Control Regulations. In the Code of Practice for Inspecting and Certifying Buildings and Works are set out the roles and duties of owners, builders and designers who are responsible for compliance with the Building Regulations, along with the roles and duties of assigned certifiers who are responsible for liaising with the BCAs, preparing and implementing inspection plans and collation of compliance/ancillary documents/certification for Certificate of Compliance on Completion.

The roles and duties of the BCAs, who administer the BCAR process and may take enforcement, are also set out in in this Code of Practice and the CCMA Framework for Building Control Authorities.

It is important that all project stakeholders register with the BCMS and the designer, builder and assigned certifier must be nominated for their role by the owner and must accept their role. To register and subsequently login to the BCMS, each stakeholder must have their individual email address, which is the unique identifier and a password.

Statutory forms: It is important to complete each section carefully, download each form when fully completed, have the specified stakeholder sign the form and then upload to the BCMS. Fully complete, the mandatory online assessment will inform the BCA risk-based inspection programme. CNs and CCCs must be accompanied by certain specified mandatory documents along with a schedule/table of compliance documentation which include plans, calculations, specifications, ancillary certificates and particulars.

It is important to pay attention to completing Q. 6 of CN and Annex to the CCC for compliance purposes. Compliance plans should relate to compliance with Building Regulations and not specified ‘for planning purposes only’.

The CN mandatory accompanying documentation is set out in the table below:

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Preliminary and completed inspection plans: It important that the number and type of inspections to be carried out relate to the complexity of the project, the relevant building-compliance issues and the milestones in the project. An example of inspection stages with the relevant building regulatory compliance issues is below. It is compliance with Part A-M with which the BCAs are concerned.

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The most commonly observed compliance issues observed by BCAs are:

  1. Underfloor fill-panel fixings, pyrite (Part A, C, D);
  2. Moisture ingress-radon, DPC (Part C;
  3. Fire resistance-eaves, party walls, ducting (Part B);
  4. Condensation and mould growth (Part F);
  5. Frozen pipes, attic tank, stopcocks (Part G);
  6. Septic tanks overload, flooding (Part H);
  7. Flues, location, size, burners (Part J);
  8. Balcony detailing, stair rails – wrong height, glass (Part K);
  9. Steps to entrances (Part M);
  10. BER calculations do not exist, stud fixings, cavities clear of mortar (Part L);
  11. Timber frame-fixings, vapour control, cavity barriers, fire stopping;
  12. Sound transmission, flooring detail, insulation (Part E, L).

Regard to these common building defects and other individual particular issues when completing the preliminary inspection plan is recommended. To ensure smart use of resources, inspections by BCAs are either random or risk based having regard to: the use of the building; the type of construction; the level of experience of the design team and the builder and; past experience regarding compliance by the stakeholders involved in the project. To ensure a fair and transparent LA inspection regime, Phase II of the BCMS development will enable an automatic random and risk-based inspection data-interrogation system; the data being mined from the online assessment and the generation of a ‘Building Control Standard Inspection Form’.

Certificate of Compliance on Completion

The Certificate of Compliance on Completion (CCC) must be signed by the builder (Section A) and the assigned certifier (Section B) and it is important to complete the CCC Annex. The Annex should detail the “Table of Plans, Calculations, Specifications, Ancillary Certificates and Particulars used for the purpose of construction and demonstrating compliance with the requirements of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations and showing, in particular how the completed building or works differ from the design submitted to the Building Control Authority prior to construction”. Details of relevant plans may be listed and attached to the CCC.

It is only necessary to upload the Statutory CCC Form, the inspection plan as implemented and the annex/table/schedule of compliance/ancillary certificates and documents which demonstrate how compliance with Regulations was achieved. Of importance here is the documentation of details or changes in design/construction which differ from those details listed in the CN Q6 Schedule. These documents/ancillary certificates listed in this annex/table should be available for upload if requested by the BCA.

Any BCA requests, warning or enforcement notices issued during the construction should be resolved and this noted in this annex. For phased or multi-unit developments it is important that the CCC details how the phase, the subject of the CCC, complies with the Building Regulations as a stand-alone development i.e. compliance should not be dependent on any phases not yet constructed.

The exercise of reasonable skill, care and diligence has been discussed by many since the implementation of S.I. 9 of 2014. It has been the experience of BCAs that where competent professionals, who exercised reasonable skill, care and diligence, were/are involved in building projects from design to completion, enforcement issues are an absolute rarity. Almost all BCA enforcement issues have been as a result of the non-existence of the competent professional and non-existence or inadequate design details in the building project.

Summary

S.I. 9 and S.I. 105 of 2014 was a Government response to the building boom from 2002-2007. The main aims are to reform and strengthen the building control system in Ireland through the introduction of mandatory certificates of compliance and the lodgment of compliance documents at both commencement and completion stages. The LGMA-implemented BCMS enables more efficient pooling of building control staff and resources, along with the implementation of standardised approaches and common protocols, i.e. consistency with better support and further development of the building control function nationwide.

The health and safety of people in or about buildings and compliance with the Building Regulations is paramount. Owners, builders, designers, assigned certifiers and building control officers collaborate throughout the BCMS registration, CN and CCC validation process to ensure safe, compliant buildings. The Code of Practice for Inspecting and Certifying Buildings and Works, along with the Framework for Building Control Authorities, provides stakeholders with guidance and promotes consistency in the BC process. Since the implementation of the BCMS, CN and CCC submission compliance quality has greatly improved as has knowledge of building control by stakeholders.

If stakeholders complete the CN documentation in full while having regard to the common building control regulation and building regulation mistakes, compliance/CCC is easier to achieve i.e. time spent in getting the CN process correct is worthwhile to eliminate or mitigate the risk of defects at completion stage, which are expensive and difficult to correct. CN compliance documentation will also inform the CCC process and it is important to note a CCC is expected to cover full compliance in the case of phased and multi-units developments.

Part of a BCA’s role is to promote good practice in building control, along with its administration and enforcement role. Stakeholders are advised to liaise with their BCAs in relation to regulation issues. BCMS issues can be emailed to info@localgov.ie.

Mairéad Phelan BE, CEng, FIEI, MBA is project manager of the Building Control Management System. Prior to this, she was senior engineer in Fingal County Council’s Built Environment, Road Safety and Transportation Departments. The bulk of her experience is in project management of large building construction and civil engineering projects. She worked as an area/town council engineer in Carlow County Council, along with performing the role of conservation officer. Her early career was spent working with Nicholas O Dwyer Consulting Engineers on major water and drainage schemes. Phelan holds Diploma in Highway & Geotechnical Engineering, a Diploma in Project Management and a Diploma in Law.

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