by Bregs Blog admin team
The following is a briefing document on the new building regulations, prepared for a public representative by a registered professional. It was submitted to us on 25th June 2014.
The building regulations were introduced in 1991 in response to the “Stardust disaster”, in which many people lost their lives, a tragedy never to be repeated. They did much to raise building standards. But there was never adequate enforcement. The €30.75 per house Commencement Notice fee charged in 1991 today, 22 years later, stands at … €30. The system never paid for itself.
It took the pyrites and “Priory Hall” disasters to introduce the next round of changes. An Irish solution to an Irish problem:- “When there’s a problem with enforcing a law: change it.”
The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014, seek to respond to pyrites and “Priory Hall”. The Minister’s intention was and remains good, even if non-enforcement was the problem.
2. What’s wrong with the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations?
- Impact on every significant building and interior fit-out project (not just on the speculative residential sector where the problems were caused);
- Confer a monopoly on building design and inspection of construction on registered architects (also “surveyors”, but of whom there are only about 150 in Ireland compared with 2500 architects, and “chartered engineers”, most of whom work outside construction);
- Excludes experienced competent architectural technologists from earning a livelihood;
- By requiring a competent builder to be appointed, closes down the centuries old tradition of “self-build” in rural areas – a tradition still flourishing in other countries, including in Northern Ireland;
- Do nothing for a new house buyer except set up a paper trail for them to follow in the event of building failure;
- Expose valuable intellectual property to internet theft (Foreign Direct Investment projects);
3. BC(A)R and pyrites
Set up to report on the causes of the “pyrite problem” and to make recommendations as to how that problem might be avoided in the future, the “Pyrite Panel” reported to the Minister in June 2012.
The regulations fail to implement the relevant recommendations in the the Pyrite Panel report.
Recommendation 18, a “Mandatory certification system” 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”.
This was not done. To get building regulations compliance from a builder and his subcontractors, there must be the reasonable likelihood of statutory-backed inspection by the building control authority.
Recommendation 21: General Insurance issues, recommended (b) “a requirement for project-related insurance whereby cover for each specific project is available and adequate and is related to the project only”.
This was not done. By not implementing this recommendation, the regulations ensure litigation and distress for home-owners will continue to feature where buildings go wrong, whether in pyrites-affected dwellings or for the Priory Hall residents.
4. So what should be done with S.I. 9?
S.I. 9 should be scrapped.
A proper system of independent third-party inspection, by experienced architects and engineers paid for by the developer but licensed by and answerable to the local authority, would achieve better results; level the field for the self-builders; allow technologists to participate; guarantee local authority-backed inspection of 100% of building sites; would solve the intellectual property issues; and could be done for €2m per year.
To see such a system in operation, take the bus to Enniskillen. Such system can and does work, deliver better building, and can cost the State a net nothing, the cost being paid for by the Developer and through increased Commencement Notice fees.