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.

Tag: architect

Self-builders to be phased out under S.I.80

by bregs blog admin team

The forthcoming changes in the Building Regulations in March 2014 (S.I. No. 80 of 2013 BUILDING CONTROL (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 2013) have big repercussions for residential self-builders. Nearly 60% of houses constructed in Ireland are self-builds (source NaSBA) and self-building is a common form of construction for houses and extensions; this is especially the case in rural areas.

S.I. No. 80 requires that the owner gives notice to the Building Control authority of ‘…ASSIGNMENT OF BUILDER’:

Item 2. requires the owner to have ‘…assigned the following person as Builder of the works and I am satisfied that they are competent to undertake the works so assigned on my behalf.’

The owner therefore needs to assign a ‘competent person’ to undertake the building works; this raises several questions:

• Who decides whether a builder is a competent person?

• Currently there is no register of ‘competent persons’ that are considered competent to undertake building works; the Construction Industry Federation ‘is progressing the establishment of a Register of Builders in consultation with the Department of the Environment Community and Local Government (DoECLG).’ but this register will initially only be a voluntary register (transitioning at a later date to a statutory scheme).

• Logically a self-builder cannot assign himself unless he is a ‘competent person’.

Self-builders will be required under S.I.80, as clients, to employ a design certifier and assigned certifier (engineer/ architect/ building surveyor)- this is positive as it is unwise for a technically non-experienced person to undertake self-building without professional input. This should be welcomed as a positive development.

If a client is going to be the builder, currently that’s fine- self-builders can nominate themselves (as long as they consider themselves to be ‘competent’ and as builders are currently unregistered this seems to work well for self-builders. The only persons precluded from operating as contractors are Architects.

So, S.I.80 at the moment can only improve the quality of self-builds.

However when a formal register of builders is introduced in 2015 self-builders will need to meet the criteria to become registered, or will be precluded from this role. The criteria more than likely is a minimum of 3 years relevant building experience, tax affairs in order, relevant insurances in place etc.

So, in 12 months self-building will no longer be possible unless the self-builder  is already an established experienced contractor, with their own insurances and tax-clearance documents etc. People who want to undertake works themselves are no longer able to do so. One unintended consequence of this is that rural landowners with some building experience who are capable of managing sub-contractors will no longer be able to inhabit this role- they will be forced down the more expensive route of appointing a main contractor to domestic or other projects that require planning permission (farm buildings, outhouses etc.)

The UK system of Building Control allows for self-builders; their risk-based assessment on the number of inspections takes into account whether the builder is known, his experience/track record and whether there is also an architect inspecting the works (as examples). The Building Control Officer then adjusts the number of visits following this risk analysis based on a points system in order to ensure the build is in compliance with the Building Regulations.

The introduction of S.I.80 denies the centuries old tradition of the Irish person building their home for their family themselves. There are a number of contradictions in S.I.80 and this is one of them. If public opinion forces a u-turn on registration of contractors in 2015 then the basis of S.I.80, that of “regulating” building, will not be achieved. Unregistered and unregulated builders will still be in a position to control the procurement process. Introduce mandatory registration of contractors and self-building will cease to exist.

References to UK Building Control mean England and Wales.

A special thanks to Geoff Wilkinson at TheBuildingInspector.org (Approved England and Wales Approved Building Inspectors)

A Rural Perspective #bregs #VivianCummins

by Mark Stephens

Vivian Cummins -  RIAI Eastern Region

Rural-Based Architect versus the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2013

While I was reading the forty questions about the BC(A)R 2013 that the RIAI Past Presidents put to the current RIAI Council last week I was wondering about how many of them related to my own business and to rural dwellers in Ireland. I was particularly interested in Question 32: Where are the supports for architects [as recommended by the National Standards Authority of Ireland]?

With a small rural-based practice on the Kildare/Carlow/Laois borders I have a mixed bag of work. For the last five years it has morphed from medium scaled commercial work to mostly residential with fortunately lots of legal due diligence work that has helped to keep the wolf from the door.

My biggest challenge with residential work has always been justifying a reasonable fee when measured against a local unqualified ‘planning permission practitioner with pencil’ (aka Architecture-Lite). This is someone who does planning applications for a house, all in, say for €999 and does not charge VAT. It is a lonely, uphill battle to try and explain to potential clients the level of expertise now required in the increasingly regulated business of architecture from Building Regulations to Health + Safety requirements. The poor person trying to build their new home will be faced with so many new paperwork and bureaucracy costs that they are very likely to make the mistake of skimping on the most important part – having a suitably qualified architect from the outset who will produce compliant designs.

If these onerous regulations are imposed it is regrettable that there are no agencies being provided simultaneously that will provide guidance, help to improve standards and iron out problems such as currently exist with the food, farming and site safety sectors. I will be left to appear like the fuss-pot with all my ‘essential’ paperwork whereas ‘planning permission practitioners with pencils’ and their clients can continue to ignore all of that and self-build to their hearts content. They can seemingly disregard all legislation without any risk of censure from statutory authorities. Will this change in any real way with the BC(A)R 2013?

I am always proud to introduce myself as an architect when I first meet people. I am not so sure that ‘assigned certifier’ will have the same ring. I am not looking forward to 2014 and having to explain, on my own, yet another major raft of unnecessarily complex legislation to a largely unsuspecting public.

Vivian Cummins, B.Arch. (Sc), Dip. Arch., Dip. Arch. Tech., MRIAI
Nominee for the Eastern Region member of the RIAI Council 2013.