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: Building Control Authorities

Thoughts on a way forward #bregs #DeirdreLennon

by bregs blog admin team

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Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2013 SI 80  –

The Minister has confirmed that he wishes to “strengthen the current arrangements in place for the control of building activities “ as part of the 2013 amendments to the 1990 Building Control Act

Indeed,BC(A)R’s SI 80 has been carefully crafted to “require the private sector to provide an active part in achieving regulatory oversight.” This is to be achieved through professionally endorsed notices and certifications along with Contractor endorsed undertakings, each to be submitted to the Building Control Authority at distinct times between commencement and completion of construction projects.

The drafting of this legislation has been in process since 2011 and its Statutory Instrument SI 80 is on the cusp of enactment. No transition period has been allowed. No meaningful engagement or dialogue took place between government and the general public. Engagement with our representatives and other stakeholders took place behind closed doors. This legislation directly affects the practice of architecture and we are therefore all stakeholders in this important matter.

Given the title of this amendment and proclaimed political commitment we may be forgiven for believing that the proposed amendment promises change. Not so.

The devil is in the detail. The role of the Local Authority as Building Control Authority under the Act has changed in one small way. It has to conduct a validation process, an administration function of receipting and recording submissions. The non mandatory Code of Practice states that the Authority will then undertake a risk assessment but there are no details offered as to how or what this means.

In fact, Building Control Authorities intend to rely on the 1990 Building Control Act to continue a practice of zero obligation to carrying out technical assessments and to proceed with current commitment to an undefined number of building inspections –no change there either.

We are being asked to believe that this legislation will create more work for architects, that our professional liability will not increase, that the Building Control Authority will do better and best of all that Contractor registration will come.

If the Minister is really serious about strengthening the Building Control System he can task the Building Control authorities to carry out independent inspection and review protocols similar to that operated in the UK. This system has been tried and tested and following review in 2012 has been confirmed to be the most cost effective solution for protecting the quality of the built environment. We would welcome it.

Deirdre Lennon MRIAI

Member of BReg Forum and candidate for RIAI Council Election 2014

15th December 2013

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Thoughts on a way forward #bregs #ClaireMcManus

by bregs blog admin team

Claire McManus_MRIAI

Ireland should look to international experiences & best practice, and devise an effective system of Building Control that is suited to our culture, practices and legal system. A robust system must address eight major policy areas as set out by the World Bank:

Eight Critical Elements of a Building Regulatory Framework

PICTURE

The following analysis of international experience is drawn from the Wold Bank Group (2013), IRCC (2010) and the NCA (2012). The World Bank document was published this year as a roadmap on how to reform building regulations in order to drive cost-efficient robust systems, which have significant benefits to the entire economy.

The Irish system of Building Control is unique internationally. The Department of the Environment do not publish their statistics or their records of inspections, but their target is only one site visit to 12-15% of buildings. By way of comparison, there is a 100% inspection of all dwellings in the USA and in much of Europe.

AUSTRIA – First Build a Solid Foundation, Then Streamline the System

Austria’s building control system focuses on who can build rather than on the building: in other words, the builder rather than the building.

This system presents risks in that heavy reliance on practitioner licensing or “barriers to entry” can create impediments to progress or price increases during construction booms if not enough licensed practitioners are available to carry out the work. Systems that rely heavily on either professional designers and contractors or professional inspectors require strategies to deal with supply issues.

In Austria a strong foundation of transparency and professionalism has improved the regulatory system. Increased transparency improves developer and builder engagement, thereby increasing efficiency. Increased transparency also reduces public-sector discretion and the potential for corruption.

 

FRANCE – Private Liability and Insurance as the Main Drivers to Promote Compliance with Building Standards

Private Liability and Insurance as the Main Drivers to Promote Compliance with Building Standards The French system is one of only a few—if not the only—building regulatory systems driven by insurance. The United Kingdom system has some elements similar to those of the French system, in that private-sector third-party review bodies (approved inspectors) must be linked to a warranty provider for home inspections, but this requirement does not apply to non-residential building.

Independent and efficient courts have also been important elements in France’s reforms. The court system has not only regularly ruled to enforce the obligations of the constructors and insurance companies; it has actually expanded them over time through an extensive interpretation of the “fit for intended use” clause of the Civil Code. Emphasizing the liability of private parties may be a more powerful tool than state inspections to ensure compliance with building standards. Reform in France shows that leveraging the power of the market may be a stronger incentive than the fear of fines or sanctions.

 

NEW ZEALAND – A Focus on Building Control, Accountability, and Consumer Protection

Many countries have established service standards for local building authorities requiring them to have qualified persons on staff who can review building-permit applications within specified time frames. In many countries, however, medium- and small-sized municipalities lack technical capacity or resources to provide the level of service expected or, in some cases, required by legislation. New Zealand’s reform targeted improvements in the transition process for the accreditation of building consent authorities (BCAs). The BCAs were not ready to perform this new task, and their lack of preparation may have led to delays in many jurisdictions.

After improving the municipal service standard and enforcement, New Zealand turned to accountability and documentation and to improving the capacity of designers and contractors to comply with the code. The New Zealand Government has recognized that, while third-party enforcement is important, enhancing the capacity of designers and contractors and empowering the consumer through better information can have an even bigger impact on streamlining of and compliance with building control processes.

NORWAY – Trust But Verify—Norway’s Experiment with Self-Certification

In an effort to streamline its building-permit process while leaving code compliance to the professionals, Norway decided to embark on a bold and unique experiment by eliminating mandatory third-party inspections and relying on self-certification by licensed practitioners. Self-confirmation refers to a construction-permit system placing complete reliance on the project designer to comply with building-code requirements.

The self-certification experiment led to a more streamlined system but also to increases in building defects and reduced building safety. Norway decided to keep the system of self-certification, but it brought back mandatory third-party review for certain crucial building components. The third-party review by certified private inspectors focuses on certain structural, fire safety, and building envelope components.

The lesson drawn from Norway’s experience was that despite self-certification by licensed practitioners and oversight by municipalities, significant increases occurred in building defects and safety problems in the absence of third-party review of crucial building elements.

SINGAPORE Combining IT Solutions with Public-Private Collaboration to Achieve More Efficient Building Approvals

Electronic permitting systems can greatly contribute to efficiency for both the industry and regulators. Following IT-based reforms in Singapore, both developers and regulators have seen significant efficiency improvements.

The Building Control Department (now the Building and Construction Authority) was the clear leader of this initiative, and its leadership and the engagement of all stakeholders from the beginning were key elements of reform success. Subsidies to update IT capabilities and help desks and several seminars and workshops on technical assistance were fundamental in bringing building professionals up to speed on the system. After providing all this support, the government made online submission of processes and plans mandatory: no paper documents were permitted. This was necessary to induce the private sector to fully utilize the new system and to achieve real efficiency gains by avoiding a parallel paper system.

One of the most valuable lessons from Singapore’s experience is the importance of reorganizing the approval process before adopting IT solutions. Authorities met with the private sector and with the technical staff of each of the agencies to look for synergies and to create common standards to improve communications and information-sharing protocols among them. Only after this effort was the approval process automated.

UNITED KINGDOM – Public-Private Competition in Building Control

In an effort to provide builders with more choice and to stimulate competition, the United Kingdom has gradually opened up more opportunities for private-sector inspection agencies, known as approved inspectors. To compete with the private inspection agencies, some local building authorities have entered into partnerships with other local authorities, pooling their technical resources.

The introduction of the private-inspection option and, in particular, the expansion of private inspection in 2007, have resulted in more customer-focused, faster service. Competition among private-sector building control firms has stimulated innovations in public- and private-sector corporate organizations. In the private building control sector, competition has led to the coordination of building control and warranty inspections by firms offering both services. In addition, some corporations offering building control also provide expert design advice on matters such as fire service.

The U.K. experience also shows how difficult, perhaps impossible, it can be to establish a level playing field between public- and private-sector building control bodies. The two building control and inspection systems never really compete on equal footing.

VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA – Competitive Building Control—Clarifying Roles, Ensuring Performance

Much like the United Kingdom, Victoria decided to give builders a private-inspector option. To implement this option, Victoria’s reforms included mandatory practitioner certification of designers, contractors, and public- and private-sector inspectors.

Lack of effective government monitoring of private surveyors, however, has left the system open to the criticism that it fails to protect the public by ensuring safety, competence, and compliance with the Building Act. Local government councils currently have no systematic review process for permits lodged by private building surveyors. Many local governments are unsure of their role in dealing with private surveyors, sometimes resulting in building works that do not meet basic standards. Consequently, the system needs further clarity on the role of local governments in dealing with private certifiers.

A key lesson to be drawn from Victoria’s experience is that greater reliance on private-sector inspections and on private practitioners’ compliance with regulations must also involve greater clarity regarding roles and responsibilities and additional performance auditing.

Sources:

Performance Based Building Regulatory Systems, IRCC 2010

Public Consultation – Draft Building Control (Amendment) Regulations, NCA 2012

Good Practices for Construction Regulation and Enforcement Reform, The World Bank 2013

Claire McManus MRIAI is an architect in private practice in Dublin & Tipperary

Thoughts on a way forward #bregs #OrlaHegarty

by bregs blog admin team

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‘Certification and Insurance Plan’: An alternative approach to Inspection & Liability

 The reason that design professionals are concerned about responsibility for certification is that there is a tendency to think that certifying compliance with building regulations is ‘all things, for all time’, effectively a warranty on the entire building.

The public may think that architects are responsible for all matters on site and can control a perfect outcome. This is not the case- the standard expected of a professional architect is similar to that of a doctor or accountant- to exercise due, skill and care and to provide a professional service, not to guarantee the performance of others.

In my view, what is required is a Certification & Insurance Plan, not an Inspection Plan. The inspections, timing of inspections and record-keeping are matters for the contractual parties involved and are better dealt with through procurement arrangements and not as another piece of statutory administration.

The following is a proposal for certification and insurance arrangements. The key points are that Part C- Site Preparation and Part D- Materials and Workmanship are not relevant or appropriate to certification at Design Stage and must be the responsibility of the builder at Completion Stage. The Architect and Engineer do not prepare the site, do not order the materials and cannot control workmanship on site.

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In summary:

  • Design certificates are already issued by the Building Control Authority for Part B-Fire Safety and Part M- Access and Use. For simplicity, Part K- Stairways, Ladders, Ramps and Guards might easily be folded into Part M, due to the obvious overlaps; this would also eliminate some of the internal contradictions between the two standards.
  • Design certificates are currently issued by the Structural Engineer for Part A- Structure.
  • Design certificates could easily be added for Building Control Authority approval of BER calculations to demonstrate compliance with Part L- Conservation of Fuel and Energy. This might simply include elemental calculations for wall, roof, windows etc. on the basis of the Planning Permission drawings, without full specifications. The approvals could be sub-contracted from the Building Control Authorities out to the trained BER assessors.
  • Part E-Sound compliance is measurable at completion and could be covered with a design certificate from the architect.
  • Parts F- Ventilation, G- Hygiene, H- Waste Water & Drainage and Part J- Heat Producing Appliances could be codified and project specific to arrange the design compliance between consultants and installers. For example, design of the ventilation might be the architect for a house or a Services Engineer for a hospital, the number of sanitary appliances might be the responsibility of the architect but the drainage might be the engineer, etc.
  • Part C- Site Preparation and Moisture and Part D- Materials and Workmanship. It could be argued that these are not relevant to Design Certificates as they are ‘site’ matters and cannot be designed. In any case, workmanship, materials and site preparation are outside the control of the design team, which is why these are the areas of greatest concern for future liability.  If Parts C and D are excluded from the Design Certificate and become the responsibility of the contractor at completion, this would significantly improve practices on the site.

 

Following from this the LDI (Latent Defects Insurance) could similarly be codified to the certification plan for the various parts of the regulations. The parts that are measurable and that can be inspected (width of stairs, size of window, sound transmission, air-tightness etc) are easily checked at completion. The certification of the other parts are broken down further, depending on the project and the responsibilities allocated.

It also means that Part C and Part D might be covered by LDI without subrogation, as they are outside the remit of the designers PI. This would mean no recourse to the designers PI for defective materials or workmanship. In practice, this might mean that there is subrogation to the engineer for Part A, but not to the architect for Part M (unless the architect made a mistake in certifying that the Completion Certificate conformed with the approved Design Certificate). There would be no recourse to the architect for pyrites, for example, as checking every stone delivery is not the designers responsibility.

Breaking down the certification also gives clarity to the insurers to assess the risk. In order to determine the risk on a policy this table can be used to measure risk against previous claims. More importantly, future policies can factor in the contractors performance, which is a real incentive to improve site practices as it would drive down insurance costs.

Omitting Part C and Part D from the Design Certificate would also bring the Regulations in line with the Construction Products Regulations, which now require all materials to be in compliance with the EU standards. The architect/ engineer can specify materials but has no control over ordering and deliveries. By making ‘materials and workmanship’ the responsibility of the contractor there is a disincentive to cutting corners and a requirement on the contractor to maintain records. (This alone would have significantly helped to reduce the scale of the pyrite problem).

This system would require a ‘Certification  & Insurance Plan’ at the outset rather than an ‘Inspection Plan’. The advantage of a Certification Plan is that it would overcome all of the difficulties with non-traditional methods of procurement and it would allow insurers an involvement at the early stage of a project, when risks can more easily be mitigated.

Orla Hegarty B.Arch. MRIAI RIBA is Course Director for the Professional Diploma (Architecture) at the School of Architecture, UCD

Meath Apartment evacuations could have been avoided, but S.I.80 will not ensure compliance #bregs #MichaelCollins

by bregs blog admin team

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Image: The Irish Times

The core issue is that we have had no proper Building Control in Ireland for over 20 years.  The reality is exemplified by the news this morning that another group of unfortunate residents have to leave their apartments which, it was reported on RTE, were constructed without obtaining a fire safety certificate.  That is a breach of the building regulations and people are entitled to ask how could that happen?  The answer is simple.  The Local Authorities did not have the resources in many cases to pursue such things but, more significantly, they have repeatedly claimed that they cannot bring successful enforcement proceedings in the courts because of the defects the current Building Control Act. You would expect that this would be the first thing to be fixed in any revision to the Building Regulations.  In fact, there is nothing in the new regulations (which are to come into effect in March 2014) that will address that issue. This brings us back to the reality that the State is intent on continuing with the “hands off”, “light touch”, “self-regulation” which has failed so spectacularly!  We will continue to have Building Control Authorities who can’t control.

Michael Collins, President of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland 1986/87