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: Government

Thoughts on a way forward #bregs #JoanO’Connor

by bregs blog admin team

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The Obligations of the State

The involvement of the State in the protection of the interests of its citizens is a legitimate expectation and is an obligation of Government in a civil society. The State cannot abdicate its responsibilities to purchasers and users of property and there are means by which Government could control design and construction quality analogous to the operations of the Revenue Commissioners and their use of licensed auditors as a means of discharging the State’s functions in the control and oversight of business.

What is needed is a State-sponsored, self-funding independent inspection system which is credible and authoritative.

Consumer Needs

The consumer – particularly the house owner – must have easy access to a speedy means of resolving significant defects emerging in recently-completed property [particularly the home] at minimum, collateral costs. The current, Courts-based solution is slow, expensive and adversarial, even if a “mark” is found in the end.

The consumer – e.g. house purchaser – should have access to a guarantee, backed by insurance, to which he has immediate access to deal with legitimate complaints regarding defects. This guarantee – sometimes called latent defects insurance – can be provided, at minimal additional cost which would be carried by the Developer.

Such a guarantee would be mandatory and form part of the chain of conveyance and mortgage funding. LDI brings with it the following advantages in the campaign for better building:

  • Better builders will get insurance cheaper, based on track record, and thus will be able to sell more competitively.
  • Bad builders may be unable to get such insurance, ruling them out of the market.
  • The insurers carry out their own design reviews and site inspections, appropriate to the type of project and the risk profile of the building : another, experienced set of eyes looking at the project.

Increased Complexity of Building in Ireland

A multiplicity of approvals and certificates now required to build and there are numerous appointments to made for all building endeavours – whereas the obligations of the main parties to a building contract with regard to building standards are simple – to design and to build in compliance with the Building Regulations – and this encompasses everything – fire, thermal performance, disability access, structural stability, etc.

Appointments include architect, engineers, QS – PSDS, PSCS, Design Certifier, Assigned Certifier [and statutory notifications of such appointments where required]. Approvals, plans, certificates and consents will now include –

Planning Permission [separate regime].

  • Fire Safety Certificate : €2.90 per sq.m., €12,500 max.
  • Commencement Notice
  • 7-Day Notice : €5.80 per sq.m., €25,000 max.
  • Regularisation FSC : €11.60 per sq.m., €50,000 max.
  • Disability Access Certificate [excluding houses] – €800 plus fees, no time limit for issue.
  • Notice of Assigned Certifier [by Building Owner]
  • Undertaking by Assigned Certifier
  • Notice of Assignment of Builder [by Building Owner]
  • Undertaking by Builder
  • Design Certificate – submission of details, full drawings and specifications to BCA
  • Health and Safety Plan
  • Safety File
  • Preliminary Inspection Plan
  • Inspection Plan
  • Completion Certificate by Assigned Certifier and Builder [and acceptance thereof by the Building Control Authority – “BCA”].

Registration of Builders

Notices issued by Building Employer states that the Owner is satisfied that the person or firm appointed is/are competent to undertake the works …. How is a consumer building a house, or indeed a small shop-owner carrying out some alterations – supposed to know whether a builder is competent or not? The response might be that a check of the Builder’s Register should be adequate but such a register is not in place and will not be in place until 2015 at the earliest.

A voluntary register of builders is a nonsense. Registration with teeth needs statutory backing and would take at least two years to develop. It necessitates the establishment of a registration board, standards and codes of practice, grievance procedures, codes of conduct and the like so that there is fair procedure in the event of a challenge to a builder’s registration.

Registration as a system of recognition or public endorsement is more suited to the individual trader or practitioner – or a single, small firm whose entire activities can readily be encompassed and/or understood. It is less suitable for large, multi-faceted contracting firms with multiple employees of wide-ranging skill levels.

Licensing of contractors could be more appropriate, with builders ranked by competence for projects of varying sizes and complexities. A licence would last for –say – three years and might also be used to exempt firms from pre-qualification procedures or to, de facto, pre-qualify them. There would, obviously, have to be control and complaints procedures of some kind.

The Underlying Purpose of Building Regulations

The primary purpose of Building Regulations is to provide for the health, safety and welfare of people in and around buildings.

Some Impacts of S.I.80

S.I.80 is primarily intended to remedy problems in the speculative residential sector but applies to all buildings and material alterations or extensions to existing buildings, including office and factory fit-outs.

Delays to projects planned to start in early 2014, increased costs – already acknowledged by Government, and protracted procedures at completion and handover, often a critical time for new business or business processes.

Building and construction investment forecast to increase by 5% this year and 7.2% in 2014, subject to conditions – an end to a 6-year decline. But regulatory bottlenecks are cited as a risk – and this is the biggest, avoidable hurdle.

Risks to the Government’s capital programme, including schools recently announced.

Reliance on Professionals’ Insurance

P.I. insurance needs to be in place when damage occurs and/or a claim is made. It is no use if the Assigned Certifier has retired [or been let go] , if his PI has lapsed for reasons of cost or whatever.

The PI insurer will cast his eye around the multiple players in the building works and will sue them all on the basis of joint and several liability whereby one, insured actor with even a minimal liability for the damage can be made to carry all of the costs, even for culpable parties who are no longer in business – “the last man standing”. As architects carry PI insurance, they are often that last man [or woman].

A Way Forward?

Dare we look aim for a radical overhaul of the system to simplify the administrative aspects of building control to focus on essentials such as education, inspection and insurance?

Joan O’Connor, President of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland 1994-1995

An opinion piece by seven Past Presidents of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland

by bregs blog admin team

PROTECTING THE CONSUMER THROUGH BUILDING REGULATIONS

In March of this year the Government introduced new building regulations in the wake of the widespread instances of defects in speculative apartments and houses which many believe were due in large part to the lack of any effective building control system in Ireland in the past 30 years. The new regulations (SI.80 of 2013) take effect from 1st March 2014.

The regulations were drafted following consultation between construction industry stakeholders and officials from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. Other interest groups, such as representatives of consumer interests, building control officers, apartment owners or building management were not included in this process.

In summary, the regulations continue with a modified system of self-certification whereby an assigned certifier appointed by the developer/builder and those involved in the design and construction of buildings will certify that the work they have done complies with the regulations. Where defects occur, it will be up to the house or apartment owner to pursue whoever they deem to be at fault through the courts. There is no significant involvement envisaged for the Local Authority, other than keeping a record of certificates and other documents related to the project. It is incomprehensible that the State should legislate for a system which relies on a home owner proving negligence by some wrongdoer in the courts after a defect has been discovered as the sole deterrent to defective design and construction and as the sole means of getting it rectified.

At a recent general meeting of over 500 members of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, (the largest number of architects ever to gather in Ireland) those present voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion which included the following statement: “The meeting believes that the said S.I. 80 of 2013 will not achieve the objective for which it has been introduced, and that the consumer will be no better protected than was the case in the recent past because of shortcomings in the said Regulations”

What is needed is a system that prevents defects from occurring in the first place and provides protection to homeowners without having to go to court, should that system fail. Such systems operate successfully in many other countries, including in Britain and Northern Ireland, with inspection of design and construction by independent private sector inspectors acting under the control of Building Control Authorities. When combined with a state controlled system of latent defects insurance it will at once improve the quality of design and construction and protect the consumer against building defects. Such a system can be achieved at little or no cost to the State. It needs little or no legislation to implement.

With just a few weeks to go until the new regulations come into force, Department officials and industry stakeholders are still working on possible minor changes to the regulations. As a result of this uncertainty and the complexity of the issues, little has been done to assess what changes are needed to standard procedures and documents such as standard government and private sector forms of contracts, sub-contracts, warranties, all of which are critical to the industry. Local Authorities are unprepared for the few administrative functions that they are expected to undertake. There is no possibility of rectifying these matters in the time available. As a result, the implementation of the regulations in March 2014 is likely to cause significant delays across the whole of the construction industry with consequent disruption of other sectors which are dependent on it.

Irish people, none more so than those who purchased defective homes, are suffering the consequences of the light touch self-regulation adopted by successive Governments in the past. The present Government has regulated financial institutions, food production, nursing homes, crèches and even septic tanks. It is surprising to imagine construction might be the only major industry allowed to regulate itself.

We are calling on the Government to do the following:
1. Review the proposed system, not only with the industry stakeholders but also with representatives of consumer and other groups affected;
2. Defer implementation of the regulations until that review has taken place;
3. Revise the proposals to provide a system that will improve the quality of design and construction and protect the consumer.

Signed: Michael Collins, Peter Hanna, Arthur Hickey, Padraig Murray, Eoin O Cofaigh, Joan O’Connor, Sean O Laoire