by Mark Stephens
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.