New Regulations will Prevent Disastrous Building Failures in Future – Minister Hogan

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, T.D., today (April 4, 2013) announced strict new measures for the control of building projects.
The Building Control Amendment Regulations 2013 set out to prevent the future reoccurrence of poorly constructed dwellings, pyrite damage and structures breaching fire regulations left as a legacy of a poorly regulated housing boom.

“This is all about restoring consumer confidence in construction as an industry,” said the Minister today. “The new Building Control Regulations are a major step forward and will for the first time give home-owners clarity, traceability and accountability at all stages of the building process. They will provide consumers with the protection they need and deserve.”
Assigned Certifiers, who can be registered architects, engineers or building surveyors, will inspect building works at key stages during construction.  The Assigned Certifier and the builders will both certify that a finished building complies with the requirements of the building regulations.

“This new continuum of design, inspection and construction by registered professionals and competent builders will guarantee that Irish consumers are delivered the high quality homes and buildings that they expect and deserve,” the Minister said.
In summary, the new Building Control Amendment Regulations require:
Submission of compliance drawings and documentation to local building control authorities; Setting out and executing an inspection plan by the Assigned Certifier; Signing of mandatory certificates of compliance by the designer prior to construction and by the Assigned Certifier and the Builder when a building is complete.

“The mandatory certificates will be clear, unambiguous statements on statutory forms stating that each of the key parties to a project certifies that the works comply with the building regulations and that they accept legal responsibility for their work,” stated the Minister, adding that this new statutory certification is a key consumer protection measure, and an important element in the pursuit of an improved culture of building control.
Compliance will be improved in future by the two main factors:
1. If anyone signs a statutory certificate for a building which subsequently proves to be non-compliant, they can be held legally liable for the consequences; and
2. Greater onus is now placed on professionals to provide consumers with a more comprehensive service and failure to do so incurs the risk of being censured, suspended or ultimately removed from their professional body.

The Assigned Certifier will be contracted by the owner/developer. While this is likely to add to the overall cost of building projects, the consumer will ultimately benefit, as at every stage of the project, they in effect will have a rolling set of guarantees from those who can be held responsible for any issues that might arise.
Each local authority, when it receives the final certificate of compliance, will retain all drawings and particulars relevant to buildings/works and include the final Certificate of Completion on its statutory register. The documentation will be accessible to anyone who subsequently acquires an interest in the building concerned.
“The new approach establishes a clear chain of responsibility for building works prior to commencement through to completion, in a system where lack of such a chain led to disastrous failures with  dire consequences for the lives of homeowners and families,” Minister Hogan said today. “As soon as these regulations become operational, homeowners who encounter a problem with a building will be in a radically better place. They will be able to immediately access information which can lead them towards a solution to the problem.   Consumer protection is all about maintaining and controlling information, this is the first time we’ve had such protection in this area.”

“I am also keen that the issue of insurance for construction projects is addressed before the new regulations come into effect next year,” said Minister Hogan. “I am therefore undertaking a review of construction project related insurance in conjunction with Minister Bruton before the new regulations commence.”
In response to concerns about the registration of Architects, in particular the limited number of applications to date from practically-trained architects, the Minister has also asked Mr Garret Fennell, Solicitor, who is currently serving as Chair of the Admissions Board relevant to the register of Architects, to carry out an independent review of the experience to date in relation to the operation of the register with a view to identifying any further improvements that can be made at this point.  The Minister has particularly asked for the report to give recommendations or views on how the registration of practically trained architects can be further encouraged.  Further information from: Architecture and Building Standards section, Department of Environment.

Inspection and Oversight of Building Activity:
The new regulations will also facilitate and support local Building Control Authorities in enhancing their capacity to provide real and meaningful oversight of building activity as follows:
• Design and Inspection by registered professionals and construction by competent persons, operating to clearly defined roles and  responsibilities  as outlined in the Code of Practice for Persons Inspecting and Certifying Building Works, will foster a culture of compliance in the sector.
• Building Control Authorities will concentrate on applying a risk-based approach to inspection and compliance checking, having regard to comprehensive and high quality information that must now be lodged prior to commencement of building works, along with their evolving experience of industry activity within their functional area.
• Local Authorities are now working towards a unified system of building control administration that, notwithstanding constraints on resources, will serve to enhance their capacity to monitor building activity. This will include: electronic administration of building control documentation (including the submission of regulatory notices and drawings and technical documentation in electronic format); greater reliance on regional and shared service models of service delivery as envisaged under the wider Local Government reform programme under which building control is regarded as a priority; adoption of common protocols and templates for the administration of building control activities; and judicious investment in practical technology to support building control activity.   This will result in greater consistency in the interpretation and application of building control across local authorities and will act as an essential driver of a nationwide culture of compliance.
• Building Control administration will be streamlined through the introduction of the Assigned Certifier on every site who will
o  become a single point of contact to coordinate the compliance documentation submitted,
o  provide a professional response to local authority information requests, and
o Inspect during construction for compliance with building regulations.

Future Focus:
In addition to the above reforms the Minister also announced the following measures which are currently being progressed with a view to further strengthening of consumer protection and the Building Control System:

• The Construction Industry Federation, in response to an earlier invitation from the Minister, is devising proposals in collaboration with the Department on a voluntary scheme of registration for builders and contractors with the intention of transitioning this to a statutory scheme over time when it is proven to be a quality registration scheme and operating effectively in practice
• The Minister, in line with recent recommendations of the Report of the independent Pyrite Panel, has also written to his colleague Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation,  and to relevant public bodies, seeking participation at an early date in a review by his Department of the scope for project based insurance cover for buildings during and after construction, as a means of securing effective remedy for consumers if and when building failures occur
• In response to concerns about the registration of Architects, in particular the limited number of applications to date from practically-trained architects, the Minister has asked Mr Garret Fennell, Solicitor, who is currently serving as the Chairperson of the Admissions Board relevant to the register of Architects, to carry out an independent review of the experience to date in relation to the operation of the register with a view to identifying any further improvements that can be made at this point.  The Minister has particularly asked for the report to give recommendations or views on how the registration of practically trained architects can be further encouraged.