Construction Industry Council Letter to the Department of Environment, Community and Local Govt

Construction Industry Council Letter to the Department of Environment, Community and Local Govt

01 September 2015 at 15:35

Letter regarding the Decision to Amend S.I. No. 9 2014 - Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 

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Date: 24th August 2015

Re: Decision to Amend S.I. No. 9 2014 - Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014

Dear Minister,

I write on behalf of the Construction Industry Council (CIC), which represents Engineers Ireland, ACEI, RIAI, SCSI, CIF and the BMF, in regards to your recent decision to amend the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No. 9 of 2014) and the provision to allow building owners to “opt out” of statutory certification in respect of new dwellings on a single unit development or a domestic extension.

The members of the CIC have been and remain strongly supportive and committed to the Departments goals of protecting consumers through the raising of standards, competence and professionalism in the construction sector through S.I. No. 9 of 2014. Over that last 3 years, the industry has invested a huge amount of resources, expertise, training and promotion of the new regulations to support the implementation of the Departments’ aims.

While the process was complex and difficult, it led to a strong understanding of the needs of all stakeholders involved and ultimately a successful outcome. This is clearly evident from reports from your own Departments, BCMS and the clear cultural shift within the construction sector to one of professionalism and compliance.  

It was therefore with extreme regret that we learned of your decision to amend S.I. No. 9 of 2014, despite advice from industry experts. The use of inflammatory language such as; consumers “…will no longer be held to ransom by excessive quotes for design and completion certificates…” is an affront to the industry, particularly after 3 years of active engagement by the sector on an issue driven by your Department.

There is simply no empirical data supporting the assertion that consumers are being quoted excessive fees and the evidence that is available from your own Department indicates that the fees are, in fact, in line with what the Department expected i.e. between €3k - €4k or circa. 1.75% of the average cost of a home. The overall fee associated with statutory certification should be looked at in the context of the overall life cycle costs of a building and not just the “one off” costs of construction.

The statutory inspection regime required by S.I. No. 9 ensured the competence of all personnel involved in design, inspection and construction of building work. This has been seriously compromised, which was a cornerstone of BC(A)R, SI No. 9 of 2014.

Your decision to provide the “opt out” option along with compromising the principle of “Competence” does not appear to align with the Department in its goal to protect the consumer. This action we believe will seriously undermine consumer protection, facilitate non - compliance, and reduce professionalism in an area with the most vulnerable end users.

It is the view of the CIC that the newly proposed regulations will lead to the creation of a two - tier housing market, which will not support consistent implementation of standards throughout the industry. Investment in design, inspection and certification leads to better quality, compliance with good building standards, such as the use of appropriate aggregate for use under concrete floors, energy consumption, radon regulations and the use of “fit for purpose” quality products.

How will building owners who choose to “opt out” have a guarantee of the quality and safety of their home? These homeowners will not be certain that their house is safe from fire or structural failure.

The proposed alternative method of demonstration of compliance is unclear. The current Local Authority inspection regime is by all accounts under resourced and we question whether it has the capacity to meet inspection rates of 12 - 15%. A two - tier system of regulation will also add unnecessary complexity for Local Authorities and it will again have a compounding impact on administration and resources.

Even if the inspection regime is achievable, if building owners “opt out” of statutory certification; then in excess of 85% of one off builds will not be inspected and therefore will have no guarantee of quality and compliance with the regulations. As stated above this figure is likely to rise as the resources and finance is not available in Local Authorities to meet the 12 - 15% target rate of inspection.

The members of the CIC are also concerned that in the absence of statutory certification, lending institutions and insurance companies may be unwilling to provide finance and insurance cover on these properties.

The building owners, who “opt out”, may struggle to sell their houses and see their homes devalued, as they cannot guarantee the quality and safety of their dwelling to a potential buyer. A competent buyer and their legal representatives will seek all relevant documentation demonstrating that the home they are buying is safe and that it provides a modern healthy environment to raise their family and keeps their heating, water and energy bills down.

In light of the above, and while we remain strongly opposed to this decision, we urgently request a meeting to discuss a Ministerial commitment to full review of this decision in September 2016 at the latest.

Yours sincerely,

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Caroline Spillane
Director General
Engineers Ireland
22 Clyde Road
Ballsbridge
Dublin 4

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