Author: Eoin O Cofaigh FRIAI, former president, Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, (1998-1999)
I refer to the article by Cormac Bradley FIEI that was published on 15 September. Starting his article, Mr Bradley writes: “No précis on the consultation process would be accurate if it did not record the fact that the new regime of building control has not been greeted with universal accord. Some professionals have concerns about the new regime and the liability issues that they perceive arise from the new responsibilities that emanate from the Regulations.”
I am one of those who have been highlighting such concerns for some time. But Mr Bradley is silent on the real problem. The real problem is that the self-certification system these regulations set up does not properly protect the consumer – the house-buyer and especially the first-time house-buyer. For all their intentions, the regulations will not prevent a repeat of the residential building disasters we have all seen and paid for in recent years.
BC(A)R 2014 affects every significant building and fit-out project, not just the speculative residential sector where all the problems started. The regulations allow the building owner appoint only chartered engineers, and registered architects and surveyors, as design certifier or as assigned certifier. They thus confer de facto control over the majority of building design in Ireland on these groups. Furthermore, by requiring a competent building company to be appointed, the regulations stop the centuries old tradition of ‘self-build’ in rural areas, a tradition still flourishing elsewhere, including the UK.
In return for handing control of the process to these groups, the regulations require those professionals to sign certificates that everything designed and built complies in every detail with the building regulations. This will indeed increase the number of inspections on those few construction sites where there were few or none hitherto.
However, by placing the certifier between the house buyer and the builder by means of these Certificates, the principal thing the regulations actually do for the house buyer is set up a paper trail for them to follow in the event of building failure. They distance the local authority from the entire process. They expose FDI intellectual property to internet theft. Furthermore, they introduce two key gateways to every project: a Commencement Certificate and a Completion Certificate, which the local authority can reject as invalid, putting the opening of new projects at risk. No wonder the number of valid residential Commencement Notices has tumbled in 2014 compared with this time last year.