Under the new Building Control Amendment Regulations 2013, which were published earlier this month, only chartered engineers will be able to fulfill the role of assigned certifier, as set out in the associated Code of Practice. This is a significant departure for engineers and is supported by Engineers Ireland’s promotion of the chartered engineer title, C.Eng., as the ‘gold standard’ of excellence for the profession. When it became apparent that the Minister of the Environment, Phil Hogan, was going to initiate a change to the Building Regulations, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DoECLG) invited the various institutions to make a submission on the merit of changes to the Regulations and issues that should be addressed in the changes. In the period leading up to the submission deadline, Engineers Ireland invited two DoECLG officials to a briefing session in Clyde Road, at which Engineers Ireland made it clear that it was supportive of the initiative to change the Regulations – particularly as it understood that it would promote the role of chartered engineers in the process. After the Department had assessed the various submissions made to it, Engineers Ireland, the Association of Consulting Engineers of Ireland, the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), the Master Builders Association and the City and County Managers Association were invited to a meeting with officials from the DoECLG and John O’Connor of the Housing Agency to navigate a way forward for the revision of the Building Regulations. [login type="readmore"] INDUSTRY REPRESENTATIVES Each of the industry players was afforded three representatives on the working group and Engineers Ireland was represented by Orla Lonergan (Structures & Construction Division), John Bailey (Structures & Construction Division) and myself, Cormac Bradley (Civil Division). An early decision of the working group was that an associated Code of Practice to operate in tandem with the new Regulations would be a necessary requirement. In that regard, a smaller working group consisting of a solitary representative from each of the institutions was formed under the chairmanship of John O’Connor. The author was Engineers Ireland’s representative on the smaller working group. It was made very clear that Environment Minister Phil Hogan was anxious to get the revised Regulations published as a matter of some importance. But at the early meetings of the larger working group, the sentiment was very much in favour of conducting a proper review of the Regulations and drafting an appropriate Code of Practice, rather than working to a specific deadline. Department officials reciprocated by indicating that Minister Hogan would be prepared to postpone the deadline of the working group, provided there was evidence of a substantial volume of work being undertaken to show that progress was significant and that an end date was in sight. The working groups thus embarked on a schedule of meetings, with a late-September deadline for making the final submission to Minister Hogan. AMBITIONS The ambitions for the new Regulations and associated Code of Practice were that they should be robust, promote transparency, promote responsibility and encourage a mutually supportive working environment on the project. It was agreed that online registration and online access to documentation would be a requirement of the new system. There was also much discussion on the insurance implications of the new regime, both in terms of professional indemnity and also insurance of the building. The drafting of the new Regulations was a Department function, but the people responsible for this aspect of the exercise were guided by the discussions and sentiments of the main working group. However, the drafting of the associated Code of Practice was the responsibility of the working group led by John O’Connor of the Housing Agency. It was agreed that the Code of Practice should: be written in plain English; have the status of a guidance document that could be read and used by all the parties to the contract (in the context of this article, a contract is deemed to be a building contract); be read (and worked) in tandem with the revised Building Regulations; and set out the requirements and obligations of the different parties to the contract. A 23-page Code of Practice was produced and is set out in chapter format, as detailed below:
- Roles & Duties
- Lodgement of Plans
- Commencement Stage
- Construction Stage Inspection – by Certifiers
- Completion Stage
- Archiving of Records
- Professional ethics
There is also a four-page appendix containing a list of requirements under Building Regulations, as well as pro-forma certificates (five pages). The ambitions of the new Regulations and the associated Code of Practice are encapsulated in Clause 1.3 of the Introduction:
"Clause 1.3 Regulatory Design Principles
The overall objective of the revised building control system is to achieve better building construction. The aim is to ensure that all involved in the construction process and the regulatory system work effectively to achieve this. A set of design principles has been used in developing the system of building control and in particular this code."
IMPLICATIONS FOR ENGINEERS In addition to the ambitions of the new documentation, there is a very specific implication for engineers and especially chartered engineers. It is stated: “Designers, builders and certifiers should exercise reasonable skill, care and diligence in the exercise of their duties. They and persons assigned by them should be competent for the work they undertake.” The building owner “is ultimately responsible for ensuring that buildings and building works are carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Building Regulations. In relation to the design and construction of buildings, the Building owner should ensure that they appoint competent designers, builders and an assigned certifier”. The assigned certifier is the person assigned by the building owner as is required under the Building Control Regulations. They undertake to inspect and certify the building works on completion. The following individuals (along with described architects and building surveyors) can sign as the assigned certifier, provided they are competent in relation to the particular works involved: chartered engineers under Section 7 of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland (Charter Amendment) Act 1969. Thus, the role of the assigned certifier may only be occupied by chartered engineers with the appropriate competencies relative to the works being undertaken. Ancillary certifiers who may be appointed by the owner, the owner’s design team or the builder do not need to be chartered engineers, but should exercise reasonable skill, care and diligence in the exercise of their duties. Designers should design their respective elements of work in accordance with the applicable requirements, provide the design certifier with the necessary plans, specifications and documentation and arrange to provide sufficient information to the assigned certifier to enable them to fulfill their role. They should also carry out work inspections pertinent to their elements of the design and notify the assigned certifier of their proposed inspection regime for inclusion in the overall inspection plan. Each of the roles of described in the new documentation requires a written undertaking to be signed by the individual taking on the role and this documentation is included in the completed project documentation. CONCLUSION The new Building Regulations and associated Code of Practice set out to amend the manner in which building projects are carried out and, in particular, to promote a more significant element of responsibility and transparency by the individuals involved in the project. In the current climate of limited resources, it is a lofty ambition and thus relies on an element of self-regulation promoted by all the parties to the contract. The online registration and access to documentation and the insurance implications of the new Regulations will require further attention and, in the latter case, some models have been discussed by the working group. The CIF is already well on the way to implementing a voluntary register of contractors who are deemed to be competent to take on building works, so that there is industry commitment to the new regime. Cormac Bradley is the chair of Engineers Ireland's Civil Division and a member of Council, having been elected to the latter body in 2011. He was one of three Engineers Ireland delegates to the industry-wide Working Group on the new Building Regulations and the sole Engineers Ireland delegate to the working group on the associated Code of Practice. The ratio of 3:1 delegates to each working group applied to each of the institutions who were invited by the DoECLG to form the consultation group on the new Regulations, the others being ACEI, RIAI, SCSI and CIF. In addition to the aforementioned organisations, the CCMA, the Housing Agency and officials of the DoECLG were also represented. Outside of Engineers Ireland, Bradley is a construction manager with the RPS Group where he has specialised in landfill development and remediation and other construction and contract administration roles. He is a chartered engineer with both Engineers Ireland and the Institution of Civil Engineers in London.