Councils must ‘police’ new building regulations

Building standards to end self-certification by March 1st

 The regulations will end the system of self-certification, which resulted in schemes such as Priory Hall being certified as safe. Photograph: Alan Betson

The regulations will end the system of self-certification, which resulted in schemes such as Priory Hall being certified as safe. Photograph: Alan Betson

Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 00:00

Local authorities need to take greater responsibility for ensuring new homes have been properly built, property industry bodies have said in advance of the introduction of regulations.

The new building regulations, which come into force on March 1st, were “hugely positive”, the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) said, but had fallen down in ensuring oversight by statutory authorities.

The regulations will end the system of self-certification, which resulted in schemes such as Priory Hall being certified as safe. The north Dublin apartment complex, built during the boom, was evacuated by order of the High Court after it was found to be a fire trap.

Under the new regulations, 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 certify that a finished building complies with the requirements of the building regulations. Compliance documentation must be submitted to local authorities and inspection plans must be set out and executed by the certifier.

In addition, mandatory certificates of compliance must be signed off by the designer prior to construction, and by the assigned certifier and the builder when a building is complete.


Certificates of compliance
Chairman of the SCSI building surveying division, Kevin Hollingsworth, said the regulations would provide much better protection for buyers, but “weaknesses” remained in terms of oversight from council building inspectors.

“Local authorities requirement to undertake building inspections remains at 15 per cent, the same rate as during the boom, that is very low by international standards,” he said.

Engineers Ireland said the Government needed to properly fund local authorities to “police” the new regulations. “We would suggest the Department of the Environment itself has be to an essential driver to ensure the necessary resources are provided to overstretched local authorities,” said director general, John Power.

In recent months, members of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI) have raised concerns about the feasibility of the new Building Regulations. A revision process led to amended regulations, but the new RIAI president Robin Mandal said the new rulings will leave consumers vulnerable if they find they have a faulty building. It is calling for a mandatory system of insurance for latent defects.

The SCSI also expressed concerns that the “financial link” between developers and the certifiers had not been fully severed. “There is still the danger that commercial pressure can be applied by the developer on the assigned certifier,” it said.