Opinion: New building regulations will add costs but also peace of mind
These regulations are a quality assurance system to ensure the consumer gets what they pay for and that the properties are safe and compliant with the regulations
On Saturday next, March 1st, new Building Control Regulations will come into force that will significantly increase the levels of accountability on professionals signing off new buildings.
The key point under the new system is the mandatory requirement for certification of buildings by “assigned certifiers”. Up to now, the industry operated a system of “self-certification” which largely pertained to conveyancing and generally confirmed that there was “substantial compliance” with the building regulations as opposed to ensuring that all building standards were fully met.
The assigned certifier, who will be a chartered building surveyor, architect or engineer, initially develops a plan incorporating an inspection notification framework for the project outlining inspections, co-ordinating inputs from other professionals and ensuring that inspections and tests are carried out.
At the completion of the building project a Certificate of Compliance on Completion must be submitted to the local authority. Any changes to the initial design that have occurred must also be submitted with drawings, specifications and particulars that are relevant.
This certificate is signed by the builder and assigned certifier and confirms the inspection regime was completed and that the building is in compliance. It is not until this certificate is validated by the local authority and placed on the register that the building can be opened, used or occupied.
The new system will give a clear and auditable trail of responsibility for buildings. The downside of this is that if anyone purchases a defective property under this new system they will most likely have to take the costly route through the courts to get redress in order to have their complaint dealt with. A latent defects scheme would avoid the consumer incurring such costs.
Latent defects insurance provides a single point through which to recover the costs of repairing, replacing and or strengthening the premises following discovery of an inherent defect. The consumer could have a complaint dealt with in an efficient and inexpensive manner without incurring excessive costs. This is something that should be given serious consideration to by Government.
The new building regulations regime will have both a direct and indirect cost on the construction of new homes. The direct cost of constructing a new home will increase as a result of the new regulations in terms of materials and inspections by the assigned certifier, which will be ultimately borne by the consumer.
Essentially, these regulations are a quality assurance system to ensure the consumer gets what they pay for and that the properties are safe and compliant with the regulations. While that may cost more in the short term, the longer term benefits are clear.
There is also a potential conflict of interest in the new regime in that the assigned certifier can be an employee of the developer as long as he or she is one of the three applicable professionals previously mentioned.
This is something to be avoided as there is no real independent oversight in such cases and this contravenes the purpose of the assigned certifier whose role is to ensure the building standards are fully met. In my opinion, a prudent purchaser should investigate who the assigned certifier is to avoid this situation occurring.
A key issue in ensuring that the standards are complied with in the interests of the public will be the adequate resourcing of local authorities to carry out inspections and administration. Traditionally, the building control system suffered resource issues and struggled to achieve 15 per cent rates of inspection.
The allocation of local authority resources for higher targeted inspection levels needs to be given serious consideration to ensure compliance and it will be incumbent on the Government to ensure an appropriate review of operations occurs in this respect.
Currently, there is a voluntary registration scheme for builders set up by the Construction Industry Federation. The requirements to become “registered” appear to be stringent and will provide some comfort to the consumer. It is hoped that this scheme will be put on a statutory footing, which would further ensure a higher standard of construction.
The potential downside of this is that only a “registered builder” will be able to sign off the certificate of compliance. This will most definitely make it difficult for people undertaking self-builds to get compliance on their properties.
One final point would be that these regulations may not be the finished article and may need to evolve and adapt in the future to better serve the public. It is important the building industry and the Government overlords continue to work together to ensure safe and well-built homes are being provided for future generations.
Kevin Hollingsworth is chairman of the building surveying professional group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie