One-off houses in the countryside could become unsaleable as a result of former minister for the environment Alan Kelly’s decision to exempt them from the need to be certified for compliance with statutory building regulations.
According to Carole Pollard, president of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, there may be implications further down the line as banks may not lend money to prospective purchasers of such homes because they have not been certified by a competent professional. In an interview with The Irish Times, Pollard said that the priority now must be to create well-designed urban environments rather than allow housing to be built "haphazardly all over the place . . . in the midst of green fields", far from cities or towns.
She also called on the new Government to "impose a ban on further out-of-town retail developments" that divert business away from town centres. In her view, towns were "quite capable" of accommodating new Lidl or Aldi outlets in core areas. Pollard stressed the need for all local authorities to employ architects, saying there is "a connection between dying towns and the absence of an architectural vision for their renewal". At present, only a third of local authorities have architects.
Those who do have seen the benefits, and she cited Clonakilty, Waterford and Westport – each of which has an architect playing a key role – as prime examples of what can be achieved, especially in creating or reimagining public space.
She also called on the Government to cut the Byzantine red tape that ensnares procurement of publicly-funded projects and for competition to be opened up to young architects, instead of excluding them on the basis of “ageist” rules.
To avoid the “sameness” of architecture produced by long-established firms, Pollard would like to see bright young architects coming home from abroad being given a chance to show what they can do. Otherwise, “their ideas will die”.
Extra points should be awarded to locally-based architects who wouldn’t have to travel far to supervise the construction of new buildings, and there needs to be more open architectural competitions to “encourage talent, innovation and creativity”.