Celtic Tiger building defects ‘widespread’, says housing expert

Many apartment residents ‘living with leaks, damp, structural and fire safety defects’

The Priory Hall apartment complex in Dublin, which Dublin City Council had to refurbish due to fire safety issues.  File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The Priory Hall apartment complex in Dublin, which Dublin City Council had to refurbish due to fire safety issues. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Construction defects in Celtic Tiger era housing “are widespread”, a housing expert has warned, as fresh details emerge of structural flaws at four apartment complexes built during the boom years.

Orla Hegarty, an assistant professor at the UCD school of architecture, said that in many cases residents are “living with leaks, damp, structural and fire safety defects without any means of remedying the problems”.

She called for the introduction of an equivalent body to the Road Safety Authority for the building sector.

Old building regulations, in place from 1991 until 2014, relied heavily on self-compliance by owners, designers and builders with limited independent oversight.

The new regulations require certification from the design process right through to completion stage, with certified inspection at key stages by registered architects, registered building surveyors and chartered engineers.

Homebond insurance policies provide cover for the repair of major structural defects within 10 years of construction, a timeframe which has expired for many of these apartment owners.

A spokesman for the Department of Housing said new legislation had been introduced in the form of building control regulations in 2014 which require greater accountability and stricter standards of certification.

Competence, good practice, compliance

The department is also working with the Local Government Management Agency to improve the effectiveness of the local authority building control system, and has progressed primary legislation to “promote a culture of competence, good practice and compliance”.

“However, in general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved: the homeowner, the builder, the developer and/or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme”. The department has no statutory role in, or budget for, resolving defects in private homes, he said.

The Government published a range of guidelines and recommendations for fire safety in apartment buildings in 2017, authored by a task force set up after the Grenfell tragedy in London.

The department said that primary responsibility for compliance of works rests with the owners, designers and builders of buildings. Once constructed and occupied, responsibility for safety generally passes to owners’ management companies in apartment blocks, the department said.