Hogan unveils new building regulations

Minister for the Environment says professionals can be held liable for poor standards

New statutory certificates signing off on building developments will ensure builders and other professionals can be held legally liable for poor-quality buildings, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said.

Mr Hogan has published the Building Control Amendment Regulations 2013, which he said set out to prevent the future recurrence of poorly constructed dwellings, pyrite damage and structures breaching fire regulations “left as a legacy of a poorly regulated housing boom”.

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 both certify that a finished building complies with the requirements of the building regulations.

Compliance drawings and documentation will be submitted to local building control authorities under the new arrangements.

An inspection plan will also be set out and executed by the assigned 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.

“The mandatory certificates will be clear, unambiguous statements on statutory forms stating that each of the key parties to a project certifies that the works comply with the building regulations and that they accept legal responsibility for their work,” Mr Hogan said.

He said if anyone signed a statutory certificate for a building which subsequently pfoved to be non-compliant, they could be held legally liable for the consequences.

Greater onus was also placed on professionals to provide consumers with a more comprehensive service, and failure to do so incurred the risk of being censured, suspended or ultimately removed from their professional body.

Each local authority will retain all drawings and particulars for the building works and will include the final certificate of completion on a statutory register.

Mr Hogan said those buying a house - one of the major lifetime investments - should be protected sufficiently, which they were not at present.

He cited Priory Hall in Dublin as the most “high-profile” development where quality control had gone “badly wrong” and where “a coach and four was driven through the Building Control Act”.

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) welcomed the publication of the new regulations and said they would help ensure the work of builders who maintained higher standards was recognised and rewarded.

Director general Tom Parlon said the federation was committed to maintaining and promoting high building standards for the entire industry.

“Irish builders had a reputation for excellence before certain developments tarnished the name of the entire industry. These regulations will help stamp out those projects that have blighted Irish construction, stopping any builders who try to cut corners,” he said.

Mr Parlon said there would be a cost involved for members as they engaged professionals to undertake specific inspection programmes.

The CIF would shortly be bring forward a range of training programmes for members so they were fully apprised of the new obligations.

The federation is currently working on proposals for a registration system for builders in conjunction with the Department of the Environment.

Separately, Mr Hogan said the 850 homes which had been clearly identified as having suffered so-called "pyritic-heave" - damage from pyrites - would be prioritised for repair work during the summer months. The Pyrite Resolution Board was working to resolve the issue with householders, he said.