Longboat Quay and building regulations

 

A chara, – Your editorial “Light-touch regulation leaves owners with the bills” (October 5th) prompted me to review the purchase documents for my Longboat Quay apartment. At least nine parties were involved in building and certifying the development.

Gendsong Ltd (in receivership) and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (a State agency) were joint developers. There were two professional architects.

Two engineering companies and a fire consultant were responsible for, among other things, the structural elements, mechanical ventilation, fire alarm, smoke alarm, fire detection system, fire stopping and fire barriers that are now deemed to be unsafe.

One company had the good fortune to be selected for the redesign of the new fire alarm system installed in February 2015 that we are assured is now compliant.

In 2011 Dublin Fire Brigade assured owners that fire security at Longboat Quay was in order, in response to a concern raised about the fire-alarm system. Had we been warned that this was not the case, the nightmare situation in which we now find ourselves might not have escalated.

In the meantime, the builder is back in business up the road.

In January 2015, apartment owners were asked to pay 21 per cent of the fire-alarm upgrade costs (amounting to over €137,000).

Now we are being asked to raise millions more in order to stay in our homes. Among other failures, the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011, which is supposed to protect apartment owners from costs that are the responsibility of the developer or builder, clearly is not working.

Those responsible for this fiasco must be held accountable, and must make good on the undertakings they gave when we purchased our apartments.

Otherwise standards of proper governance, and the notion of natural justice for ordinary citizens going about their lives, are well and truly broken. – Is mise,

TERESA HACKETT,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – As one of those within the architectural profession who has been saying for the past three years that the present system of building regulation offers no real protection for homebuyers, your editorial is spot on. You write, “Light-touch regulation didn’t work in the banking sector and doesn’t work in the construction sector either.”

Priory Hall and Longboat Quay were built under an old system of building control regulations, which then minister for the environment Phil Hogan changed two years ago to an enhanced system of self-regulation. The changed system will not work either.

The system of regulation brought in by Mr Hogan is a disaster in waiting.

The present system still allows a professional employed by developers to sign-off on their own developments. It also forces a certifier, usually an architect, to take responsibility for the builder!

Who, with the tiniest knowledge of human nature, could imagine that a system which lets a builder pass all responsibility on to someone else will somehow result in better building?

No wonder the builders support Mr Hogan’s changed system!

Under the present system, homeowners will still get shoddy houses and flats.

And all they get is Mr Hogan’s “immediate access of information to lead them towards a solution”. This is a joke. We need better buildings, not more paper.

You refer to latent defects insurance and in truth this, too, is needed. But latent defects insurance – of which the Department of the Environment has washed its hands – hasn’t happened for the past three years. It won’t happen, because until the insurers see a properly functioning building control system, they will stay away.

This country needs dependable, regular, competent, independent inspection of building designs and building sites. This inspection can be by the local authority or by professionals answering to them, and can be done at zero cost to the public purse.

As you say, the present situation is appalling and must be brought to an end, quickly. This can be done. Independent inspection of construction is no mystery. It can be seen all across the developed world. Northern Ireland has had it for years.

The present Irish system of self-certification is unique. The sooner Mr Hogan’s self-certification system is scrapped and a proper system of independent inspection is brought in, the sooner there will be hope for future homebuyers.

Until this is done, there will be more Longboat Quays well into the future and more demands on the unfortunate taxpayer. – Yours, etc,

EOIN Ó COFAIGH,

Dublin 2.