Clarification of new Building Regulations

These are:
–    the factual position in relation to self-build scenarios
–    an update on the Fennell Report and recommendations on registration of architects
–    the factual position in relation to the Construction Industry Register
–    the issue of additional costs associated with the new building control regime.

Self-Build Scenarios

On 26 February 2014 Dept Environment issued an Information Note on the Implications of SI No. 9 of 2014 for Self-Builders to local authorities and industry stakeholders, including the Irish Association of Self-Builders.

The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 place no restrictions on self-build. There is no difficulty with a self-builder signing the statutory form of undertaking by the builder at commencement stage or the statutory certificate of compliance on completion.

The twin aims of the new regulations are to:

o    ensure that buildings are designed and constructed in accordance with the requirements of the Building Regulations, and
o    strengthen competence and professionalism on site.
From a self-build perspective, the new regime will work as follows:
o    The owner will, as before, assume responsibility as the builder for ensuring that the building works will comply with the building regulations.  They must also satisfy themselves that any one they employ to undertake part of the works is competent to do those works.
o    At commencement, they will notify the local authority that they themselves are the builder and sign the builder’s undertaking required for building control purposes.
o    At commencement a Self-Builder must also assign a competent, registered construction professional (i.e. architect, building surveyor or chartered engineer) to:
•    certify the design, and
•    inspect the works and certify the completed dwelling (the assigned certifier).
o    The Assigned Certifier will be the point of contact with the building control authority for lodgement of compliance documentation and certificates, etc.
o    At completion the Self-Builder and the Assigned Certifier will both certify the building.
Work involving repair, renewal and renovation work or extensions less than 40 square metres to existing dwellings do not come within the scope of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations.

Fennell Report and Recommendations

The Minister has confirmed that he will implement the recommendations of the Fennell Report of the review of the registration process for architects in full. An implementation plan has been drawn up by the Dept for the 20 or so recommendations.
A number of the recommendations have already been implemented. In particular steps have been taken to facilitate:
–    Applications for Technical Assessment to be run on a cyclical basis where briefing, so that guidance and support can be given to applicants in a structured manner

–    Mentoring to be offered to applicants for Technical Assessment from architects who have succeeded in this route to registration

–    Recent projects (and not just those undertaken pre 2008) can now be used for the purposes of Technical Assessment

–    Applicants eligible for Technical Assessment can undergo reassessment/reapply (i.e. it is no longer a one chance only route to registration)

Other important measures taken on foot of the Fennell Report include:

–    “Quality Qualifications Ireland” role in prescription of courses/qualifications has been reaffirmed

–    Professional Indemnity Insurance for all registered Architects will be subject to oversight by the registration body from 2015

–    Guidance materials are being reviewed and simplified and practically trained architects will be given a direct role in this process

–    Pre-application screening of Technical Assessment candidates is being explored

–    ARAE Ltd. has confirmed that a reduction in the cost of the prescribed register admissions exam route to registration will be possible, commensurate with the level of take-up by candidates.  They have also confirmed they will explore the capacity for online administration of modules and exams.

Some of the recommendations will require legislative change, and the Minister has confirmed he will bring forward legislative proposals at the earliest opportunity. These include:
–    Nominating an independent construction professional to chair the advisory panel of architects who advise the Technical Assessment Board
–    the age limit of 35 years on registration under the prescribed register admissions exam administered by ARAE Ltd to be removed

–    The Admissions board to be given a role in confirming the continued competence of persons restored to register.

Further legislative reform, including alternative routes to registration (i.e. in addition to the Technical Assessment approach), are possible within the spirit of the Building Control Act 2007, and the Dept in conjunction with the RIAI have begun discussions with the relevant stakeholders to explore the potential for same.
Construction Industry Register

The Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI) has been established by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) as a register of builders and contractors.  Registration of contractors is not a mandatory requirement in Ireland at present.

Participation in the CIRI register is currently voluntary.  The CIRI register provides owners (with no background in construction) with a means to source competent builders.  For this reason CIRI registration numbers can be quoted on the statutory building control forms but it is not necessary or mandatory to do so.

It is understood that there is a registration fee of €600 to be placed on the CIRI. The administration of the register is a matter for CIRI. However, Govt has signalled its commitment to placing the register on a statutory footing in 2015. In this regard, legislative proposals will be brought forward by the end of this year, and it is likely that the amount of any fees involved (when the register is put on a statutory footing), will be subject to the consent of the Minister.

Potential additional costs involved
The new arrangements being put in place for the control of building activity may result in additional design, inspection, certification and, possibly, insurance costs. These additional costs are deemed justified given the enhanced quality and standard of design and construction of building projects, especially in light of several notable instances of non-compliant buildings which failed to meet minimum building standards.
The new regime will reduce the incidences of defective works on site and the resultant associated costs of carrying out remedial works will reduce accordingly.
Owners/developers will now be required to assign a competent person as an Assigned Certifier to inspect and certify building works where previously they may have opted not to appoint such a person. It is estimated that this requirement could add between €1,000 to €3,000 per housing unit to the overall building costs. In practice, the costs of construction activity and related professional services are determined by market forces.

The Assigned Certifier role can be fulfilled by Architects, Building Surveyors or Chartered Engineers and owners are advised to seek quotes from a variety of sources to obtain the best value for money.

For domestic projects, an all-in service (planning, design and inspection) is likely to yield the most competitive price.