RIAI Submission Strengthening the Building Control System
Published: Thursday, May 24, 2012
The RIAI has made a Submission to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government under the Public Consultation Process, entitled 'Strengthening the Building Control System'. Please see below the Executive Summary.
The full RIAI Submission can be down-loaded from the following link: Strengthening the Building Control System.
1. The RIAI welcomes the initiative taken by the Minister and his Department in the first serious move to strengthen the building control system in 20 years, and fully supports the introduction of mandatory certification at design and completion stages by registered professionals, and at completion stage by registered building contractors. However, the proposed system is, in the present form, unworkable; and will confuse and blur responsibilities.
2. Although the Minister has referred to “certification by builders” in answers to Parliamentary Questions, the absence of builders’ certification in the Draft Regulations has further strengthened the perception, hopefully mistaken, that the intent of the Draft Regulations is to fix one individual professional with the entire responsibility for building standards, thus relieving other design professionals, builders, sub-contractors, specialists and suppliers of their responsibilities under the Building Control Act.
3. The absence of the Code of Practice at this stage of public consultation makes definitive comment almost impossible, as there is no information available on defined standards of inspection, commissioning or testing.
4. Although it is recognized that primary legislation would be required, along with intensive work with insurers and other stakeholders, urgent consideration should be given to the introduction – in conjunction with the Regulations – of mandatory Latent Defects Insurance for all buildings. The RIAI considers that, unless there is a robust system offering redress to victims of failures of Building Regulations, there will be no public ‘buy-in’ to the system, and that there will be less public vigilance to ensure that past failures and scandals are not repeated.
5. Registration of contractors and sub-contractors was proposed in the 1998 Strategic Review of the Construction Industry. A voluntary system of registration (as the DECLG proposes) may have a degree of merit but will not bring about the necessary improvement in standards.
6. The present proposals are uninsurable under Professional Indemnity Insurance. The two underwriters, who together provide Professional Indemnity Insurance for 83% of RIAI registered practices have confirmed that such cover will not be available for the system proposed in the Draft Regulations. The RIAI believes the Professional Indemnity Insurance problem could be resolved by consultation, and by development of appropriate wordings in the Regulations, without which the key objective of having inspection and certification oversight by defined professionals will not be achieved and there will be no redress for consumers.
7. The commitment to e-Government should be strengthened by requiring in the Regulations the use of an online system (such as bReg) for issue of notices and other documents to and from Building Control Authorities. This will enable and facilitate Local Authorities to provide a more effective service in this area by offering a repository for information on the technical information, specification and testing requirements on which the design is based, and on actual construction to meet the requirements of the Regulations. It will also help towards local authority inspections targeted through online risk analysis.
8. More effective deployment of local authority building control resources can be achieved through measures such as regionalization to ensure a defined level of oversight and audit. Informed and risk analysis based local authority inspections must be an integral part of the system, must be done on a defined basis, and must be recorded as a matter of public information.
9. Certification should be required by all the parties to the project at the design and construction stages to ensure a clear chain of responsibility and an audit trail. This must be supported by a defined minimum of inspections to be carried out for different building types. These tests and inspections should form the basis of the terms of reference for builders, sub-contractors, engineers and local authority Building Control Inspectors.
10. Architects have no difficulty in certifying/signing off on their work but such certification must be reliant on responsible certification and testing by others. The involvement of architects in the design and construction phases is of critical importance in preventing or minimizing problems.
The Appendix can also be downloaded: