RIAI Urges Government to Ensure That All New Buildings Have 'ZERO-ENERGY' Rating By 2020
Published: Thursday, June 28, 2007
Architects recommend Minister Gormley acts urgently to tackle planning invalidations by local authorities
The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) is urging the Government to ensure that all new Irish buildings have ‘zero-energy’ rating by 2020. The issue was raised in a briefing document – An Agenda for Quality Change in our Built Environment – circulated to all TDs recently. In the same document, the RIAI is asking the new Minister for the Environment, John Gormley TD, to urgently tackle the problem of the large number of planning invalidations being made by local authorities – around 40% in many cases.
John Graby, RIAI Director, explained that the RIAI welcomed the commitment in the Programme for Government to increase insulation standards in the Building Regulations by 40%.
“However, tackling energy efficiency requires a much wider context and sustained Government action, rather than piecemeal and un-coordinated changes proposed by some local authorities at present. In this context, we are calling on Minister Gormley to ensure the immediate publication and consistent implementation of the Urban Design Guidelines being prepared by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government”.
John Graby said that in the debate on sustainability, undue emphasis has attached to the electricity sector (which meets 17% of final energy demands) and to alternative fuels and energy sources, even though 50% of energy is used in construction and buildings.
“Immediate and cost-effective opportunities abound to transform the efficiency with which energy is used in the Irish economy. Much useful work is underway – led by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and Sustainable Energy Ireland – but a radical step-change is required if these opportunities are to be captured.
“There is growing experience of near-zero energy buildings in countries such as Germany and Austria, and the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has committed to all new housing meeting such standards from 2016. The RIAI is calling for a political commitment to require that all new Irish buildings meet zero-energy performance standards from 2020, with a phased move to low-energy, ‘near-zero’ in preparation for ‘zero-energy’ buildings. In this context, the Government, in partnership with building designers and the construction industry, should draft a schedule of energy performance standards designed to achieve this result,” John Graby, RIAI Director said.
Turning to the issue of planning, Mr Graby explained that after the passage of the 2001 Planning Act, a system of checking planning applications for compliance with submission requirements – to ensure better quality applications – was introduced and this is referred to as validation.
“However, in reality, the validation process has proven to be more time consuming and expensive for many applicants and the local authorities than the actual planning permission process itself. Some local authorities, such as Limerick City, Dublin City, Waterford and Galway Cities routinely invalidate 40% of all applications.”
John Graby set out some of the ‘bizarre’ planning invalidations that have been brought to the attention of the RIAI by their members.
- An amended and re-lodged application was invalidated by a city council because the site notice was the wrong colour – they were told it should have been yellow. A yellow notice was then erected and the application was re-lodged and again it was rejected because the site notice was the wrong colour even though it was the colour requested – the council had changed its mind on the colour issue. After another notice was erected the application was validated.
- A planning application invalidated by the same council because the word ‘dimension’ was not written after each dimension in the drawings submitted.
- A large city council invalidated an application for not showing internal room dimensions in an existing building for rooms which were not changed in any way.
- An application to a county council was invalidated because a fee was not submitted even though the fee had been paid electronically and the remittance advice was submitted to show this.
“While the majority of councils are invalidating large proportions of planning applications, some councils, notably counties Galway, Sligo, Wexford and Louth, only invalidate between 0% and 8% of applications.
“The reason for such an extraordinary variance, is that those authorities with low numbers of invalidations validate applications on the spot – namely at the counter in the planning department. This ‘at the counter’ validation process allows the applicant to deal with any problems arising in their application immediately and to resubmit within a day or so. As the statistics show, such a simple process ends the problem of large-scale invalidation and ends the massive waste of scarce resources involved in applicants having to re-apply and local authorities having to re-consider applications”.
John Graby said that the RIAI is asking the new Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley TD, to ensure that this simple administrative procedure of ‘at the counter’ validation be introduced immediately into all of the country’s local authorities.
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