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Breaking News: RIAI Press Release on S.I. 365

Published: Wednesday, September 02, 2015

RIAI urges Minister to rethink removal of building inspection regime

Less oversight is major step back for consumer protection and public safety


Dublin, Wednesday, 2nd September 2015: Following review of a new Statutory Instrument (S.I. 365) published on 1st September by Minister for Environment and Local Government, Mr. Alan Kelly T.D., The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) is extremely concerned that the exemption of newly built one-off homes and house extensions from formal review and approval by assigned certifiers through relaxation of existing Building Control Regulations represents a major step back for consumer protection. The RIAI believes that removing almost one half of all new builds from a robust regulatory scheme is not in the interests of consumers or public safety.

The RIAI is urging the Minister to revisit this change and to carry out a full review of the operation of S.I.9 as was understood to be the intention.

Robin Mandal, President of RIAI said: “Our Building Regulations exist to control standards in construction and are essential in achieving safer, healthier and more sustainable buildings.   Almost half of Ireland’s newly built housing stock is one-off homes and removing up to 88% of these from a robust inspection process is not in the interests of consumers. Ireland is now developing a two tier system - where people who buy their homes are subject to one regime and those who build themselves to another.  Without appropriate inspection issues such as poor fire protection and incorrectly fitted radon barriers could have detrimental effects for those living in the houses, the cost of which will inevitably be borne by the taxpayer.”

Analysis from RIAI has shown that proper Building Regulations can have a real impact on saving lives and preventing serious injury.  Every year, 150 -200 people die of lung cancer related to radon gas and there were 37 fire fatalities in 2014, 26 of which were in houses. The only way of ensuring homes have adequate fire detection and barrier systems and a properly installed radon barrier to prevent accidents is through appropriate inspection and certification.

While the RIAI notes that it is the Minister’s plan to increase inspection obligations on Local Authorities, such a scheme is meaningless in the absence of significant funding increases to Local Authorities for specifically allocated and appropriately qualified professionals.

In May of this year the RIAI submitted a detailed proposal to the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government Review of S.I.9 on Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 as part of a consultation process.

During the Department’s consultation process deep concern was expressed by all professional organisations about the ability for a single design-and-build developer to effectively control the entire inspection and certification process, ignoring the lessons of the past.

The RIAI proposals focused primarily on the organisation’s overriding concerns around home buyer protection and better quality buildings for consumers. RIAI proposals which have not been addressed in S.I. 365 are:

  1. No relaxation or removal of Building Regulations Compliance for Single houses or Extensions (as addressed above)
     
  2. RIAI’s recommendation that it should be a legal requirement for Defects Insurance, known as LDI (Latent Defects Insurance), to be put in place by each Developer so that consumers are completely protected should a defect arise in the building they have purchased.

    Defects Insurance (LDI) allows the consumer to resort to an insurance policy that has been paid for by the Developer and is a form of redress available widely in developed countries.
     
  3. The situation remains that inspections and certification should be carried out by a competent, objective, professional that is completely independent from the building developer. 

    Currently, speculative developers are able to effectively self-inspect and self-certify by directly employing their own Design and/or Assigned Certifier.   That is not in the interests of the consumer or the State, if we are to avoid further building failures. 
     
  4. For those who chose to employ an independent architect to inspect and certify currently incur a 23% VAT rate (similar to luxury goods). The RIAI had called for a 13.5% VAT rate to be applied.
     
  5. That a Public Awareness Campaign be delivered by Government. A public survey by the RIAI has shown that 71% of the public had not heard of the new Regulations. The RIAI believes that it is critical to inform the public about the important changes that have been made in the Building Regulations aimed at protecting consumers. The RIAI believes the campaign will help to foster a culture of compliance with the new building regulations.

ENDS

For further information:
Niall Quinn, The Reputations Agency, 01 661 8915, 086 827 4829 or niall@thereputationsagency.ie

Categories: RIAI Press Release


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