Thursday, April 9, 2015
The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (“BCAR”) (S.I. 9 of 2014) commenced on 1 March 2014 with the aim of introducing greater transparency, traceability and accountability into the construction industry. The BCAR were a response to the many failures in building control in the period preceding the economic collapse which left a widespread legacy of poorly constructed domestic and non-domestic buildings.
It was the stated intention of the then Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, that the effectiveness of the BCAR be reviewed after being in force for 12 months. Now, just over a year since their commencement, the review of the BCAR is being led by Ministers Paudie Coffey, T.D. and Alan Kelly, T.D. and is focussing on the cost burden involved in achieving compliance with BCAR for one-off houses including self-build and extensions to existing dwellings. In the intervening period approximately 6,000 commencement notices have been lodged which has led to over 550 statutory certificates of compliance of completion being included on the statutory register. It is hoped that the various participants in projects falling under the auspices of the BCAR since March 2014 will have gained useful experience to benefit the outcome of the review.
The scope and stated objectives of the review are as follows:
(a) To review the operation of S.I. No. 9 of 2014 in consultation with industry and local authority stakeholders and members of the public
(b) To consider in particular the impact of S.I. No. 9 of 2014 on single dwellings and extensions to existing dwellings having regard to specific concerns which have been raised in relation to the cost burden of the regulations and the level of certification required for this sector
(c) To consider more generally the impact of S.I. No. 9 of 2014 on owners, occupiers and users of buildings having regard to the statutory purposes for which building regulations may be made (i.e. public safety, accessibility, energy efficiency, efficient use of resources and good building practice)
(d) To make recommendations that will strengthen and improve the arrangements in place for the control of building activity in keeping with the principles of good and fair administration
(e) To report with recommendations to the Minister of State as soon as possible, but in any event no later than 30 June 2015.
To inform the review the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (“DECLG”) has published a suite of documents which includes a sample inspection plan and a costing document to inform both consumers and the market on the likely costs of statutory assigned certifier services under the BCAR.
Further, the DECLG has proposed four options for discussion aimed at addressing the cost burden to consumers in respect of self-build and domestic extensions together whilst noting some pros and cons against each. Those options are:
(i) Revise the Building Control Regulations 1997-2014 to make statutory certification and related requirements advisory rather than mandatory in the case of new single dwellings and extensions to existing dwellings;
(ii) Broaden the pool of persons who may sign statutory certificates of compliance;
(iii) Leave regulatory requirements unchanged but produce guidance for single dwellings; and
(iv) Exemptions for extensions to existing dwellings to be determined having regard to building plot ratio.
The review of BCAR formally commenced on 2 April and a consultative forum hosted by Minister Coffey will be held on 15 April. Following that forum, stakeholders will have one month to follow up with written submissions of their experiences of BCAR and their own recommendations to improve BCAR in order to meet the 30 June deadline for reporting findings and recommendations to the Minister of State.
The review of BCAR is to be welcomed and it is positive to see Government taking seriously the need to improve what is a flawed but well-intentioned piece of key legislation for the construction sector. Whilst the scope of the review is primarily focussing on self-build and domestic extensions, these are the elements of BCAR that have come in for the most criticism over the last 12 months. The potential liability of the newly created role of assigned certifier has also met with a certain degree of opposition and the DECLG has sought to assuage some general concerns through Information Document No. 3 with the suite of documents it has published to accompany the review.