The Building Regulation changes and Self Builders: one for @bregsforum

The forthcoming changes in the Building Regulations in March 2014 (S.I. No. 80 of 2013 BUILDING CONTROL (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 2013) have big repercussions for residential self-builders. Nearly 60% of houses constructed in Ireland are self-builds (source NaSBA) and with the construction industry still non-existent the forecast of owners self-building their houses and extensions is set to continue.

So why does this have an effect on self-builders? S.I. No. 80 of 2013 (CLICK HERE for the full Statutory Instrument) requires that the owner gives notice to the Building Control authority of ‘…ASSIGNMENT OF BUILDER’:

builder_notice

Item 2. requires the owner to have ‘…assigned the following person as Builder of the works and I am satisfied that they are competent to undertake the works so assigned on my behalf.’

The owner therefore needs to assign a ‘competent person’ to undertake the building works; this raises several questions:

  • Who decides whether a builder is a competent person?
  • Currently there is no register of ‘competent persons’ that are competent to undertake building works; the Construction Industry Federation ‘is progressing the establishment of a Register of Builders in consultation with the Department of the Environment Community and Local Government (DoECLG).’ but this register will initially only be a voluntary register (transitioning at a later date to a statutory scheme).
  • Logically a self-builder cannot assign himself unless he is a ‘competent person’, in my experience this is highly unlikely

    Now I’d love to have every house or extension in Ireland constructed by a highly professional and well trained main contractor; self builders can be more difficult and require a higher level of guidance/inspection but the reality is that one-off projects in Ireland are self-built by the owners and that denying self-builders this opportunity will be a further ‘kick in the teeth’ to a construction industry that is already on its knees. The inverse is that in my experience self-builders can build to an incredibly high standard; I have one project in particular at practically #Passivhaus standard.

    If we look at the local construction industry here in Mayo; the main contractors (that are still in business) do not normally have sub-contractors as PAYE staff; they are all self-employed subcontractors. The self-builder is employing these sub-contractors in exactly the same way as the main contractor and in the process is saving money (effectively the profit made by the main contractor).

    There are several downsides to being a self builder however:

  • He/She don’t (generally) have that experience that comes with being a main contractor and the experience of having completed many jobs
  • There’s a stack of hassle getting materials on site and getting the tradesmen on site at the right time and in the right order
  • Generally self employed tradesmen will give priority on working for a main contractor over the self-builder; this is only natural as there maybe main jobs coming in the future from a builder whereas you are only doing one.

    Now as much as I hate to say this (as I would prefer every build to be main contractor built); I live in the real world and I think that depriving self-builders of the opportunity to build themselves will truly harm the construction industry. I also think that the national register of builders isn’t the way forward. Self-Building in the UK (although a much smaller industry) works without such a register; the difference is that ALL construction projects have their plans and construction inspected and certified INDEPENDENTLY throughout the entire construction process. This system of independent drawing and site inspection is something that Ireland will still not implement under SI80 under the Building Regulations Amendments (2013). For a full description of the UK Building Control process CLICK HERE

    Therefore, in its current form the changes to the Building Regulations in March 2014 will increase the difficulty owners face in building or extending their property; it is essential therefore that the government reconsiders the proposed changes that do not inhibit construction growth but still ensure that buildings are constructed in accordance with the Building Regulations – as it is the Building Regulations amendments are I feel – unworkable and require postponement.

    The next post (next week) will look at how self-builders can get round this problem (if the Regulations aren’t postponed), methods of training and Passivhaus tradesmen courses…

    btw This is a personal viewpoint and not the opinion of any regulatory or representative body

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