Why New Irish Houses are crap Part 3 ~ Last rant

OK, here’s the last rant, from now I’ll be looking at positive ways architects can make a difference and get the country out of it’s current mess.

The Building Regulations in Ireland are very similar to those in the UK (most of the differences occur regarding energy and Part L). Building Control exists (in a fashion) but that is where the similarity ends. The only mandatory Building Control requirement is correctly sending in the Building Control
Commencement Notice; there’s no sending/passing of Building Control plans and no visits/approval by a Building Control Officer. All of the responsibility for complying with the Building Regulations rests on the supervising architect.

There are a few problems with this system:

The public (and I suspect a lot of professionals) do not understand the difference between planning and building control. Frequently you’ll see planning drawings that look like Building Regulation drawings. The general modus operandi in Ireland is that the planning drawings contain enough information to build from. The costs that some of the lower end ‘designers’ charge make full compliance with the Building Regulations impossible (see previous rants on Part L and Airtightness). What happens then is the designer is then called upon to visit the property in order to certify for the Banks as the building progresses; the low charge for this and the infrequency of the visits mean that full compliance with the Building Regulations is again remote. The visits by the Building Control officer are done as specific stages BEFORE any work is carried out; an architect providing this type of service needs to be very well organised to ensure that hw turns up on time (self-build projects can span several years) and that work complies-personally I’d need to see a project every week during the build to ensure compliance.

It is also argued in Ireland that the architect certifies ‘Substantial Compliance’, this is fine for a planning cert (as minor variations don’t conflict with the overall planning strategy). But the concept of Substantial Compliance for Building Regulations is ridiculous; it either complies or it doesn’t, black or white – no grey areas.

Although I can remember complaining about Building Control when I worked in the UK, I now look back and recognise the service they provide; they provide an incredible support and back-up to the architect to ensure that everything complies, from drawing stage right through building to completion.

But what if there is no bank requiring a certificate of compliance (most of the requests from banks currently are regarding planning certificates; none of them ask for Building Regulation certs on older properties); any self-build project financed cash-only is open to problems regarding the Building Regs; clients insisting on incorrect staircases, insufficient insulation in cavities/floors…the list is endless. The only thing the architect can do is formally write a letter indemnifying himself against these errors (that’s if he has any involvement on the project at this stage); now look at the difference if a Building Control Officer came to visit and inspect !

Now that’s my last rant…the next blog post will be look forwards and upwards.

Comments as always welcome.

Photo below shows Part M level threshold and air door blower test.

Blog post by iPhone.

0 thoughts on “Why New Irish Houses are crap Part 3 ~ Last rant

  1. I agree; it will only get better once standards are set AND checked. Anything else is talking fairy tales.

    The automobile industry/politics did “invent” the “mpg” rating – should your car not perform in a certain region of that rate you can sue the manufacturer for replacement and/or improvement.

    Same has to happen for the construction industry and fast as some major countries have started that twenty or even thirty years ago and now their construction industries lead the race for energy performance and quality while the UK just tries to follows as cheap as possible.

    The UK car industry did the very same and now is history…

    caw

  2. Mark

    I agree. We do not have a functional building control system in Ireland. I too worked in the Uk for many years and I found their building control much better. It meant that the rules were followed.

    The problem with self-certification (certification by the developer’s architect or engineer) is that the certificates are qualified to such an extent that they are meaningless. They have to be so qualified for the protection of the architect/engineer who does not get paid enough fees to be on site to see everything before it is buried or covered up.

    Until such time as we have an independent building control authority we will have sub-standard building stock.

    Kevin Murray
    Chartered Engineer

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