Since April this year, it is mandatory (for new houses & extensions >40m2) that the works are ‘signed-off by one of three registered professionals: 1. Registered Architect 2. Chartered Engineer or 3. Registered Building Surveyor.
There has been much debate over how many visits the Assigned Certifier needs to make in order to certify that the building is in accordance with the Building Regulations; this number has varied from 5 or so up to a figure in the high teens/twenties.
Let’s look at what the Assigned Certifier is meant to be doing and what the architect also brings to the table:
• The Assigned Certifier isn’t checking that everything that is on the drawings is included in the construction. The purpose of the inspections it to ensure that the building itself is in compliance with the Building Regulations. Ideally this should obviously be included on the drawings that were lodged with the Building Construction Management System (BCMS) but if there’s anything missing then it’s the building that gets checked rather than the drawing. An example of this is that gold plated taps could be included on the drawing but as these aren’t critical for Building Regulations compliance then the Assigned Certifier doesn’t need to check that these are included in the building.
• The Assigned certifier could assume the same level of inspections in line with a UK Building Control Officer. I’ve already written this POST on how many times an architect should visit a site and have recently upgraded this for SI9/2014. If you look at a UK Building Control department in say Bolton you will see that there are key stages that visits should be conducted at. This LINK gives all the details which are summarise below:
1. At the beginning of the work on site, including any site stripping and/or foundations excavations/preparation
2. Following the installation of any foundation concrete, damp proof courses/membranes and prior to any conditions beneath the site being covered over by concrete
3. Following the installation of, or alterations to, any structural elements and prior to covering up structural work (pre-plaster check)
4. Before the back-filling of any drainage installation, and the witnessing of any drains tests
5. Prior to occupation or at the time of completion.
Additional inspections considered to be of critical importance by the Building Control Officer following a risk assessment will also be carried out. These additional inspections are based on the following:
– Structural elements and components, the failure of which would be significant
– All works which constitute unusual designs or methods of working
– Work relating to fire safety
– Additional areas of work necessary for the subsequent issue of a completion certificate
• This seems to be where the minimum of 5 inspections comes from. But what’s interesting is that in order to hit this minimum level of inspections you need someone qualified enough to inspect on ALL aspects of the Building Regulations. This is particularly onerous in Ireland where the Building Regulations are significantly more complex than the UK for example (particularly regarding Part L and Part F).
So returning to the post title ‘Why do I need an architect?’
It’s impossible for the architect to simply turn up five times and inspect that the works are as per the tender drawings as well as being in accordance with the Building Regulations. Following on from the example described above; it is the architect who is working with the client to:
1. Pick the gold plated taps
2. Include the taps on the drawings & specification and,
3. Ensure that the gold plated taps are the correct specification and in the correct location during construction.
This example applies to ALL building materials, not just those where the Building Regulations apply. Every single building material should be checked by the architect in terms of specification and location:
• Blocks; especially low-conductivity versions are correct specification & location
• Timberwork; of correct quality, specification and co-ordination with rest of building
• Insulation – correct specification & location
• Windows & doors, colours, specification, type, glazing….
• Finishes, paint type, colour, finish.
This is why my fee reflects the amount of work I need to put in order to ensure that a. As an architect everything is specified drawn and constructed in accordance with the drawings and b. as an Assigned Certifier that everything is in accordance with the Building Regulations.
In my experience this level of work is considerably more than 5 visits; as an example on a 7 month construction term I could be visiting every week which brings the number of visits to nearly 30. And on a Passivhaus you would HAVE to be down this many times coordinating all the elements of airtightness, insulation and ventilation.