The problem with a race to the bottom (SI9) and is architecture a commodity? (1)

Architects in Ireland are at a cross-roads. With the introduction of S.I. No.9 of 2014 we are seeing a race to the bottom regarding fees for Designer and Assigned Certifier roles; with a range of prices in the €3000 region we are hearing that HomeBond is entering the market with an Assigned Certifier package including foundation design and insurance for €2000.

I’m not going into the fiasco of Pyrite and HomeBond but instead will explain why this ‘Race to the bottom’ is harming Ireland.

At the moment when there is little work around, there is no problem in quoting low and being able to control projects and undertake site inspections to ensure compliance with the Building Regulations; the problem occurs that when the market (eventually) picks up and things get busier then ensuring that you are on site at precisely the right date and time to make sure things are right becomes an impossibility. This is what occurred in the boom days, everyone was rushing around not giving the projects the attention they deserved.

We are also seeing a range of numbers for the amount of inspections the Assigned Certifier is to undertake; from 5 onwards! This is where the big problems occur; the Irish construction industry does not have the inherent culture to ensure that a system of this type will work. In my experience it is nigh on impossible for an Irish contractor to follow the drawings and specifications that are prepared for them. The sequence of problems with a limited number of inspections is outlined below:

1. The ‘Designer’ prepares the drawings for construction in accordance with the Building Regulations

2. The building starts to construct in accordance with these…

3. Until either the client and/or the builder makes changes that could result in con-compliance in some aspect of the Regs.

4. With a limited number of visits, the Assigned Certifier is then reliant on him/her being on site at precisely the right time to pick up the deviation. Remember that the builder doesn’t really want anyone checking his work, this applies to the Assigned Certifier as well as Building Control; so unless the Assigned Certifier is really on top of the situation he may not even hear about the change or he will miss it when it is covered up. The Assigned Certifier does not have the same clout as a UK Building Control Officer to ensure the builder gives advance (and I mean plenty) notice of works to be inspected prior to the works advancing. The building culture in Ireland simply does not work this way and as an architect and Assigned Certifier, it doesn’t look as if this culture is changing very quickly

5. Let’s assume that therefore that the deviation is picked up, this could be weeks or months after the changes occurred and remedial corrective works may be required.

– That’s the client & builders fault I hear you say. True but as I said earlier the building culture in Ireland doesn’t take this into account. In order to ensure that all aspects of the build are compliant with the Building Regulations, especially when there are changes (which is the norm) there has to be frequent site visits BEFORE changes are made, not afterwards when it’s too late.

I wrote THIS POST in 2012 on how many times an architect should visit the site. The principles have not changed in 2015 with Architects and Assigned Certfiers

– Why don’t builders simply build what is drawn. Precisely.

So it’s for these reasons that I continue to provide a premium service at a cost which I think is reasonable considering the work and responsibility I undertake; if you are looking for such an Architect, Designer or Assigned Certifier then please do not hesitate to CONTACT ME…

The next post continues this thread and will discuss whether architecture is a commodity…

Comments welcome…

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