This is the real problem in rural Irish construction (Part 2)

This is Part 2 following on from This is the real problem in rural Irish construction (Part 1). It takes the ‘Dream Team’ discussion a little further…

You have to remember the background of rural residential architecture; in my opinion it was up until very recently that the consumer only really thought of architects undertaking serious buildings like art galleries and museums. Most people looking for a new house would buy or borrow a house plans book, pick out a ‘nice look’ and then get someone else (see previous post) to copy the plans (you were meant to purchase them) to lodge your planning application. These planning drawings would also contain construction information but they would be woefully inadequate when compared to construction drawings that receive approval for Building Regulations in the UK:


But things have changed. And who do I think has helped the architectural profession realise the benefits of employing an architect and that architects can be be employed by everyone? This change has come about by the TV program Room To Improve starring Dermot Bannon. In my opinion Dermot’s work (love him or hate him) has really helped the architectural profession; the everyman has a much better idea about an architect does, the work he produces and the benefits that an architect brings to the table.

But what you also see now on Room To Improve is that Dermot is part of a team. He’s not just one person who draws up something from a book or exactly what the client asks. Other members of the team are a Quantity Surveyor (Patricia Power) and you’ll often see the structural engineer regarding foundations and structural steelwork for example.

Let’s reiterate this:

The architect is a member of a team.

The problem is that the public is used to employing just one person and as an architect I often see a single person taking on all roles; from the design to the detailing and through to completion. In my opinion this is a recipe for disaster. I was speaking to a structural engineer recently who was working with a client who was breaking his heart regarding design changes (he undertook a full architectural service). It’s the architect who is trained to understand the design briefing process. It’s the architect trained in architectural design. It’s the architect who understands what the client is looking for – even when they don’t know it themselves. What’s interesting is that the Structural Engineer would prefer to do structural engineering but due to how much clients will pay and their expectations of him – he has no other choice.

But we as professional do have a choice, we can choose to:

• Charge the correct and appropriate fee for our services based on our training and experience
• Educate the client to what we, and what other design professionals do in terms of a design solution specific to their requirements.

When and if SI80 is implemented in March 2014, I would recommend all design professionals (whether you’re a member of the RIAI, ACEI, IEI or SCS) that we all charge an appropriate amount for our services, this is especially true when you consider the additional administrative work and liability issues when SI80 is implemented; we all know that different professions will charge at different rates and that a complete ‘Dream Team’ will cost more than a single person but we’re now at a point where it’s virtually impossible for one person to undertake the entire process (without a compromise in terms of quality or compliance) when you consider that you’ll need:

• Design, construction and site inspection/certification that ensures your project is compliant with the planning department and with the Building Regulations (the architect)
• A structural engineering solution giving full integrity in terms of foundation, structural members design etc… (the structural engineer)
• A design that is brought in on budget within what the banks are currently lending (the Quantity Surveyor)
• A design that meets Part L of the Building Regulations (the registered BER assessor and Airtightness tester (both mandatory)

This is in my opinion is the ‘Dream Team’

Comments as always welcome…