Significant changes in how we go about the process of building new houses or extensions have been in place since the 1st March 2014 in the form of The Building Control (Amendment) Act 2013. Prior to this date, once you had planning permission all you needed to do was submit a single page form to the Local Authority (a commencement notice) and you were good to go! There was no legal obligation to employ an architect, engineer or surveyor to supervise the work. Only if you were getting a mortgage would the bank require such supervision. From next Monday this will all change. Once the new legislation comes into force anyone starting to build will be legally obliged to appoint a registered architect, surveyor or engineer to design the building in compliance with the building regulations. No longer will you be able to appoint someone who is not registered to supervise and certify the work. The information required by the Local Authority and the level of technical detail required will be significantly more. There will also be important implications for those of you who intend to follow the self-builder route.
The new regulations have been born out of the debacle of the high profile Priory Hall and the short fallings it highlighted in our system of oversight and building control here in Ireland. Priory Hall is only one example of how the system is flawed. In other Building Control systems such as in the UK the Local Authority is responsible for inspecting and approving compliance with all aspects of the Building Regulations. In Ireland, there is currently no obligation on home builders to employ a supervising engineer or architect during the build. This is only insisted upon by banks and lending institutions. The building owner pays someone to certify their building. This is what is often referred to as a system of “self-regulation”.
The new Building Control Regulations will require building owners, architects, engineers or surveyors and builders to assume greater responsibility in the construction and approval process. Essentially this involves a great deal more paperwork at various stages. Prior to construction the building owner must assign an approved certifier. This person must be an approved architect or surveyor registered by the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland or the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland or a civil engineer registered with the Institution of Civil Engineers. No longer will it be possible to appoint someone by virtue of the fact that they hold professional indemnity insurance and have experience. The new regulations require that the person must be named on a register. The building owner must notify the Local Authority that they have appointed a registered architect, engineer or surveyor and that they are satisfied that they are competent to inspect and certify the work. Furthermore the building owner must notify the Local Authority that they have appointed a competent building contractor and that they are satisfied that the builder is competent to carry out the work. The person appointed to inspect and certify the work must then inform the Local Authority that they have been appointed to design the building and submit plans, specifications, design calculations and any other information required to demonstrate that the design complies with The Building Regulations. On completion of the building the certifier and the building contractor are both required to notify the Local Authority that the work complies with the Building Regulations and submits revised drawings and specifications if any changes occurred during construction. This seems like a fairly onerous process… and indeed it is.
There are further implications for those intending to build their own homes by using direct labour. The notice requiring building owners to appoint a competent builder and confirm they are satisfied that the builder is competent, creates an issue. For the self-builder, they are essentially confirming that they themselves are the contractor and that they are competent to carry out the works in accordance with the Building Regulations. Clearly this is a big responsibility to assume.
Some of the implications of the new legislation are as follows;
- Greater level of responsibility for the building owner,
- Greater level of responsibility for the Certifier (Architect, Surveyor, Civil Engineer)
- Greater level of responsibility for the Building Contractor,
- Greater degree of design and specification at pre-construction stage,
- Increased level of bureaucracy and paper filing,
- Increased costs for building owners
In summary, the new system is a significant improvement on the current system of control but it must be understood that there will be a greater responsibility placed on the owners, certifiers and builders. So it is important for those of you planning to build to choose your architect, engineer, surveyor and builder wisely. Whilst there is no regulation on who you use to design and obtain planning permission, their ability to see the process through to completion must be considered. Appointing a registered architect, surveyor or engineer after planning permission has been granted may prove costly.