ANDREW RAMSEY explains how the new Building Control Regulations bring positive change to the building sector.
As part of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland’s public awareness campaign, the ‘Owners’ guide to the new Building Control Regulations’ was published in February this year. It provides clear and practical advice for consumers, explaining the new regulations and associated obligations. In the summer 2013 and spring 2014 editions of the Surveyors Journal we explored the philosophy in relation to the Building Control (Amendment) Regulation 2014 (SI 09) (BCAR) and how, as registered building surveyors, we saw its implementation taking place. Six months on, still in the early stages of implementation, the associated roles and the additional processes created by the regulation are still being understood.
Specialist roles and responsibilities
BCAR creates a specialist role for registered building surveyors who are one of three groups of professionals that can act as Design Certifier (DC) and Assigned Certifiers (AC) under the Regulation. In taking on this role, registered surveyors will need to adapt to the new administrative and inspection requirements along with developing a robust management check system to deliver the necessary service. We will need to ACT-PLAN-DO-CHECK-RECORD, and to provide a log of clear documentation to support and substantiate our professional judgement.
Under BCAR, building owners, designers and builders are all responsible for their role in the building process. This includes the provision of plans, documentation, inspection plans and certificates relating to the various processes that are lodged with the Building Control Authority by the DC and AC appointed under the regulations. The processes leading to these submissions and the administrative oversight involved are necessary in order to ensure that failure in compliance with the requirements of the regulations is prevented (or detected and remedied). The responsibility for compliance remains with the certifiers but regulatory oversight is proposed on a risk-based approach to target those who are non-compliant.
With the implementation of the BCAR, since March 2014, a building owner is required to appoint a DC and AC, as well as a competent builder. The launch of the Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI), which provides an online directory of registered building contractors and specialist contractors, provides assistance to clients during contractor selection. They know that each firm on the list has passed the minimum requirements of registration and is governed by an Industry Code of Ethics, as are registered building surveyors. It should be noted as identified under the ‘Code of Practice for inspecting and certifying building and work’ (COP) that the DC and AC may not necessarily be a member of the overall design team. Their appointment, whether standalone or not, should be viewed as two distinct roles, with separate processes and separate appointment agreements.
Statements indicating that to sign off on work completed will cost between €1,000 and €2,000, do not take account of the resource or complexity of a project.
Prior to March 2014 there were no statutory lodgements for building control outside the requirements of a Commencement Notice, Disability Access Certificate and Fire Safety Certificate. Application drawings produced as part of the process were mainly planning drawings and not construction drawings. The ‘selfcertification’ system adopted was not a requirement under building regulation compliance but was primarily driven as a process for title purpose, with certificate providing building sign off as having “substantial compliance”, sometimes only based on a single inspection after the completion of construction work.
The new system through the BCAR places a statutory obligation on the DC to issue a design certificate on the design confirming compliance with building regulations. This certificate, along with necessary project-specific documentation, is handed over to the AC before commencement of work on site. Prior to this commencement stage, general arrangement drawings (as a minimum) outlining how the building works will comply with the requirements of the building regulations, are lodged with the Building Control Authority online. A preliminary inspection plan is also required as part of this process.
The AC’s obligation under the BCAR is to ensure that an appropriate level of inspection is taking place and to co-ordinate the required ancillary inspections completed by others. In the completion of this requirement the AC must identify all design professionals and specialists from whom certificates are required and obtain them. With the support and co-operation of the design team, builder and client, the AC co-ordinates the implementation of the inspection plan and oversees its implementation, which should be reviewed and updated as required. The AC also acts as the single point of contact for the Building Control Authority and issues required documentation when requested. The AC role does not include supervision of the building process. The builder is directly responsible for ensuring that the work completed complies with the requirements of the regulations, which is a positive step in ensuring safer and more compliant buildings.
The frequency of inspection will be outlined within a formal inspection plan that takes into account the factors relating to the overall building construction risk. The inspection plan is formulated in conjunction with the design team and other appropriate specialists. It will include an inspection notification framework (INF), which identifies the stages or items of work the AC or ancillary certifiers require notification of to allow inspection. While an INF defines the necessary inspections required during the construction process, this does not prevent the AC, or others, from completing unannounced inspections.
On completion of the project, the BCAR requires the AC to certify the building or works as being compliant. Provision of certification will be subject to the AC’s professional judgement, and upon receipt of all required supporting documentation to allow them to do so. The Certificate of Completion must be validated and registered by the Building Control Authority via the (online) building control management system hosted by the local government management agency before the building it relates to may be opened, used or occupied.
Turning now to the building owner’s role, under the BCAR they have a responsibility to “ensure that adequate resources and competent persons are made available to design, construct, inspect and certify the building work” and with this many believe, an implied requirement to allow sufficient time and funds for completion of the necessary requirements.
The cost of compliance
Statements by senior Government ministers and others, indicating that to sign off on work completed will cost somewhere between €1,000 and €2,000, do not necessarily take account of the resource or complexity of a project, nor the additional work to ensure quality assurance within the new regulations. Each project is unique, with its own set of risks and requirements, and necessitating a range of “adequate resources”. Any increase in professional service costs to allow completion of the required components of the BCAR is directly proportional to the additional resources invested by all parties involved. Properly resourced inspections will be required to ensure that the final project complies. This is in everyone’s interest, particularly the client’s.
It has been suggested that the additional hours required to fulfil the roles and services of DC and AC under BCAR SI.9, based on the construction of a one-off house with a completion programme of 40 weeks, would be in the region of 155.5 hours over and above normal professional scope of service. This will vary from project to project subject to risk analysis and construction complexity. The implementation of the BCAR has created a requirement for all parties involved to invest additional time and resources in construction projects. While this will inevitably result in increased cost (appropriate to the resource invested), the regulation is an important step forward in ensuring building regulation compliance, and should be perceived as a positive change.