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Saturday, January 04, 2014

The changes in March to the building regulations (S.I. No. 80 of 2013 BUILDING CONTROL (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS 2013) will have big repercussions for residential self-builders. Nearly 60% of houses constructed in Ireland are self-builds (source NaSBA).

Self-builders will be required, under S.I.80, as clients, to employ a design certifier and assigned certifier (engineer/ architect/building surveyor) — this is positive, as it is unwise for an inexperienced person to undertake self-building without professional input. Currently, a client can nominate themselves as the self-builder. The only persons precluded from operating as contractors are architects. So, S.I.80 can only improve the quality of self-builds. However, when a formal register of builders is introduced in 2015, self-builders will have to meet criteria to register, or will be precluded. The criteria will likely be a minimum of three years’ relevant building experience, tax affairs in order, relevant insurances, etc.

So, self-building will only be possible for established contractors. Rural landowners with building experience will not be allowed to manage sub-contractors — they will have to hire a contractor for projects that require planning permission (farm buildings, outhouses etc).

The UK’s system of building control allows for self-builders; their risk-based inspections consider whether the builder is known, his experience/track record and whether there is an architect inspecting the works (as examples). The building-control officer adjusts the number of visits following this risk analysis, based on a points system, to ensure the build is in compliance with regulations.

There are contradictions in S.I.80, and this is one of them. If public opinion forces a u-turn on registration of contractors, in 2015, then the basis of S.I.80, that of “regulating” building, will not be achieved. Unregistered and unregulated builders will still be able to control the procurement process. Introduce mandatory registration of contractors and self-building will cease to exist. The S.I.80 denies the tradition of the Irish person building their own home.

Mel Reynolds
Sandycove Road
Co Dublin

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