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Irish Association Of Self Builders

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Iaosb letter to Minister Kelly - Revoke or Revise S.I.9
19th Nov ember 2014

Dear Minister Kelly,

Re: Building Control (Amendment) Regulation S.I.9 of 2014

I am writing to you following on from our letter to you on 15th September 2014. We still have not received any response from you or your Department.

We have been informed that the DECLG has asked the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland to examine self-build problems post implementation of BC(A)R SI.9.

While it is a positive development to receive acknowledgement finally that self-building has been impacted upon by the new regulations, we are at a loss as to why you have asked any key stakeholder to "solve" our problems. The confidential stakeholder process entered into by former Minister Hogan following on from the public consultation in May 2012 was comprised of stakeholders with vested commercial interests- these were representative bodies for architects, engineers and chartered surveyors (RIAI, ACEI and SCSI respectively) along with the Construction industry Federation (CIF).

Consumer groups such as ourselves were excluded from any discussions regarding the new regulations. It is therefore understandable that the regulation that resulted was of benefit to these vested interests, while impacting on many consumer groups such as ourselves with an array of unintended consequences.

The RIAI, ACEI and SCSI now have protected positions with private registers, and adequately qualified non-members of these organisations are precluded from occupying new roles under SI.9. We believe various government departments have extended the restrictive nature of these appointments further by insisting that architects only are allowed to occupy the certifier roles for many public projects such as schools and hospitals. The result of this are fees quoted for SI.9 certifier duties many multiples of those envisaged by former Minister Hogan.

Why are vested interests again being tasked with review of the impacts of BC(A)R SI.9 and not consumer groups? Why are consumers, home owners and self-builders excluded from this process? It would appear that the Minister and Department continue to have a very small circle of friends when it comes to matters pertaining to Building Control and the construction industry.

Notwithstanding these restrictions, the IAOSB are supporters of greater professional involvement and oversight in the construction industry generally, and in the speculative residential sector in particular.

We have received numerous estimates of SI.9 adding over 22% to the capital cost of a typical self-built dwelling. The bulk of these costs are associated with the requirement to employ a CIF registered main contractor. SI.9 is pricing many lower-end self-builders out of the market. These are at the lower cost end, where owners were hoping to build better quality homes cheaper, on a phased basis, than speculative housing. Over €40,000 extra to build a €180,000 house is an extraordinary cost, and these are the real-world numbers our members are coming back with to us. Most self-builds employed professionals for planning, tender, site and other stages of the procurement process. We completed builds using industry standard contracts, and all work was undertaken in a safe fashion under current Health and Safety legislation. What benefit do self-builders get for the huge costs of SI.9? The security of using a CIF contractor?

We have undertaken surveys of members and to date, for this year, we estimate that between 800 and 1,000 dwelling projects have been abandoned by self builders trying to build a home for their families.

There is no evidence that we are aware of to indicate that self-built homes were subject to the shoddy building practices of speculative built housing. We are insulted by CIF suggestions that self-builders were involved in the “black economy”. If the CIF are aware of instances where proper revenue practices were not adhered to, they should then simply report the matter to the authorities. I would like to point out that If similar allegations were made by consumers against CIF members there would be outrage.

Why are ordinary citizens denied the age-old tradition of being able to build their own home, frequently on their family farms where they grew up, for a reasonable cost? In most cases, these are the only option available to them. Self-builders were not responsible for Priory Hall so why should they be punished for the mistake of others.

The one restriction in SI.9 that continues to impact self-builders most is the restriction to use "competent" builders, which only seem to be members of the new privately owned CIF register CIRI. The Department of the Environment has in effect, given CIF a monopoly on all residential building in the state as a result. We would like to point out that there are other well-established industry standards for competence, such as RECI or the National Guild of Master Craftsmen.

Why the former Minister and DECLG would insist on a new register (with no track record) CIRI be written in to legislation at the expense of other proven and well-regarded similar registers of competent builders is a question that needs to be asked. We would assume these similar established bodies have made representations to the Minister, Department, Competition Authority and Ombudsman as to why CIF, a private organisation, has been made the beneficiary of restrictive practice.

Many self-builders are experienced tradespersons themselves, members of RECI and also the National Guild of Master Craftsmen. Why now should an experienced well regarded tradesperson have to employ a CIF registered main contractor at huge expense to oversee the build of their own house? Some members in CIRI may well have no building experience, or construction skills- they well may just be construction managers like a typical self-builder.

Self-builders have 3 main obstacles at present: are;

1. We have noted the completion certificate issue previously where the builder must be "a principal or director of a building company only". This line must be removed.

2. The code of practice does not mention self-building at all, being defined as owners occupying the role of management or main contractor. It does state that "competent' means someone with at least 3 years similar building experience. This excludes most owner-builders. This must be revised.

3. There is a lack of willing certifiers, architects in particular, due to the Law Society advising professionals not to get involve in self-building projects. This would appear to be as a result, remarkably, of the Law Society being excluded from key stakeholder negotiations. The Law Society need to be consulted as a matter of urgency on alterations/ changes required to SI.9 to facilitate participation by professionals as certifiers in self-build projects, and confirm conveyancing arrangements are in place to facilitate same.

As far as we know the stakeholder now tasked with sorting out the self-builders, the RIAI, are the one set of professionals who are not currently participating in self-build houses. It is over 9 months ago that we made an official complaint against the CEO of the RIAI Mr John Graby regarding statements made concerning self builders and we are still waiting for an appropriate response from them. We have no confidence in this organisation or any vested key stakeholder in providing solutions to the array of unintended consequences that self-builders are experiencing at present.

There are many self-builders who have used the services of practically trained architects and Architectural Technologists successfully in the past, experienced professionals who are well capable of dealing with the technical requirements of one-off housing. This group are now unable to assume SI.9 certifier roles. We suggest the establishment of a separate register to accommodate these persons as a matter of urgency. A separate register of competent Architectural Technologists and practically trained architects would go some way to minimising professional costs and increasing the pool of certifiers available to self-builders at present.