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Questions asked in Dáil about self-build projects  on 1st of April 2014


Stephen Donnelly
(Wicklow, Independent)

372. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department considered the potential negative impact which compliance with the public disclosure and lodgment requirements in the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 will have on FDI projects; if any State agencies made any representations in that regard, if so, if he will publish them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15216/14]


Stephen Donnelly
(Wicklow, Independent)
373. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the fact that he has confirmed that he introduced the new building control regulations to respond to failures in the residential sector, the rationale behind the regulations being applied to all classes of building construction project, residential and non-residential alike; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
[15217/14]


Stephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)

375. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if he will publish the 504 submissions in respect of his draft regulations under the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014, published in summer 2012; if he considers the number of submissions received noteworthy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15219/14]


Derek Nolan (Galway West, Labour)

382. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the impact new building regulations will have on the cost of employing tradespeople for one-off housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15292/14]


Stephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)

385. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the consultation his Department undertook with stakeholders outside the construction sector regarding the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15344/14]


Stephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)

387. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department has made any estimate of the number of self-build projects that may be delayed or abandoned due to the requirements imposed on self-builders in the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15346/14]


Stephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)

388. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the RIAI has calculated that it will take an architect about 190 hours extra work to act as assigned certifier on domestic projects due to the requirements imposed on self-builders in the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014; if he agrees with this calculation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15347/14]


Phil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 372, 373, 375, 382, 385, 387 and 388 together.

An extensive public consultation process was undertaken in 2012 to inform the development of the revised building control regulations which came into effect on 1 March 2014. Comprehensive consultation documents were published, including Strengthening the Building Control System - A Document to inform public consultation on Draft Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2012,which sets out the context in which the reforms – as later signed into law in the form of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 – would operate and the regulatory impact of these for building owners and industry stakeholders. This document remains available on my Department's website, .

Over 500 submissions were received at public consultation from construction industry stakeholders, individual practitioners and members of the public. Due to the large volume of information received, and given that it is almost two years since the consultation process took place and the necessary regulations have since been finalised and have come into operation on 1 March 2014, publication of the submissions at this stage would appear to serve little useful purpose. I will, however, arrange to have a list of the submissions received placed in the Oireachtas Library for the information of members.

The new regulations will greatly strengthen the arrangements currently in place for the control of building activity by requiring greater accountability in relation to compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory certification of design and construction, lodgement of compliance documentation, mandatory inspections during construction and validation and registration of certificates. While attention in relation to defective buildings has focused predominantly on residential property, concerns in relation to building quality are not confined to the residential sector. The obligation to demonstrate that a building has been designed and constructed in accordance with the Building Regulations applies to owners, builders and designers of buildings generally and this is entirely appropriate.

Given that the requirement to build in accordance with the Building Regulations has already existed in law under the Building Control Act 1990, the new regulations should not have any direct effect on the cost of employing a tradesperson.

Meetings and discussions have taken place between my Department and the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation and relevant agencies under the remit of that Department in relation to the implications of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 with particular reference to Foreign Direct investment. Documentation lodged with local authorities for the purposes of demonstrating compliance with the Building Regulations is subject to the Freedom of Information Acts but that legislation provides exemptions and protections in relation to commercially sensitive information.

My Department does not maintain statistical returns in relation to self-build projects. Widespread concerns that the new regulations will put an end to self building or building by direct labour are unfounded. A number of cases have, however, been brought to my attention whereby consumers have been quoted exorbitant charges for professional services in relation to residential construction projects. The new regulations support improved competence and professionalism which will provide additional work opportunities for competent practitioners and construction professionals. However, the consumer should not have to pay a premium for such services and if concerns about value for money for consumers prove to be well-founded, I will consider any reasonable and appropriate steps that may be required to address the issue.

The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland has indicated to my Department that the example cited of 190 hours work for an Assigned Certifier on a domestic project is not based on any official communication or guidance given by the Institute to its members.

Overall, some 240 commencement notices have been lodged on the online Building Control Management System since the new regulations came into effect on 1 March 2014. This suggests that the market is responding well to the new regulatory environment and that disruptive effect on construction activity will be minimal.


Stephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)

374. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if his Department considered introducing a system of independent inspection of design and construction, such as can be seen operating in England and Wales, to be self-funded and at no cost to the taxpayer, which could offer improvements on the self-certification system, notwithstanding the submission to him by the National Consumers Association on the draft regulations in summer 2012 and the recommendations of the pyrite report. [15218/14]


Phil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)

The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 which came into operation on 1 March 2014 greatly strengthen the arrangements in place for the control of building activity by requiring greater accountability in relation to compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory certification of design and construction, lodgment of compliance documentation, mandatory inspections during construction and validation and registration of certificates. The new regulations are necessary following the widespread instances of failure by owners, designers and builders to comply with their statutory obligations under the Building Control Act 1990 to design and construct buildings in accordance with the Building Regulations.

The new regulatory approach was preceded by a review by a high level working group, which included representatives of my Department and of local government (nominated by the County and City Managers Association), which reviewed the building control regulatory framework. This review process was informed by awareness of developments in relation to building control generally in other jurisdictions, including in England and Wales.

In broad terms the building control system in operation in England and Wales can be characterised as a full approval based system whereby local authorities inspect and approve all buildings. Significantly it is understood that a decision to step back from full local authority approval in all cases was implemented in 2005 and since that time the England and Wales systems allow for approval by independent professionals. The cost of full approval by a local authority and the need to optimise the use of Government resources were understood to be key considerations in this change.

A move to a full local authority approval system (even one which allowed for the involvement of private sector operators) along the lines of the England and Wales model or otherwise would involve significant increase in building control staffing and resourcing and would be difficult to contemplate in the present economic environment.

The legal obligation on owners, builders and designers to design and construct in accordance with the Building Regulations would continue to apply. The requirement to demonstrate compliance for approval purposes, whether by a building control authority or an approved independent operator, would mean that the person who owns or commissions the work would necessarily incur the requisite design, building and inspection/certification costs, over and above the administrative charge required to cover the approval fee payable to the local building control authority or approved operator.