Building rules could make open fireplaces a thing of the past

Michael Healy-Rae: Regulation is 'bureaucracy gone mad'.

Traditional open fireplaces will become a thing of the past, or else a luxury item, under little-known building regulations.

The rules, introduced in 2014, mean all new builds must meet a far higher level of eco-efficiency. Installing an open fireplace in your home will make this more difficult and expensive.

Homeowners who refuse to be parted from their open fireplace will be forced to compensate for the fire’s lack of eco credentials by installing more expensive features such as triple glazing and extra insulation, beyond the levels already required by the updated building rules.

If not, their homes won’t be signed off on by engineers and architects.

The higher cost involved in open fireplaces also means they are unlikely to figure in developers’ plans for new housing estates.

Kerry TD Michael Healy- Rae has railed against the regulations, which came to prominence via an RTÉ Radio interview with architect Dermot Bannon.

“They’ll be telling us that we can’t sleep upstairs anymore,” he said. “This is bureaucracy gone mad; I’ve never heard the likes. I don’t think people will lie down and take this. People love to come home to their fire.”

Open fires lose 70% of the heat generated, up the chimney. Only about 20% of the heat generated by a sealed stove is lost.

Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland Sustainability Task Force chair Darragh Lynch said the regulations are about improving the thermo performance of new housing, which means “greater comfort and health” for inhabitants.

Mr Lynch worked on the Ballymun Regeneration project, where during pre- design research, it emerged that 80% of the householders never used their open fire and 15% used it occasionally. He thinks these figures will be replicated nationally.

“Most houses will have some kind of central heating and if they have an open fireplace too, it sucks out the heat being generated by the heating system,” he said.


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