Architects warning over build rules plan

The Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland has warned that public safety and building standards could be compromised if the requirement to comply with building regulations for single houses or extensions is removed.

It is understood a relaxation or removal of the requirement is one of the suggestions which has been made as part of a review of the SI9 of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014.

The regulations came into effect in March last year. The Department of Environment initiated the review when the regulations had been operational for 12 months.

RIAI has submitted a number of proposals to the department focusing primarily on its concerns about home buyer protection and better build quality.

RIAI president Robin Mandal said: “While many aspects of the new building control regulations are having a positive impact, the RIAI has strong concerns that consumers are still not adequately and appropriately protected by SI9. We are also very concerned that the correct balance of responsibility and liability has not been achieved within the building control regulations.”

The architectural body says it should be a legal requirement for defects insurance, known as LDI (latent defects insurance), to be put in place by each developer so consumers are completely protected should a defect arise in the building they have purchased.

“In circumstance where the consumer becomes the victim of a building failure, the system of redress should provide for addressing the problems in a timely manner without having to resort to lengthy, costly and uncertain legal action,” it said.

“This is particularly important for residential buildings given the daily stress caused to residents by serious building defects. LDI allows the consumer to resort to an insurance policy that has been paid for by the developer and is a form of redress available widely in developed countries.”

It also says inspections and certification should be carried out by a “competent, objective, professional” that is completely independent from the building developer.

“Currently, speculative developers are able to effectively self-inspect and self-certify by directly employing their own design and/or assigned certifier,” RIAI said.

“That is not in the interests of the consumer or the State, if we are to avoid further building failures. In addition, building control authorities need to be fully resourced to enable them to contribute an effective layer of oversight of construction in these and other high risk projects.”

It said it is very concerned at what it described as the suggested undermining of consumer protection and building standards for single houses or extensions through a relaxation or removal of building regulations compliance for such structures.

“The RIAI has detailed in its submission the many problems encountered in the single house and house extension market, such as lack of radon barriers, non-compliant septic tanks and inadequate fire precautions,” it said. “The minister must not remove regulations intended to protect consumer and public interests.”

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