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, www.environ.ie.
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.