Under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014, primary responsibility for compliance of works with the requirements of the Building Regulations, including Part B (Fire Safety), rests with the owners, designers and builders of buildings. Enforcement of the Building Regulations is a matter for the 31 local building control authorities, who have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement under the Acts and who are independent in the use of their statutory powers.
In general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, the homeowner, the builder, the developer and/or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme. It is important to note that while my Department has overall responsibility for establishing and maintaining an effective regulatory framework for building standards and building control, it has no general statutory role in resolving defects in privately owned buildings, including dwellings, nor does it have a budget for such matters.
In August 2017, my Department published a Framework for Enhancing Fire Safety in Dwellings, where concerns arise. The Framework is intended to be used as a guide by the owners and occupants of dwellings where fire safety deficiencies have been identified, or are a cause for concern. The Framework will also be of assistance to professional advisors, both in developing strategies to improve fire safety and in developing strategies to enable continued occupation in advance of undertaking the necessary works to ensure compliance with the relevant Building Regulations.
In addition, in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy and in recognition of fears expressed for fire safety, the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management in my Department was tasked with co-ordinating a high-level Task Force to lead a re-appraisal of fire safety in Ireland. The report arising from this exercise is expected to be available shortly.
In response to the many building failures that have emerged over the past decade, my Department introduced the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No. 9 of 2014), which require greater accountability in relation to compliance with Building Regulations in the form of statutory certification of design and construction by registered construction professionals and builders, lodgement of compliance documentation, mandatory inspections during construction and validation and registration of certificates. A Certificate of Compliance on Completion is jointly signed by the builder and the assigned certifier. This must be accompanied by plans and documentation to show how the constructed building complies with the building regulations and also the inspection plan, as implemented.
In addition, in May 2017, the Government approved the draft heads of a Bill to place the Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI) on a statutory footing and the Bill was referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning, and Local Government for pre-legislative scrutiny. I received the Committee’s report on 14 December 2017 and I am considering its recommendations, with a view to progressing the drafting of the Bill.
Once enacted, the Bill will provide consumers who engage a registered builder with the assurance that they are dealing with a competent and compliant operator and will complement the reforms which have been made through the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations and contribute to the development of a culture of competence and compliance in the construction sector.
In relation to the Building Regulations, work has been on-going in my Department to review Part B/Technical Guidance Document (TGD) B – Fire (2006). A new Part B/TGD B Volume 2 (2017) came into force on 1 July 2017, in relation to dwellings. Important revisions in the TGD B Volume 2 include enhanced provision for fire detection and alarm systems in dwelling houses, guidance on fire safety in community dwelling houses, guidance on timber frame construction, including new provisions in respect of timber frame party walls, enhanced provisions in respect of loft conversions, new provisions for galleries in dwelling houses and other general updates. Work is currently underway on a revision to Part B/TGD B Volume 1, which will deal with all other buildings.