The Building Regulations apply to the design and construction of a new building and to certain works to existing buildings. The minimum performance requirements that a building must achieve are set out in the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations. These requirements are set out in 12 parts classified as Parts A to M.
Part B (Fire safety) of the Regulations sets down the statutory minimum standards of fire safety provision which must be achieved when a new building, including a dwelling, is designed and constructed or when an existing building is subject to works involving an extension, a material alteration or a material change of use. Technical Guidance Document B (TGD B) contains guidance, compliance with which will, prima facie, indicate compliance with Part B. However, as with all Parts, the adoption of an approach other than that outlined in the guidance is not precluded provided that the relevant requirements of the regulations (e.g. Part B) are complied with. Part B is set out in broad performance terms.
Work is ongoing on the review of Part B/TDG B Fire Safety. It has been decided in the interest of clarity to separate the guidance into two volumes. A new Part B/ TGD B Volume 2 was published in 2017 and came into force on 1 July 2017. This Volume 2 applies to dwellings only. Volume 1, dealing with buildings other than dwellings, is currently being prepared for public consultation shortly. This guidance document will provide greater clarity on the conditions required to demonstrate compliance with Building Regulations taking into account the changes in standards since the last review.
Part III of the Building Control Regulations require a Fire Safety Certificate (FSC) to be obtained for new buildings (with some exceptions) and certain works to existing buildings. The FSC ensures the building/works if constructed in accordance with the plans and specifications submitted, comply with the requirements of Part B of the Building Regulations. As such, an application is examined technically, by the Chief Fire Officer /Building Control Authority, for compliance with Part B, either on the basis of TGD B or through alternative approaches to providing fire safety. Dublin Fire Brigade assesses and processes Fire Safety Certificate applications for Dublin City Council and on behalf of Fingal County Council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and South Dublin County Council.
A right of appeal is also provided for in this Part of the Building Control Regulations, in instances where a building control authority grant a fire safety certificate with conditions, or refuse to grant a fire safety certificate. The applicant may appeal to An Bord Pleanála against the decision of the building control authority. The Board is fully independent in the performance of these statutory functions.
In the three year period referred to in the newspaper article concerned, there were in the order of 1,800 fire safety certificates refused/granted, and An Bord Pleanála made 38 formal decisions. Of these decisions, 29 resulted in amendments to Dublin City Council's conditions, one resulted in the reversal of the refusal by DCC to grant a certificate and 8 appeals were refused by the Board.
Each decision is preceded by an inspector’s report commissioned by An Bord Pleanála which contains an assessment of the issues raised and a recommendation in relation to the appeal. The inspector’s report in each case is made available for inspection post decision on the Board’s website or in its offices.