Thursday, 13 June 2019

Questions (238)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

238. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the position in respect of the promised regulatory change regarding fire safety of buildings following the fire in Newbridge in April 2015, the Carrickmines fire in October 2015, the Clongriffin fire in November 2016, the Clondalkin fire in March 2017, the Santry fire in March 2018 and others; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24787/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

There have been a range of measures progressed in relation to fire safety in buildings, over recent years, both on foot of some of the events the Deputy refers to and indeed other international events.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017, and in recognition of fears expressed for fire safety, my Department's National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management was asked to convene and coordinate a Task Force to lead a re-appraisal of our approach to fire safety in Ireland. The work of the Task Force has now been completed and its findings are reflected in “Fire Safety in Ireland: Report of the Fire Safety Task Force”, which was published and is available on my Department's website at the following link:

www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/fire_safety_in_ireland_-_report_of_the_fire_safety_task_force.pdf.

The Directorate's Management Board has been tasked with implementation of the recommendations within its remit, and oversight of the implementation of other recommendations. Work to implement the report’s recommendations is under way, including proposals for new regulatory provisions for management of fire safety in buildings to which section 18(2) of the Fire Services Acts applies.

Following the tragic loss of life in Carrickmines, County Dublin on 10 October 2015, my Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM) was tasked with developing and overseeing a Programme to review and enhance Fire Safety in Local Authority provided Traveller accommodation. This was undertaken in association with and supported by Travellers’ representative groups. As part of the review process, a working draft of a “Guide to Fire Safety in Existing Traveller Accommodation” was developed, including fire safety advice, guidance and standards applicable in various types of Traveller accommodation.

Fire safety in domestic settings is a shared responsibility, and the guide emphasises an approach to life safety through the prevention of fires, fire safety awareness and early detection and warning of fire through working smoke alarms. My Department published the "Report on the Programme to Review and Enhance Fire Safety in Local Authority provided Traveller Accommodation" on 21 September 2016, which is available at the following link:

www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/report_on_review_of_fire_safety_in_local_authority_provided_traveller_accommodation.pdf.

In July 2015, a review was undertaken by an independent fire expert to develop a framework for general application, in the interest of supporting owners and residents living in developments where concerns regarding non-compliance with fire safety requirements arise.

This review was completed and the 'Framework for Enhancing Fire Safety in dwellings where concerns arise', was published on 25 August 2017. The framework which is available on my Department's website at:

www.housing.gov.ie/sites/default/files/publications/files/framework_for_enhancing_fire_safety_in_dwellings.pdf contains the following:

- an explanation of the statutory provisions in respect of fire safety, namely the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014 and the Fire Services Acts 1981 & 2003, and the respective responsibilities of owners, designers, builders, occupants, local authorities;

- a range of actions that may reduce risk and improve the level of fire safety where deficiencies arise in dwelling houses, apartments and/or the common areas of apartment buildings; and

- a fire risk assessment methodology for professional advisors to prioritise the remedial actions, if any, that may need to be carried out on a dwelling.

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. In addition to owners and occupants, the Framework will also be of assistance to professional advisors both in developing strategies to improve fire safety and in developing strategies to enable the continued occupation in advance of undertaking the necessary works to ensure compliance with the relevant Building Regulations.

From a regulatory perspective, Part B (Fire Safety) of the second schedule to the Building Regulations is under review. In this context, a new Part B/ TGD B Volume 2 (2017) came into force on 1 July 2017. This Volume 2 applies to dwelling houses only. 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. A revised Volume 1, dealing with buildings other than dwelling houses (including apartment buildings), is being prepared for public consultation at present.

Finally, in response to the building failures that have emerged over the last decade my Department has advanced a robust and focused Building Control Reform Agenda, including:

- Amendments to the Building Control Regulations;

- Establishment of a shared services National Building Control Management Project; and

- The ongoing development of new legislation through the Building Control (Construction Industry Register Ireland) Bill.

These reforms have already brought, and will continue to bring, a new order and discipline to bear on construction projects, creating an enhanced culture of compliance with the Building Regulations.