I propose to take Questions Nos. 127 to 130, inclusive, together.
The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 came into effect on 1 March 2014 and require 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 of compliance.
On 15 January 2014, the President of the RIAI wrote to me, and I understand to several other Ministers, seeking deferral of the implementation of the Regulations. I refer to the reply given to Questions Nos. 137 and 138 dated 12 February 2014 which deals comprehensively with the concerns raised in this correspondence.
On 5 February 2014 the Minister for Education and Skills wrote to me seeking that the planned implementation date of 1 March 2014 be deferred by at least 12 months, to ensure the planned school building programme is not put at risk.
My Department immediately consulted with relevant Departments/agencies represented on the Government Contracts Committee for Construction (GCCC), in relation to the implications of the Regulations for the public capital programme. Several Departments/Agencies, including the Department of Education and Skills, the National Development Finance Agency and the Health Services Executive, expressed concerns that the new requirements may cause delays in the Public Capital Programme. Large-scale public infrastructure projects, in particular, are prone to costly delays due to strict national and EU procurement rules which do not generally apply to private sector projects. Other agencies, notably the OPW, reported that the necessary arrangements were in place to administer contracts in accordance with the new requirements.
Following discussions at GCCC level, an oversight group will be established to deal with issues arising in the first twelve months of the new arrangements. This will ensure that a process is in place to signal at an early date, and resolve, any difficulties in relation to public capital programme projects and major investment projects.
On this basis, the Regulations were amended to provide for an alternative but equivalent means of complying with the requirements to assign a person to inspect and certify the works (the Assigned Certifier) in line with a plan lodged at commencement and implemented during construction. Subject to the oversight group’s determination of the matter, this requirement may be fulfilled by lodgement of such inspection plan, inspection records and certificates as may be deemed appropriate and necessary by the group in order to demonstrate that compliance with the Building Regulations has been achieved for the building or works concerned.
This alternative means of compliance applies to a limited range of public and privately owned buildings classified as first-, second- or third-level places of education; hospitals or primary care centres for which planning permission has already been obtained and for which contract documents will be in place before 1 November 2014 and works will commence before 1 March 2015. It does not amount to a deferral or a derogation of the requirements of the Building Regulations. The sole accommodation given is a n alternative means of compliance with the inspection and certification requirements fulfilled by the Assigned Certifier that will apply to a narrow range of buildings for a temporary period.
I understand that in excess of 100 commencement notices have been lodged on the Building Control Management System since 1 March 2014 suggesting that the necessary arrangements for the successful implementation of the Regulations are in place and are working effectively in practice. In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the concerns raised did not warrant a deferral of the necessary reform of the building control system and I have no plans to broaden the scope of transitional arrangements to other public sector or privately owned projects.