I propose to take Questions Nos. 739 to 741, inclusive, together.
Section 3(5) of the Building Control Act 1990, provides that every building to which building regulations apply shall be designed and constructed in accordance with the provisions of such regulations.
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, I 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 response to the many building failures that have emerged over the past decade, my Department introduced the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 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 parallel with the 2014 Regulations, a project is in place in the Local Government Management Agency to improve the effectiveness of the Building Control System. A number of enhancements have been delivered to date and others are in progress, including:
1. To facilitate the consistent implementation of the changes introduced by the 2014 Regulations, the electronic administration of building control functions and to provide a common platform for clear and consistent administration of building control matters across the local authority sector, the Building Control Management System (BCMS) IT system was developed.
2. To standardise work practices, systems, procedures and decision-making in relation to oversight of building control activity across the sector, a “Framework for Building Control Authorities” was developed and first published in September 2014 and revised in June 2016.
3. To further support local building control authorities in their daily activities, a compliance support work stream has been developed. A number of frequently asked questions have been answered through this system.
4. To support staff in building control authorities to carry out their work effectively, training programmes have been developed.
5. To increase the level of meaningful inspections of building activity, a BCMS module is currently being developed to collect data at commencement, which will further inform building control staff in planning risk based targeted inspections.
The Local Government Management Agency is working towards encapsulating all these work streams into a centralised structure for the governance and oversight of Building Control. This structure will ultimately be a shared service embedded in a lead local authority.
At the end of 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 Oireachtas Joint 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 as soon as possible.
Once it is 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.
With regard to timber framed construction, in accordance with the recommendations of the Timber Frame Housing Report, a standard in relation to timber frame construction was developed. Irish Standard 440: 2009/A1:2014 Timber Frame Construction, Dwellings and other Buildings (I.S. 440) specifies requirements for materials, design, manufacture, construction details, site work and quality control for platform timber frame construction. It requires that the responsibilities for the tasks involved in the planning, structural design, site erection and inspection be agreed and recorded prior to the commencement of each project. I.S. 440 also gives specific details relating to fire, including the construction of separating walls, horizontal and vertical fire stopping, cavity barriers and detailed fire stopping junctions for walls and floors and service penetrations.
I understand that I.S. 440 is currently under review, and it is intended that both external and party wall new constructions and methods will be included in the next revision of the document. Manufacturers of timber frame buildings are assessed under an approval scheme operated by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) for compliance with I.S. 440 requirements including Factory Production Control (FPC) and a register of compliant manufacturers is available on the NSAI website at https://www.nsai.ie/Our-Services/Certification/Company-Registration-Search.aspx.
It should also be noted that my Department has recently issued guidance on Timber Frame Walls, which have been tested to the European fire test standard and meet the performance set down in Technical Guidance Document B (TGD B) for external and separating walls in dwellings. This has been transmitted to all registered users of the Building Control Management System and to all Building Control Authorities.
In relation to fire safety, work has been on-going to review TGD B – Fire Safety (2006) and 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 is being prepared for public consultation.