I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 55 together.
Firstly, I acknowledge the stressful circumstances which the owners and residents of buildings face when defects occur in their homes. In response to the building failures that have emerged over the last decade, my Department has advanced a robust and focussed 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.
However, it is important to note that under the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2014, primary responsibility for compliance with the requirements of the Building Regulations rests with the owners, designers and builders of buildings. As such, in general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved, i.e. the homeowner, the builder, the developer and/or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme. It is incumbent on the parties responsible for poor workmanship and/or the supply of defective materials to face up to their responsibilities and take appropriate action to provide remedies for the affected homeowners.
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.
However, I and my predecessors, have supported homeowners through a number of expert reports and investigations into legacy problems such as the Report of the Pyrite Panel (June 2012) and the Report of the Expert Panel on Concrete Blocks (June 2017). I also published a Framework for Enhancing Fire Safety in Dwellings (August 2017), which 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 is also 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.
Where apartment buildings that are defective from a fire safety perspective come to the attention of the local authority fire services, they work with management companies and other stakeholders to ensure that appropriate levels of fire safety are achieved to minimise the risk to life. Actions are taken on the basis of case by case fire safety assessments.
Finally, following 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 Task Force's report, which was published recently, is available at the following link:
The report makes a number of recommendations in relation to fire safety in apartment buildings, including, including:
- the registration of fire stopping sub-contractors;
- the roles and responsibilities of Building Management Companies e.g. to review and maintain fire safety arrangements, to keep a Fire Safety Register, to advise residents on what to do in the event of a fire alarm (in particular the evacuation arrangements); and
- that local authority Fire Services should offer training to Building Management Companies on key life safety issues.
The National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management has been mandated to carry through the recommendations of the report which are within my Department's remit and to oversee and report on the implementation of the report's other recommendations.