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Written Answers — Department of Education and Skills: School Funding (22 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: 87. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if her attention has been drawn to concerns related to the inflexibility of the free solar panel roll-out for schools scheme; if a higher than 6 kw generating yield system can be contracted for the same price; if a school is allowed that flexibility; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23153/24]

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: We have convened this afternoon to consider the review of Part B (Fire Safety) of the building regulations. We are joined, from the building standards unit of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, by Ms Sarah Neary, principal adviser, Mr. John Wickham, senior adviser, and Mr. Eoin O'Dowd, adviser. From the building control division of Dublin City Council, we are joined...

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: Thank you very much Mr. Keeley. We will now go to the members who will have seven-minute slots, that is, seven minutes to ask the question and to answer the question as well.

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: I will invite Deputy O'Callaghan to go next because he has business in the Chamber as well. I will then go back to Senator Boyhan. I thank Senator Boyhan.

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: I thank Senator Boyhan. I will take the next slot. As I mentioned, the committee have held a series of meetings on dereliction and vacancy in which the refurbishment and reuse of older three- and four-storey buildings came up. We also did a series of meetings on modern methods of construction, which also threw up some difficulties. I note that somebody commented on perceived versus real...

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: This is another stage in the progression of Part B, with the consultation we have had and the new issuance of Part B. There is still more work to be done on engineered timber. Ms Neary made a point about the percentage of residential dwellings done with timber frame. That tends to be the inner leaf of the building, with the exterior still tending to be done with concrete and blocks. We...

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: One of the points made was that while the regulations do not stop people from doing it and there is a way to do it, it is really difficult and very challenging so why go through the hassle rather than go the conventional route and build with blocks and steel. Construction has a carbon impact that has to be balanced out.

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: A complex building would be an engineered timber building using CLT or glue laminated timber, GLT, to build multiple storeys. The committee has seen evidence of six- and eight-storey buildings in other European nations and an example of a 14-storey building in Helsinki. I accept what Ms Neary said about rain ingress into buildings through the cladding but they are using standardised...

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: I completely agree. We do not want a rush to try to do something that we will regret over the course of the next ten or 20 years, either because the buildings are not done to a proper standard or we have a fire disaster because we were trying to rush things. I fully accept that we need to have standards and a systematic approach so that Ms Neary's colleagues can expect the same result from...

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: It is not innovative in the country where I am buying it, only here. Is that the case?

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: How long would that process generally take? I have met people who are producing these buildings in Europe. We could produce them here. There is plenty of capability in Ireland to produce these. I am not saying that we have to import them from Europe but there is a ready-made model there. I am just wondering how long the Agrément certification takes?

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: I accept that progress is being made and that we are going in the right direction. The sense of frustration I have is that we seem to be doing so very slowly. I would counter that by saying that we need to do it right, rather than quickly and wrong. This is where it comes back to whether they are perceived or real difficulties that we are hearing from people who work in this area.

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: I just have one follow up question on that. In a lot of the research and in the meetings we have had on dereliction and vacancy, there was talk about the establishment of what was called a one-stop shop. If someone wanted to go in and change a building's use from commercial, a three or four storey building, into residential, we have taken away the requirement for planning permission for...

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: I will have to read it as I have not read it yet. Does Mr. Wickham have a comment?

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government: Building Regulations (Fire Safety): Discussion (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: That is very helpful. Bringing Buildings Back is a really good document and the witness is right that there was a new version of it released recently. That is excellent. I do not see anybody else indicating to ask questions. On behalf of the committee, I want to thank all the witnesses for the work they are doing in this area. I know we can be quite demanding because we want to see...

Written Answers — Department of Public Expenditure and Reform: State Properties (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: 255. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the position regarding the OPW-led assessment of a building (details supplied); if this project can be expedited to bring these buildings back into community use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23000/24]

Written Answers — Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment: Employment Rights (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: 266. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the new draft employment regulation order for security officers; if he is concerned about the impact any delays are having on those who work in this sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22755/24]

Written Answers — Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government: Planning Issues (21 May 2024)

Steven Matthews: 340. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the position regarding the proposal to amend planning regulations to allow homeowners to install small bike sheds in front of their properties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22418/24]

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