Tuesday, 11 March 2014
Department of Environment, Community and Local Government
Building Regulations Compliance
344. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 528 of 18 February 2014, where he states it is not clear what useful purpose would be served by imposing a requirement for independent verification of design or construction by a third party, his views on whether this is consistent with departmental insistence on such systems for the upholding of standards in fire safety and universal access, for example, as regulated by Part B and Part M respectively of the building regulations. [11666/14]
364. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government his views on whether the ability to sue a builder or design professional who has certified building works as complying with building regulations when a defect appears after the fact, is of little worth compared to prevention of the defect/non-compliance through robust inspections by competent public building control officials. [11853/14]
365. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government regarding cases of non-compliance with the building regulations (fire safety) that have come to his notice, the measures he is proposing to enforce the building regulations (fire safety) in each of these cases. [11854/14]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 344, 364 and 365 together.
The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 which came into operation on 1 March 2014, greatly strengthen the arrangements in place for the control of building activity by requiring 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. Since 1 March 2014, a building owner, prior to commencing work on a new building, must assign a competent builder, have the design certified by a competent registered professional and assign a competent registered professional to inspect the works during construction and, in conjunction with the builder, to certify the building on completion for compliance with the building regulations.
Empowering competence and professionalism on construction projects in this way is an important and necessary step forward and will, I believe, greatly improve the quality of construction. It is not the function of the local building control authority to quality assure construction projects. Owners, builders and designers must at all times take responsibility for their statutory obligations in line with the Building Control Act 1990 and take whatever steps are necessary in order to achieve compliance in respect of the building or works concerned.
Requirements in relation to independent verification and third party certification have not been imposed for the reasons already outlined in the reply to Question No. 528 of 18 February 2014.
Notwithstanding the primary responsibility of owners, designers and builders to comply with the law, local building control authorities also have extensive powers under the Building Control Acts which they can and do use to enforce compliance with the Building Regulations. These include the powers to scrutinise proposals and inspect works in progress; to approve, as noted, designs in respect of fire safety (Part B of the Building Regulations) and accessibility (Part M of the Building Regulations) in the case of buildings other than dwellings, to serve enforcement notices for non-compliance; to institute proceedings for breaches of regulatory requirements; and to seek High Court injunctions if non-compliance poses considerable and serious danger to the public. Independence by local authorities in relation to the use of such powers of inspection and enforcement under the Acts is necessary and appropriate.
I see no inconsistency between the requirement to demonstrate by way of certificates of compliance that owners, builders and designers have fulfilled their statutory obligation to design and construct in accordance with the requirements of the Building Regulations and the use by a local authority of its powers of inspection and enforcement where reasonable and appropriate to do so.
Enforcement activity under the Building Control Acts and the Fire Safety Act is a matter for local authorities and I have no function in relation to this aspect of the matter. I have urged, and will continue to urge, local authorities to use all of the powers available to them to address failures to comply with statutory requirements and my Department continues to liaise closely with local authorities in this regard.