True Defective


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The Priory Hall apartment complex in Donaghmede, north Dublin

In the Irish Times editorial (Building regulations: Politics over planning, August 17) the proposed exemption of one-off houses from the requirements of the Building Regulations is referred to as a “bonus to the one-off houses . . sucking the life out of towns and villages”.

Recent experience in Ireland has demonstrated that the problems of defective housing go well beyond this. The cost to the State of repairing Priory Hall and of the pyrite remediation scheme runs to tens of millions.

One of the disappointing aspects of the recent report on the regulations was the failure to consider why professional fees for building site inspections can be so much more expensive here than in the UK, where inspection of a one-off house typically costs less than £500 (€700).

Instead, it was decided to exempt one-off houses from the regulations altogether. One-off houses are not inherently lower-risk; the report itself notes that “small houses carry big risks”, for example in relation to radon, subsidence and septic tanks.

The result will be that houses will be built without any inspections, with potentially disastrous consequences for owners, future purchasers, and the public purse. Defects are often impossible for purchasers to see when deciding to buy. This is why inspection in the course of construction is mandatory in other countries.

It beggars belief that we would now choose to exempt new houses from inspections, given the misery that poorly-built housing has brought to so many.

Deirdre Ní Fhloinn,
School of Law,
Trinity College Dublin,
Dublin 2.


Why we need Building Regulations (Irish Times letters page)

Laura Hutton/

16 thoughts on “True Defective

  1. ivan

    She’s right in the main. However, as I recall from the regulations, if you’re building a one off house, you have to have an engineer/architect design the house, file the plans with the local authority as part of the planning application and file more ‘in-depth’ plans when you file the commencement notice; where planning specs are a bit ‘general’ the stuff you’d file at commencement notice stage is a bit more nitty-gritty.

    You’ve to retain your architect/engineer to carry out regular inspections of the property to ensure that the ‘nitty gritty’ plans are being followed (and i’m not saying this is a bad thing).

    It’s a lot more involved and time consuming than the existant system and whereas an engineer supervising a build of 20 houses can have his costs spread over the build and there are economies of scale there, such economies don’t exist in the one-off

    Thus expecting an engineer/architect to do the necessary on a one off for €700 is a bit, er, optimistic.

    I’m not – for a moment – suggesting that granting an exemption to one-off houses is correct. I think the more we do to discourage one-offs and the more we do to encourage people to live in towns (wherein towns can then actually prosper by having a real life walking distance catchment area) the better for small businesses.

    1. DniF

      Thanks for this.

      We’ll need to wait for the draft amendment and see what the exemption looks like, but the requirement to retain a designer , particularly among the rural self builder lobby , was as much of an issue as the requirement to retain an assigned certifier, so I am expecting both requirements to be lifted for one off houses and extensions.

      I’m not suggesting that anyone should fulfil the designer/certifier duties under the Regs as they stand for €700 – one of the answers to my question is that the UK has a system where inspectors aren’t exposed to an excessive level of risk for inspecting.

  2. Atticus

    I’m sorry, but if you can’t afford to pay €3,000-€4,000 to have you house properly inspected and certified by a professional, you probably shouldn’t be building a house in the first place.

  3. brownbull

    The vast majority of self-build homes don’t meet the building regulations, particularly in the areas of radon (due to improper materials and workmanship), structure (where the services of an engineer aren’t employed and builders specify the structure themselves using improper rules of thumb), and thermal performance (where buildings aren’t properly insulated and are full of thermal bridges leading to the growth of mould patches inside). This hasn’t been acknowledged as a consumer protection problem as few self-build houses are sold-on, however in the few instances where they are the costs of trying to remedy concealed defects can be enormous. Aside from consumer issues, the issue of improper ventilation in modern insulated and airtight homes, particularly when considered against radon ingress and mould-growth due to improper detailing, should be a major public health concern. Radon is a major factor in the very high lung cancer rates in this country.
    A proper inspection and certification service for a one-off house should cost €4-5k as this is the required level of inspections by a competent professional to meet the certification. If the government wants to reduce the costs they should review the wording of the certification to make it less onerous or bring in legislation to allocate liability accordingly. Anyone who offers to certify a house build for a circa €1k price, taking in two or three inspections only, as it stands, cannot realistically meet the requirements of the legislation and sign off on the work with any credibility.
    Alan Kelly and Paudie Coffey have tried to undermine the review of this area of legislation, which has a direct impact on the housing crisis and the costs of doing business in this country, to push their pet agendas: the exemption of self-builders from the requirements of the legislation and the recognition of unqualified persons as competent individuals for certification under the Building Control legislation.

  4. Juno

    It’s cheaper in the UK because the local government requires that all drawings are submitted to the council for sign off and the local authority carries out their own inspections to ensure compliance. In Ireland, neither central nor local government take any responsibility for building control. The workload and liability on the certifier is vastly greater here.

      1. Medium Sized C

        Or they used to but then it seemed to stop during a certain explosive feline fictional-germanic-tribal period.

        1. ivan

          I’m not sure that they ever were…all i ever see when selling a house is an engineer’s certificate that the gaff is ‘in substantial compliance’ with planning/building regs.

          If the practise with local authorities changed, then it changed a heck of a long time ago…

      2. fulladapipes

        They’re not really supposed to (i.e. aren’t legally obliged to). They’ve a target of 15% inspections, but manage to achieve 3%.

        It’s far cheaper to employ local authority building inspectors than house people in hotels like Priory Hall, but govt and civil service are ideologically against hiring of more public sector staff.

  5. Jake38

    I think it’s generally in all our interests to ensure one-off hideous country boreen bungalows are exempted from building regulations. So that they fall down as soon as possible.

  6. tomkildare

    “you dont have 5K for certifier you shouldnt build a house” First you pay an architect to for planning process. Next you need to do a commence notice. You must then get an assigned certifier which costs 5K because he takes on the risk. The assigned certifier will only work with some competent builders he knows and will not work other as he does not know ther work and would be more riskier to work them so they are not bothered because of the risk and give big quotes. then you have builder pre lims, So on a large extention your down around 15K in fees before you build anything.

    Its a joke the current situation. Big robber phill organised this madness, got rid of architects that were practising for 20/30 years but if your were registered with the royal institute you were grand and gave all powers to the CIF who would scam builders out of 1000’s a year to be registered with them.

    What people don’t realise is the consumer pays for all of this madness. it stop places being built and just adds more and more costs to consumers.

    I wonder now we are out of the boom how would people now like 20% of the price of there new home go to siocial and affordable homes. Again this adds massive costs.

    Last but not least in west dublin builders cannot build 2 bed apartments and make a profit unless they get 250K because that what it costs

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