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Dan Keane: Supervision and quality control when building will save you in the long term

As most people are aware the commencement notice process changed in 2013 to a new online system.

Before this a commencement notice was quite a simple affair where a two-page document was filled up and a cheque of €30 was sent to Laois County Council then two weeks later you could go to site and start the construction process.

However, with the changes in 2013 great confusion has come into the commencement process. In September 2014, after much debate on cost and the certification, then Minister for the Environment and Local Government Alan Kelly allow a get out clause for one off buildings and domestic extensions.

We will deal with a commercial commencement first and then have a look at the domestic.

With a commercial application, that would be multi-house developments or an extension to a shop or any form of commercial building an assigned certifier must be assigned to the project on commencement.

An assigned certifier is a Chartered Engineer, a Registered RIAI Architect or a Building Surveyor.  With this roll comes great responsibility on the assigned certifier.  The assigned certifier must submit construction drawings, specifications, details of all construction methods and material that is going into and onto the building.

All elements that go into the building must be certificated by NSAI or EU, scanned through to the Local Authority’s online system.

On completion of the building, full certification must be provided by the assigned certifier, ancillary certs from plumbers, electricians, block-layer etc, as well as, as-built drawings for same and submitted to the Local Authority.

This has put a large expense onto commercial projects; including housing development and this is part of the reason why developers are slow to get going in relation to large scale housing outside of Dublin, as the price of build and certification out weights the price they are getting for there units.

In relation to a domestic build the applicant has the choice of going down the road of assigned certifier or going into the Opt-Out assigned certifier route. If you go with the opt out route you still must lodge construction drawings or detailed drawings onto the building control system at commencement stages.  Your commencement notice must be digitally uploaded and you have to accept the roles of building owner, builder and certifier. So, you are taking control of three aspects of the building.

Opting out of assigned certifier route does not exempt you from the building regulations. Your dwelling house still must comply with the Building Regulations. Your banks will insist for mortgage purposes that you have supervision of the dwelling house during construction. This will entail a minimum of six visits by an architect or building engineer.  Generally, the way we work is that the engineer will sign off on structure, the BER Assessor will sign off on Part L of the building regulations and so on and so forth.

The Building Regulations are broken down into technical guidance documents from TGD Part A right through to Part M.  The Technical Guidance Documents are a minimum requirement to comply with the building regulations in Ireland.  All aspects of the technical guidance documents should be considered during the construction phase.

This should not be confused with the Health and Safety Regulations as all building sites have to be registered with the H & S Authority.

The sign off on a building is a complicated process.  Certificates are required from plumbers, electricians, concrete manufacturers, heating system, insulation, your damp proof coursing etc should also be included within this document, all to be handed to you in a booklet that can be handed to you at the end of your build.

This process is onerous and the cost of same is reflective of the amount of work that must be done by the supervising engineer or architect.

People often get shocked when they see the cost of this. However, supervision and quality control is paramount in satisfactory completion of any build and to skimp on these aspects will lead to problems on site, higher heating costs and running costs of the building in the future.

SEE ALSO – Dan Keane: Extensions and conversions can have many knock-on effects

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Daniel Keane is an Architectural Technologist based in Portlaoise. Having worked in a number of Architects offices throughout Ireland, in 2005 he open his own practice in Portlaoise. The practice specialises in individual residential design and retrofits, with over 300 bespoke ‘one off’ house designs to date. The goal of the practice is to provide the highest standard of architectural services, both in terms of design and quality of execution on site.