Recent high profile failures in the housing and construction sector have called into question the role of the State in this area and understandably so, the Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan told the Dáil.
“Self-regulation introduced by my predecessors has failed and I intend to change the regulations,” he said. “The proposed regulations are on public display. The trust we placed in the professions to do this job was badly misplaced. My Department and I have a responsibility to guide and regulate development, but there is a point at which it is up to the professions and the industry to take over and ensure that the planning, design and construction of the built environment is of the highest quality. There is a robust system of building control and local authorities are successfully using their powers against non-compliant operators. Of course, from a regulatory respective, there is much that can be done to improve the system and that is what we are doing.”
The building regulations set out the legally enforceable minimum requirements that a building must achieve, he said. The requirements were set out in 12 Parts, classified as Parts A to M, each of which addresses a key aspect of ensuring the safety and well-being of persons in and around the building.
“Construction professionals play a key role in designing, developing, and certifying buildings,” he said. “Where these buildings prove to be less than fit for purpose, construction professionals must be held to account for the consequences of their actions. Such individuals should not be immune from criticism and should be held accountable for the consequences of their actions by society and their profession.”
The lack of attention being paid to this objective reality by the professional bodies in their public statements, by media commentators and by members of both Houses in their contributions to proceedings was disappointing, he said.
The Department had set a target inspection rate of 12% to 15% of all buildings covered by valid commencement notices, he said. Statistical returns for 2010 show that all but five building control authorities met or exceeded this target, and a general average inspection rate of 24% of all buildings was recorded. However, this was not acceptable.