Commenting on the forced evacuation of the Priory Hall development, the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) has called for a complete overhaul of the building control system for compliance with Building Regulations, including education of the construction trades.
IGBC stated: “The evacuation of the Priory Hall apartment complex has highlighted the complete failure of the current building control system for Building regulations. Priory Hall demonstrates the worst outcome of the current system, where the lives and safety of residents are put at risk byby the lack of inspections and adequate enforcement during construction of buildings.”
Infringments of building regulations are not just confined to fire safety. Failure to comply with energy efficiency requirements are also a matter of real concern. Energy Efficiency Regulations are being updated again this year and are going to widen the gap between many Irish builders’ understanding of building regulations and what they are actually required to build. As a result, a large proportion of our new housing stock is going to continue to be built to a late 20th century standard.
According to the council “Urgent action is needed in two critical areas. Firstly, a proper enforcement regime must be implemented, combined with professional involvement at all construction stages, and secondly all building contractors, trades and construction workers must be thoroughly educated in the new standards. Given the reality of building sites even regular inspections are insufficient to catch non compliance if site operatives do not understand what they are doing.”
“In order to meet the requirements of the EU Directive on the energy performance of buildings, and to save occupiers high fuel bills, these regulations have been updated several times since 2002. The Regulations are to be updated again this year to achieve a 60 % reduction in energy consumption over 2002 standards. These updates are for the benefit of households in reducing energy bills. However there is real doubt as to whether they will actually be complied with.”
It seems that many tradesmen are building in the way they always built, unaware of new standards, due to lack of training and education. Purchasers of these new houses will not benefit from the new enegy efficency standards and they will continue to pay higher fuel bills. The updates include airtightness, thermal bridge free construction, improved heating system standards and the need for proper ventilation to maintain a healthy indoor environment for inhabitants. Compliance with the new Regulations requires a fundamental and rigorous understanding of these details from builders. This will require a revolution in how we build buildings and a completely different approach to standards and quality in the Irish construction sector.
The Irish Green Building Council supports calls from professional bodies for a stricter building control system but this does not replace the need for retraining the entire construction industry. The Irish Green Building Council will seek to co-ordinate education at all levels of the construction industry to ensure that energy efficient targets are met and build capacity so that future more ambitious targets in sustainable construction can be met. “A proportion of our construction continues to be built with little or no professional oversight. This is at its worst in the residential, self build, retrofit and domestic extension sector. Without a requirement for all builders and tradesmen to engage in continual education in the new standards, combined with professional oversight and building enforcement inspections, new homes will not meet the proposed Regulations.”