Building regulations deal with the construction of standards of buildings. They go further than mere physical construction to apply to a range of facility issues on fire safety, disability access, heat efficiency and so.
There are two principal aspects. One aspect deals with the detailed building regulations themselves. They are set out in statutory instruments and have been amended from time to time. The regulations are supplemented by technical guidance documents which in turn refer to preferred methods of building and building standards.
The guidance documents are not necessarily the definitive way to build or represent one method that would generally be followed and acceptable. There may be other methods of complying with the actual standards in the regulation which are at a high level of generality in terms of requirements.
All local authorities except former town councils are deemed building control authorities for their area.
The Scope of Building Regulations
The building regulations relate to the design and construction of buildings, material alterations, extensions of existing buildings, provisions of services, fitting of equipment or in connection with buildings or where there is a material change of use.
What is a material change for building regulations purpose is considered relative to the previous use. The regulations were introduced in 1992. Uses before then were deemed valid. The regulations apply to buildings built after June 1992 or where there is a material alteration or extension or change of use of such building.
There is a legal obligation to comply with the regulations. Failure to do so may be enforced by application by the local authority under summary enforcement procedure to the District Court. Alternatively, the local authority may apply to the High Court to prohibit or make Orders consequent on the breach.
Triggering Compliance Obligations
Material alterations or constructions of a building or a material change of use may require both planning permission and fire safety certificate / the disability access certificate. The legislation lays down exemptions where a certificate of compliance does not apply.
Works to the interior may not require planning permission but may require building regulation compliance. Works to the interior of commercial premises may be exempt from planning permission but may require by a safety certificate or disability access certificate.
The exemptions from building regulations or the requirement for certificates differ from the exemptions under planning legislation. Planning legislation concerns the environment or exterior appearance of buildings. In contrast, the focus under building regulations is on structure, building, comfort and issues in respect of standard of construction and building itself.
The definitions such as material change of use, alterations or extensions under planning and building control legislation differ in some respects.
Building Control Procedures (pre-2014)
Before works are commenced a commencement notice must be given within 7 to 21 days. This allows inspection of the works by the local authority.
Premises other than a domestic dwelling house require a fire safety certificate. This involves a prior application to the local authority for a certificate. The local authority considers plans and drawings and issues an opinion as to whether it complies with the regulations or would comply subject to such conditions as are imposed. The duty then remains with the owner to actually comply with the regulations in implementation.
Generally, it is necessary to apply for and obtain a safety certificate and a disability access certificate before commencing. This implies a preparation of plans and drawings, lodgment of the application and a waiting period of at least two months. The recent amendment legislation makes the methods for fire safety compliance more flexible.
Building control authority can grant a dispensation or relaxation order from any aspects of the regulations. An application can be made. This would be appropriate where an older building does not comply with the regulations and cannot reasonably be complied with.
Alternative Fire Safety Certificates Procedure
It is possible to apply for a fire safety certificate where commencement of work is imminent using a fast-track procedure. A seven-day notice may be given to building control authority where commencement of work is imminent accompanied by a valid fire safety certificate application together with a statutory declaration in respect of the certificate and modification works carried out prior to the granting of the certificate. There provision for revision.
The seven day notice of a statutory declaration states that the application for the fire safety certificate has been completed in all respects in accordance with the building control provisions and that works commenced before the grant will comply with building regulations and the person will within the period as may be specified carry out the modification of such works as may be required by the fire safety certificate conditions.
A revised fire safety certificate is for the purpose of ensuring compliance arises where there is a design revision consequent upon grant of planning permission and conditions. In relation to a building where an application has been made for a fire safety certificate where work has been commenced or completed without a fire safety certificate, there is provision for an application for regularisation certificate.
This must be accompanied by plans and drawings and a statutory declaration that the works comply with the provisions of the building regulations relating to fire safety certificates. It must be accompanied by a declaration that the application complies with fire safety aspects of the building regulations and enable the authorities to specify that the certificate will not have effect. The authority may specify that the regularisation certification shall not have effect unless within four months of grant any conditions including conditions of carrying out of additional works are complied with.
Building Control Requirements (2014 Reforms)
Prior to the recent 2014 Regulations, the principal obligations were to give a Commencement Notice, and where necessary, to obtain a Fire Safety Certificate and a Disabled Access Certificate (covering compliance with parts B and M of the Building Regulations). The form of Commencement Notice under the previous Building Control Regulations was signed by the person carrying out the works, on behalf of named persons, including the building owner.
The 2014 regulations prescribe the form of the Commencement Notice to be signed by the “building owner”. The notice is filed electronically, The building owner refers to the person with the major proprietary interest in the building.
The form of the Certificate of Compliance in respect of design is to be signed by the appropriate designer, who will set out his professional qualifications and regulation number. The form of Notice of Assignment of the assigned certifier is to be signed by the building owner. The Undertaking by the assigned certifier is signed by the relevant professional who is so assigned.
The Assignment of the Builder is to be signed by the building owner. The form of the certificate of compliance by the builder is to be signed by a principal or a director of the building company. The final form of the Certificate of compliance is to be signed by the relevant professional.
Other Building Control Matters
A regularisation certificate may issue where works have been carried without a fire safety certificate. Application for regularisation certificate. The application must be accompanied by as constructed drawings and a certificate stating the works are compliant with the requirements of the fire safety certificates of the building regulations.
A disability access certificate is equivalent to a fire safety certificates. It is a pre-works application for confirmation by the building control authority that the works have been designed in accordance with the part of the building regulations dealing with disability access.
There is an appeal to Bord Plenála in relation to the refusal or imposition of conditions attached to a fire safety certificate, regularisation certificate or disability access certificate.
The building control authority may inspect a building in respect of which a regularisation certificate has been applied for and it may in its discretion issue a regularisation certificate specifying whether the works as constructed comply with building regulations relating to fire safety or subject to compliance with the conditions subject to any additional conditions that may be specified.
Regulations may specify that a new building or extension may not be opened, operated or occupied without fire safety certificate, disability access certificate, regularisation certificate.
The local authority has powers of inspection. There is no actual duty to inspect the works. The broad purpose of the legislation is self-certification. In selling property it is required as a matter of practice that there be an opinion of compliance with or exempt from building regulations by an appropriate qualified professional.
In practice, the self-regulation aspect of the building regulations has been criticised in the context of defects that have emerged in buildings after the building boom.
The building control authority may apply to the High Court where works have been undertaken or material change of use for an order prohibiting or restricting works. A Court Injunction may issue. In the case of a High Court Application would require this may occur where there has been any works or change of use and the authority considers there is a risk to health or safety.
Separately there are powers to issue enforcement notices. Failure to comply is an offence and can be prosecuted in the District Court. Separately failure to comply with the regulations is a summary offence. The legislation does not oblige the local authority to inspect and is careful to exempt it from liability.
Prior to 1992 building regulations applied in respect of certain urban districts. Formerly all works completed before December 1989 which were not the subject to enforcement prior to the commencement of the building regulations in June 1992 were deemed compliant with building bylaws.
Building Control Act, 2007 strengthened the enforcement powers of building control authorities. They may apply to Court for an Injunction to stop construction or use of buildings the design of which does not have a disability access certificate or fire safety certificate or where an enforcement notice has not been complied with.
All building control offences may be prosecuted summarily in the District Court or in some cases on indictment.
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