Energy Performance Standards for New Homes: RIAI v DLRD.

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      This item was posted recently under the following:
      (Is this the same John Graby?)
      I think the thread title was an impediment to the issue getting the discussion it should have.

      Irish Times, Friday, 02 March 2007:
      “Director of the RIAI objects to energy standard for new homes”

      A dispute has broken out in the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) about an objection made by its director, John Graby, to higher energy performance standards for new homes in Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown.
      In a letter to the county council last month Mr Graby said it was the RIAI’s view that “such matters are properly dealt with through the building regulations regulatory systems and not by variation to [ county] development plans”.
      Although the institute “fully supports the concept of improved standards in energy efficiency and sustainability generally”, this “should be dealt with on a national basis by the Minister for the Environment . . . and the Building Regulations Advisory Board”.
      The Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown proposal had been examined by the RIAI sustainability task force and it was felt that there would be “substantial problems” in implementing it, “including lack of agreed standards, methodologies and local authority resources”.
      The Irish Home Builders’ Association, which also opposed setting a standard 60 per cent higher than the current regulations on the basis that it was “not achievable”, said that the industry’s concerns about the proposal were “fully shared by the RIAI”.
      However, one member of the sustainability task force, who did not wish to be identified, said that all of its members “supported Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown wholeheartedly” in adopting the new standards, and they had requested a meeting with Mr Graby to discuss the issue.
      “I can only say that we were very unhappy about the tone of the letter, which was very negative and wouldn’t have been something that we endorsed.”
      Mr Graby said that he discussed the matter with John Goulding, who chairs the task- force, and he had agreed that energy standards for new housing should be dealt with on a national basis rather than by individual local authorities imposing their own standards.
      Frank McDonald
      © 2007 The Irish Times

      Green Party environment spokesman Ciaran Cuffe TD, who is also a
      professional qualified architect and RIAI member, said the institute
      had “led the discussion in many ways and I’d hate to think they’d be
      faltering, or acting as an impediment to higher standards”.

      He added: “In the absence of movement from [Minister] Dick Roche
      and the Department of the Environment, and given the current level of
      housing output, there’s a moral imperative on local authorities to
      move he issue forward by improving standards themselves”.
      Frank McDonald.

      There can be no doubt left now that this Government, or its likely reincarnation after the general election, will resist dragging our inadequate Building Control Regulations up to the minimum standards for energy performance, that we know they should be at. Lobbying by vested interests in the construction / developer sectors are the chief factors involved in preventing progress. Part L of the building regulations is treated more often than not as a target to hit, rather than the bare minimum acceptable.

      I commend Dun Laoghaire Rathdown’s decision. We need to see more County Councils demanding these changes. If a Fianna Fáil government won’t legislate for these issues, we need Councils who can consider more than vested interests, to do so on a local level. Piecemeal progress is infinitely better than no progress.

      “Lack of agreed standards, methodologies and local authority resources”, are the problems cited by Mr Graby. What exactly is the problem with the lack of a nationwide consensus on standards, methodologies? A large proportion of my work is in the DLRD area and I see no such problems. Architects are (generally) intelligent enough sorts. Surely they can cope with one set of rules in one district, and a differing set elsewhere? Hell, why not just encourage clients to use the higher standards everywhere? Its not as if Mr Architect is going to be out of pocket, surely clients will comprehend that additional work incurs additional expense. Nobody expects us to work for free, do they?

      As for the Local authority resources needed, one of the six copies of drawings submitted goes to the building control department, and they often ask for a set of drawings showing compliance with Building Regs. when the commencement notice is lodged. The applicant’s agent will have done the ‘work’. What kind of additional resources would be required to confirm that a new standard is complied with as opposed to an old one?

      Enforcement of compliance is certainly a critical issue. I am an architect, and from first hand experience, I believe that architects, in general, should not be left to certify compliance with regulations. I have recently overseen the retrofitting of insulation into four newly built townhouses. NO roof insulation had been fitted in these houses. The roofs had to be completely stripped to fit the insulation as the ceiling followed the roof pitch. The RIAI registered architect who inspected & certified these buildings initially told my clients that their roof was indeed insulated, with a foil-backed plasterboard!

      He then saw no difficulty in cutting 6 large holes (300mm dia) right through the new insulation to accommodate unsuitable lights and stated to me that “It says nowhere in the regulations that you cannot do this”! Sure it doesn’t, and neither does it say you can cut six large holes in the newly laid DPM. He also was unaware of any requirement to provide ventilation space above the insulation and did not know what it was for.

      This is by no means an isolated incident. I am sure we all know of some architects who operate like this. Despite what the RIAI will say about the professionalism of its member architects, members can, and do continue to turn a blind eye to (or be ignorant of) breaches by developers while developers are paying their fees. Even if these architects are a minority, this is not good enough. The system does not work ‘effectively’ and unfortunately, paid ‘professionals’ let down the building’s end user or purchaser in too many cases.
      In the case of the 4 houses above, the architect explained to me: “We inspected the works on a fortnightly basis, the builder had sealed up the roofs and ceilings between vists”
      Had he indeed! Well that’s OK, just issue the cert then…

      How many additional Building Control Inspectors have been employed by Local Authorities to deal with the scale of development this country has / is experiencing? How much funding has central government provided for this?
      How many times has Mr Graby and the representative body of Architects in Ireland called for a proper Building Control System such as that in place in Northern Ireland, with mandatory approval required before construction commences?
      Why is Mr Graby now criticising the commendable, democratic decision taken by DLRD County Council to demand proper energy and insulation standards and apparently dissenting from the opinions of members of the RIAI’s own sustainability task force?
      Surely the RIAI should be supporting DLRD’s actions.

      Does “The Director,” Mr Graby need to take more Direction from the members, the Council and the Sustainability Task Force of his own Institute?

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