Thursday 20 October 2011

Priory Hall sparks safety fear over recent builds

CONCERNS have been raised that other apartment blocks built during the boom may not meet the required building and fire safety regulations.

The news comes as 180 Priory Hall residents spent a second night at the Regency Hotel in Dublin following their removal due to serious fire safety concerns at the complex.

The developers behind the complex, Thomas McFeely and Larry O’Mahony, have been ordered to surrender their passports. Mr McFeely said he would commit resources to repairs.

Currently, developments are signed off on using a largely self-regulating system. As houses and apartments are sold, architects and engineers certify that the works have been completed in accordance with building regulations based on the plans supplied by the developers.

Principal solicitor with Sonia McEntee said her firm was receiving a growing number of calls in relation to building flaws in apartment complexes built in the past six or seven years.

"I think there are broader issues with compliance to building regulations," she said. "While fire safety might be the most urgent or the most critical of them, there are also issues with ventilation, insulation, waste control and waste disposal. Issues like that are coming out and I’m certainly having more and more calls in relation to incidents like that."

Ms McEntee said that, in light of the Priory Hall case, there was a case to be made for ensuring that architects and engineers sign off on buildings for purchasers rather than developers.

"There is certainly cause for looking at a system whereby architects and engineers would sign off on behalf of the purchaser so that they have benefit of independent sign-off when they are purchasing properties like that," she said.

"In one sense, the horse has bolted for so many because we are unlikely to see development of the kind we’ve seen in the last five to seven years in the short term."

Construction Industry Federation director Tom Parlon has criticised the previous government for failing to act on its calls since 2000 for the establishment of a Register of Competent Builders.

"Clearly, the Priory Hall situation highlights the need for change," he said.

"The register is crucial in this regard. This can be augmented by a system of continuous inspection by professionally accredited individuals. Failing to build to the required standard or wrongly signing off on a building should carry heavy penalties for the builder and the professionals involved."

In July, a number of measures were announced by the Department of Environment and local authorities with a view to improving compliance with and oversight of the requirements of the building regulations.

This includes the introduction of mandatory certificates of compliance by builders and designers of buildings, confirming statutory building regulations requirements have been met.

Irish Examiner


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