Tackling the built environment challenges in Ireland

Kevin Sheridan, Secretary General AEEBC, offers an insight into how lessons can be learned from the past.

The painful lessons arising from the boom period in Ireland from 1998 to 2008 portrayed a bleak landscape and we are still enduring the consequences. The haemorrhaging, through mass emigration and a loss to other industries, was a salutary reminder of the frailty of our industry.

However, the resilience of the construction industry to bounce back, even at a more modest rate, is very welcome and recent predictions point to a positive future.

Yet the aftermath of the crash continues to have an impact on skills shortages and the capacity of the industry to respond to very pressing shortages in the housing sector.

In Ireland, a number of initiatives are underway to help the industry learn lessons from the past and to grow. These include:

Financial viability – While the emphasis is on limited access to risk capital while still seeking to achieve sustainable growth this falls short of the needs of under capitalised building companies to play a more active role in the infrastructural deficit.

Building quality improvements – Arising from the lessons learned from many catastrophic failures in the system, the Government, in partnership with the construction industry, has developed and implemented the Building Control Amendment Regulations (BCAR). This has introduced a more transparent, mandatory notification, lodgement and quality control system for inspection and certifying buildings and works.

Ancillary certification – The industry, through the Construction Industry Council (CIC) including Chartered bodies and employer registration bodies, introduced ancillary certification to support mandatory certification. This is underpinned by comprehensive, rigorous ancillary certification discipline by involving the key chain of contributors to the construction process in certifying their respective components and works.

Strengthening building control – The Construction Industry Register Ireland (CIRI) Builder Registration Scheme was established in 2014 as a voluntary scheme to strengthen the building control system and assist users of construction services to select competent and compliant builders, building services contractors or specialist contractors. This is expected to be mandatory in 2019

Rebuilding residential Ireland – In the context of the Government’s new housing strategy ‘Rebuilding Ireland’, plans are in place to double housing construction to 25,000 per year, deliver 47,000 social housing units by the end of 2021 and to tackle homelessness. The Government has committed €5.35billion for the delivery of social housing.

Raising standards – The National Construction Standards Consultative Committee (CSCC) is a high level, overarching committee that is tasked with advising the NSAI on the development of construction standards, resources and priorities. The CSCC also looks at other challenges and threats in the marketplace including the possible effects of Brexit and its potential impact on trade and standards.  This will support a number of Government infrastructural strategic objectives.

A long overdue, vibrant construction industry throughout Ireland can only be sustainable and mutually beneficial to all providing we are resilient and open to change by learning from our mistakes.

W: www.ciob.org

Kevin Sheridan EurBE, MSc, CEnv, FCIOB, FRICS, MICE, FCABE, FSCSI, FIBCI, CBuild E, is Secretary General and Past President of the Association of European Building and Construction Experts. He is a member of the Architects Registration Board, CIRI Board and a former member of the Building Surveyors Registration Board. He is Immediate Past Chairman of the Republic of Ireland Branch of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and Past President of the Irish Building Control Institute (IBCI). He is Chairman of the NSAI Construction Standards Consultative Committee overseeing the Construction Sector Standards Program 2018–2022.