Calls for better building standards following Grenfell Tower blaze

The Green Party wants to see an independent Building Regulator appointed

Calls for better building standards following Grenfell Tower blaze

File photo shows construction activity in Co Dublin | Image: RollingNews.ie

A safety authority for the construction sector, similar to the Road Safety Authority, could be on the cards under proposed new measures.

The Dáil is to debate the measures aimed at improving building standards and quality in the wake of the London tower block fire.

The Green Party motion will also provide new legal rights and remedies to protect home buyers.

The party's deputy leader, Catherine Martin, said: "In the rush to build the new homes so urgently needed, it is essential that this time it is done right and that all homes are built to an acceptable and safe standard.

"We submitted this motion a number of weeks ago, but the tragic inferno at Grenfell Tower in London earlier last week has brought this issue to the fore.

"The overriding priority underpinning all construction must be the safety of residents.

"There is no doubt about it - under the current rules and regulations, we could easily have a blaze like Grenfell in Ireland.

"We have already seen examples inadequate fire safety in the likes of Priory Hall and Longboat Quay.

"There are tens of thousands of homes in this country affected by shoddy building work and failures in building control."

The motion on Building Standards, Regulation, and Homeowner Protection has three central aims:

  • Introduce a national building regulation office where an independent Building Regulator will oversee building control and regulate those involved in construction
  • Stop systematic failures in building control happening by ensuring standards are raised and that there is appropriate building control compliance
  • Improve legal remedies for homeowners who discover there are serious defects in their homes, and introduce a consumer-friendly dispute resolution scheme

Deputy Martin told Newstalk Breakfast: "What we have at the moment, you can have an Assigned Certifier, but there's still kinks in that system.

"The Assigned Certifier can, in actual fact, be an employee of the developer.

"Where there's a financial link, that undermines independence - so we're looking for that independent regulator.

"All the rules in the world do not matter if there is no credible threat of enforcement, and that's what we have at the moment".

Orla Hegarty is an architect and Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture at UCD.

She told Newstalk Breakfast trust in the industry is a serious issue.

"We know that we have widespread problems, we know that we have lots of legacy issues that we're going to have to deal with and are not going away.

"And this needs to be handled in some sort of structured way."

"Generally consumers know what the Food Safety Authority does, they know what the Road Safety (Authority) do - they have a role in informing people, they raise standards, they gather information and more importantly they build trust.

"We really are at a point in the construction industry now where we need people to have trust in the buildings that they live in, the buildings where the send their children to school - and that they know there is some oversight there".

The Dáil will debate and vote on the proposals this week.