Construction Sites are one of the most hazardous ‘workplaces’ in this country

Fixing ‘Priory Hall’ in Dublin – Practical Solutions Needed Now !

2011-10-18:  A large ‘can of worms’ has recently been opened in Ireland …

For the last few days, including today, I have been listening intently to Joe Duffy on the RTE Radio ‘Liveline’ Programme at lunchtime.  Joe is being very cautious because he cannot quite believe his ears … either about the unfolding harrowing events for occupants in ‘Priory Hall’, Donaghmede, Dublin 13 – a Private, Multi-Storey Apartment Development – or the tales and anecdotes about Irish Building Sites during the Celtic Tiger Years.

This will be of no consolation to anybody … but the big surprise, for me, is that there is so much public shock.  ‘Priory Hall’ is the Tip of the Iceberg !   Ireland’s current dysfunctional approach to the development of Our(!) Built Environment … has been designed (for want of a better word) in a chaotic, haphazard and malevolent way … to end up in exactly the sort of mess which we are all now witnessing in North County Dublin.

Just to be clear … what has been happening in the Irish Construction Industry, during the boom years, has been happening for twenty years all over the country … more precisely, since the introduction of Legal National Building Regulations, with NO Effective Building Control, in 1991 … and, before that again, in those parts of this jurisdiction, outside of the major urban areas having Legal Building Bye-Laws, and Effective Building Control, i.e. mandatory inspections by competent local authority personnel at the foundation level and drainage level of all building sites … and, depending on the type of project, occasional or frequent inspections above ground level.

[ 1991:  Statutory Instrument No.304 of 1991 – Building Control Act, 1990 (Commencement Order), 1991;  Statutory Instrument No.305 of 1991 – Building Control Regulations, 1991;  Statutory Instrument No.306 of 1991 – Building Regulations, 1991 ]

And the biggest joke of all … is that the sum of the many resources, both human and material, required to repair sub-standard construction throughout Ireland … will count as a positive contribution towards the economic indicator of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) !   FUBAR

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Colour photograph showing 'Priory Hall' ... a private, multi-storey apartment development located in North County Dublin, Ireland. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing 'Priory Hall' ... a private, multi-storey apartment development located in North County Dublin, Ireland. Click to enlarge.

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PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS NEEDED NOW

What I have not been hearing from the radio, or reading in the newspapers, is practical solutions.

Lest there be any doubt … this is one of the professional services we provide at Sustainable Design International !

So … how do we fix Priory Hall as the situation now presents itself … in such a way that, as soon as it is practicable, a satisfactory level of long-term safety, protection, convenience and comfort will be provided for the occupants of Priory Hall … and the social wellbeing of the local community, there, can be restored.

Afterwards … we can worry about who’s responsible, and about the reasons for the many ‘system’ failures in Ireland.

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FIXING ‘PRIORY HALL’ IN DUBLIN

The following list of practical suggestions … a simple roadmap … is addressed to the Owners and Occupants of Apartments in Priory Hall.

As they have a large vested interest in the problems of Priory Hall … either directly or indirectly … no assurances or undertakings should be accepted, on face value, from either Dublin City Council (DCC) or the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government (DECLG) … or their representatives.

     1.  Informed Consent of Apartment Owners and Occupants

Demand that the Informed Consent of the Owner/Occupant of an Apartment is required, in writing, before any necessary Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works are carried out …

Informed Consent:  Consent freely obtained – without threats or improper inducements – after appropriate disclosure to a person of relevant, adequate and easily assimilated information in a form and language understood by that person.

     2.  ‘As Constructed’ Drawings & Specification of Entire Development

If they exist … we’re on the way !   But, if they don’t exist … and they may not … demand that an ‘As Constructed’ Survey of the Entire Development be carried out immediately.

Demand to see a copy of the Detailed ‘As Constructed’ Drawings, and Specification, for the Entire Development.

CHECK the adequacy of the Detailed Drawings and Specification !

At this stage, remember … all of the emphasis must now be placed on actual construction … not on paperwork !   The ‘As Constructed’ Survey Drawings and Specification are only a means towards a satisfactory end … that’s all !!

     3.  Failures to Properly Comply with Current Building Regulation Requirements A to M (Second Schedule to Irish Building Regulations)

Demand to see a Detailed Schedule of the many failures to properly comply with current Building Regulation Requirements, i.e. Parts A to M in the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations, as amended.

Do not entertain, even for a moment, any discussion about past legal building regulation requirements, which were in force at the time of initial design or construction !

An important point to note !   The Guidance Texts in, for example, Technical Guidance Document B: ‘Fire Safety’ are merely that … GUIDANCE !   This guidance is not infallible … and in a few respects, is entirely inadequate … for example, when dealing with the structural performance of buildings during conditions of fire, and the ‘cooling phase’ immediately afterwards … and the fire evacuation of people with activity limitations, in which case the guidance actually ensures that fire evacuation is made extremely difficult, if not prevented altogether !

Do not be sucked in to any conversations about what is stated, or not stated, in the Technical Guidance Documents.  This is irrelevant.  The Law mandates proper compliance with the Requirements !

Some people may even attempt to quote from the Building Regulation Approved Documents for England & Wales.  Just tell them to take a long jump off a short pier … suggest Howth Harbour !

Become very, very suspicious whenever there is a use of, or reference to, the term ‘Substantial Compliance’ !!

CHECK the adequacy of this Detailed Schedule !   And … ensure that it is Comprehensive !!

     4.  The Necessary Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works

Demand to see Full Detailed Information, in the form of annotated drawings and descriptive texts, etc., etc … on the exact nature, timetable and phasing of all of the Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works which are necessary to effectively solve the serious problems in the Development.

Beware of decorative solutions, which look good to a superficial visual inspection in ambient conditions … but don’t actually solve anything !

CHECK the adequacy of this Full Detailed Information !

     5.  Independent Technical Control of Construction Works

Demand only Category A Construction Execution of the necessary Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works …

Category A Construction Execution:

(a)  Supervision of the works is exercised by appropriately qualified and experienced personnel from the principal construction organization ;

(b)  Regular inspections, by appropriately qualified and experienced personnel familiar with the design and independent of the construction organization(s) … and other vested interests … are carried out to verify that the works are being executed in accordance with the design.

Demand receipt of a clear undertaking, in writing, that this will be the case … before any Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works commence.

And remember these words from the 2005 Final Report of the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) on the 9-11 World Trade Center Tower Collapses …

” NIST urges state and local agencies to rigorously enforce building codes and standards since such enforcement is critical to ensure the expected level of safety.  Unless they are complied with, the best codes and standards cannot protect occupants, emergency responders, or buildings.”

CHECK the adequacy of the Proposed Method of Independent Technical Control during execution of the Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works !

     6.  Meeting & Discussion with Other Owners/Occupants

Do not act alone … meet the other Owners/Occupants, and discuss issues with them.  Share and collate all available information together.  Try to identify information gaps.  If you do not understand something … ask !

When, and only when, you are happy … signal your Informed Consent that works should commence.

     7.  Commencement of Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works

Visit the Construction Site Office regularly … to show that you are taking a keen interest in what is happening.  Keep your eyes and ears wide open.

Expect that you will not be permitted to just wander around the Site.  Construction Sites are one of the most hazardous ‘workplaces’ in this country !

CHECK the adequacy of the Independent Technical Control actually being undertaken.

Demand to be updated, regularly, and at the very least on the progress of Corrective/Repair/Refurbishment Works at your Apartment … in the Common Areas of your Block … and throughout the full extent of the Approach Routes to your Block Entrances and Exits.

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Advisory Note:  Should you, or the Residents’ Committee of your Building or Development, be concerned about any matter discussed in this Post … please contact C.J. Walsh  by e-mail: cjwalsh@sustainable-design.ie  or by phone: (01) 8386078 / +353 1 8386078.

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END  (for now, but to be continued soon !)

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