Ireland's only dedicated building services engineering journal
Ireland's only dedicated building services engineering journal

Implications of BC(A)R for M&E Consultants and Contracators

Conall Finn, CHief Operations Officer and Assigned Certifier with 13PT Certification
Conall Finn, Chief Operations Officer and Assigned Certifier with 13PT Certification

The Regulations place additional responsibilities and duties on all parties to the building contract. Designers, specifiers, suppliers, specialist sub-contractors, installers and inspectors are seen as “Ancillary Certifiers”. They have a responsibility to familiarise themselves with their obligations under the new regulations. Looks like requirements included in a Brisbane building inspection
will also get more strict after the new rules were introduced. As a chartered engineer and a fire systems specialist with a background in M&E contracting now engaged as an Assigned Certifier with i3PT Certification, Conall Finn is ideally placed to give an insight into how the industry is adapting to the new regulations.

The Building Control Amendment Regulations, BC(A)R or SI9 of 2014, were introduced on 1 March of 2014, in part as a political response to Priory Hall. The regulations apply to new projects and renovation projects with material alterations to Technical Guidance Documents (TGD’s) Parts A, B & M (i.e. alterations to structure, alterations requiring a fire certificate or works affecting accessibility).

Two types of regulations — In essence, there are two types of regulations – Building Regulations and Building Control Regulations. Building Regulations cover minimum standards under 12 books of regulations. Building Control Regulations cover how absolute compliance with the building control regulations is demonstrated.

The regulation and its associated guidance document, the Code of Practice for Inspection and Certifying Building Works, are light on detail around the roles and  responsibilities of the sub-contractor/ specialists who act as ancillary certifiers under the new regulations. This is especially noticeable when compared to the detail provided for the other BC(A)R roles (i.e. Builder/Assigned Certifier/ Designer Certifier/Designers and Owner).

It would be beneficial to have additional guidance from the legislators to clarify the responsibilities of sub-contractors and specialist ancillary certifiers. Nonetheless, this ambiguity does not diminish the responsibility of ancillary certifiers to understand their roles and responsibilities under the new regulations.

Mechanical, electrical and security guards for fire watch, specialists and consultant professionals must first satisfy the designer and contractor that they are competent to both carry out the work and inspect against those works to validate that the works are Building Regulations compliant. They have a key role in facilitating both the assigned and designer certifiers in delivering a certified building, as their ancillary certificates will be relied upon by the builder, designer and assigned certifier.

M+E contractors on the ground generally have less awareness of the implications of BC(A)R than their consulting counterparts. Sub-contractors generally benefit from a BC(A)R induction and information pack – prior to their commencing works – in order to advise them of their responsibilities and obligations under the new regulations.

Contractual clauses as standard — Contractual clauses describing BC(A)R preconditions are now being included as standard in many contracts between builders and sub-contractors, to explicitly define the contractual obligation of subcontractors and specialists. This is leading in some instances to defensive specifications.

It is recommended that sub-contractors, specialists and suppliers familiarise themselves with the wording of the ancillary certificates for engineers, specialists and sub-contractors. These state that specialist ancillary certifiers should “undertake to prepare a Preliminary Inspection Plan for their element of the works”. As the specialist or sub-contractor is often engaged later than building commencement, an inspection plan for their element may have been pre-prepared by the designer, builder or assigned certifier.

The level of scrutiny and the frequency of inspection may be far more intense than the sub-contractor anticipates. However, they are obliged to adhere to the “Project Inspection Plan”. The inspection regime should take a risk-based approach, focusing on building elements, “the failure of which would be deemed significant”.

Each assigned certifier/designer certifier/ancillary certifier can determine his/her own methodology for applying the Code of Practice. However, their inspection plans should take cognisance of the overall inspection plan. The level of robustness of the inspection regime that is implemented can vary considerably from project to project. This makes it difficult for M+E consultants and sub-contractors to fix a fee for the number of inspection visits that will be required from them on a specific project, as the assigned certifier or design team ancillary certifiers may require substantially more, or less, than the average anticipated number of inspections.

Commencement stage — Project timeline allowances for BC(A)R should be communicated to the client as early as possible in the process, along with the implications for project budgets. Responsibility for this communication is cumulative and should involve discussions with the architect and QS at project planning stages, where practical. For example, a rapid-build school project originally scheduled pre-BC(A)R for 32 weeks, rose to 38 weeks in order to facilitate BC(A)R hold points and inspections.

Critically, the upload to the Building Control BCMS site requires an upfront two-week validation period at commencement and a three-week validation period at completion stage. A two/three-week buffer period is needed to allow for administration, e.g., collation of certificates and documentation. This will cause some anxiety to project planners.

This final few weeks of a project – when building services specialists are busiest with completions and commissioning – now has to facilitate a period of relative inactivity, with only final snagging and noncompliance close-out allowed.

Design — The M+E consultant is usually assigned the role of signing the M+E Ancillary Design Certificates (at commencement and completion stages), along with the Ancillary Inspection on Completion Certificates. Consultants will be required to carry out regular Inspections of the M+E systems to confirm that the design(s) they are responsible for are effectively delivered by the M+E sub-contractor(s) in accordance with the Building Regulations.

Inspections will occur at 1st/ 2nd/ final fix and commissioning stages. Inspectors are required to have the requisite training and experience to inspect against particular building elements. As a company director must sign certificates of compliance for inspection and completion,  they must have a clear knowledge and hands-on understanding of the project that is being executed on site.

Workmanship TGD D & CE Marking — There is a genuine concern in the industry on how to interpret inspections against TGD Part D materials and workmanship. Since 1 July 2013, any products placed on the market under the new CPR (Construction Product Regulations) that are covered by a harmonised EN standard must be CE marked.

This can cause issues for specialist systems designed to US standards such as NFPA or FM, where it may not be possible to procure all products and components with declarations of performance and CE marking. This particular topic is worthy of an article in its own right and needs an industry-wide approach.

Project completion — As the project completion stage approaches, the assigned certifier notifies the BCMS of the intended occupancy date. Practical completion can no longer coincide with the occupancy date, as this assumes that the works are complete, inspected, certified and validated on the same day. In reality, a minimum of a week should be allowed for completion information to be lodged on the BCMS and validated by building control.

BCMS administrators and local authority building control engineers are under considerable pressure due to the increased administration burden caused by BC(A)R. Each completion notice validation period needs to be agreed by the assigned certifier and the relevant local authority. Where an ancillary certificate of completion is late from a sub-contractor or specialist for whatever reason, this may have a detrimental impact on the agreed occupancy date. In a worst-case scenario it can result in resetting the validation period of 21 days, making for a very unhappy owner.

Technical Guidance Documents (TGD) — The TGDs which generally apply to M+E installations include TGDs B (Fire), D (Workmanship), F (Ventilation), G (Hygiene), H (Drainage) and J (Heatproducing Appliances) respectively. It is important that consultants and contractors stay abreast of the current regulations.

A number of these have been updatedrecently – TGDs E (Sound), J (Heat-producing Appliances) and K (Stairs). With TGD B (Fire) also due for an updatelater this year, consultants and subcontractors have a responsibility to know how individual TGDs apply to their element of the works. Reliance on design drawings and relevant EN/BS codes and performance requirements for the systems they are responsible for is no longer sufficient.

Sub-contractors and builders — The responsibility to design in compliance with the TGDs is shared among designers, builders and sub-contractors/specialists. Should an installation be installed to a non-compliant design, the onus is on the builder and sub-contractor to rectify the works, otherwise they may be held jointly liable for any resulting defect.

The M+E consultants can no longer rely on the contractor to provide “as-built” drawings. Ancillary design on completion certificates should relate to completion drawings rather than commencement drawings, reflecting what is actually installed on site. I would expect a crosschecking exercise on the part of the consultant to confirm that the “as-built” installation and compliance on completion drawings are consistent.

Design changes on completion  — Ancillary design certifiers are required toprovide the assigned certifier with a schedule of information and details backing up the certificate. They should also provide concise details of how the design at commencement materially differs from the design on completion. An example of this may be where a 7-day Notice FSC or DAC Certificate required revisions to the commencement design to be implemented as a result of input from the fire brigade or local council engineers.

The effectiveness of BC(A)R depends on each party in the process taking responsibility for verifying and validating that their element of the works is compliant, i.e., self-certified. However, the M+E consultant is expected to carry out out regular scheduled inspections at 1st/2nd/final fix and commissioning stages to validate that this compliance is achieved.

Ancillary Certificates — The relevant format of the ancillary certificates depends on the role and qualifications of the certifier. The registered engineer(s) will use the Ed/Ec/Ei Ancillary Certificates and specialists or unregistered consultants will use Sd/Sc/Si format. These correspond to Design on Commencement/ Design on Completion/Inspection on Completion respectively.

The sub-contractors to the builders will sign CIF01/CIF Certificates and sub-subcontractors to the builder will sign CIF02/CIF Certificates, e.g., say a sprinkler contractor who is contracted to the M+E sub-contractor.

BC(A)R was drafted with traditional projects in mind and the ancillary certificates don’t really accommodate direct client appointments for mechanical and electrical or specialist systems, as the wording explicitly states that the contract is between the builder and the sub-contractor.

These certificates require the subcontractor/ specialists to inspect the works and verify that they have installed the installations in compliance with the plans/specifications/calculations/drawings.

In summary — BC(A)R is currently undergoing a 1-year review process by the DECLG and i3PT Certification is contributing to this process. We don’t anticipate a watering down of the regulations. The question for companies is how they can apply their BC(A)R methodology consistently for projects of varying size and complexity.

BC(A)R has led to an increased focus on compliant workmanship and systems. Our experience on large projects indicates a willingness by builders, sub-contractors and design team members to engage with varying levels of commitment to the challenges that BC(A)R presents.

In order for BC(A)R to be successful, it requires that all stakeholders take ownership for their element of the works. They should be suitably compensated for the additional effort involved. The success of the project from a compliance perspective requires a collaborative approach to be employed from pre-commencement through to completion.

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