Permitting in Ireland

Following the launch of our new office in Dublin, we interviewed Architect and Associate, Georgina Mullen, about her experience of permitting in Ireland…

Q: How does permitting in Ireland compare with the UK?

A: Like in the UK, permitting in Ireland is split into two key parts: planning and building control. Planning is very similar to that in the UK and the process is quite streamlined in that standard applications are validated and back out between 8 to 12 weeks. However, in Ireland you are required to do a lot of preparation work upfront and, in this respect, the process is completely different.

The Building Control Amendment Regulations, typically referred to as BCAR, came into force in 2014 and this system of building control is unique to Ireland. Clients are required to appoint an Assigned Certifier (AC) to assess the design, comment on it and ensure that the other designers (architecture, interior design, civil, structural, MEP etc.) check their own designs for compliance with building regulations before a project starts on site. The nominated AC must be a registered professional in Ireland so, for projects that I’m working on, this role would usually fall to me.

Fire Safety Certificates (FSC) and Disability Access Certificates (DAC) must also be submitted and approved before any work begins on site and this applies to all projects (regardless of sector or historical significance). You are also encouraged to go and talk to the Planners and Building Control Officers prior to starting work on site – especially if it’s anything more than just a standard application.

Q: In your experience, do you feel that Ireland is more or less bureaucratic than the UK?

A: I think it’s fair to say that the permitting process in Ireland is more bureaucratic than the UK as it can be very strict and paper heavy. Everybody has to self-certify themselves, all the consultants need to take responsibility for their work and the contractor needs to provide photographic evidence that everything has been done in compliance with building regulations. Despite this self-certification process, there is still an acknowledgment that Building Control Officers (and Fire Officers) can land on site at any time and this is more likely if you’re working on a heritage building in the centre of Dublin, for example.

However, although the system in Ireland is quite bureaucratic, it provides reassurance to clients that all of the works have been carried out to the highest standard.

Q: Can you recall a particularly challenging permitting situation in Ireland?

A: The permitting system in Ireland is not designed particularly very well for retailers as a lot of time is required at the beginning and the end of a project for the approval process. Works cannot start on site before certificates are submitted and approved and a store can’t open until it’s been added to the Building Register (which can take up to 21 days after a project is completed).

I’ve encountered a situation in the past where a retailer wanted to start operating immediately after a project had been completed and they had already advertised an opening date. Fortunately, the Building Controller Officer in charge of assessing the project was familiar with the store (as I’d kept them updated throughout the process), so we were able to register the building in time (but this isn’t something you want to be doing on a regular basis)!


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