An Inspector Calls

I found myself this week attending the installation of a gas fire in the home of a family member.  Trust me on this – a gas fire with a remote control is a wondrous thing.  My own one is fully enclosed in a glass box, which eases my guilty green conscience.

File 25-05-2017, 12 16 13

The installer informed me that an inspector from the Register of Gas Installers of Ireland might call while he was there, to inspect his work.   He explained that he had to submit a list of all of his installation jobs to RGI and that an inspector could call and carry out a spot check at any of them.

The Inspector called a half-hour later. He inspected:

  • the installed unit
  • the ventilation to the room in which the fire was installed
  • the number of carbon monoxide detectors in the house
  • the pressure in the main gas line outside the house
  • the housing for the gas supply
  • the operation of the gas cooker
  • the operation of the flue, by carrying out a smoke test to ensure that smoke was going straight up the chimney correctly.

He was intrigued by my interest in this process but very helpful!   There were not enough carbon monoxide detectors in the house, so he asked the installer to install another one in the room where the fire had been installed, which was done immediately.

I asked what would happen if the installer wasn’t happy with the level of ventilation to the room, and he explained that the installer can issue a notice to the homeowner specifying steps to be taken, or if there is a dangerous situation, would isolate the gas appliance so that it could not be used until the problem was dealt with.

He told me that there around 10 RGI inspectors that operate around the country, covering a number of counties; his next stop was Dundalk, and he expected to carry out six inspections that day.

I took a copy of his inspection report template:

File 25-05-2017, 12 03 47

The installer, meanwhile, explained the registration,  qualification and insurance requirements for gas installations, and that he paid an annual fee of €170 for registration.  He said that he had training and education requirements that had to be complied with each year to maintain his registration.

He pointed out that there have been numerous problems with solid fuel stoves, including domestic fires, and that there was no similar registration and regulation system for fitters of stoves, even though they also present risks in terms of ventilation, carbon monoxide exposure, etc.

I was left with a declaration of conformance like this for the new installation:


If you’re a following of my research into building control inspections and enforcement, you’ll know why this of interest to me:

  • registration and regulation of installers, including qualification and educational requirements;
  • gaps in the regulatory regime: gas installers are regulated, but solid fuel stove installers are not, even though they are subject to various requirements pursuant to Part J of the Building Regulations;
  • inspectors operating across counties;
  • template inspection reports;
  • credible likelihood of inspection;
  • follow-up on non-compliances (in this case, the installation of a carbon monoxide detector.  I was also advised to put a carbon monoxide detector in the hallway of the property, to ensure that it could be heard in the bedrooms of the house).

All in all, a very useful way to spend the morning!





Planning notices and participatory democracy

I was very struck, when I visited Toronto last autumn for a conference, about the quality of the local development application notices.

The ones I saw were poster-sized, with a significant amount of information about the proposed development, including a digital image of what the development would look like once complete, and a QR code that  could be used to access the relevant application documents online.

IMG_6836Here is an example.   It provides information on the proposed development, the name and telephone number of the official dealing with the application, and information about how to access more information online (with a QR code) and in person.

In Ireland, we are still apparently wedded to the idea that a planning notice can give limited information about the proposed development, in a way that really does not invite participation by someone who wants to know more about it, or who may be affected by it.  Here is an example of an Irish notice.  There’s no name of an official to speak to, no idea of what the development will look like, but – perhaps worst of all – the notice suggests that the only way to find out more is to go to the planning office in person.

File 25-05-2017, 11 29 37

There is an extensive online file in respect of this application, but you wouldn’t know if from looking at this notice.  The regulations in relation to site notices ( S.I. 685/2006, Planning and Development Regulations 2006) are specific – the notice should be in the form set out in Schedule 3 to the Regulations.

Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 11.43.23 am

A search against the address on the planning authority’s website gives extensive information, without anyone having to go to the planning office.  It also facilitates an interested person to seek advice about the proposed development without having to pay someone to attend at the planning office and look at the plans.    The online search also gives the name of the case officer, which is very helpful, and isn’t on the site notice (as it would be in Toronto).    Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 11.45.59 am

The documents tab says ‘0’ but in fact contains a map of the site, the proposed plans, etc.

Screen Shot 2017-05-25 at 11.50.06 am

Isn’t it time the site notice Regulations were amended to direct people to the online applications?