Archive for February, 2014

Thoughts on love, home, and the Tugendhat House

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Thoughts on love, home, and the Tugendhat House

I’ve often thought that the words ‘love’ and ‘home’ are the most powerful in the English language, and in my mind at least, they are almost interchangeable. The story of the Tugendhat House in Brno is a common one in pre- World War II central Europe- a wealthy Jewish industrialist hires a renowned architect to design a beautiful family home, but the rise of Hitler forces the family to leave in 1938. Afterwards the house was used by the Nazis and from 1945 by the Russians, and it then had a variety of uses under the local communist leadership until 1989. It was the setting for the talks that led to the formation of the separate Czech and Slovak States in 1993, so it is a building that is drenched in modern history. Tugendhat house 1

It’s also a building that photographs beautifully, thanks to architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s innovative use of space, light, technology and materials. It’s one of the high water marks of modern movement architecture, and I’ve been fascinated by it for a long time.

On Saturday, I went to see the film ‘Haus Tugendhat’ which was showing at the Lighthouse Cinema as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. I knew the story of the house, but what of the family? The film focuses on the children of Herr and Frau Tugendhat, and their memories of and current feelings towards the house.  The family first moved from Czechoslovakia to Switzerland, then Venezuela, then back to Switzerland again but there’s a sense that they are lost. Herr Tugendhat dies without ever seeing the house again, while Frau Tugendhat visits only once, thirty years after the first leaving. They seemed to accept the way things had turned out for them, but the children and grandchildren have a more complicated view of what happened. Some are indifferent, some are angry, and some are philosophical about the loss of the house. What is clear is that, 75 years on, the house continues to play a huge role in their lives.

As any Irish emigrant knows, home takes on a new meaning when seen from afar, especially when the leaving comes from necessity rather than from choice. For me, home represents the emotional pull of family and place, and my house is the centre of gravity, the centre of that pull.

I’ve thought for years that I’d like to visit the Tugendhat House, just fly to Vienna, take the train north to Brno, and afterwards on to Prague. Now, I’m not so sure. The house is an objet d’art, but on viewing this film it seems that for all its beauty and evocation of a turbulent time in European history, its soul has gone. The Tugendhat family do not believe they will ever get the house back in their ownership, and at the moment the house is open to a steady stream of visitors/voyeurs like me. The heartbeat of the house stopped in 1938, and I don’t want to go all the way there to feel that sense of emptiness. It brings home to me more than ever that we architects design buildings for people, for the families that occupy them and give them life, and not just to satisfy our own ego and our creative impulses.


Building Control Regulations Amendments

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Background Information

The Current System – prior to BC(A)R

There is no statutory lodgement and approval system for Building Control Regulations in Ireland, other than a statutory lodgement and approval system for Disability Access and Fire Safety Certificates.

The BC(A)R System – from March 2014

This Client Guidance Note provides a summary of key aspects of BC(A)R 2014.

? From 1st March 2014, all building types, except for extensions to domestic dwellings of less than 40m2, are included in the BC(A)R 2014, and may only be designed and certified by a Registered Architect, Chartered Engineer and Chartered Building Surveyor.

? Published in the BC(A)R 2014 legislation are Statutory Certificates and a Code of Practice for design and construction.

Building Owner’s Obligations under BC(A)R

Building owners will be required to appoint, for almost any building or works starting from March 2014 onward, a Design Certifier and an Assigned Certifier as well as a competent Builder. The building owner’s obligations include:

? Give a written undertaking on a statutory form to the Building Control Authority to appoint a competent Design Team to design the new building in accordance the Building Regulations.

? Give a written undertaking on a statutory form to the Building Control Authority to appoint a competent Builder to construct the new building in accordance the Building Regulations.

? Give a written undertaking on a statutory form to the Building Control Authority to appoint a competent Assigned Certifier who will prepare an Inspection Plan, inspect and certify, with the Builder, that the new building, when complete, is built in accordance the Building Regulations.

Registration of Builders and Sub-Contractors

? The Construction Industry Federation, representing Builders in Ireland, have launched information on a voluntary register of builders and sub-contractors on:

? This voluntary register will have a code of practice and a sanctions procedure whereby builders can be struck off the register.

? A Statutory Register of Builders is proposed to be established in 2015.  Building Owner and Design Team Administrative Procedures before Construction

? 14 -28 days before the construction of the Building starts on site, the Building Owner issues a statutory Commencement Notice to the Building Control Authority.

? With the Commencement Notice the Design Team issues a Statutory Certificate, with back up drawings and information, confirming the Building is designed in compliance with the Building Regulations.

? The Assigned Certifier issues an Inspection Plan to the Building Control Authority.

? The Builder signs and issues a Statutory Certificate confirming they will construct in accordance with the Building Regulations.

Lodgement of the Commencement Notice

? The Commencement Notice is submitted electronically, together with the drawings, specification, design philosophy, Fire Safety and Disability Access Certificates.

? The 34 Building Control Authorities will be centralised for the purpose of BC(A)R.

? A Framework of standards will be provided as guidance on how Building Control will cooperate, with standardised procedures for all Authorities.

? The Building Control Authority carries out a risk analysis/inspection system, of the Design, Inspection Plan, and the Builder.

? The Building Control Authority may seek additional information, from the Building Owner, Design Team, Assigned Certifier and Builder during the construction process.

? The Building Control Authority by table top risk analysis can devise inspection schedules when design, construction, materials, site location are identified as being problematic.

The Role of the Assigned Certifier and Builder, During the Construction Stage

? The Assigned Certifier will implement the Inspection Plan with the Builder.

? The Assigned Certifier will collate certificates, sub-certificates, ancillary certificates, warranties and tests as set out in the Inspection Plan, with the Builder.

? The Assigned Certifier will respond to requests for additional information by the BCA.

The Role of the Assigned Certifier and the Builder at Completion

The Assigned Certifier and the Builder having collated all the required certificates identified in the Inspection Plan, collected from all those identified, sub-contractors, suppliers, testers, manufacturers and are satisfied that the building is built in accordance with the Building Regulations, co-sign the Statutory Completion Certificate and lodge it with the BCA, 3 -5 weeks in advance of the Completion date. The Building will not be permitted to be occupied, used or rented, without the building being placed on the Building Control Authority Register.




The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations, BC(A)R, will apply to most building works (including new houses, housing and apartments, house extensions over 40m2, schools, factories, offices, shops, hospitals and other government investment projects) that start on site from 1st March 2014.

The BC(A)R were published in updated form on 21st January 2014, only six weeks before the implementation date.

Although the RIAI and other stakeholders are working hard to draft and complete the necessary administrative structures, forms of contract and advice; not all documents can be ready by the 1st March 2014. The new online IT system for the 34 local authorities is not yet available to Certifiers and some essential components for an effective system are not yet in place.

RIAI Standard Forms of Agreement for Services to Clients

Building Owners will be required to appoint, for almost any building or works starting from March 2014 onward, a Design Certifier and an Assigned Certifier as well as a competent Builder. The Design Certifier and the Assigned Certifier must be a Registered Architect, Chartered Engineer or Chartered Building Surveyor.

The Certifier appointments are not covered under the scope of services set out in The RIAI ‘Agreement between Client & Architect’ (for the provision of architectural services). New forms and terms of appointment and specific forms of Client / Certifier agreements are currently being prepared by the RIAI. The RIAI recommends that the appointment as Assigned Certifier is always an appointment separate from that as Architect. Your Architect may provide this service, or not, similar to the PSDP (Project Supervisor Design Process) role.

Given the publication dates of S.I. 9 of 2014 and the Code of Practice, and the consequential significant changes in the way that the design building processes will work, Architects are not yet in a position to advise clients about the full implications of the regulations. Your Architect will advise you as soon as possible about the appointments that you will need to make.


The new processes and professional appointments will require additional time and resources from the Architect, which will have an impact on project costs.

Building Contracts

Where tender documents are currently being prepared (or due to be prepared), these cannot fully take into account the new requirements as there is no revised form of Public Sector Contract nor Private Sector Contract published (nor revised guidance on contract specification preliminary clauses) which can be referenced in the tender documents for this project. It is advisable that the appointments of the Design Certifier and the Assigned Certifier be made prior to completion of Tender Documents.

The RIAI will update this Guidance Note as more information becomes available. Visit the RIAI Website for regular updates on BC(A)R.

With thanks to the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI), 12 February 2014