Covid may delay Part F competency & validation rules

Covid may delay Part F competency & validation rules

The Department of Housing is considering short-term changes to ventilation requirements under building regulations due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the construction sector, Passive House Plus has learned.

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The department introduced changes to Part F of the building regulations and the associated technical guidance document (TGD) F last year, in an effort to ensure that indoor air quality would not be compromised by the introduction of the nearly zero energy building (NZEB) standard.

The ventilation changes included a requirement for competent persons to work on the design, installation, and commissioning of ventilation systems – including both mechanical and natural ventilation – with an additional requirement for independent validation of the ventilation system upon completion.

There is an exemption from this for buildings where the planning application was lodged by 31 October last year, provided the building is substantially complete by 31 October this year, meaning the requirement will only come fully into force from 1 November.

The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) maintains a list of registered ventilation validators, which includes six registered validators to date – including one individual who doesn’t intend to do validation work.

Separately, there is one company approved by the Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB) to act as validators.

Meanwhile there is one training course in place, run by the Waterford and Wexford Training and Education Board (WWTEB), for persons seeking to become certified as competent persons to design, install, or commission ventilation systems. To date 60 people have completed the course, 55 of whom passed the assessment.

But there is concern that the Covid-19 pandemic has substantially delayed the process of training and auditing for persons and companies interested in becoming competent persons or validators, making it now unlikely a sufficient number will be registered by the end of October. It is also unclear what Covid-related restrictions may exist on building sites come November.

In a response to a query about this from Passive House Plus, the Department of Housing said that it would keep the 31 October date under review “in light of the current situation regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed on construction works”.

It added: “We do acknowledge that productivity may be affected by public health/safety measures implemented on site and that there is uncertainty around further closures.”

The department acknowledged that Covid-19 had put a pause on the auditing and registration of validators, stating: “While registrations had taken place prior to the Covid restrictions, NSAI have informed us that further work on initial proficiency testing will resume in accordance with the Government roadmap for reopening and public health guidelines.”