Monday 18 December 2017

Building industry faces new deadline to fix pyrite-homes fiasco

Ed Carty

BUILDING, supply, mortgage and insurance firms at fault for pyrite-damaged homes have until the end of September to come up with solutions to the €450 million crisis.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan has threatened to hit companies involved in construction and development of 10,300 affected homes with full repair bills if they do not strike a deal.



It is expected to cost €45,000 to fix each of the buckling homes.



The so-called Pyrite Panel report concluded that anyone with direct or indirect responsibility for the problem should bear the costs of repairs.



It identified five quarries out of about 1,000 as a possible source of the defective material.



Mr Hogan said the pressure will be on the Construction Industry Federation, the Irish Concrete Federation, HomeBond, the Irish Insurance Federation and the Irish Banking Federation to find a way forward.



"In the absence of viable practical solutions from these obvious stakeholders I will be left with no option but to advise the Government that a solution along the lines recommended by the panel must be imposed," he said.



"My preferred option is for responsible stakeholders to take ownership of this problem and to work with me to advance solutions which will lead to a resolution for the homeowners concerned."



The defective building material pyrite, sometimes known as fool's gold, is a natural mineral found in stone which becomes unstable when exposed to air or water.



The most obvious structural damage in buildings is cracking, splitting and buckling of walls, floors and ceilings.



Buildings including houses, apartments, nursing homes and social homes in Fingal, Meath, Dublin city, Kildare and Offaly have been badly affected since it was first detected about three years ago.



The Pyrite Panel report found that, at most, 74 estates with 10,300 homes need to be repaired by having the crumbling hardcore removed.



The study found another 850 homes have a claim with a guarantee provider and another 1,100 have been repaired or are in the process of being fixed.



In public projects, the report said that three local authorities - Fingal, Dublin City and Meath - had identified about 850 social and affordable units in 18 developments with suspected or confirmed cases of pyritic heave.



The Department of Education has recorded three suspected cases of pyrite in schools.



The panel, chairman Brendan Tuohy and Noel Carroll and Malcolm Edger, made 24 recommendations including setting a new standard specification for hardcore for under under concrete floors, testing, certification and traceability by quarries and evidence of periodic testing to be required by building control officers.



It found that vendors, builders/subcontractors, material suppliers, insurers and companies supplying structural guarantees, banks and mortgage lenders all had to take responsibility for the pyrite to some degree.



Gerry Farrell, chief executive of the Irish Concrete Federation, said he would be opposed to an industry-wide levy to cover the cost of repairs.



"There are no easy solutions to this problem and while each case is different, ICF has always maintained the view that those directly responsible or their insurers should pay for the remediation of the problem," he said.

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