Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Creative in every way

Hats off to builder Con Corcoran of Creative Builders Ltd in his fine work at this extension in Artane which is nearing completion. ABA Architects were involved in the construction drawings, tendering and site operations but the design was prepared by Jerry Hannigan Architect and in my (completely unbiased) opinion I think all can see what a fine creation it is and how it cleverly exploits the southerly aspect to the rear.  As  I write clients are packing their toothbrushes for the big move in. Happy days.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hidden Column and Beam

When I designed the simple garden room extension to this Rathfarnham house I wanted the steel beam set into the floor zone but I chose to introduce a column to control the span of the steel and therefore its depth. I then chose to make a “cut out” feature beside this column to give a neat sculptural effect. The roof light in the picture as also statically positioned close to the old kitchen in order to optimise daylighting and sunshine. A high level window at the side facing south west also has a huge impact on the daylighting in this project. Hats off to builder Tommy Wade of Construction Development who kept us all smiling throughout.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Exempted on 2 counts

      Designing a second extension beside an existing extension can be interesting. In this south Dublin project I wanted to modify the earlier extension but any such modification has to be under clause 4.1.h. of the 2000 Planning Act which defines a certain type of exemption: "development consisting of the carrying out of works for the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of any structure, being works which affect only the interior of the structure or which do not materially affect the external appearance of the structure so as to render the appearance inconsistent with the character of the structure or of neighbouring structures".  This means that if the house had a pitched roof then the extension should too.  The second extension on the left,  which is exempt under the 2001 Planning Regulations, total extended area being under 40 sq.m., took its lead off the first but both were provided with gable walls and the opportunity for high level windows to allow good sun penetration. Each pitch roof also was given a ridge roof light which could be opened to allow...guess what...cooling! . Are we talking about Ireland?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


We are entering the last 6 weeks on this house extension and renovation in Kildare town. The image shows the kitchen area on the left and the new sunroom on the right. The ridge roof window will have automatic openers, a perfect way of cooling this south facing room. With significant insulation upgrades throughout the house we have to give as much thought to cooling as heating. Our client on another project completed 18 months ago said that she hardly put the boiler on all winter and enjoyed great heating from the winter sun. When I look at house design the very first thing I do is establish the orientation of the house to optimises the passive solar heating dimension of the scheme.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Extending an Art deco Home

There are very few art deco houses in Dublin which have not been ruined by out of character alterations and so it is a delight to be working on one at the moment where we are looking at a small extension to the rear, as well as some (in character) alterations. I'm considering corner sliding doors which open and leave the corner free, just the sort of thing they'd have done in the thirties if the technology allowed it! Delightful project and clients...who wouldn't want to be an architect on days like this!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

In Support of new Building Control (Amendment) Regulation (S.I.9 of 2014)

In support of SI9 I offer the following Opinion Piece.

Good for clients
At the end of the day the client will be sitting down in the new or extended house having a relaxing cappuccino and now with the added confidence that the team members have stood over their work. Construction is hugely complex and while normal projects with proper builders and professionals have been doing a good job for years much of their actions have not been codified and so the door was open for the shortcut brigade to get in there. Competence is now a legal requirement. While this is bad news for the incompetent it's good news for the client who has just made their biggest ever financial investment. 

Good for architects
Architects will now be engaged on a fuller service and hence will be better able to control the build. While some projects had a full architectural service far more projects had none or only a minimal partial service. Architects, as well as engineers and building surveyors, have the skills and experience for the task and the wisdom to call in appropriate expertise for any gaps in this knowledge. Workload will rise for what still remains an extremely depressed profession. (the Architects Council of Europe (ACE) reported that average sole principals salary in Ireland drop from €75,000 in 2008 to €25,000 in 2012). The service of an Assigned Certifier is under a separate fee and agreement to the main fee. Yes it costs more but the benefit is the development of an (overdue) compliance culture  in the construction industry. 

What's the fuss?
If you are reading this article you, like myself, are a participant (or should I say “victim") of the Information Age where all can express opinions. Much fear has been spread about SI9 on all media and from my perspective I see these main reasons being: 

1. SI9 came in too quickly.
The law was only published six weeks before enactment.  In many cases this isn't a problem but with the huge complexity in this particular law  problems arose. The minister's stated view that www had a year to prepare is questionable because the major part of that year was taken up by the stakeholders working with government to get the impossible SI90 of 2013 morphed into the (difficult but not impossible) SI9 of 2014. RIAI could not advise members on a law that was up in the air.

2. The online system was untested by all. It could not be seen before 1 March.

3. The framework and understanding for inspection plans was absent. This led to massive variation in interpretation of how many visits are needed. 

4. Local authority staff could not be trained.  There was virtually no time for this to happen. 

5. RIAI information to members and public has been delayed. who have the capacity and mandate to advise members was slowed down by a new Council, elected prior to sight of SI9, on a platform of protest against its impossible predecessor SI80. 

6. Self builders felt excluded. This was based on the wording under the signature on a Completion Certificate Part A which says:  “to be signed by a Principal or Director of a Building Company only”. Both Minister Hogan and Martin Vaughan, assistant principal in the Architecture/ Building Standards section of DoECLG clarified “It is only where the assigned person is a company that the requirement applies that the signatory be a principal or director (i.e. not an employee)". While the wording on the cert suggests otherwise the lawmakers have clarified their intention and for this reason I believe any action against a self builder on this matter alone would fail.

7. Architectural Technologists (Technicians) were excluded. This is now being addressed I understand but it will require the legal creation of a register for Technologists so the matter cannot be fixed overnight. In the meantime Technologists can work as ancillary certifiers within the existing framework.

Many of these issues are now being addressed and more issues will no doubt arise  but I believe it is too early to judge the merit of the actual law. Rightly or wrongly a "throw them in the deep end" decision was taken by government to proceed on 1 March and while some will drown most will (eventually) swim.

8. Architects feared impossible liability. This was the case in SI80 but SI9 is different in 2 critical respects. firstly the Ancillary Certificates can be relied upon by the Assigned Certifier. For example an engineer as an ancillary certifier might sign off on drains, foundations and steelwork. An architect (acting as certifier) can rely on this now and not "double check" these issues. Secondly the words "having exercised reasonable skill, care and diligence" are included in the Certificates. This is fundamental to normal practice and it means that for an action against an architect to succeed his/her "skill, care and diligence" will have to be proven to be unreasonable. Professional Indemnity Insurers were satisfied once these changes were made so I find the view that SI9 imposes significant additional risks to architects (acting reasonably) unsustainable .

What bits of the jigsaw are missing?
1. Latent defects insurance. This is a “solutions focussed” measure in the event of defects and is necessary for customer (and architect) protection.
2. Official RIAI documents for Architects and Clients.
3. Unity in RIAI.  It would be timely for a reaffirmation of Article 2 of the RIAI Memorandum of Association which state (emphasis mine): 
"The main object for which the Institute is established is to undertake and encourage the general advancement of architecture for the benefit of the community and to promote and facilitate the acquirement of the knowledge of the various arts, sciences and skills connected therewith. The Institute seeks to achieve this object by being a centre of excellence for the advancement of education, information, advice and support in all matters related to architecture."
4. Better public understanding of the role and benefit of Architects.Even when patients die the medics get thanked for their care. Likewise architects deserve some respect for their service to people and that includes adequate payment which I am glad to see is actually written into SI9. Because Architects have been in an unmerciful construction recession client exploitation on fees has occurred. I myself have had the phone slammed down by angry clients when I informed that that I would charge for a call out. 

Clients are the ones who now have additional duties and costs but the good news is that the building will be better as a result of this new law. For this reason, despite the problems, I support SI9.

Anthony Brabazon MRIAI is an architect and conservation architect in private practice at ABA Architects in Dublin. He is founder of RIAI Dublin Forum (for architects) and Help My House (for homeowners)

Friday, June 6, 2014

10,000 Pageviews..Hmmmm

We've passed a significant milestone with 10,000 pageviews. Not quite sure how to react to that! Hope you've enjoyed some of the posts. Life as an architect in post crash Ireland has been...challenging...but I've a (not so) secret confession..I love it! Thanks to all our clients, you've been great and I hope we've done our wee bit down the years to smarten up your home and life.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

New Building Control Regulations - what are they?

Since March 1st 2014 new houses, extensions over 40m2 and buildings which are subject to a Fire Safety Certificate (for example, certain alterations and most commercial work) are subject to new Building Control Regulations.

(i) Building owners (of the above) will now need to appoint a design certifier (an architect, engineer or building surveyor) prior to construction.  The design certifier will confirm that the design complies with Building Regulations.  

(ii) The building owner will also have to appoint an assigned certifier (an architect, engineer or building surveyor) to certify, along with the builder, during construction, that the building is constructed in compliance with Building Regulations.

These new duties are explained in more detail in the Code of Practice published by the Department of Environment,

In practice this will lead to greater oversight of both the design and construction processes but, being a private function, will attract more fees for the building owner.  Our current estimate is that the service would increase the fees (to architect) by somewhere in the region of 20-35%. 


Approximately one year ago the Government and DoELG passed S.I. no. 80 of 2013 into law but it contained some fundamental flaws. A huge effort was put in (mainly voluntary) by RIAI committees, Council Members and staff, in conjunction with other stakeholders, to make the system workable and insurable.  The outcome was the adoption of S.I no.9 of 2014 (replacing S.I.80 of 2013) in January of 2014 about five weeks before the enactment date of March 1st 2014.

Minister of DoELG Phil Hogan's view was that the RIAI, amongst other professional bodies, had a year to prepare it's members but, as the updated S.I. is only just out now, the RIAI has only recently begun to train it's members.  The new mandatory online lodgement system (for Commencement Notices) only became available on March 1st and the entire system is a challenge to clients, practitioners and local authorities alike due to lack of any meaningful run-in period. We at ABA Architects, having undergone training, are prepared for the introduction of these new regulations and will continue to serve our clients in the best possible way. Enquiries can be sent to .

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Irish Georgian Society Grants

New Kitchen designed by ABA Architects
The Irish Georgian Society has launched a new Conservation Grants Scheme to provide financial assistance for works to structures of significant architectural merit.  The scheme will operate over a four year period with funding of approximately €50,000 to be made available in each year.  Grants will be awarded in two categories: i, a core grant for one larger project that is considered of particular importance and which would especially benefit from the support of the Irish Georgian Society; ii, smaller grants for projects such as the repair of windows, fanlights, doorcases, ironwork, decorative plasterwork etc and for the provision of essential conservation advice. For advise on this and other available grants for construction projects contact ABA Architects. We are an RIAI practice accredited in Conservation at Grade III and can advise on this and other aspects of conservation and restoration.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


In this project in Phibsboro we were keen to create a bright interior and so in order to avoid a large rear extension darkening the main house we put a garden room pavilion at the end and created a glazed link library corridor. The garden then became a private courtyard oasis. A basement was also created below the rear garden room containing a utility room as well as a wood pellet boiler and plant room and a large storage room for wood pellets. A combination of external insulation, internal dry lining and new insulated cavity walls as well as other upgrades ensured that the BER rating went from G to B.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sunday, January 5, 2014


This modest alteration involved replacing a conservatory, which was rarely used, with an insulated garden room and adjusting the lean to roof of the kitchen so that all the roofs were properly integrated. A combination of internal and external sliding doors gives a flexibility and sophistication to this alteration where a new wide opening was also formed linking Kitchen and Garden room.