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The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) has welcomed the publication of an independent expert report into why concrete blocks used in up to 5,700 homes in parts of Donegal and Mayo have, in some instances, been defective. 

The Report of the Expert Panel on Concrete Blocks found that while standards existed for both the constituent materials and the manufacture of concrete blocks, significant deviation from those standards led to an excessive amount of deficient minerals, namely Mica and Pyrite, in the aggregate used to manufacture the blocks. It is understood that all of the affected houses were built between 1999 and 2010.

Link to the report (pdf): Report of the Expert Panel on Concrete Blocks

NSAI Chief Executive Geraldine Larkin said she hoped that calls from the expert panel for more meaningful on-site inspections and enforcement by building control personnel would usher in a new era of stronger building control enforcement.

“This report highlights the serious problems that can be encountered when standards are ignored,” said Ms Larkin, “while the masonry and aggregate standards in Ireland during the period in question were robust, but standards are only of value if they are applied.”  

“Over the past number of years, we have seen many cases emerge where these standards were not being applied. If you want to ensure standards are applied, that requires a robust and effective building control system,” she added.

Since July 2013, by law, concrete block manufacturers must CE Mark and conduct prescribed tests on their products. Building control and market surveillance authorities have the power to carry out investigations on these blocks at any time.  
Furthermore, the introduction of new building control regulations in 2014 brought more stringent requirements for the construction sector to ensure that the complex array of standards and technical information that experts develop at NSAI are properly applied in practice. 
The Report on Concrete Blocks, published this week, makes a number of recommendations, including one that NSAI develops a simple standardised protocol to assess and categorise the damage in affected properties. NSAI is now consulting with the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government on how best to implement this recommendation.