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Variation for fire alarm detectors arguement

  • 15-09-2022 2:15pm
    Registered Users Posts: 951 ✭✭✭


    We went out to tender with architect drawings and spec (the text down along the side of the drawings) about 12 months ago and got a builder on board in January. All went well but a variation has cropped up at the end now relating to electrical for all of the fire detectors in the house (13 of them) costing over a thousand. This is despite the spec having the following text in it under the Fire and Intruder Alarm heading:

    "Allow for installation of new fully wired fire alarm & carbon monoxide system in accordance with current regulations"

    The builder/electrician sub contractor are arguing that this is not the standard way of doing it and that the drawings don't show any alarms. And also that 'in accordance with regulation' is vague and could mean anything.

    I don't buy it and have been trying to argue back that this shouldn't be a variation and should have been included in the overall electrical figure per the contract that we agreed to.

    The spec also says "Any specialist pendant light fittings and external feature/wall lights are to be supplied by client directly but connected & fitted by contractor".

    On this they're arguing that fitting of the lights we bought is extra also and this would be standard - this is a bit more clear cut to argue.

    Also the builder hasn't tried to rip us off on anything else - we've had other variations but all have been justified or relatively justified. So I'd be grateful to hear any other opinions on this.


  • Registered Users Posts: 437 ✭✭Girl Geraldine

    I'd be inclined to agree with the contractor here. They left it very vague. Saying yeah do it in line with the building regs is a lazy cop of from the designer cos they couldn't be bothered to properly detail out and specify the system.

    The contractor is a contractor - they do the hands on work. The cannot be expected to design the system as well, that is not their specialty.

  • Moderators, Regional North West Moderators Posts: 45,288 Mod ✭✭✭✭muffler

    It's fairly clear in my opinion. Fire alarms etc to be fitted to current requirements. 13 fire alarms is excessive though for a standard size house.

    OP can you clarify the type and size of house?

  • Registered Users Posts: 437 ✭✭Girl Geraldine

    But then you are expecting the contractor to design and specify a fire alarm system because they would have to suss out from the regulations, what type of detector, where to put them, etc. There might be different ways of doing it that are compliant with the regs.

    By leaving the specificaiton vague like this it just opened the door to confusion and a contractor making a claim because how were they meant to accurately price a system that was so vague in specification.

    Would you put a note on a GA drawing saying "wastewater treatment system and percolation area to current regulations" ?

  • Moderators, Regional North West Moderators Posts: 45,288 Mod ✭✭✭✭muffler

    The electrician should know what is required. If he doesn't then the contractor needs to get another spark.

  • Registered Users Posts: 951 ✭✭✭Prezatch

    It's a 4 bed semi-D 190sqm, and one detector in the attic.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 161 ✭✭Skihunta13

    Electrical Contractor here.

    1. architect is your designer. If fire alarm is required they should be on the drawing. This is a requirement for a fair tender process to all tendering contractors.
    2. On fire alarm systems the designer and installer cannot be the same company. This is on commercial premises. Dont know if applies to domestic
    3. your architect was lazy here and probably not up to date on fire regs and not willing to be held responsible if mistake made in fire alarm design.
    4. Electrical contractor should have noted it to the builder at tender stage.
    5. Claim off architect PI insurance.
    6. notes on side of drawing are not a get out of jail clause for architects. These are almost always a “copy and paste” and ignored by contractor.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,044 ✭✭✭sprucemoose

    thats a relatively standard way of doing things. realistically the designer should note locations of the smoke/heat detectors etc on drawings but not everyone does it this way. if that note was always on the drawings then the contractor should have queried it earlier

    sounds like the builder is trying to eek out some more money due to rising costs. there might be a small argument regarding the first point but if it were a problem on their part it should have been flagged at the start. for the lighting, unless they involved some really strange way of installing, the contractor is definitely wrong on that one

  • Registered Users Posts: 32,574 ✭✭✭✭Penn

    While the drawings/spec definitely should have stated the number/type/location of all detectors, I'd still argue that it shouldn't be a variation as the installation of detectors would be part of the overall electrical package and the regulations aren't so ambiguous for a house that it couldn't be easily quantified or allowed for by a competent electrician. Even just at a guess until it was clarified, 8-10 detectors would have been included. Even without knowing the layout you'd have Bedroom x 4, Hall, Back Hall, Living, Landing. I'm presuming the extras are Storage rooms, dining, utility or similar.

  • Registered Users Posts: 694 ✭✭✭JimmyMW

    Its the contractors responsibility to deliver a product compliant with building regs, end of. If 13 were needed who determined this is this the contractors method of compliance, if so then the cost is his baby. However if specified at a later stage by your designer or yourself then that's a slightly different story, if the contractor offered a cheaper option to comply then you should pay the difference between the 2. And to all slating the designer here, there are loads of electrical items missing from drawings that the electrician accounts for on their price, ie fuse board often left out of drawings yet they know they have to provide one

  • Moderators, Home & Garden Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 17,258 Mod ✭✭✭✭DOCARCH

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  • Registered Users Posts: 161 ✭✭Skihunta13

    It would not be uncommon for the client to have their incumbent intruder alarm installer instal fire detection ad part of the intruder alarm system.

    Drawings trump spec at all times. If its required put it on the drawing.

  • Registered Users Posts: 751 ✭✭✭C. Eastwood


    You stated above that the following was on the Contract Drawings:-  

    This is despite the spec having the following text in it under the Fire and Intruder Alarm heading:-

    "Allow for installation of new fully wired fire alarm & carbon monoxide system in accordance with current regulations"

    The Architect covered all of these works in the above Specification.

    Anything Specified in Writing on the Contract Drawings, do not have to be also drawn on the Plans.

    The above does not Specify an Intruder Alarm system.

    This means that the Building Contractor and the Electrical Contractor are to install the Fully wired Fire /Smoke alarms and CO system in accordance with the Building Regulations.

    The Building Regulations include all other Regulations.

    The Building Contractors Quotation should have included all costs associated with these works.

    The Electrical Contractor is obliged to know and comply with all of these Regulations, and should have included for all of these in his quotation to the Building Contractor.

    The Building Contractor is not entitled to any extra costs whatsoever for doing these works.

  • Registered Users Posts: 437 ✭✭Girl Geraldine

    Sure why bother with specifications and drawings at all then? Just tell a contractor to build a 2 storey house compliant with all current regulations.

  • Registered Users Posts: 751 ✭✭✭C. Eastwood

    It is axiomatic that all of the construction workers on a building site must comply with the Building Regulations when constructing a building.

    The Drawings specified as follows:-

    "Allow for installation of new fully wired fire alarm & carbon monoxide system in accordance with current regulations"

    The Contract Drawings and Contract Specification are Contract Documents and form Part of the Agreement between the Client and Building Contractor.

    What was specified for the Fire Alarm above is unambiguous. The Electrician forgot to include for this in his quote to the Building Contractor. This is not the Clients problem.

    IIWII:- It Is What It Is.

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,647 ✭✭✭The Continental Op

    For once I agree with you. This shouldn't be the clients problem. However tradesmen know if they try and make it the clients problem the client will often pay because it the easiest option because they want their house finished.

    Wake me up when it's all over.

  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 36,329 Mod ✭✭✭✭Gumbo

    But surely a sparks should know IS3218 and be able to pinpoint smoke detectors and heat detectors based on the plans?

    I can do that and I’m not a sparks!

    The note should have been enough in my

    opinion as current regs are IS3218 and they havent changed in recent times since tender.

    SD in every room. Full stop.

    HD in kitchen area.

    SD in all circulation and escape routes and store rooms.

    13 detectors can be hit here very quickly.

  • Registered Users Posts: 751 ✭✭✭C. Eastwood

    To claim off the Architects PI Insurance, you would have to prove that the Architect was negligent.

    In relation to the Specification for the Fire/Smoke alarm, the Architect was not negligent. The Electrical Contractor was negligent.

  • Subscribers Posts: 39,821 ✭✭✭✭sydthebeat

    if the house is over 200m2 than an LD1 system will be required and that can very easily amount to 13 detectors.

    if the architects note is that fire detection alarm system to comply with all current standards, then its up to the electrician to know what the current standards are.

  • Registered Users Posts: 30,962 ✭✭✭✭Lumen

    Allow for installation of new fully wired fire alarm & carbon monoxide system in accordance with current regulations

    What does "allow for" mean? It seems an oddly ambiguous choice of words in a specification, to this layman anyway.

    To my mind it suggests an element of preparation without actually doing the thing.

    e.g. if I say "build me a house that allows for combustion appliances in the kitchen" it would be implied that permanently open vents would be built into the structure, but not that the appliances would actually be fitted.

  • Registered Users Posts: 694 ✭✭✭JimmyMW

    Shur why bother with a main contractor or qualified electrician at all so, lets get jimmy down the pub to build it, it should be all on the drawings anyway, turn the screw 6 times clockwise etc. It the the architects job to specify a compliant design which he did, and its the main contractors job to deliver a compliant building, if he found "in compliance with current regulations" to vague then he should have RFI'd it at tender stage. As I said previously if the Main Contractor offered an alternative method of achieving compliance and it was refused than that's a different story, however from what I can see he did not only left it out, therefore not fulfilling his role or complying with drawings

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  • Moderators, Home & Garden Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 17,258 Mod ✭✭✭✭DOCARCH

    I use that term a bit. Probably is a little ambiguous now that I think of it!

    For tender (at least), 'allow for' pretty much means 'price for'.

  • Registered Users Posts: 751 ✭✭✭C. Eastwood

    I would have often use the term ’Allow For’. It is certainly a very old understood and accepted colloquial building / quantity surveying term.

    ‘Supply and Fit’ and give a full specification of the Item - might be a better statement in todays world.

  • Registered Users Posts: 951 ✭✭✭Prezatch

    As the OP, quick update on this. In the end I was arguing for a few other things that the electrical contractor tried to slip in as variations at the end. All of which were taken back out (including trying to charge for fitting of lights), but for this item on smoke detecters, we compromised 50/50.

    After 8 months on a renovation & extension (along with all of the planning and tendering in the many months before it) as a client you kind of just become exhausted with arguing and chasing suppliers and contractors!

  • Registered Users Posts: 38,437 ✭✭✭✭Mellor

    The contract lets this to an electrical subcontractor, ideal one well versed in fire alarm systems. It is quite literally their speciality. A sub-contractor is legally require to install the system to the regulations. The architectural documentation is not step by step instructions for the subbie.

    Well, you could do that. But they could build whatever that want and its complies with the contract. But most people want some level of control for what it looks like.

  • Registered Users Posts: 38,437 ✭✭✭✭Mellor

    Not bad outcome. Especially for the fitting of lights and other he tried to slip it. For a relatively small amount, its not work spending weeks and weeks fighting it. Although I think you were in the right. The drawings said to "allow for". At the very least they need to shoe what they allowed for and the variation was what ever the increases were, if any.

  • Registered Users Posts: 38,437 ✭✭✭✭Mellor

    Allow for means to allow to include that item in the tender. Eg "Lighting: Allow for 12 downlights" means they need to price for 12 generic lights to exact locations to be determined. It's a very standard phrasing, and has a specific contractual meaning.

    Your phasing is different. It says the house allow for, not that the contractor has to allow for. If it was "Allow for appliances to the kitchen" then yes they would be expected to allow for a fridge, oven, etc

    There are a number of errors there.

    1. Everything is not required to be on the drawings. It is require to be in the tender documentation, which includes the specification.
    2. Commercial certification is not the same as small scale domestic. But in that case, the architect is not the one designing a complex alarm system either. it would be an electrical engineer.
    3. It's pretty common to reference the standard and regulations that need to be achieved. Eg: "Electrical Installations to I.S. 10101:2020". The standards can be very lengthy, and reiterating everything in them is a waste of item. Electrical contractors are required to know those standards. But not everything is be referenced to a standard. That's where design work comes in.
    4. Electrical contractor could have sent an RFI at tender stage. Or exclude it from their offer. If they did not, then they are responsible to install it.
    5. Claiming off architect's PI is only valid if they were negligent. Builder has signed a contract to provide the lights. It's between the builder and the subby.
    6. Notes on the side of a drawing form part of the drawing and part of the contract. Whether a builder or subbie chooses to ignore them, they do so at their own risk. In this case, they've agreed to allow for the alarm system, regardless of whether they realised it. Not reading a contract before you sign it is not a defence in a legal dispute.

    The specification is the most important document and trumps the drawings. In this case there was no specification document, and they were on the drawings, which includes the notes on a drawing.