summary of the committee's report
The collapse of the floor of the wedding hall known as the Versailles Wedding Hall in Jerusalem (hereinafter – the Versailles Tragedy), which occurred on May 24, 2001, and which caused the deaths of 23 people and injuries to some 380 people, shocked the general public, both due to the cave-in itself, which caused the collapse of a significant part of the building, and because watching the event on television horrified all viewers. The sight of a festive crowd plunging down after the floor gapped open was a shocking scene.
Following the Versailles Tragedy, the Government, in its session held on 29 May 29, 2001, decided to establish a Committee of Inquiry pursuant to the Committees of Inquiry Law, 1968 (hereinafter – the Committees of Inquiry Law). The scope of the Committee’s activity, according to the Government’s resolution, is the issue of the safety of publicly used buildings and facilities. Within this framework, the Committee was charged with examining:
“(a) … the spectrum of professional and legal questions related to responsibility for the safety of publicly used buildings and facilities, including and in particular that are used for public events with mass numbers of participants and those that are used for public recreation, leisure and sports pursuant to the Business Permits Law and the regulations enacted pursuant thereto, as regards permits pursuant to the planning and building act and business permit act and their physical safety. Within this framework, consideration shall also be devoted to the safety of education and health buildings.
(b) Operational and legal aspects shall also be examined with regards to the responsibility for attaining and enforcing safety in such buildings, as regards new buildings, existing buildings and changes in buildings, with respect to local and national authorities and private disciplines - designers, developers and property owners, including closure as necessary.
(c) The Committee shall consider the need for conducting a survey of the existing condition of buildings and places as aforesaid.”
On June 29, 2001, the Hon. Justice Aharon Barak, President of the Supreme Court, appointed the persons listed below as members of the Committee:
The Hon. President Vardimus Zailer – Committee Chairman
Prof. Arnon Bentur – Member
General Prof. Itzhak Ben-Israel – Member
Dr. Mahmud Abassi – Member
Advocate Naomi Stern – Member
In the first stages of our work we had already been exposed to information that indicated the hazard harbored in the “Pal-Kal” method, which was used – in its various versions – in Israel for extensive building beginning in the late seventies. The “number” that had caught on as expressing the scope of this building is between 2.5 and 3 million square meters. As can be learned from the interim report issued by the Committee on August 14, 2002 (hereinafter – the Interim Report), this method was a cause in the collapse that occurred in the Versailles Halls and that caused the deaths of 23 people. In light of the degree of hazard harbored in this method, on the one hand, and the widespread use of it in building, on the other, the Committee had reached the conclusion that it was impossible to remain impassive, while we continued the planned tasks of collecting, sorting and categorizing the hazards as if nothing had happened. It was clear to us that one must sound the alarm on this matter before, G-d forbid, another disaster occurs. The proper, and perhaps only, way the Committee had at its disposal was issuing an interim report pursuant to Section 19A of the Committees of Inquiry Law. The decision to issue an interim report was also based on the inaction of all the relevant authorities. In such a situation, we believed that “where there are no men – strive to be a man”, and the publication of an interim report by the Committee would perhaps be the only chance to put the wheels of the necessary action in motion.
The Interim Report only addressed the “Pal-Kal” method, and it included various recommendations, mainly concerning the creation and establishment of organizational and normative tools that would be capable of coping with the problem of locating and identifying the buildings that have “Pal-Kal” slabs, examining them and determining the repairs that must be done on them, all after taking into consideration the condition of each slab or type of slab.
Following the Interim Report, the government passed a series of resolutions, including a resolution not to permit any new building using the “Pal-Kal” method as well as a resolution concerning the establishment of a professional-engineering control center that would lead a nationwide project for handling the issue of the buildings that were built using the “Pal-Kal” method, which shall direct a project of locating, identifying, sorting, examining and issuing guidelines for treatment with respect to all of the buildings that were built using this method.
Treatment Issues and Methods
The first question we clearly needed to address was: what is the best way to fulfill the task placed in our hands – achieving building safety. One line of thought that directed us at the outset, as aforesaid, was that it is possible to produce a product that is free of safety defects by identifying the hazards inherent in it, in order to neutralize any such hazard. In the building field, going this route necessitates identifying all hazard factors in buildings, on the one hand, and identifying all of the elements whose aim it is to prevent the hazard from eventuating, including legal and professional norms, professional personnel engaged in building, their qualifications, the enforcement agencies, etc. (hereinafter – the “Agencies of Prevention”), on the other hand. Subsequently, out of the gamut of hazards, those hazards that are not neutralized at all, or not neutralized to a sufficient degree, must be identified by the Agencies of Prevention, and search for the appropriate way to neutralize them.
However, it was already in the initial stages of our work that we discovered that the failures were not only isolated, but also (and perhaps mainly) sweeping failures that permeated the entire system. This category of failure necessitates examining and testing the gamut of systems and mechanisms operating and being operated upon in the building industry (in its broad sense), in order to identify the burdensome and inappropriate systems or parts of systems, and then try to amend them, to fill in what is lacking in them, and if needed – to replace them with others. The objective is to achieve a condition wherein these systems and mechanisms are logical, efficient and fulfill their designed intent, changing needs and new developments, and all of this with the understanding that their components must be fully compatible with one another.
In light of the aforesaid reality that was exposed to us, it was clear to us that the correct way of treating the maladies of the building industry is to follow the route in which emphasis is placed on the formulation of a set of rules for planning the process or designing the means of production (hereinafter – the “Machine”), which would produce a building (hereinafter – the “Building Product”) that will be a safe product. A machine that produces a safe product renders superfluous the need to address each of the hazards separately. In “designing” the Machine, we made use of the experience (notwithstanding that it is usually a negative experience) that has accumulated to date, concerning what we had learned from the testimonies of the witnesses who had appeared before us and from the material submitted to us. In addition, we deemed it appropriate to learn from how things are done around the world, and for this purpose we gathered material and sent emissaries to a number of countries that are deemed sophisticated in their regulation of the building industry (and particularly the US, France, Japan and Germany).
Our hope is that the combination of theoretical design together with drawing conclusions from the past and from other countries’ practices will produce a “machine” that is as error-free as possible. The adjustments that would be needed later, if any are found to be needed, can be made over the course of the future operation of the “Machine”.
The Government resolution pursuant to which the Committee was set up placed in its hands the issue of “the safety of publicly used buildings and facilities”. The emphasis is on buildings and places where very many participants congregate, whether regularly or whether for special occasions, as opposed to buildings and places used by private individuals.
The testimonies and other evidence brought before us quickly taught us that what is linked cannot be separated. The problems that lead to the creation of hazards in publicly used building almost precisely overlap the problems that plague building in general. Thus, for example, faulty legislation, unqualified designers, contractors, and other involved disciplines, unprofessional and inefficient supervisory and enforcement systems and additional similar problems and shortcomings, influence building as a whole, and not specifically building used by the general public.
We learned of this inseparable linkage not only from the witnesses and the other agencies we approached for the purpose of gathering information. It was also the analysis of the reasons, causes and failings that led to the Versailles Tragedy, as well as other tragedies that originated in building failures, that indicated that these are not unique to public buildings or to buildings wherein large crowds gather. They are common to nearly every building built in Israel, irrespective of its designation, use, the number of people likely to use it, etc.
Therefore, both the analysis of the present status and the findings, and our conclusions and recommendations, relate to the entire building industry. Implementing our recommendations would therefore lead, so we believe and hope, to a situation where all buildings, including publicly used buildings, become high quality and safe..
Aside from the broad common denominator, the buildings divide into different kinds and types, as regards their complexity, size, designation, height, etc. This division, naturally, entails differences. We could not, obviously, address all of the subtleties of all of the differences between the various kinds and types of buildings. Most of our efforts were aimed at formulating a “machine”, whose characteristics and logic would serve the majority of buildings, whereby should the need arise for a divergence for the purpose of adapting it to specific designations of buildings, it would be possible to do the required adjustments with relative ease. Thus, for example, we recommended a different track for handling inspection of the design of “special buildings” as opposed to regular buildings, and thus we have also provided for the contraction of the design team and construction crew in the case of small buildings.
The aforesaid “Machine” is intended to encompass most designations of buildings, but it cannot cover them all. There may be buildings to which special requirements apply due to special activities being carried out within, due to the type of materials that are used within, due to the complexity of their design or construction, or due to their other characteristics or to their surrounding area. All of these might necessitate a deviation from the usual building norms. Insofar as we addressed issues of this type, our treatment of them was just marginal. It follows that the Report does not pretend to address all hazards. The aforesaid irregular issues may indeed have implications on the safety of people in places or buildings used by the general public (an example is a conflagration in fuel products storage sites), but we do not believe that these hazards are included in the authorized scope of our work, and dealing with them would have necessitated extending far afield and a substantial delay in completing the Committee’s work.
Structure of Report, Main Points and Recommendations
It is clear that the Report addresses many and varied issues and aspects. In light of the profusion of issues, the reader may find it difficult to focus and – while reviewing the Report – identify the general mosaic it creates, and the integration of each problem reviewed by the reader into the mosaic as a whole. Additionally, it is possible that the reader will find it difficult to assess the conclusions and recommendations, when they are interwoven with explanations and when they are incorporated into various types of discussions. We thought, therefore, that we ought to include in this Preface some sort of “road map” that will facilitate the reader’s sensing the entirety even before he reviews and absorbs the entire contents of the Report. This “road map” does not, of course, presume to include or summarize all that is said in the Report. Nonetheless, we hope that it will form both a background framework and a short summary of the recommendations, on the basis of which the reader will find it easier to learn what general principles and general courses of action guided us in the various issues he will encounter while reading, and what is the framework of the main conclusions and recommendations.
A superficial examination of what envelops the production process of the “Building Product” is enough to reveal that the world of building is lost in a murky fog of norms and of governmental supervisory mechanisms. The convolution of norms includes dozens of laws and regulations, hundreds of standards’ clauses pertaining to building and the building process, hundreds of bylaws promulgated by municipalities and local councils – and we have not enumerated more than part of the web of norms dealing directly or indirectly with the building industry and the building process. The snarl of governmental supervisory mechanisms consists of dozens of governmental authorities, district and local planning committees, local authorities, supervisory mechanisms, permits, prohibitions, professional qualifications, aspects of design, firefighting and safety, networks of electricity, water, sewage and roads, etc. . Through these dozens, if not hundreds of related issues it is not easy to see the objective – which is the Building Product.
Our being led through numerous and tangled bureaucratic and procedural mazes may cause us to forget that all of these only came into being so as to serve one aim: the construction of buildings. A building is not the most complex product for design and production, and there are many products that surpass it as regards the knowledge needed and the complexity of design and production. For example, manufacture of an airplane is a task far more complex than constructing a building. There are more disciplines involved in its design and manufacture; it integrates plans and feats that are much more complex, as well as far more coordinating of design and construction. Moreover, an airplane entails techniques and disciplines that are much newer than in building, and it requires that more and clearer hazards are overcome, and we have only listed some of the difficulties surrounding the design, production and maintenance of an airplane compared with those relating to a typical “Building Product”. Nonetheless, airplanes and other products are designed and produced without being enshrouded in the normative tangle engulfing the processes of design and construction of the Building Product.
The desire to compare the building product to all products was the Committee’s starting point in searching for an appropriate model for forming the tools and mechanisms that will enable the production of a high-quality and safe “Building Product” – which we termed the “Machine”. The analogy to other products in the market also served as a reliable compass for us, ensuring that, while getting involved in discussions about legal and professional norms, the main point will not be forgotten – that all of these are merely intended to regulate the production of only one type of product. Other products, produced without this “burden” of norms and governmental involvement that characterizes the field of building, also served for us as a comparative, guiding and steering model in addressing the regulating of the production of the “Building Product.”
We are aware that one could claim that it is an over-simplified comparison between general products and the Building Product as made by us above. We agree that there indeed is a certain degree of dissembling in presenting the Building Product as any other product, with no unique distinction, in the profusion of products manufactured by the human race. This “dissembling” was important to align the Building Product with other products, and also to place matters, at the outset, in more realistic proportions. Nonetheless, this “alignment” must be balanced by identifying the components characterizing the “Building Product” apart from “ordinary products”. These special components must be examined so one can tell whether and to what degree they affect the need to treat the production process of the “Building Product” differently from the customary way of treating the “ordinary products”.
We have indeed devoted no little time and space in the first part of the Report for diagnosing these components (which we termed the “Variance Components”). These components include, inter alia: production that is not mass-produced and that does not have a “prototype”, the lifespan of buildings, their indispensability to mankind, the magnitude of harm to life and property that faults in them harbor, their high cost, their impact on the landscape and environment, the difficulty in discovering defects in them, and the necessity for supervision and control in the course of the building process.
It seemed to us that what should guide us is that all that pertains to the production process of the “Building Product” and design of the “Machine” that would produce it is that one must apply to the design and construction of the Building Product the same normative and other approach that is customarily applied to ordinary products, all insofar as the Variance Components do not dictate otherwise. When one must deviate from customary practice, due to the Variance Components, the deviation will be only as is necessary in light thereof.
One of the characteristics of the approach to the production of ordinary products is as little involvement as possible on the part of the authorities in the production process of each product. The principle of noninvolvement conforms with modern society’s tendency to respect the autonomy of the individual, and with the aspiration not to impose unnecessary and unendurable edicts on the general public. This principle also conforms to the freedom of enterprise (which is a constitutional right), which grants (subject to restrictions) freedom to every person to engage in any enterprise he wishes, and to employ persons in any profession he chooses. Subject to the dictates of the Variance Components, this ought to be the approach with regards to the Building Product. However, it has already been stated above that one of the implications of the Variance Components on the production process of the Building Product is the need for supervisory involvement as early as the production process. Involvement in the course of production does indeed exist in all products, but it is aimed at the hygiene and safety of the work process rather than at the safety of the final product.
The indispensability and necessity of the Building Product for all persons and for a vast variety of human activities, as well as other Variance Components, lead to recognizing the safety of the Building Product as a primary public interest. The high cost of the Building Product, its long lifespan, etc., increase the intensity of the safety aspect’s centrality in the Building Product. In order to achieve safety in buildings, one must identify all that is relevant to safety, in order to guaranty that all means, including the necessary norms, the disciplines involved, the required standards, the supervisory means that should be imposed, and all other means, shall serve this goal to the extent possible. All of the foregoing has guided us in outlining the characteristics of the “Machine”.
One of the starting points of all committees of inquiry is examining the present status in the field under inquiry. We did the same, and when we comprehended the problems, we were appalled at the magnitude of disorder that is prevalent in the field of building today. This disorder was exposed to us, inter alia, in the various testimonies, in the written material that was submitted to us. This disorder includes, inter alia, dispersed, disarrayed and incomplete legislation, suffering from obscurity and indefiniteness, which not infrequently contradicts itself and lacks a clear policy. The deficiencies that were exposed to us are, inter alia, the involvement of unqualified professionals, absent and unprofessional supervisory systems, and the absence of inspection of the safety aspects of building.
In order to convey to the reader a small part of what was exposed to us, we decided to devote Part Three of the Report to a rundown of the faults and problems, whether exposed following the public outcry or otherwise. The "poisoned potion" containing the faults and defects is full to the brim, and we detailed it in this report, as follows. .
Since we feared that one who is not well versed in the building field may encounter difficulty in understanding the faults and defects that we enumerate, we preceded Part Three with a short description of the main “players” in the building field, both in the private sector and in the public sector, and of the laws applicable to them and the obligations imposed on them. This inventory is located in Part Two of the Report.
Our first impression was that we are facing a very large number of problems, each of which stands alone, separate from the rest. No wonder, then, that confronted with such a situation, we felt ourselves forced to be occupied with an endless Sisyphean task, since even if a solution is found for one problem, it is doubtful whether this solution will have a significant impact on the chaos as a whole, since the problem solved would be like a drop in the ocean of problems engulfing it.
A deeper review of some of the maladies indicated by the witnesses and arising from the material provided to us showed that the “image” of an ocean of problems in which each problem is distinct from the others is imprecise insofar as this pertains to the implications of such flaws on the building industry. In this matter, there exists an endless circle, which we have termed, a “vicious circle”, in which each fault and flaw may be perceived as a link in a circle. this circle gripping and in the grip of its links whereby each of these links sets the others in motion and is in turn set in motion by them. A partial description of this spinning circle, which contains an illustration of the manner in which the faults integrate one with the other, setting this circle in motion and being set in motion by it, can be found in Chapter 16 of this Report.
It was important to us to gain some understanding on ongoing practice in different aspects of the building industry in several foreign countries, in order to know whether the problems in building as they exist in Israel are prototypical of Israel or perhaps are part of the problematic character inherent in the industry. It was also important to us to learn from the experience of others as regards the organization, legislation, solutions that were found, and the mechanisms in operation in the various fields related to building, as well as the possible integration of insurance in supervision and control.
We received the information concerning practices in foreign countries by various means, and some of what we have learned was included in Part Four of the Report.
Needless to say that a committee of inquiry’s conclusions and recommendations are the highlight of its work. Indeed, Part Five of the Report, which is the longest of them all, deals with that. Due to the great importance of this chapter, we thought it appropriate to already set forth herein the main points of the conclusions and recommendations:
The legislation in the field of building suffers from great diffusion, disorder, obscurity and indefiniteness, contradictions and the absence of a clear policy. The legislative flaws constitute a dominant link in the Vicious Circle. They often do not allow those who need the provisions of law (designers, supervisors, authorities, builders, etc.) to obtain a clear grasp of the full extent of the norms that apply to the building process they are, or wish to become, involved in. In this situation, obligations cannot effectively be imposed on the parties involved (developers, designers, builders, etc.) and an orderly regime of standards in building cannot be maintained.
This situation is to a great extent the result of legislation that originated with undertakings contrived at over ten government ministries, to which were added to the norms undertakings at other agencies, such as the Home Front Command, local authorities and firefighting authorities. To all of these one must add guidelines issued by these agencies and by other agencies, as well as standards.
In order to escape this situation, we have recommended devising, as is common practice in enlightened countries around the world, a comprehensive building code, sorted and categorized by subject, such that all “legislative information” regarding any technical or other subject can easily be found. This code would replace the existing intricate and unclear legislation. A substantial part of this code, and we are referring to the chapter dealing with open spaces inside buildings, is already in an advanced stage of preparation, at the commission of the Ministry of the Interior.
We have further recommended that even before this reform is enacted in the drawing of norms, legislation should be passed usurping the power for promulgating building norms from the various ministries and centralize it in a ministry that will be set up, albeit temporarily, as a Ministry of Building (whether as a full-fledged ministry or as an authority within a ministry).
We have recommended that technical norms should, to the extent possible, be formulated in standards rather than regulations. The standards would be included or referred to in the building code.
We have recommended that the building code also include the provisions for specific designations of buildings (i.e., buildings that are designated for a specific use that impacts their design, such as schools and hospitals), for buildings servicing businesses that require permits, for temporary buildings and facilities erected in open spaces (such as: galleries, seats, temporary buildings, fences, etc.), etc. The code would set forth the specific provisions applicable to such buildings.
We have noted the severe situation prevalent in the field of norms regulating the subject of fire safety, most of which are not set forth in legislation, are not publicly accessible, and are subject to the discretion of the various firefighting authorities, that are various and differ from place to place, and hence cause a sense of arbitrariness. We have therefore recommended that the building code include all of the provisions on the subject of fire safety.
We have recommended severing the legislative connection between regional planning and building, and that the planning act should be separate from the building act. Contrary to the law dealing with regional planning, in which the public aspects are dominant, in the building law the professional element is very dominant. The building itself and all that surrounds it – once it has accepted the yoke of regional planning – is primarily a professional process, involving the activation of professional technical norms, and characterized by a large number of professional disciplines, authorities and assorted agencies that take part in it. The integration of both these subjects in a single law relays imprecise messages.
Another dominant link in the Vicious Circle is the link that concerns supervision and control of all stages of building, starting with design control, through construction control, and ending with pre-completion control. The neglect that exists in this area is spread out over many arms of central and local government. It is characterized in part by lack of professionalism, buckling under local pressures, the existence of obscure instructions and norms, and a faulty and inefficient organization.
Despite the numerous bureaucratic proceedings, there is in fact not one authority that seriously examines important aspects of the design, including the design of the building framing. The authorities make do, in the best cases, in “inspecting documents” only in order to make sure that assorted designers have approved the propriety of the design and its compliance with the requirements of law.
For various reasons that we detail in various places in the Report, we believe that on the one hand, oversight is essential, and on the other hand, professional oversight by the governmental authorities is not a satisfactory solution. The supervision and control are fundamentally professional issues and we have therefore recommended letting only “professionals” handle these (in contrast to political, local or other echelons that are engaged with these today). These would be – so we recommend – inspection centers, which would employ professional personnel whose professional standards would be determined by law. The goal is that every such inspection center will be at a high professional level and will include the disciplines that must be involved in order to achieve the objective of safe building. These centers would be – so we recommend – private and competitive (but not on prices, which would be determined by law). Effective oversight would be implemented to monitor their integrity and activity. These centers would be subject to fiduciary duties, and in addition the law would contain provisions aimed at facilitating their acting free of pressures by interested parties.
The inspection centers would maintain tight supervision over all stages of building, starting with the stage of professional examination of the design of the structure for the purpose of granting a building permit, through all stages of construction, and ending with the granting of a certificate, which would be a prerequisite for obtaining the completion certificate, indicating that the building was erected in accordance with the building permit.
We have recommended simplifying the “Via Dolorosa” of the building permit application. The applicant for a building permit would start the process with an application addressed to the local building authority for obtaining a “conformance certificate”, attesting to the “geometry” and designation of his design conforming to the regional plan.
From this point onwards, until construction is completed, all of the applicant’s contacts would be primarily with an experienced and efficient professional body: the inspection center. The inspection center would be charged with examining the detailed design and ensure that it complies with all relevant norms. The inspection center would be in direct contact, for the purpose of obtaining certification, with the infrastructure agencies (electricity, telecommunications, roads, water, etc.) insofar as unlegislated norms are concerned. Centralizing the process and the examinations in the inspection centers would make it easier for those who require the services of these authorities, who must today waste valuable time in running around with a “checklist” among numerous authorities and agencies. Infrastructure and safety norms that would be legislated (as recommended by us with regard to fire safety, for example) would be examined by the inspection center and would notbe transferred to the relevant authority for examination and certification.
Certification by the inspection center of the propriety of the detailed design would be forwarded to the building authority so that it can issue the building permit within a short period of time, which would be prescribed by law.
After the building permit is issued by the building authority, the inspection center would supervise the construction and would cause enforcement measures to be taken, if necessary. When the construction is finished, the inspection center would check whether the conditions for a completion certificate have been met. Its confirmation would serve as validation for the issuance of a completion certificate by the building authority. The latter would be allowed, within 15 days, to refuse to grant such a certificate, if it believes that the building does not conform to the permit. This, of course, would be subject to appeal.
We recommend that a building permit be issued only after a detailed design, at the construction documents level, is submitted and approved. The design documents that would be required for obtaining a building permit would include, inter alia, detailed designs that will reflect the structure’s final plan, including its systems. The reason for this is that one of the central maladies the professionals have taught us is the common practice in Israel to start constructing the building before the full design of the structure is completed, and without orchestrating the various design details, including planning and coordinating the structure’s systems (electricity, sanitary facilities, air conditioning, gas, etc.). This situation not only permits no control and supervision over the design and construction, but also allows for obscurities that lead to design and construction errors, omissions and contradictions – and as a consequence: to safety hazards.
The professional make-up of the building process, which is one of the major parts of the “Machine” contemplated in this Report, would not be complete without strict control over the involvement and competency of those whose presence is essential in the building design and construction process, in order to ensure its safety. The designers, without whom no safe building is possible, and whose involvement shall therefore be compulsory, are: an architect, a structural engineer, a geo-mechanical consultant, an electricity designer, an elevator consultant and a safety consultant (all of whom we termed in the Report “Core Designers”). In the construction stage, we recommended that the involvement of a project manager (on behalf of the developer), an attendant inspector (on behalf of the developer), an engineer responsible for structural construction (on behalf of the contractor), a site manager (on behalf of the contractor) and a foreman be required. The project manager can be involved in a building project already in the design stage. In the event that he joins only in the construction stage, the person responsible for coordinating the design would be the architect or the structural engineer, as will be determined.
We were careful not to recommend the obligatory involvement of any person whose involvement is not essential for achieving the safety objective.
The designers would be charged with a defined and vigilant duty of exercising oversight over the conformity of the construction to the design in the course of the construction work. The supervision stages would be such that will guaranty the construction work according to the design, and we have also provided for mechanisms and documentation that will guaranty the ability to check that all such duties are carried out, both by way of monitoring and supervision in real time and by way of retrospective monitoring and supervision.
The participants in the design of the building and the performance of the construction work would be required to meet suitable competency requirements and, inter alia, to prove knowledge of, practical experience and proficiency in the building code.
As stated above, the essential professional make-up would include, inter alia, the compulsory presence of a project manager and an attendant inspector, who would have suitable professional competency as defined by law. The project manager would be required to obtain a license and be at a very high professional level. The attendant inspector would be required to be an engineer, an architect or a building technician. Today, there is no presence of such roles in legislation.
The project manager’s main task would be to liaise between the numerous agencies working in different aspects of the building process, in the design stage (when he is present in this stage), in the construction stage and in the completion stage. The project manager is also part of the supervision and control system that contains various components revolving around the inspection centers.
The attendant inspector would be charged with being the vigilant “watchdog” at the construction site, ascertaining a full and precise implementation of the detailed design. He, too, would be part of the aforesaid supervision and control system.
As aforesaid, these two would be the supervision and control spearhead at the construction site. As such, they may be subjected to difficult pressure on the part of various interested parties, some of whom have significant financial interests. In order to make it easier for them to withstand the pressures, and at the same time enhance their accountability, we have recommended that they be charged with fiduciary duties vis-à-vis the general public.
The result would be that they shall have a status, the powers and authority to enable them to fulfill their duties fearlessly and in an unprejudiced manner. Our recommendations include practical ways to achieve these goals.
Granting executive powers on the one hand, and immunity from harassment by snubbed interested parties on the other hand, when the fiduciary duties imposed as aforesaid hover above it all, will enable the project manager and the attendant inspector to gaze the pressure extortionists in the eye and “explain” that they are helpless and cannot give in to pressure, lest they be caught and pay for it with their licenses. The ability to withstand pressure would have a vertical effect from the Core Designers vis-à-vis all other jobs in the design and construction fields. All of these would feel themselves under tight and effective supervision.
We have recommended that the inspection centers, as well as the project managers, safety consultants, and others, also be utilized for many other professional purposes beyond the “pretext” of their establishment or institutionalization, in order to close assorted breaches. They would also work in enforcement, in control of building maintenance, and in granting certification for various purposes. Thus, for example, the safety consultants would issue safety certificates for the purpose of granting or renewing permits by various authorities. In quite a few cases, the certificates granted today (for schools, hospitals etc.) are no more than “notes” issued by agencies not regulated by law. The most prominent of these is the profession that is known by the name “safety consultant”, where often no one knows what are his qualifications, background, and proficiency in the field in which he is engaged.
According to our recommendation, the inspection centers will examine, supervise and certify the compliance with the design and construction of specific designations of buildings, and their certification would be a prerequisite for issuing a building permit for such buildings. As regards the licensing of the activities in the buildings, we have recommended that the inspection centers would also be those who, in some cases, grant certification of the buildings’ propriety and conformity for businesses that require permits, hospitals and infirmaries , education buildings, temporary facilities and structures in open spaces, etc. Such certification would be one of the prerequisites for granting and renewing a license by the appropriate licensing authority, to maintain in each such building the business or activity for which it was designated.
This recommendation would unite under one agency the issuing of permits and the inspection of the construction and fitness of all specific designations of buildings, for all intents and purposes. This arrangement would replace norms currently dispersed throughout different “specific legislation” (education legislation, health legislation, business licensing, etc.), and would narrow down the involvement of the Education and Health ministries in these matters, in which they have no particular expertise, as well as unwanted involvement of politicians and unprofessional authorities that are currently preoccupied in each of the specific designations of buildings.
We have recommended taking the necessary steps to create a centralized enforcement mechanism free of conflicts of interest and not subject to pressuring. The power to issue administrative work cessation and demolition orders would be vested in the district attorney, who would receive reports from the inspection centers and from a policing force, and would issue such orders in the appropriate instances.
The policing force would enforce the law in cases of violation of the planning and building laws, and would act both on the basis of complaints and upon its own initiative. This policing force would also be engaged in enforcing the orders. Such steps would not derogate from the criminal liability of the perpetrators as prescribed by law.
We have recommended reinforcing the laws compelling the authorities to provide planning information. The authority would be compelled to “dig through” the relevant “planning archeology” and provide the applicant with binding and detailed written information, which would clarify for the applicant all and the entire rights and obligations he has in connection with use of the land. An authority that fails to provide information in a timely fashion would be compelled to pay compensation, as would an authority in the case of damage caused to the person receiving the information due to erroneous information.
We have emphasized the need for prescribing very short and binding time spans for providing replies and decisions by the authorities on building-related applications for information, permits or certifications.
In light of the prevailing practice by some of the building authorities of not enforcing the law (today, too, the law imposes, in some cases, a duty to hand down decisions within a fixed period of time), we have recommended the payment of appropriate compensation to applicants who are not answered on time.
We have recommended that all owners or occupants of buildings be obligated to maintain the building in such a fashion that its stability remains intact and that ensures the propriety of other safety aspects to be determined by law. In each building that is not handled in its entirety in the Business Permit Act or another law handling specific designations of buildings, an external visual maintenance inspection would be carried out once every five years. The purpose of this inspection would be to expose the hazards of the structure’s stability, as well as other hazards that will be determined by law. The cost of this examination is small, and the owners and occupants would finance it by a minor supplement to the municipal tax rates. Maintenance inspection in business buildings and specific designations of buildings will be done regularly as part of the license renewal proceeding.
We have recommended centralizing all building matters (that would be severed from the topic of regional planning), including legislation, organization, policy, control, etc., in the hands of a separate Ministry of Building, or at the least in the hands of a professional ancillary unit in an appropriate government ministry, which would be independent in its functions as well as its powers. Thus, the building industry would have a guiding, planning, operating and forward-looking “head” (and brain), in contrast to the current dispersal among assorted authorities and agencies.
Norms in tenders, as applied today, can have implications on the safety of buildings. This is derived from the fervor, justifiable in itself, on the part of those entrusted with public funds, to strictly adhere to saving and cutting costs. Unfortunately, this fervor has oftentimes had a boomerang-like effect. Cases were brought to our attention, mainly (but not only) concerning design tenders, where the “fervor” did indeed generate a savings of pennies in professional fees, but the lowered level of caliber that accompanied this saving caused damage of multifold proportions.
Finding the proper balance between financial prudence and insistence on quality and safety is a problem challenging the whole world, and several solutions were found, some of which are mentioned in our discussion of this issue. The Obligatory Tender Regulations do indeed reflect an appreciation of the problem, but not so the persons engaged in this problem, whose fervor sometimes takes them beyond what is necessitated by employing matter-of-fact and comprehensive discretion. Under these circumstances, we have recommended a revision of the over-emphasis given to the financial aspect, and giving proper weight to quality and safety.
One of our recommendations is to decide that the technical norms relevant to the building industry be expressed, inasmuch as possible, by standards, rather than in regulations.
Since the legal arrangement relating to standards is a particular one that has special aspects of legislative method, validity, manner of amendment, handling priorities, and agencies handling all of the foregoing, and since these special aspects may have unwanted implications on building norms, we believed that we should address this issue, so that our recommendations remain intact in the process of converting the technical norms from regulations to standards.
Among our recommendations in this matter there are some that are intended to ensure that the dominance of the Ministry of Building be retained in all building matters, even when the matter at hand is norms promulgated by way of standards.
The Report deals primarily with the building act, with building, and with designing the “Machine” that will produce a proper and safe “Building Product”, and does not deal with regional planning.
Nonetheless, it happens that a person wishing to build is required to amend the regional planning before entering the building design track itself. The proceedings involved in spot zoning have been the subject of great criticism due to the time spent and the inefficiency of handling. We have learned from testimonies that one of the links of the “Vicious Circle” stems from the frustration of the various applicants, whose applications get mired for years in these proceedings. This frustration often “chases” the applicants into a course of action entailing building without permits or supervision, which harbors safety hazards.
We deviated from our path and let our recommendations spill over to the realm of regional planning, all in an attempt to construct a short and efficient track that will lead the applicant to his final objective, on the straight and narrow path rather than on a labyrinthine one. The main means for achieving this objective would be – as per our recommendations – granting the right to compensation to any person whose application was not handled on time.
We have recommended the proper conduct during the “interim period” of the shift from the existing system to the new order recommended by us. The issues that must be regulated during the “interim period” are neither few nor marginal, and they include, inter alia, the very manner by which the existing system will turn into the new order and the manner and way that “work-in-process” matters will be handled during the interim period, as well as other matters.
A central issue that should be addressed during the preparatory period is that of the many buildings that have been built without a permit. We have recommended an integrated method that includes “clemency” when certain conditions are met, side by side with uncompromising enforcement when such “clemency” is impossible.
All of these are merely part of the issues and principles with which we have dealt and of the conclusions and recommendations contained in this Report. What was set out in detail herein is sufficient to provide a general feeling of the vast scope of matters this Report deals with, as well as of the principles underlying our recommendations. A review of the foregoing indicates that among the numerous issues and recommendations, there are ascendant recommendations the effect of which on the negative aspects of the Vicious Circle is very significant. These include the building code and the inspection centers’ arrangement. Each of these is all-encompassing.
From the moment clear-cut norms exist, from the moment a very professional agency (with spotless integrity) exists that is efficiently supervised by others and in turn efficiently supervises compliance with the norms, from the moment the clear-cut norms apply to all types and shades of building, including permanent and temporary buildings and facilities in open spaces, and including specific designations of buildings, buildings housing businesses that require permits, et cetera, and from the moment such norms embody all of our recommendations – then a considerable part of the safety objectives shall have been achieved.
Some of the other recommendations include auxiliary means that are intended to facilitate achieving this objective.