AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTRUCTION LAW
1 January 2023 saw the coming into force of most provisions of the wide-ranging and much-discussed amendment to the Construction Law prepared by the Ministry of Development and Technology and passed by the Sejm in 2022. Key changes include allowing single-family houses of any size, and a longer list of other projects, to be built without planning permission; and digitization of many construction processes. Here are the eight most important measures.
Single-family houses no longer require planning permission
One of the most important changes is that, as of 1 January 2023, the construction of a detached, single-family house for own housing needs no longer requires a building permit – regardless of the house’s built-up area. (Previously this only applied to houses up to 70 m2.) The sole remaining condition is that the house should be two storeys at a maximum. The project owner merely has to notify the construction to competent authorities (by submitting the architectural-construction design), and to appoint a construction site manager, who will subsequently be asked to certify that the building is fit for occupancy.
Other projects also exempted from planning permission
The amendment also expanded a list of projects that, similar to single-family houses, have been exempted from the building permit requirement; notification with competent authorities will be enough.
One example are free-standing wind farms that are 3-12 metres tall, have up to 50 kW of capacity, and are set back from the site’s boundaries a distance at least equal to their height. Such projects will only require preparation of a site plan and an architectural-construction design, and – at the onset of the construction phase – preparation of a technical design and appointment of a construction site manager. Importantly, free-standing wind farms up to 3 metres tall are exempt, not just from the building permit requirement but from the notification requirement, too.
No need to obtain occupancy permit
Occupancy permit requirements have been considerably relaxed, too. An occupancy permit is now required only in cases where occupancy is to begin before construction works are completed. (It can also be issued if the project owner applies for it of their own accord.) Otherwise, projects are to be made available for occupancy based merely on notification of construction completion.
Fines for untimely issuance of demolition approvals
In another important change, agencies who are late in issuing demolition approvals will face financial penalties. Official records of demolition approval applications received, and of demolition approval decisions issued, will now be required to be maintained – just like in the case of building permits – thus enabling timeliness of issuance to be verified for the first time.
Database of Building Designs
In one of several measures to expand digitisation, the amendment authorizes the creation of an electronic Database of Building Designs (BPB). The objective is to give agencies easier access to building designs created in electronic form. It means that when submitting an application, notification, or notice, the project owner no longer has to enclose the design – it is enough to indicate the unique number assigned to it in the database. This should streamline the work of agencies, speeding up administrative procedures.
Electronic Construction Site Logbook
The amendment also introduces the option to maintain the logbook of a construction site electronically rather than in hard copy. It is worth noting that electronic and paper-based will be alternative options only until 2030. Thereafter, the use of the electronic format will become mandatory.
If the decision is made to maintain an electronic logbook, each phase of the construction process has to be recorded there, and it is incumbent upon the project owner to ensure that all relevant parties have access to the electronic logbook.
Electronic register of certified construction professionals
Already on 1 August 2022, a new Central Electronic Register of certified construction professionals (e-CRUB) was implemented, replacing an earlier system that consisted of a central register of persons with building qualifications, and a register of persons sanctioned for professional malpractice in construction. With e-CRUB, project owners get a convenient way to verify the qualifications of persons that they intend to work with. It is worth noting that the resource is open to all parties involved in a construction project.
Digital Building Logbook
Finally, in force since 1 January are provisions on the Digital Building Logbook (c-KOB), to be kept by the building owner or manager in the form of an app. All relevant information about the building must go into c-KOB, such as data on its owners and managers; inspections that it has undergone; expert opinions and technical opinions that have been issued concerning it; as well as all decisions, certificates and any other documents issued by agencies.
Crucially, creating a traditional, paper-based building logbook will remain an option only until the end of 2023. And from 1 January 2027, paper-based building logbooks will cease to be accepted.
Changes will take time to show results
Digitization of many processes is an aspect of the new law to which we devoted particular attention. The expectation is that, by reducing the paper burden on project owners and agencies, it will speed up the issuance of all kinds of administrative decisions regarding construction projects. We should remember, however, that as with other reforms involving new technologies, this will not happen overnight. Public agency staff may have to receive training, and project owners will take time to adapt, too. So it will be some time before we can judge how effective the new law has been.
By Sonia Dworak, trainee attorney-at-law
Originally published in PMR Construction Insight: Poland, No. 2 (263), February 2023