25.01.2017

Why is the quality of new build homes in decline?

Why is the quality of new build homes in decline?

The Government has pledged that one million new homes will be built by 2020, but with a shortage of quality tradesmen available to deliver these homes will the rush to produce them have an inevitable effect on quality?

Key construction benchmarks are referred to as Cost, Time and Quality or sometimes Time, Cost and Quality. Seldom is Quality put before Cost or Time. The lack of focus on quality in recent years is now becoming evident and the subject of quality control in new build construction is becoming an increasingly hot topic. Earlier this month Channel 4 Dispatches aired an episode entitled ‘Britain’s Nightmare New Homes’. In part it was along the lines of ‘Britain’s Worst…’ but the programme did discuss some of the more significant issues that need to be addressed by the construction industry.

A recent survey undertaken by the NHBC found that 93% of new home owners reported defects with their property. These range from typical snags with damaged fittings and poor workmanship, to significant issues of non-compliance with Building Regulations. Clients may be unaware that there is no longer a set stage inspection process for Building Control or that the Building Control Inspector has no powers to open up. This means the developer is left to self-certify with the Building Control Inspector working on a ‘presumed compliant’ basis for any unseen works when issuing certificates. Reliance on inspections carried out by warranty providers such as the NHBC is also insufficient as a typical unit would only receive five inspections during the entire construction process, including foundations and below ground drainage.

Clients may seek to engage construction professionals to look after the Construction Contract on their behalf and employ the likes of calfordseaden to act as their Employer’s Agent (EA). Whilst this will greatly increase the level of supervision on site, the client should be aware of the services they are engaging. Typically an EA appointment will require the Agent to attend site for monthly meetings, valuations, final snagging and handover. Most other contract administration functions will be performed from behind a desk and if the defect is within the fabric of the building, it is unlikely that it will be identified unless it is exposed to the Agent on one of the visits.

The smart client who values the quality of the end product will not only employ an Agent but they will also employ a Clerk of Works or extend the Agent’s role to cover regular inspections throughout the construction process. The frequency of inspections required will depend on the scale and complexity of the development with large, complex developments warranting not only a full time inspector presence, but a prescribed Quality Plan incorporating the Inspection and Testing requirements, written into the contract.

For more information about quality control please contact Jeremy Green.