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Building Products January 2018

NEW BUILD BLAME WHERE IT’S WARRANTED The government wants ‘more homes, fewer complaints’. What’s needed is competence, technical knowledge and experience – these do exist, if you know where to look, says Chris Coxon, head of marketing at Eurocell. A2015 survey by the Home Builders Federation (HBF) and the National House Building Council (NHBC) revealed that 93% of buyers report problems to their builders, with 35% of these finding 11 or more issues. The problem of excessive defects, and how to avoid even more occurring if we build more houses each year, was the subject of investigation by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment. It published a 44-page report on the matter: More Homes, Fewer Complaints, in July 2016. There’s certainly no silver bullet. The report made several recommendations, many of them related to regulation but it didn’t address the elephant in the room: modern procurement methods mean homes are built by a disparate collection of contractors, sub-subcontractors and their suppliers. Far more could be done to harness the knowledge and technical capability of those who supply the materials and products that make up a home. 18 BUILDING PRODUCTS | JANUARY 2018 Long time coming We could look back 30 years to see the beginnings of this way of working when two very well-known construction characters, Sir Stuart Lipton and Peter Rogers were developing Broadgate near London’s Liverpool Street Station. They came up with a new way of procuring buildings: rather than having a main contractor build everything with a directlyemployed workforce, they split the building works up into packages with the main contractor overseeing lots of specialist contractors. The 1980s also saw the design and build form of procurement start to take hold, where the builder takes an outline design and performance specification and carries out the detailed design himself. Critics of this form of contract translate this approach as giving carte blanche to seek out the cheapest possible products and materials that will just meet the required criteria. Changes in contract forms also saw the disappearance on many house building sites of an important character: the Clerk of Works. Traditionally employed to look after the client’s interest, the role of the Clerk of Works was to generally make a nuisance of themselves by being a stickler for detail. Today it is more often than not the time-pressed site manager who assumes that role on a housing site. And if you talk to professional snagging firms – which started to appear in the early 2000s as defects in new homes rose – the one thing that impacts on the number of defects in a new property is the calibre of the site manager. Analysis by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), referenced in the More Homes, Fewer Complaints report, shows a direct correlation between the number of housing completions and a decline in customer satisfaction – the more houses built, the less satisfied buyers are. One could surmise from this relationship that as more house building projects start on site, there are fewer experienced site managers, and the challenge of the skills shortage faced by all within the sector becomes an issue.


Building Products January 2018
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