Construction Best Practices

Quality Improvement in New-build Housing


Run Down Housing Construction in the UK
The quality of new home construction has come into scrutiny throughout the UK in recent years.

The issue of quality control has existed in the housing market for many years. However, it seems to be in the spotlight now even more than ever. 

A recent survey by the CIOB found that fifty-five per cent of UK adults believe older homes are better quality than new builds, with 63% saying they are “very or somewhat concerned” about potential issues with new-build housing. Open a new browser window and type “why are new builds” or “why are new houses” and see what your search engine suggests. To say there is a reputation problem would be an understatement. 

The Home Builders Federation’s 2023 annual survey indicates that new-build housing defects have become almost universal in the past few years, with the proportion of respondents reporting defects sitting at 95%. Of those homeowners reporting defects, 32% reported 16 or more. 

Although the uptake for housing has fallen in the past year, because of a mixture of regulation changes and macroeconomic factors, this doesn’t mean the overall demand has. In fact, the UK is still facing a backlog of 4.3 million homes compared to the average European country. That’s a deficit that the Centre for Cities predicts would take almost half a century to rectify at a rate of 300,000 homes a year.

However, with such an ambitious run rate of new build homes needed for the UK, there comes the worry that quality and compliance can take a hit. According to a recent Chartered Association of Building Engineers (Cabe) survey, 42% of building control professionals believe the construction industry’s understanding of how to comply with building regulations has deteriorated over the last three years.

Ensuring Building Compliance

The Cabe survey response doesn’t come as a shock, especially when you consider how many changes have taken place in recent years. Updates to building regulations can often feel like more hoops for a business to jump through. Change is good, and regulations are no different.

Getting up to speed can be hard when you’ve got a team who are great at what they do, how they currently do it. One simple way of tackling changes is to sit your team down, spend time mapping out how you currently work, and slot in where the changes might affect the day-to-day. This could be an extra step that needs to be included, such as photographic proof or an extra check, or it could be a change in existing processes, such as a new form that needs to be signed off. Once you’ve mapped out how this will look, you can start to look at what tools you can use to help you get there without disrupting your current ways of working.

Line of Houses with Construction Cones in Front
A number of new initiatives have been launched to improve productivity and project quality.

New Build Quality Initiatives

Specific to the housing market, the National House Building Council (NHBC) is an independent authority who are the UK’s leading warranty and insurance provider for UK house building for new homes. It has a particular focus on quality and customer satisfaction. In the 2020 standards set out by the NHBC, they highlighted improving the quality of all newly built homes to minimise issues seen after completion by the owners as the main aim.

It seems quantity over quality has been the recent underlying approach from house builders because of a combination of contributing factors highlighted in the above. However, with increased scrutiny surrounding the industry and a growing momentum from initiatives ensuring standards are met, the shift to a quality-first approach is now taking place. After

Last year, the new housing secretary noted developers who try to get poor-quality schemes through planning will find the door shut in their face under a major overhaul of the system.

Technology’s Role

Construction Worker Shaking Hands with Other
Adopting technology on site like Field View, can dramatically improve quality tracking measures for house builders.

Often, workloads are increased, timescales shortened, and budgets squeezed when ambitious targets are introduced. This is when technology can help with lots of the heavy lifting and pick up some of the tasks that are not only time-consuming, but are susceptible to human error.

As early as 2016, in The House of Commons report “More Homes, Fewer Complaints” improving systems in place to check quality and workmanship was identified as a key change needed to drive a new quality culture in the construction industry.  Fast forward to now and the driver is technology-led with the housing minister calling for a digital revolution in the property sector. With the mentioned increased demands on supplying new houses paired with a skilled labour shortage, it is technology that holds the key for house builders to improve quality whilst not causing detriment to the productivity rates of workers. 

Viewpoint’s Field View enables house builders to drive quality improvement through digitising the snagging process, issuing snags directly to subcontractors from site, without the need to create additional reports. Viewpoint’s customer St George improved quality through implementing Field View, as it gave them a central view of the status of all snags in a project to ensure defects were not missed. All aspects of the company’s project management capabilities improved, including planning, drawing checks, sign-off and health and safety.

“It’s easier to control the program, easier to control costs, it’s easier to track snags being closed out,” said Colin Draper, St George Project Director. “I can’t see any reason no matter what scale of project, why a house builder wouldn’t be using Field View.”

Learn more about how St George (Berkeley Group) digitised their snagging and planning processes.

Posted By

Darren is a Marketing Manager for the EMEA Viewpoint office, joining in 2019. He is experienced in the B2B software market with expertise in lead generation and product marketing.