Last week I attended a parliamentary reception focused on quality in construction.

Run by the CIOB, the event shared the work of the Construction Quality Commission. The Commission was set-up in the wake of a number of high profile failures in quality, including the Grenfell tragedy, the closure of 17 schools in Edinburgh and the results of a number of new homeowner surveys.

It is backed by RIBA and RICS, as well as the CIOB, and is calling for a new Code of Quality Practice.

As well as improving safety and quality outcomes, a focus on quality can achieve significant savings; £5bn of direct cost per annum in the UK are due to avoidable errors during construction.

Report emphasises importance of quality

The CIOB also used the reception to launch its report “Improving Quality in the Built Environment.” It suggested that “the failure of quality is arguably the most important issue facing the construction industry today.”

The report uses house building as an example:

  • 99% of customers reported quality problems with their new homes last year (via Home Builders Federation and the NHBC)
  • Of these, one in four people reported 16+ issues

Snagging is a fact of new development, but the volume is clearly an issue. So too, is the trend; the reported quality issues were at 93% three years ago. It goes a long way towards explaining the sector’s negative reputation.

Interestingly, the report looks at quality from a wellbeing perspective, not just the finish of the building, i.e. the cultural and social impact of the building:

 “Quality is not just a measure of regulatory compliance or aesthetic appeal… neither is it merely about satisfying clients’ briefs so that the building allows them to perform better and contribute more… [it is] also about the greater public good.”

How can communicators help raise quality?

One of the main drivers of the Commission is to “encourage a new quality culture to instill pride in the construction sector.”

Communicators working in the sector can be at the centre of this effort and take a leading role in helping companies articulate their approach to quality both inside and outside the business.

Examples of this may include showcasing and rewarding best practice, creating meaningful dialogue with supply chains and customers, and helping boards to reshape their vision and strategy around quality.

The report highlighted that there is no common definition of quality and poor measurement and benchmarking. Again, communicators can help with this, bringing the right people together and facilitating discussions that collectively move businesses and the wider industry forward.

This focus on quality also aligns nicely with wider calls for the sector to be more accountable for delivering social value. There must be a larger focus on the long term and a determination that compliance with legislation is a minimum requirement, not a target. Consistent and strong messaging in this area can help this happen.

Photo by Paul Buffington, via Unsplash

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