Earlier this year, I represented the CIOB to announce the launch of the Building in Quality initiative with RIBA and RICS. We signed a Joint Memorandum of Understanding with the aim of establishing a chain of custody for quality that would link those who commission buildings with those who use them. It was a positive example of collaboration and a recognition that, in light of recent events, we needed to act to improve the quality of the built environment for the benefit of society.
At UK Construction Week last week, we once again came together to launch the ‘Building in Quality Guide’ and the pilot ‘Quality Tracker’ and to commend the work of the team that created it.
Quality, or rather the failure of quality, is arguably one, if not the most important, issue facing our industry today. The events that have focused attention on the failure of our industry to consistently deliver the required levels of quality in the buildings and infrastructure that we create are well known. But the underlying causes of these failures is something that we are only now beginning to understand.
In October last year the CIOB launched a call for evidence to better understand the behaviours, both individual and corporate, that were either preventing or promoting the delivery of quality at all stages of the construction process. What our research identified was that there is an underlying cultural issue in our industry. Quality was being sacrificed to achieve targets, whether that be cost or time.
What was needed was a complete change in the way that our industry approaches the delivery of quality on construction projects, from the top down and the bottom up. To achieve that, the CIOB has been working to raise awareness of the underlying issues and has committed to improve standards by providing better education on quality management, both to our members and the wider construction community.
Last month we announced that we were launching a course in quality management which will be delivered through the CIOB Academy and will provide an introduction to the principles of quality management and the tools and processes needed to deliver quality on construction projects.
Over the coming year we will be developing a competency-based qualification which will build on the Course and which we hope will help to reintroduce to the industry the knowledge and expertise that has been lost with the decline of the Clerk of Works role.
Alongside this we will be publishing a Code of Quality Practice that will set the standards that we should be achieving as an industry. We will be releasing more information about that next month and consulting with industry early next year to ensure we get it right.
But we recognise that this is only part of the solution. To quote Dame Judith Hackitt, “there is a need for a radical rethink of the whole system and how it works”.
I happen to think this is a great industry. The buildings and infrastructure that we create are not only key to our productivity as a nation, they also affect the quality of life for so many people and are the legacy we leave behind for future generations. But when we get it wrong, the impact on people’s lives and livelihoods can be massive. And somewhere along the way we seem to have lost sight of that. We need to get back to a place where as an industry we take pride in the work that we do and recognise that what we do, and how we do it, matters.
Put simply, we need to focus on being the best we can be and that means thinking and acting differently.
The ‘Building in Quality’ initiative is an example of what can be achieved when we work together but it is only the beginning. As professionals, we all have a responsibility for the reputation of our industry and, most importantly, the wellbeing of those who use the buildings and the infrastructure that we design, build and manage.
There is never an excuse for poor quality. But I am optimistic. Create the right culture, provide the right incentives, drive the right behaviours and our industry will change for the better.
Find out more about the work the CIOB are doing on quality in construction on our campaign page.