Quality is critical. It is about the greater public good we expect from our buildings to promote human health, safety and wellbeing as well as addressing today’s many social, cultural, environmental and economic concerns.
As such, quality, or rather the failure of quality, is arguably the most important issue facing the construction industry today. The events that have focussed 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 are something that we are only now beginning to understand.
We believe that the ultimate solution to improving quality is attaining support and collaboration from the industry and government for a long-term demand model that will essentially eradicate the boom/bust cycle. Reform of the land market could go some way to achieving this. Under the current ‘residual land value’ model, developers bid against each other to buy land, typically at a hugely inflated cost. The high cost of land means that savings need to be made elsewhere in the project, often by sacrificing design and build quality, resulting in a low-quality final product. If the land was made available at a less inflated price, developers would be able to compete for a project on the quality rather than cost of the final product. This is not an easy or quick fix and will require buy-in and collaboration from multiple parties, alongside acknowledgment that the existing funding and business models, while profitable for many larger house builders in ‘boom’ times, are not capable of delivering both supply and quality in the long-term.
Levelling out the supply and demand variations that are rife in the house building industry will provide firms and their supply chains with the confidence to invest in training, skills development, innovation and modern methods of construction (MMC) solutions that will deliver high quality, yet still cost-effective, housing.
Although we strongly advocate long-term solutions that address the cultural issues in the built environment, we support redress systems and insurance schemes to protect consumers who have suffered from poor quality or sub-standard construction.
We also believe that building standards and building control systems are central to the delivery of a built environment that is safe, healthy, energy efficient, sustainable and accessible. It is vital that building standards are evidence-based and designed to either achieve a positive effect, or to avoid a negative effect. We support regulations that are functional, rather than completely prescriptive, in order to preserve the freedom to innovate. It is important that building regulations are not just seen as a way to achieve minimum standards; it is always possible, and often beneficial, to go above and beyond these set standards.