Crisis of quality in UK construction, survey reveals

More than three-quarters of construction professionals believe the industry’s management of quality is inadequate, according to research by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).

Within that, 84% said workmanship suffers because of poor management of quality, and 82% said signing off work is compromised by the same.

74% said construction quality is not taught effectively at educational establishments, reports Construction Manager.

"This is a reality check for construction," said Paul Nash, chair of the CIOB’s Construction Quality Commission, which was launched in October last year following a series of high-profile failings, including the discovery of structural defects in Edinburgh schools and consumer dissatisfaction with new homes.

"The findings from our call for evidence show that urgent changes are required in the way quality is managed.

"Construction projects should always have sufficient resources allocated to quality management, both financial and human. But a focus on price and programme has driven the wrong behaviours, leading to quality being neglected."

Survey results (CIOB/Construction Manager)

Nearly 200 responses were received from industry professionals, trade bodies, the insurance sector and members of the public, with the majority highly critical of construction’s quality management procedures, while also criticising building regulations, certification schemes, value engineering practices, and training and education.

The CIOB will also share the findings with both the Hackitt Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety and the Grenfell Tower Inquiry team.

The commission is recommending a number of measures, Nash said.

"The first will be to develop a competency-based quality qualification/certification," he explained. "The second will be the creation of a quality code which will capture best practice and set the standards to be expected from the industry. The third will be to ensure that quality has greater emphasis in the CIOB Education Framework.

Top image: Grenfell Tower, London. The CIOB will share its findings with the Grenfell Tower Inquiry (Wikimedia Commons)

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  1. This has been brewing for years unchecked and in essence it brings shame on the industry. There are many factors at play here, not least, continuous lack of previous government investment in apprenticeships to produce proper time served tradesmen, secondly there is an obvious lack of supervisory competence on site in spotting defects at source before they mushroom into major site / programme and contractual events.

    Finally the industry overall has been slow to react to the great grey area of quality certainty as everything is price and time driven, with quality usually suffering as a result.

    The new proposals are a welcome change but they are way overdue and many sub standard projects and packages continue to be delivered / debated, rejected and re built to varying degrees across the whole country. It shouldn’t be that way in this day and age.

  2. The Chartered Quality Institute has a special interest group for construction. It’s objectives align perfectly with those of the CIOB. I recommend that the two bodies collaborate in addressing the Commissions recommendations.

  3. 200 responses are quite a small sample and represent only a small proportion of the industry. Additional tiers of administrative control on projects on top of what we currently have will only increase project costs, reduce efficiency in design and lead to longer construction schedules.

    There are already very stringent measures in place within the industry with Quality systems like the ISO9001. What is lacking is the good management of these systems.

    Piling on more legislation ironically could be counterproductive as engineers will be spending considerably more time dealing with the project administration instead of getting on with their primary task of achieving the best design for a specific project. By over legislating you are probably heading towards more compromises in order for companies to maintain schedule and budgets…which of course include material and construction costs.

  4. Construction quality must be to enhance the meeting or exceeding the requirements of client/owners. In construction industry, Construction Quality must be to employ with conformity with which specifications are met. The industry quality management should pay attention on control and assurance for client.

    QA/QC in the construction industry can be the process to measure and assure the quality of workmanship, and quality control, the process of ensuring final products and services meet consumer expectations.

    In quality pre-project & pre-task planning, constructability analysis and project specific quality plans must be consistent with safety planning and thorough quality education on designs.

    Engineers should be interested in construction qualities. The merging of the institutes [Chartered Quality Institute and CIOB] must be a good platform to start with stringent industry standards on construction qualities. For any material delivered to the jobsite, one of the contractor’s concerns must be to acquire a field trained employee who will physically compare the material to the approved material submittal as control and inspection phases to ensures that unapproved materials are not used on jobsites.

    When the institutional body are monitoring these programs, surely the industry will receive owner’s recognition of good quality workmanship accomplishments.

  5. the biggest problem is that Quality Management is not applied at site adequately, because someone somewhere sticking their fingers in wrong places to cover up or to speed up. But equally, some Quality Management systems are far too paper oriented and not enough weight given to practical supervision at site. Sometimes engineers waste hours trying to follow the ISO 9001 paper chase!! My recommendation is to make ISO9001;2008/15 into a far more practical system rather than a wild goose chase.

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