“What’s wrong with us?”: UK body probes failings of construction

One of the UK’s top construction professional bodies has launched a global inquiry into the failings of the industry after a series of high-profile disasters.

Citing the catastrophic fire at London’s Grenfell Tower this year and the closure of 17 schools in Edinburgh in 2016 over dangerous construction defects, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) is now calling for evidence into the issue of construction quality.

"It is clear there is an urgent review needed of the way in which construction quality is managed," said chair of the commission, CIOB Immediate Past President Paul Nash, in launching the call for evidence today.

"As the professional body responsible for construction management, the CIOB has a duty to respond to this issue, acting in the public interest. The findings from the call for evidence will feed into the work of the Commission, which is looking specifically at areas where the CIOB can have a direct influence in improving construction quality.

"I would encourage as many people as possible involved in the built environment to respond to this call for evidence. We welcome responses from the global construction sector, as it is clear that issues of quality are not just constrained to the UK."

The call for evidence, accessible here, comes from the CIOB’s Construction Quality Commission, set up earlier this year in response to a number of high-profile failings in construction quality both in the UK and internationally.

The Commission will focus on the need for a "culture of quality within the construction sector, instilling pride in the buildings and infrastructure that the sector creates and manages".

The CIOB said that central to this is the "need to understand the behaviours, both individual and corporate, that are promoting or preventing the delivery of quality on construction projects".

The Commission wants evidence to identify what improvements are necessary to achieve high standards of quality in the product, people and processes, and is most interested in potential solutions and innovations.

The deadline for evidence is Friday 1 December. More information can be found here:

Image: Grenfell Tower, London, days after the fire on 14 June 2017 (ChiralJon/Wikimedia Commons)

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  1. I have written before that there is too much attention to process at the expense of product knowledge. I read recently that someone in authority wrote that wider use of the “New Engineering Contract” would solve all the industry’s problems. What a joke!

  2. We urgently,as an industry, need to urgently start to build up to a high standard and not DOWN TO A LOW/DANGEROUS/TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE standard [employers/procurement etc…]

  3. How many times has this subject been brought to the table over the past two or three of decades?

  4. The UK have since 1960 had a series of failures of various kinds with new buildings especially those in the public sector. Especially when compared with North America. Perhaps it is a mind set within the staff and elected representatives of the various levels of Government that are focussed on the latest
    ideas in both design and materials that are not yet time tested. The structure of housing built under the housing acts of the 20s and 30s are still serving the owners well
    There would appear to be a need to look at the training of both designers and builders staff Also and the combination in the way they are used. the testing
    of new materials

  5. The whole thing boils down to the quality of supervision from design through to handover of completed project which is currently not of a sufficiently high standard from top to bottom of the construction industry

  6. There is a “Hole” in the construction Management courses.There is no Post- Graduate or Masters Course on Construction auditing. Even the mandated auditing of Government funded constructions are presently done by Financial Accountants only. That too after recording a world record loss owing to frauds.This loss has reached US $ 4 Trillion a year in 2008. In 2015,GOPAC did suggest to have a Technical Audit (with a Pool of Technical Auditors with a union) in addition to the present only Financial.

    The need of the hour is a Masters Course on construction auditing for construction professionals to create that Pool.If and when such Technical Auditors audit Govt.funded constructions,then standards of auditing shall be there.With a union,these standards can be improved. Until that system is introduced we’ll see all these.

  7. The CIOB initiative is to be applauded but in itself it speaks directly only to a small and largely self-selecting element of the overall construction industry. There are indeed cultural as well as individual and corporate behaviours to be examined. The very absence of reference here to the architectural and engineering professions, as well as those who represent the regulatory agencies, all of which are typically engaged and influential earlier in the construction process than construction managers, and who pre-establish much of the ‘quality’ in the built environment, already speaks volumes to one of the key problems; that of a lack of integration and cross-party challenge amongst the construction professionals as a whole.

  8. I still do not know why the construction industry is not plugging the “Hole” in the construction management courses.Are we not smart enough to think of Construction Auditing?The potential is huge,at least 500,000 a year, if we go by GOPAC 2015 proposal – GOPAC Position Paper – Volume 1, Issue 7-April 2015.System of proper auditing shall bring standards and subsequently quality improvements on a regular basis.We just cannot tolerate a position that 10 -30% of the project costs are lost owing to frauds,that too in Govt. funds after auditing.

  9. As a retired American engineer, I lament the fact that American architects, engineers and contractors long ago ceded control of the US construction industry to our lawyers — spawning, in the process, a new multi-billion dollar adjunct to the industry. My guess is that, to pay those lawyers for their dispute avoidance, dispute resolution, litigation, litigation avoidance and other legal services (which we can no longer live without…), the cost of construction in the US is routinely increased by 20% or more. While such expenditures have much to do with avoiding liability and allocating blame, they have nothing to do with assuring quality construction. At this time, when issues of construction quality are tragically coming into sharp focus in the UK, my hope is that the UK construction industry will rely on its wealth of talented, well-educated architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and construction tradesmen — its construction professionals — to address and solve the construction industry’s problems. You are fortunate to have the CIOB taking the lead.

  10. That is why I insist on Construction Auditing by construction professionals. At least for the mandated auditing of Govt.funded constructions.Then only standards of auditing can be there,which shall be refined by the union.We, construction Cost professionals’ objective is to give “value for money”-meaning the best possible value for the money spent.The bitter fact is, 10 -30% of the project costs are lost owing to frauds,that too in public funds.The construction cost professionals continue to ignore this.Before addressing a problem,one has to accept that there is a problem. An annual loss owing to frauds in Govt.funded audited constructions to the tune of US $ 4 Trillion is too big to ignore.This is an avoidable loss in theory and the combined GDPS of Brazil,Russia,South Africa and Saudi Arabia per year.

  11. Unfortunately in the UK the problem with House builders, contract companies, Local Authority and owners is down to cost, profit, and stakeholders. I go on sites and see very few apprentices these days, what apprentices there are are only taken on for 2 years as it seems the Government pays for the 1st 2 years then the Main Builders/Contractors should pay for their remaining year but unfortunately the apprentices are let go and more new apprentices are acquired. Lets get back to City&Guilds apprenticeships. Also inspections should be mandatory for critical stages of the build or refurbishments where works rectified before any further works are carried out.
    Once again we will be talking about the same problems in the next 5, 10, 15 years

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