31st March Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

On Wednesday (29 March) Theresa May triggered Article 50 and officially started the process for Britain to leave the EU. As we prepare for a ramp up in the industry, ensuring we are stronger than ever, we also need to ensure that the need to increase the quantity of work doesn’t impact the quality of work that is produced.

The government is doing a lot to increase the number of new houses including more affordable housing; but housing quantity cannot be separated from housing quality. People want to live in a desirable home, not just any housing. Poor design is a huge barrier and that’s where problems begin. Not everything can be left to the government, the industry must also play its part in fixing the housing problem, by coming up with new approaches to help councils deliver new homes faster and at a better quality.

As recent reports show, some house builders have taken advantage of the seller’s market. Poor workmanship and reluctance to put it right were highlighted in a report last year from an All-Party Parliamentary Group of MPs and in a number news reports since – all portraying an image of construction we’re desperately working to get away from.

An unbalanced focus on building quantity rather than quality new-builds means we’re in danger of causing more harm than good with housing. We need to set realistic goals to prevent homes being rushed to meet targets and focus more on profitability and less on the number of completions to ensure homes aren’t rushed to meet end of year targets. If the government tries to push too much, there will inevitably be compromises in terms of both quality and design.

Within the first two years of a home purchase the housebuilder is responsible for rectifying defects, then a 10-year warranty issued by a provider will begin. It’s in both the housebuilders and warranty providers best interest to ensure the house is built to a high standard and that there is a thorough inspection of the stages of work, to keep costs low. If something major goes wrong after the build is complete, the warranty provider would have to pay for this to be corrected.

People need security to plan for the future and having a home that is well built plays a big part in that. We need to build more homes, make sure they’re the type of homes that people want to live in, all while keeping the quality high. Building homes that nobody wants is a waste of time and money that could be better used elsewhere. After all, quantity is merely something we count, quality is something you can count on.