This is a question that has become an issue in recent years as targets are being hit at the expense of quality. It has been reported that eight in ten new homes are sold with some sort of default, and 51% of new home buyers are waiting weeks, and sometimes months, to have minor problems repaired.
As we all know there are several reasons why jobs may be over looked, and when minor problems are flagged, they go to the bottom of the list. But the problem isn’t with budget or targets, it’s with reputation. If a customer walks into their brand-new home on day one and is confronted with creaking floors, unpainted skirting or water leaks, it ruins the whole experience of moving in. The house is a representation of the developer and the customer blames them either privately or across as many social media sites as they can; One family in Doncaster even created their own blog to document the three-month process of having over 60 issues resolved.
There is a noticeable affect that occurs when one home owner complains about small issues, it encourages others to follow suit. A customer who was happy to repaint a hall way or repair a small issue will realise that they are entitled to have it sorted out professionally. This is all perfectly acceptable as they are well in their rights to have these issues sorted, what it means in real terms is that the workforce is divided, the following units don’t receive as many man hours and the problems repeat causing more delays and complaints.
With that 300,000 new homes a year target getting ever closer, and looking ever more like a distant reality as many in the industry saying that it is simply not achievable with the current levels of skills shortage, time, and planning constraints, how can we make sure that both quantity and quality are met?
The easy answer is that we don’t, it really is a simple question or quantity over quality, or vice versa. Some developers are going to continue hitting number targets and addressing three-page snag lists, where as other developers will build lower numbers with a higher threshold for quality. Which is the better choice will ultimately be decided by the market.
What I think we can all agree on is that no one goes to work with the intention of making a bad product or cutting corners.
Hitting high numbers is a burden that exists in so many industries and they all adapt the way they work to make sure that quality increases with quantity. So instead of worrying about hitting numbers or trying to ramp up current practices to meet the demand, stop and look at the process to see if there is any way to innovate. Automating processes, dealing with problems quickly and trying to make the working day more efficient will all help quantity follow quality.
If this is the way forward then we already have a solution in the form of modern methods of construction, the most common choice being modular builds. The industry is continually planning and opening factories and homes. The only constraints being essentially having the correct skills in place, and the restrictions of a lorry to take parts to site. Traditional skills are still needed with the preparation of the site and construction of the units, working in unison with new techniques.
With more regular quality checks in an automated environment, they offer the ability to minimise mistakes, save time and deliver new homes in just 10 days.