Workmanship, Quality and the Performance Gap in the Home Quality Mark
Like many sectors, the housebuilding industry has challenges when it comes to workmanship, quality and performance. In developing the Home Quality Mark (HQM), we have widened the debate around what is meant by quality. A home that can be called one of quality means it not only provides basic function (i.e. keeps you warm, dry and safe) but it also should enable you to live and prosper in your life. It therefore needs to be economical to run, not require costly maintenance, have low utility bills and also be resilient to climate change. In the UK, we spend more than 90% of our life inside buildings. It is therefore important that the home has a positive impact upon our health and wellbeing. We also believe that a quality home should do all of the above AND not cost the earth.
In order to achieve a good quality outcome, it starts with planning, followed by: the design, then the materials selected and finally the workmanship. There is no point having a great design and high quality materials if the workmanship isn’t a high standard to ensure a good job is carried out in practice. Equally, without quality materials and a good design, no amount of skill and workmanship is going to lead to a quality outcome either.
A home may well have high quality, super energy efficient windows, or an innovative ground floor design but if they are not correctly fitted then it is likely that the home occupier will have problems.
Windows that are badly fitted, or floors that are not level not only impact upon aesthetics of the room but are also likely to mean that the home is not performing as it should. Cracks, gaps or incorrectly specified materials are likely to give the occupier long term problems. These problems can manifest themselves as issues around draughts, which in turn could lead to mould or worse. This can potentially have a real impact on health as well as a cost impact.
Without good workmanship, quality materials and practical designs, homes are unlikely to perform as designed.
Home Quality Mark looks at all these areas to help ensure homes perform as they are designed. Whether this be in terms of energy performance, resilience to climate change, indoor air quality or the impact on the environment, we must ensure that the designed performance is realised in practice
With the end user of the home at the heart of HQM, actual real life performance (rather than on paper) is a key. HQM sets out ways to reduce the so called “performance gap”. This has been supported by tapping into the extensive work done by BRE through programmes such as AIMc4 and also by working with others, such as the Zero Carbon Hub in finding metrics to do this. Workmanship, though not specifically mentioned is a key part of reducing the performance gap and is looked at in these issues [in HQM];
- Commissioning and Performance
- Quality Improvement
- Smart Homes
- Post Occupancy Evaluation
Further details of these issues can be found at www.homequalitymark.com/standard
HQM is playing part in improving quality and reducing the performance gap. We do recognise that there is further work to do on this area, and we are working with others in the industry and beyond (including the warranty providers) to tackle this issue. Like all HQM criteria, it will be something that needs to work for developers both large and small, building homes ranging from affordable flats in urban areas, to bespoke self builds in the countryside.
Gwyn Roberts was interviewed on Radio 4’s You and Yours programme discussing Quality in housing in March 2016. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b071lcvx)