Why a New Approach to Construction Defect Minimisation is Imperative
Defective construction is estimated to cost the UK construction industry at least £20 billion annually in direct and indirect charges.
Some 40 per cent of all defects are identified as originating from decisions made on-site during the construction phase of a project (source: Even more concerning statistics) which, in turn, might suggests theoretical savings amounting to some £8 billion might be made merely by adopting a more proactive approach to defect management and construction quality control.
Unfortunately, delays in detecting defects often get in the way of managing and remedying defects in a proactive manner; with planned interventions frequently also falling victim to tight contractual deadlines, and even unplanned stoppages (such as have been experienced during the UK government's Covid-19 lockdowns).
Perhaps we need to consider how defects can be managed and minimised from the outset, rather than playing catch-up.
How does a timely approach help?
As a key component in in over 800 projects, Wessex Site Inspection have provided NEC Supervisor & Clerk of Works services to a range of different clients. During the course of some 25 years, the inspectors who carry out these duties have noticed the same snags and defects tend to crop up time and time again. It is noted by the director of WSI, Steve Pollock, that defects and other workmanship-related issues are almost always less frequent and severe when the Clerk of Work/NEC Supervisor is engaged before the project starts.
When WSI services are engaged part-way through a project, it is often by necessity and usually in an attempt to crisis manage of all the issues mentioned above.
The benefits of a new strategy?
Being proactive is crucial. Similarly, it stands to reason that by having an inspector on-site from the very beginning, it allows them to:
1) Ensure a good line of communication between all parties involved on-site.
2) Highlight the potential areas of concern and reiterate expectations to contractors on the quality of workmanship in those areas.
3) In doing so, draw attention to commonly found defects promptly so they can be rectified without delay or avoided entirely.
4) Ultimately pre-empt and help to minimise issues that slow down the project whilst reducing waste and therefore cost.
The reality is, of course, that not every defect can be picked up on before they occur. But when there is so much time and money at stake, it often pays dividends to make an early investment into quality control. Here’s a look at some of the most common areas that early defects occur in construction projects in the experience of Wessex Site Inspection:
- Concrete cover to reinforcement
- Cavity brickwork
- Metal stud partitioning
- Fire Compartmentation within ceiling voids
- Screed/floor finish tolerances
Whilst not exhaustive, this list should provide a good insight into some of the key areas to monitor during the build phase of each project. Many of the most common defects found on building sites could be simply avoided with the early involvement of a Clerk of Works or NEC Supervisor before each trade commences on-site.
A change is needed in our industry to prevent defects occurring in the first place, and the sooner this is recognised, the better for every party involved.