A recent article in the New Zealand Herald stated that local council inspectors are becoming increasingly frustrated at the poor quality of construction work they are encountering.

A spokesman for the council goes on to state that between “25 and 40% of all building inspections continue to fail”.

A similar article published more recently in the NZ Herald reiterated that such practises do not occur in isolation, but are widespread throughout the industry.

For those of us involved in the building surveying profession, this is not news, and neither is the well documented decline in core skills is across the spectrum of trades.

The so-called ‘leaky building’ issue was simply a symptom of a much wider building quality problem that manifested itself and gained prominence, but other compliance defects were always part of the build-quality problem that needed fixing.

Those undertaking remediation will know that as the layers of a building are unravelled during repairs, many other deficiencies relating to such matters as structural integrity or fire safety are uncovered, leading to spiralling costs that most clients find hard to comprehend, let alone financially meet.

The reasons for the decline in construction quality are complex and can be attributed to a number of factors. These include the gradual retirement of skilled craftsmen, the disappearance of clerks of works, the employment of labour-only subcontractors, poorly trained and de-motivated apprentices, no party taking ownership of supervision, and a transient semi-skilled workforce with high numbers of new entrant workers with limited understanding of New Zealand standards and compliance requirements.

With roving LBPs (managers) dealing with labour rather than permanent site managers, project managers concerned with progress, cost-squeezes and tight build programmes, coupled with Council inspectors focusing on compliance with the Building Consent – who really is checking on quality?

The reality is that a significant percentage of all work completed onsite is never checked-off by anyone other than the tradesman actually doing it. Herein lies the problem.

As building surveyors we are in a unique position, because our professional skill-set encompasses the roles of designer, building pathologist, expert witness and client-side project manager familiar with the administration of building contracts.

We understand building technology and the interaction and serviceability of construction materials. We understand clearly the need to construct buildings in accordance with a set of consented documents.

When these fall short we can attend to the need for these documents to be amended. We also understand the implications of not following a consented design – both from a practical perspective and the attendant legal consequences.

If we are to avoid a repetition of the weather-tightness failures that became an unwelcome feature of the property market post 2000, then it is critical that all stakeholders in New Zealand construction and property, including those of us in the building surveying profession, remain vigilant when it comes to construction quality.

Article provided by the New Zealand Institute of Building Surveyors Inc.

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