Assurance: Building quality into construction

Gill Kelleher
Gill Kelleher 26-10-2020

In July, I took to the Hub blog to give my first update as a new Impact Director. A lot has happened since then. As a nation, we’ve continued to live our sci-fi movie-like reality, riding what feels like an eternal wave of not really knowing what’s around the corner. As a sector, months of uncertainty have caused massive disruption and of course job losses. But we now have a clear Roadmap to Recovery which offers a unique opportunity to reset the direction of industry travel to one rooted firmly in new and better ways of doing things.

Critical to the success of this will be accelerating the use of advanced digital manufacturing technologies to ensure the long-term resilience of our construction sector[1] and also – crucially – learning where we can from other sectors of the economy.

Since the crisis kicked off in March, we have stepped up the pace of our transformative programme so that we can help to improve wellbeing, safety and productivity for construction delivery and supply chains, whilst forging new value-based partnerships and procurement models for the future.

Future proofing sector recovery with a digital quality assurance framework

Within the Hub’s Assurance workstream which I lead, we aim to develop robust assurance frameworks and digital processes that help create the golden thread of information, instilling trust and confidence across the built environment. Through observing leading sectors, we’ve been identifying best practice methods for standards and quality and are exploring how to adapt them to our sector.

Over the past few months, we’ve been engaging with industry on the development of guidelines, digital tools and validation processes to support the adoption of advanced manufacturing-led practices with safety and competency. Our programme is based on a co-delivery model, meaning that our outputs are achieved through collaboration with small and large companies, such as designers, product manufacturers, contractors and clients, including government departments to pilot new ways buildings can be designed, procured and assured.

Construction Quality Planning (CQP), is the first in the series of new Assurance tools under development by the Hub in partnership with industry. Aiming to drive a cultural shift in safety and quality assurance for offsite construction, CQP builds on best practice from other industries to provide a quality assurance framework that focuses on the development and introduction of new products. CQP has been adapted from the well-established Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) process used widely across leading industries such as aerospace and automotive.

Strong appetite for new approach, but culture shift needed

Over the summer, we kick-started a comprehensive conversation with industry to help us understand how the CQP and its respective toolset can be implemented within the UK construction sector. I’d like to thank all those who took the time to impart valuable feedback and continuing support in sharing crucial insights into ways these tools can be used to drive cultural change across the sector.

One of the top takeaways from the feedback gathered was that a significant cultural shift and commitment from both public and private sectors is required to successfully implement CQP. I should stress that due to the urgent step change required in the way our buildings are made, we agree with industry that CQP must be bolstered by robust engagement and regulatory reform to ensure quality assurance measures raise the bar to improve safety measures and close the performance gap. For example, a very positive indicator was having CQP recognised by industry as an important and timely contribution to Government’s efforts to address building safety.

Respondents widely signalled their support for a transformed approach to quality planning, and we were also able to validate that the new tools demonstrate clear links with other quality initiatives.[2] For me, this indicates that our approach not only builds on best practice of other industries, but also aligns with what already works for us in construction.

We need to procure in the right way to make CQP work

The success of the sector’s recovery is rooted firmly in using science, data and evidence to build on best practise. Therefore, continued research and evaluation of suitable approaches for procurement and delivery of advanced MMC projects is necessary. Within the Hub, CQP is already being trialled as part of our flagship Platform Design Programme. Furthermore, as part of the next phase of CQP implementation we want to collaborate with a variety of partners to create relevant case studies to robustly test and validate these new processes and tools.

To get this right, the CQP pilot phase will be instrumental in helping us understand what business models are required for the adoption and implementation of the new process. The Hub’s work on the Value Toolkit will provide crucial insights into this, along with other tools being developed by the hub, such as Digital route to compliance tool.

Urgent Focus on skills & competency needed

Feedback also revealed a stark consensus that roles which are not traditionally in the construction industry structure could pose a potential barrier to the implementation of CQP, as well as the subsequent need to build in lead time for necessary up-skilling. Addressing the gap in skills and competencies in the construction sector is not only crucial to the success of CQP, but also one of the Hub’s top priorities for the wider transformation of the industry.

Looking towards the future

For now, I hope that provides a flavour of our initial findings from the Hub’s CQP industry consultation. It may be impossible to determine what new challenges our sector will be facing in another few months’ time, but in any eventuality, the need for safe and high-quality schools, hospitals and other vital buildings will remain ever critical. That’s why, as an industry, we must continue to collaborate on new and necessary concepts such as Construction Quality Planning which have the power to propel our sector into a safer and quality-focused future.

Ultimately, engagement with stakeholders from across the sector is critical to increasing awareness and fostering the adoption of CQP. Therefore, I’d strongly encourage and welcome interested partners to get in touch with me to discuss details of taking part in the implementation phase.

The full report outlining the feedback’s conclusions will be published in the coming weeks, and we are analysing the information gathered to identify clear actions for the improvement of the final CQP guide which will be released towards the end of the year. In the months ahead, we’ll continue to accelerate our wider suite of Assurance tools for the industry so that we can help to instil trust and confidence across the built environment.


Blog post written by Gill Kelleher, Impact Director for the Construction Innovation Hub. 

[1] The National Infrastructures Commission’s recently published report, “Anticipate, React, Recover” and the CLC’s Recovery Plan.

[2] These tools include the RIBA Building in Quality initiative and Tracker, CIOB Code for Quality Management, and the Get It Right Initiative (GIRI).