Whilst it should always be preferable to buy a new home on a site when the site manager has won an NHBC Quality Award, many new homebuyers will be amazed to discover that actual quality of the new homes being built has very little to do with the actual winning of NHBC awards for quality!
The NHBC have said “The judging process does not guarantee that every home built on a site will be without issues and our 10 year Buildmark warranty and insurance cover is there to provide protection to the homeowner should problems arise following completion.”
Perhaps this is why NHBC Quality Award-winning site managers are not necessarily the best site managers
By using the right “recipe”, even the most dim-witted site manager can (and does!) win an NHBC PITJ Quality Award by following the suggestions below!
Work for the right house builder
Every year, certain housebuilders have far more NHBC award-winning site managers than others. So by working for Barratt or Taylor Wimpey, a site manager is around 10 times more likely to win an award than he would be working for Persimmon/Charles Church for example. Differing cultures, priorities and enthusiasm for the awards may explain this.
Get support from managers
It is essential that the site manager receive positive backing from his contracts manager and regional construction director. Without their input and support, even the best site manager will have no chance, whatever the NHBC may say about PITJ on their website; “achieving the highest possible standards and best practice in house building”
It is better if the NHBC also carry out Building Control inspections
It is more money for the NHBC and the inspector will be more likely to be on site whenever they are requested, unlike their own warranty inspections, where if busy, they do a risk assessment. It also certainly doesn’t harm the chances of an award if the housebuilder provides additional revenue for the NHBC, for “Consultancy and Testing”: for example carrying out their site safety inspections and providing training courses for their staff.
Choosing the site carefully
The site, location, number and mix of homes can play a huge part in being successful in “Pride in the Job”. Site managers should choose their site if they can. Sites in nice areas with pleasant views with fewer but larger houses have a better chance, as they are more impressive and far easier to “manage.” Especially compared to a 100 units-a-year site with terraced starter homes inter-mingled with social housing.
Presentation is everything
Most housebuilders want their sites as tidy as possible for health and safety reasons, when the real reason is sales and marketing presentation. So a site manager would be required to ensure his site is reasonably tidy anyway. But keeping it virtually spotless at all times is essential to winning an NHBC Quality Award. A site manager won’t win an award if the NHBC inspector or PITJ judge has the walk over trade’s rubbish and building debris! So an extra labourer should be employed just for keeping the site tidy at all times. The compound should be fully enclosed with painted hoarding, with safety and NHBC signage! A tarmac compound with tidy storage containers and a timber rack are also essential. If possible, provide tarmac parking for trades and site visitors, allocating a parking space(s) for “NHBC Parking”
Be considerate to the trades
Site managers should ensure the site welfare canteen and toilets are kept clean and cleaned at the end of each day. Thought should be given to setting up a hot food canteen. The trades will love it and the NHBC inspector can be offered a free bacon sandwich too! It is also important that the site manager is liked and respected by the trades. Strong management is one thing but they need to be liked by the trades to win!
Avoid sites with social housing
Social housing does not add commercial value to a company as the homes are already sold. In addition, housing association tenants tend to have little pride in their homes or where they live. If unavoidable, build the social housing last or at least do not hand it over until the last NHBC inspections for PITJ has been carried out!
Get to know the NHBC site inspector.
The site manager should make time and be available to accompany the NHBC inspector during his site inspections. If anything is mentioned, the site manager should arrange for it to start being rectified straight away. It is a good idea to build up a rapport with the NHBC inspector, find out what his hobbies, interests and football team are. Always offer the NHBC a tea or coffee whilst he writes up his inspection report. They work on the road and will appreciate a hot drink in the winter or a cold can (or ice cream!) in the summer.
Include the NHBC area manager
The site manager should take the NHBC inspector and his area manager out for meal at least once every three months, preferably with his contracts manager. During the lunch, the site manager should talk about anything in the news regarding the new homes industry.
NHBC merchandise – signage and flags
There is nothing the NHBC like more than seeing their own advertising all over the site. Be sure to have at least three NHBC ‘Buildmark Warranty’ and/or ‘Registered Builder’ flags with one at the site offices/compound area. Get NHBC PITJ stickers and be sure that everyone on site has one on their safety helmet.
Put up inspirational messages such as “Good safety is no accident” and “you are not just building a house, you are building someone’s home” and the like in site offices, canteen, drying room and even in the site toilet.
Making the site office look professional
It matters little if the site manager actually knows what he is doing; it just needs to look as if he does! So be sure to have plenty of programmes and materials schedules on the wall and ensure that are all in line and perfectly level – these little things really do matter! Even little things such as calling deliveries “logistics” give a professional first impression! Put up a wipe board and fill it with after-sales reminders and scheduled meetings with trades, even if they don’t take place, it all looks good and gives the impression the site manager is in control!
None of these suggestions will have any real or significant effect on the quality of the new homes being built on the site or the number of snags on moving in day. But the reality is, if all of these suggestions are followed, what are the chances of the site manager not winning an NHBC Pride in the Job Quality Award?