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Major building firms

failing on fire safety

wonderoushen  Female  Gwynedd 2-May-2019 11:16 Message #4739446
I watched a bit of Watchdog last night and they were doing a piece on how major house builders were failing on basic fire safety regulations in new builds and how slow they are to respond. It wasn't just one house in a development that were faulty but loads.

What do you think is the cause of this?
What should be done?

I think theres to much subcontraction and not enough oversight both on a project management scale and from local building inspectors, I suspect some of this is due to cuts in council budgets, but as we saw from the Grenfel Inquiry the regualtions are not up to scratch and they're not complied with. Many people with new build houses don't even know they have a problem with fire safety, one of the reasons people chose a new build is the feeling that everythings been done and its a hassel free turnkey property with no need for renovation.

To be honest I think the way we build houses in this country is outdated, much of it could be done in a factory and assembled on site, its cheaper and quicker, and potentially better quality too.
Judance  Female  Berkshire 3-May-2019 09:24 Message #4739497
As I didn't see the programme I can't really comment on what was said.
I am, however, involved with a local Housing Association that has joint schemes with housebuilders. The regulations for HAs and Council housing are more stringent than those for private sale so there is a lot of planning and checking during the build.

We have also challenged the HA to consider more modern ways of building that are quicker, greener and more cost effective.
We wait and see ...
wonderoushen  Female  Gwynedd 3-May-2019 11:06 Message #4739500
I thinks its crazy that HA homes are built to higher standards than those for private sale, it does suggest that those for sale are substandard in some way and seems to go against the so called benefits of deregulation and market forces. Although many of us never really believed market forces would improve anything but the profits of the companies involved and force down standards as seems to have happened here.
tsunamiwarrior  Male  Hertfordshire 3-May-2019 11:42 Message #4739503
It is absolutely logical that HA homes are built to a higher standard and that has always been the case. Any project paid for out of public funds will be able to run over budget without a builder going bankrupt or anyone being over concerned about expenditure.
Regulation of all building work has become stricter each year and standards are higher now than they have ever been but as with anything there is always room for improvement.
Aely  Female  Hampshire 3-May-2019 12:10 Message #4739505
HA's are self-funded, not for profit, as far as I am aware. The reason for sub-standard private builds is a lack of oversight and a desire for profit. Just look at Persimmon's balance sheet!
OnlineMSE  Male  Essex 3-May-2019 12:21 Message #4739509
And Jeff Fairburn's !!!
tsunamiwarrior  Male  Hertfordshire 3-May-2019 14:16 Message #4739513
HA’s put the profits from rents back into the associations. Anything even remotely connected to government, councils or armed services run over budget with very few cares and are not like private companies who would have to safeguard against this. This often means they cost a lot more to build rather than the standards being any better than private.
All major developers work to a much higher standard than ever before and on most developments some of the housing goes over to LAs/HAs so are to the same spec.
Although some developments are better than others you would be hard pushed to find anything which could be described as sub standard.
wonderoushen  Female  Gwynedd 3-May-2019 18:53 Message #4739518
Well TW I suggest you go and watch this Watchdog report, the buildings they showed were definately sub-standard, major incidents waiting to happen. This isn't they only time major building firms have been on Watchdog, then it was leaks, sewerage leaks, subsidence and poorly fitted doors and windows if remember correctly. Why does it take them so long to do anything about problems, even to send out a surveyor to do the proper tests?

Do you not wonder if competitive tendering means that companies deliberately under estimate the cost and length of project just as they win the bid? If you're over halfway through a project and then you're told its going to take longer and cost more than anticipated, do you carry on with the revised schedule or do you walk away and try and geet someone else to do it? I imagine this happens to government projects just as much as it does to us ordinary mortals, sometimes it is due to something genuinely unforseen, but others you just scratch your head and wonder why they're only telling you now and not at the time you started.
BOYDEL  Male  Surrey 5-May-2019 11:46 Message #4739573
Broadly speaking the Building Control function for many yrs has totally legally been conducted "inhouse" (similar to Fensa etc) which is a recipe for potential shortcomings.

As for factory construction - not sure it would be significantly cheaper and there is of course typically a massive 6 figure sum for land purchase per house and laying on of services - latter alone can cost tens of thousands in certain more remote locations.

Some versions of the post WW2 prefabs were 2 or 3 times the cost of the traditional bricks&mortar construction - the main advantage in that era being speed of erection once on site.

Today some 80% 0f UK households live in or near larger towns/cities - as that is where the jobs are - which implies that we need to build up (maybe tower blocks - or at least 5/6 storey apartment blocks) rather than spread out sideways in the kind of urban sprawl that was prevented by the 1947 Town&Country Planning Act.
BOYDEL  Male  Surrey 5-May-2019 12:02 Message #4739574
Not so - Social Landlords have always relied on a degree of central Govt cash subsidy (from taxpayers) for new builds.

Since the 1990s that cash subsidy was cut from 75% to just 14% of land/build cost - net result being that today a new build HA home needs 86% commercial loans - typically repaid over 60 yrs at interest rate of 4.125% as a sector average. That translates to loan servicing cost of around £367 pcm per £100k of loan - and in practice a new build 2 bed HA flat in Surrey having Rent (aka loan servicing cost) of £1000 pcm!

Most HAs are set up as charities - yet the highest paid CEO now has base salary of over £550,000 pa - with many other s being paid more than the Prime Minister!. Given that the only income is Rents - and 75% of all social tenants are HB claimants - see EHS 2017) that is a totally parasitic situation.

That so many poorer households are now corralled in the Social Housing Sector (SRS) is down to the late 1970s change of tenancy allocation process to needs- based where only the most needy/destitute are granted a new social tenancy. Before 1977 allocation was overwhelmingly to working households paying own rents in full without recourse to welfare. That is evidenced by the fact that in 1980 only 10% of then Council Tenants were HB claimants.

Of course things were far from perfect pre 1977 - with millions of poor households living in slum conditions - but we are decades away from the era when an average working family could expect to be in line for a new social tenancy.
BOYDEL  Male  Surrey 5-May-2019 12:08 Message #4739575
Anyone who is a new private buyer on a mixed Social/Private development will effectively be paying a premium for their new home - as the developer will load up the base costs of S.106/CIL etc on to the private buyers.

IIRC the threshold for S.106 etc is 10 units - so some developers will slowly build out a site over many yrs to keep below that threshold.

Others of course will appeal the commercial viability of the development if S.106 is levied and some get away with a far lower or nil contribution.
BOYDEL  Male  Surrey 5-May-2019 12:11 Message #4739576
HAs euphemistically call profits "a surplus" - as to where those surpluses get spent - just google the eye watering salaries of HA executives! And their FS pensions!
wonderoushen  Female  Gwynedd 6-May-2019 11:42 Message #4739629
If you look at some of the factory built houses such as Huff in Germany, they are very high quality, there are many styles of "kit" homes, but getting planing permission for them can be difficult as so many council want lots of little boxes made of ticky tacky. Likewise it can be difficult to use alternative building materials such as straw bale and cob. Building anywhere in the countryside can be difficult, not only are getting services on site expensive and often difficult you may not be able to have the full range, septic tanks are still really common round here, some people have private water supplies, most of the island doesn't have mains gas and never will, electricty is overhead cables and you get quite a few power cuts especially in smaller villages and hamlets, there often poor mobile reception and broadband speeds are dismal. Until we fix these infrastructure problems people will continue to congregate in the southeast adding to overcrowding and cost of housing, even in many northern cities basic infrastructure is bad.

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