Addressing Scotland's construction quality culture challenge

13 Dec 22

As a preview to GIRI’s first event in Scotland next February, which will be co-hosted with the Construction Quality Improvement Collaborative, Colin Campbell from Scottish Futures Trust gave an overview of the proposed agenda, and explained the role of the CQIC in addressing Scotland’s construction industry quality culture challenge.

The CQIC is tasked under the recently launched Scottish Construction Accord with determining the root causes of poor performance and developing an approach to deliver change. Its overall goal is to create a sustainable quality culture across the Scottish construction sector.

It was set up as a collaboration between the public and private sectors and is supported by Scottish Futures Trust, which was itself established in 2008 by the Scottish Government to assist public sector bodies to deliver social infrastructure to a higher standard. “The aim of the SFT is to support delivery of world-class infrastructure to the people of Scotland, and our work covers just about everything except roads, railways and the transport network,” Colin explained. “We work in partnership across the public and private sectors, with local authorities and other public bodies to improve infrastructure delivery.”

One of SFT’s 14 work streams is the improvement of quality, said Colin, and so we were pleased to get involved in CQIC, which was established following a string of high-profile failures in the sector. These include the wall collapse at Oxgangs Primary School, a leisure centre in Dumfries that had major quality issues, and Grenfell. In the first instance SFT worked with a number of pilot projects to drive quality improvement, before developing programmes of work that could influence projects more widely, working to embed similar principles to those promoted by GIRI.

But to drive a higher-level change in culture, SFT is also encouraging those involved in the sector to look at the project environment, which is where CQIC comes in. “The CQIC takes a holistic approach, looking at the environment in which projects are being delivered in Scotland, and includes clients and the supplier side. It is about raising the profile of quality.”

During the establishment of the CQIC, the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland recommended the creation of an ‘accord’ between Scottish public bodies and the construction sector that would express the vision of improving the way projects are delivered. This was published in October 2022.

“The Scottish Construction Accord will be supported by a transformation action plan, which includes 10 items and these will be supported by working groups to address different aspects of the delivery of that vision,” said Colin. “One of these is to create a sustainable quality culture across the whole of the construction sector in Scotland. The CQIC has been tasked with the delivery of this aim.”

A steering group of public and private sector representatives has been working on a culture change action plan for the CQIC. “We want to improve delivery in a sustainable way,” explained Colin. “Experience shows that when projects have serious quality issues, everyone looks at the lessons learned and ups their game, but eventually commercial pressures, resource and programme pressures all impact delivery, and we slip back to business as usual. We want to keep the sector at that higher level.”

At its heart is a construction quality charter that expresses CQIC’s vision for the sector. By getting organisations to commit to this charter, the intention is to drive the change in culture and quality that Scotland is looking for. “However, we also have an opportunity to look at current policy to see whether this is supporting quality delivery. So we are producing guidance, looking at processes, and supporting research, and looking at routes to competency and skills development across the sector, helping to upskill people to deliver quality.”

Part of the CQIC’s campaign includes working with like-minded organisations like GIRI, Colin added. “We are supporting GIRI and GIRI is supporting us because it we can get that ‘get it right’ culture embedded in the industry, we all benefit.”

As part of that mutual support, the next GIRI members’ meeting will be organised jointly with CQIC and will take place in Edinburgh on 9 February 2023. More details and event registration. Please note, this event is open to GIRI members and non-members.

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