Several recent studies undertaken by BRANZ suggest that better client-builder communication and better client understanding of the build process could help to improve residential build quality.
Improving the quality of Kiwi houses is easier said than done. New Zealand’s building system is complex, with many actors, interdependencies, and unknowns — such as Covid-related materials shortages.
BRANZ research looked at key knowledge gaps for new build clients. It found gaps around how the build process works, who does what during the build, key communication channels, and client rights and responsibilities during the build.
The research found that positive client experiences relied on builders managing expectations early on in the process — starting out on the right foot was key.
This is particularly significant because negative experiences can seriously affect the health and well-being of clients and builders. This was most pronounced for builders, more than half of whom experienced moderate to significant symptoms of depression and anxiety as a result.
A big issue for new build clients is knowing enough about the building process to ask informed questions. The research found that most clients desired a greater depth of information as the process progressed, and that builders could maintain the relationship by responding to this need.
The research found clients generally required clearer information regarding the build progress, and also that more information was needed in respect to their rights and responsibilities as a consumer.
Research into the perspective of builders, and separate research into the perspective of clients during the build process, recommended applying structure to the journey to help both groups.
This could reduce the likelihood of negative experiences putting strains on builders and their clients, and encourage proactive communication, which could help keep relations on a positive footing.
Recent additional construction industry issues, such as Covid-related labour and materials shortages, mean it is more important than ever to proactively manage builder-client relations.
The studies suggested the development of a workbook to guide clients through the process to help them navigate various issues.
These include when and how clients should contact their builder, the process for clients to identify and report defects, and managing health and safety during site visits.
It was found that most clients cannot access impartial, expert knowledge. If access was improved, this could help clients feel more confident about asking questions of their builder during the build.