Quality initiative aims to end spec-breaking

A SOLUTION to spec-breaking on building projects is being trialled in the UK, which it is hoped can help prevent quality lighting products from being rejected in favour of cheap alternatives.

The BIQ (Building in Quality) Quality Tracker has been created jointly by the bodies representing architects, builders and surveyors, in an effort to make sure that those involved in a construction project get together and agree quality requirements at the start.

The move comes in response to calls for better quality management in the building industry, in the light of low productivity figures and high-profile scandals resulting from poor building quality and maintenance - including the deadly Grenfell Tower fire of 2017, the collapse of a wall at an Edinburgh primary school in 2016, and widespread problems with new-build homes.

In the lighting industry, manufacturers and designers are becoming increasingly concerned about contractors ignoring specifications and substituting cheaper products in the name of value engineering.

The new Quality Tracker - developed and backed by RIBA, representing architects, the RICS, representing surveyors, and the CIOB, representing building professionals - aims to get this problem under control.

The Excel-based tool provides a framework for teams to monitor risks to quality throughout the course of a project. Representatives of the client, designer and contractor must jointly answer a set of yes or no questions, each of which represents a factor that could affect quality.

Architects are hoping it can help them achieve better results. Massimo Tepedino, associate director at architecture practice Hawkins Brown, says the nature of lighting makes it particularly vulnerable to spec-breaking. ‘It happens in all areas of design, but lighting and acoustics are the ones that are probably compromised the most, because the things that are difficult to visualise are the things that get forgotten,’ says Tepedino.

Discussing lighting at an early stage and having a clear lighting plan is a big help, Tepedino says, and clients should understand that architects’ lighting specs are intended to be “prescriptive not descriptive”.

As for lighting manufacturers, Tepedino advises them to make a clear case for quality, and to ‘make clients understand why their fittings are more expensive. What’s the benefit of using their specific product?’

If luminaire manufacturers simply appear to be competing on price, then Tepedino says, ‘it’s difficult to get a contractor to stick to their specification’.

  • Find out more about the BIQ Quality Tracker here.
  • Learn more about quality lighting at the LuxLive 2019 exhibition taking place on Wednesday 13 November and Thursday 14 November 2019 at ExCeL London. Register for free and see the full programme HERE.