NHBC Commercial Director David Campbell looks back at an extraordinary year – his first at the organisation – and what 2021 may have in store…
It is safe to say that we won’t be forgetting 2020 in a hurry.
When I joined the company in January 2020, clearly no one could have predicted what was about to unfold just a few months later.
Since then, we have all become increasingly used to the ‘new normal’ of living through a global pandemic that has changed our way of life and how we work together. This has been compounded by unprecedented economic uncertainties including the UK’s exit from the EU and likely turbulence in the supply chain as we head into 2021.
Despite this, there are encouraging signs, with UK housing better positioned than many sectors of the economy and many of our builder customers reporting strong levels of forward sales beyond summer 2021.
Plot registrations for our Buildmark warranty fell to historically low levels in April and May 2020 during the first lockdown period when building works were halted. However, once sites reopened, builders focused on establishing the Covid-secure operating practices that were necessary, with productivity moving closer to pre-pandemic levels from around September onwards.
Over the year we adapted to the ever-changing circumstances by launching a successful campaign of virtual training on a range of key issues which was eventually delivered to more than 30,000 participants.
Our flagship competition Pride in the Job also went virtual throughout October and November 2020 – again this proved a hit with our builder customers, with high levels of engagement throughout.
Our dedicated NHBC Standards team have also spent the past year developing technical content and updates to form the new Standards, working with stakeholders from across the industry.
Updates to the new version include a focus on Chapter 6.6 ‘Staircases’ to ensure that it is clear and concise, and a review of tolerances in Chapter 9.1 ‘A consistent approach to finishes’ containing guidance for issues right at the heart of homeowner satisfaction.
We feel that these alterations will enhance the existing Standards, providing additional support and guidance, and helping builders and developers to deliver a high standard of new homes for the people who live in them.
Despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, NHBC is pressing on with important improvements to our service offering for our customers. In recent months this has included enhancements to our technical risk management capabilities and the launch of our new service, NHBC Accepts, which will ensure we are working strongly with manufacturers on the use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC).
We have also been playing our part in developing the next generation of house-building professionals with the creation of our new apprenticeship scheme, and we continue to bolster our training offerings which bring real benefits to our customers. In addition, we welcome increased government scrutiny on the quality of new homes and on ensuring they are built safely, which is in all of our interests.
Looking ahead, we know that the house-building industry is adaptable and resilient and this last year has proved that more than ever. Indeed, we will be looking at how the sector has coped along with a range of other key issues during our three-day virtual Building for tomorrow event in March, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2021.
Additionally, NHBC stands ready to support the implementation of the Future Homes Standard and to play our full part in the environmental agenda as we collectively aim to deliver new homes with world-leading levels of energy efficiency and support the Government’s carbon neutral goals.
This may well cause some short term disruption, but the long-term gains are compelling, especially when viewed through consumer and reputational lenses. This is fundamental to our future success and to the credibility of the industry: solving problems together has more appeal than having regulations imposed by government.
As ever, construction quality is central to everything NHBC does and looking ahead we will remain committed to working with the sector to help improve new home quality for the benefit of consumers.