Summary of proposed changes
The proposed changes to the Home Quality Mark scheme sit within four main areas:
- Update to the HQM Technical Manual
- Release of Scotland and Wales specific manuals
- Quality related criteria
- Minimum Requirements, Scoring and Ratings
1) Update to the HQM Beta England Manual
Feedback on the Beta England scheme has come from a wide range of stakeholders. An extensive review of the feedback was carried out in the initial stages of the update to inform amendments to the standards. The proposed changes range from significant change such as addition of new content or substantial amendment to existing content to minor change such as wording tweaks, updated references etc.
Please visit the interactive infographic to know more about the type of changes in various issues.
Issues with significant changes are:
- Ecology (being updated as part of the BREEAM-wide Strategic Ecology Framework)
- Recreational Space
- Indoor Pollutants
- Internal and External Noise
- Sound Insulation
- Energy and Cost
- Impact on Local Air Quality
- Access and Space
- Responsible Construction Management *new*
- Project Preparation *new* – see Quality related criteria below
- Commissioning and Testing
- Inspections and Completion *new* –see Quality related criteria below
- Home Information
- Smart Homes
- Post Occupancy Evaluation
The proposed changes aim to ensure that the technical content is robust, relevant and reflects best practice. They strive to ensure the scheme addresses the most pressing issues affecting new homes and continues to bring value to the home owners and the industry. The proposed changes within these issues include:
- introduction of new criteria and associated credits,
- introduction of minimum requirements and /or pre- requisite,
- significant amendments to existing criteria/ benchmarks / methodology / scope
Some of the proposed changes also relate to harmonising criteria across all countries to ensure comparability of HQM standards across the UK. See below.
2) Release of HQM Scotland and HQM Wales manuals
HQM is a UK wide scheme, however it is necessary to consider country specific variants to take account of local regulations and standards at the same time maintaining comparability between assessments.
This scheme update will see the release of HQM Scotland and HQM Wales specific manuals. The scheme manuals will address feedback received during various consultations carried out for HQM Beta manual. The proposed technical criteria within these manuals ensure the criteria are relevant to the country of assessment and continues to push performance beyond the regulatory minimum. Where required, separate country-specific benchmarks have been developed and in other areas the benchmarks have been harmonised across all countries to ensure assessments are comparable across the UK.
At present the HQM manual for Northern Ireland is not being released. This is because the Northern Ireland Technical Building Regulations require energy efficiency of new homes to be assessed using the SAP 2009 methodology. To certify assessments of homes under HQM they must be assessed using SAP 2012, the current version of the SAP methodology at the time of writing.We will be looking at releasing the HQM for NI in the near future.
The interactive infographic provides information on issues with country specific criteria.
3) Quality related criteria
The Government has pledged to build over a million new homes by 2020.As the rate of building accelerates, it must be ensured that the homes being built are of good quality. Quality of new homes being built has been in question recently, with increasing number  of homeowners reporting defects rendering the home uninhabitable in some cases. There is both an urgency and desire to improve standards in housebuilding, with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report on More Homes Fewer Complaints making 10 key recommendations to improve housing quality.
The HQM ONE Consultation comes at a time when there is an increased focus on quality for new build homes, most recently the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety by Dame Judith Hackitt. The development of the Home Quality Mark scheme supports the culture change required in taking greater responsibility for the performance of homes that are built. HQM certification provides a mechanism that recognises those developers who are already taking responsibility with regards to quality and encourages others to enhance their service. HQM will continue to evolve to take account of changes that the Government decides to progress as a result of this Independent Review or parallel work.
The HQM scheme has been developed with the consumer at its heart because ensuring the scheme recognises and helps deliver a quality product that meets the expectation of the occupier is essential.
Three key areas that lead to a quality home are:
- Good Design and Specification
- Construction quality and
- Good Customer support
Issues within the scheme that fall under these three main areas were reviewed, amended, improved and where required enhanced with a view to bringing increased value to the end user and the industry.
The following provides an overview of the proposed changes to issues that fall under each of these areas.
Design and specification
A home should be designed to provide a safe and comfortable environmental for its occupiers. It should be functional, ensuring the space meets the needs of the occupier and be adaptable as these needs change. Many of the issues covered in the My Home section within the Beta scheme already relate to these aspects. These have been reviewed with the view of ensuring they continue to provide value to the end user and establish a minimum standard that can be expected from a home with an HQM certified assessment. The criteria within the following issues have been amended to address this:
- Recreational space
- Indoor Pollutants
- Internal and External noise
- Sound Insulation
- Energy and Cost
- Impact on Local Air Quality
- Access and Space
- Smart Homes
Whilst a good quality design and specification is an essential first step, a quality home cannot be achieved unless the intent is delivered. Defects in construction can severely impact the operability and maintainability of the home, making the home unsuitable for habitation in few cases. Defects resolution can be costly and time consuming. HQM aims to ensure that construction is properly monitored and recorded so that defects can be tracked down and rectified as soon as possible’
The criteria within the ‘Knowledge Sharing’ section have been reviewed and enhanced to ensure it is robust and effective in achieving and maintaining quality in construction of the home. This has led to addition of new criteria, significant amendment to existing criteria and restructuring of the section and categories within it. The ‘Knowledge Sharing’ section has been renamed to ‘Delivery’ to better reflect the aspects covered under this section.
Construction quality has been broadly addressed under two categories:
This category looks at activities necessary to achieve a quality construction. It encourages inspection of construction work at key stages so defects can be detected early on and addressed. It encourages transparency in design, building and inspection processes. It looks at what steps can be taken at project commencement to encourage communication and co-ordination among the project team and avoid occurrence of defects. The issues included within this category are:
- Project preparation – this issue is an adapted version of the Quality Improvement issue and includes criteria to recognise and encourage where lessons learned from previous projects have been applied to the assessed project and collaborative working. By focussing on these aspects early, quality processes can be much more easily and meaningfully applied throughout the project. The issue also includes a new requirement for policy on confidential reporting to be in place. This will allow any malpractices in construction to be brought to notice early on in the project so defects can be rectified or avoided.
- Commissioning and testing – this issue encourages building systems to be commissioned and tested. It requires a fabric performance targets and a clear strategy for commissioning to be set early on in the project. New criteria on pre testing of fabric to be carried have been included. Pre testing ensures any defects are detected early so they can be easily repaired and avoid costly remedial works.
- Inspections and completion – this is a new issue and includes criteria to encourage inspections to be undertaken throughout key stages of construction and post completion (including the right for buyers to inspect properties before completion). This will ensure defects are identified early on and rectified, reducing performance gaps. Post-handover support can ensure the home is operated as intended. Compliance with this issue requires a construction record to be maintained throughout, to encourage transparency in the process. It makes a distinction between who carries out the inspections, higher credits are available where these are carried by an independent third party.
This category looks at how construction sites can be effectively managed to reduce impacts of construction. Of the four issues within this category Responsible Construction Management issue includes new criteria which provides an alternative route of compliance.
Post-handover support can go a long way in enhancing a consumer’s experience of moving into a new home. While teething problems are common in a new home, where responsive support that results in quick resolution of issues can be provided it can have a huge impact on occupant satisfaction and experience of settling into their new home. The issues within this category encourages setting up an effective two way communication between homeowners and developers so issues can be resolved, and rewards for the provision of a comprehensive information pack to help homeowners to efficiently operate their homes. Previously tilted User experience this category has been renamed to ‘Customer Experience’ and includes the following issues:
- Aftercare – this issue encourages occupant support to be available to help occupants manage their home efficiently, live comfortably and resolve any early problems in a timely manner. The home must be covered by a warranty
- Home information – this issue requires a comprehensive information pack to be available to the homeowners at the point of handover so they can operate their home in the most effective and efficient way. All criteria within this issues are set as minimum requirements.
- Smart homes – this issue encourages a good level of digital connectivity through smart devices and services so home owners can get the most out of their homes
4) Minimum Requirements, Scoring and Ratings
Minimum requirements and indicator backstops
In addition to enhancing issues that lead to a quality outcome it is also essential to establish a minimum standard that can be expected from a home with an HQM certified assessment. The current structure of the Beta version with only one minimum requirement (previously titled Mandatory) can lead to varied outcomes. Setting out a minimum expected standard inspires confidence, provides reassurance and helps make sure consumers will be satisfied with their new home.
New minimum requirements have been introduced in 9 issues. All minimum requirements would need to be met by assessments wishing to gain HQM certification and are designed to ensure homes achieve a baseline level of quality that go beyond current regulatory baselines. Minimum requirements are set in a way that can be achieved by all homes.
Minimum performance levels have also been introduced for the indicator (indicator performance level backstops) scores of level 3 and above. This would mean that to achieve a level 3 or above score for an indicator set number of credits within certain key issues would need to be met. Please review Appendix A within the HQM ONE drat scheme manual for more information on indicator backstops.
Credits scores for all issues have been reviewed as part of this scheme update to ensure these represent relative importance of each category in current circumstances. Issues that fall within the ecology, pollution, water, waste and management categories now have more credits available.
Please visit the interactive infographic for more information on issues with revised credits.
Ratings systems provide a simple comparative measure of the overall quality and performance of a product or service.
HQM beta version uses a star rating system which scores the performance of new build homes out of 5 stars depending on the proportion of credits that have been achieved from a maximum of 500. Each star rating is also accompanied with an associated word that describes what each rating means.
The overall ratings needs to do two things:
- Provide consumers a means to make informed choices when buying or renting and
- Allow developers to differentiate their homes in the market.
Within the HQM, credits are only awarded for going significantly beyond building regulations which means even a ‘1 star’ rated home will perform better than a standard building regulations compliant home. However, feedback from the industry shows that the current rating structure does not adequately reflect this as products and services rated below 3 stars are generally considered poor performing.
Based on these findings the rating system has been reviewed for the updated scheme. The proposed ratings for the HQM ONE scheme start at 3 stars and increasing in increments of half i.e 3 stars ,3.5 stars, 4 stars, 4.5 stars and 5 stars.
The proposed ratings captures the benefits of using stars (our original customer research showed that consumers respond well to a 5 point rating system) while ensuring that the relative value of HQM certification (including lower levels) is accurately reflected so developers can clearly differentiate their product to consumers in a clear and intuitive way.
The credit benchmarks between the star ratings have been updated to ensure balanced increments
Please review Appendix A within the draft scheme manual for more details on the proposed rating systems. We would really welcome your feedback on our proposals. See here for how to help shape the scheme.
 The 2015 National New Home Customer Satisfaction Survey carried out by the Home Builders Federation (HBF) and warranty provider National House Building Council (NHBC), showed that 93% of buyers report problems to their builders – and of these, 35% report 11 or more problems.