Quality control of constructions: European trends and developments

Author:Frits Meijer, Henk Visscher
Position:OTB Research Institute for the Built Environment, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands
Quality control of constructions:
European trends and
Frits Meijer and Henk Visscher
OTB Research Institute for the Built Environment,
Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands
Purpose This paper aims to evaluate the qualitycontrol systems for constructions in seven countries in
Europe with the purpose to trace innovative approaches and best practices that can serve as examples for
other countries.
Design/methodology/approach The paper is basedon a series of research projects carriedout over a
numberof years. The research results were updatedin 2016 with a desktop research projectin seven European
countries. The results from this latestproject form the heart of this paper. Theinformation is organised into
tables that describeand analyse the main features of thequality control systems of the countries(e.g. scope,
focusand main characteristics of theprocedures and quality demandson building professionals).
Findings Several similartrends can be recognised in the quality control systemsof the various European
Union (EU) countries. Quality control is getting more and more privatised and the control framework is
setting checks and balances throughoutthe construction process. Other ndings are that scope and focus of
the statutory control is unbalanced. Within the control processes emphasis is put on the safety aspects of
complex constructions. Far fewer demands are made on the quality of the builders. Re-orientation of the
buildingregulatory framework seems to be needed.
Research limitations/implications The paper only focusses on European countries where private
quality control is establishedand on selected topics. The ndings are based on desktop research and not on
the practicalexperiences of the stakeholders involved in the countries studied.
Practical implications The paper draws some important recommendations for policymakers in the
building regulatory eld. It suggests both an enhancement of the effectiveness of the quality control
procedureas well as the commitment of builders to comply with the regulations.
Social implications The quality of constructionsis essential for the wellbeing and safety of its users,its
occupants or its visitors.This applies to the whole range of quality aspects: structural-and re safety, health,
sustainabilityand usability aspects. The analyses and recommendationsof this paper aim to contribute to an
improvementof the overall construction quality.
Originality/value The paper makes an original contribution to the (limited) literature that is available in this
eld. The results can be used to situate the quality control systems of each member state within the EU, to assess the
main trends, and it can be used as a guide to develop strategic choices on possible improvements in each country.
Keywords Sustainability, European Union, Quality control, Privatisation, Building regulations,
Construction quality
Paper type Research paper
© Frits Meijer and Henk Visscher. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is
published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce,
distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-
commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full
terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode
The authors would like to acknowledge the helpful comments from the reviewers.
control of
Received 6 February 2017
Revised 4 May 2017
Accepted 7 May 2017
InternationalJournal of Law in the
Vol.9 No. 2, 2017
pp. 143-161
EmeraldPublishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/IJLBE-02-2017-0003
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
1. Introduction
Starting point of this paper is recent buildingregulatory developments in The Netherlands.
From the late 90s of the twentieth century,successive Dutch Governments have been trying
to minimise the building regulatory burden and to privatise the quality control of
constructions. These attempts have only been partly successful. Some technical
requirements have been withdrawn from the regulations, and the number of constructions
that are exempt from quality control has been enlarged substantially (Meijer and Visscher,
1998,2006,2016;Costa Branco et al., 2011).In the same period, however, new requirements
on energy and sustainable performance have been incorporated in the buildingregulations.
These requirements have been tightened regularly since then (Beerepoot, 2007). During the
past decade, discussions to fundamentally change the quality control system continued
(Meijer and Visscher, 2016). The dominant policy line of subsequent governments has been
privatise if possible and keep it public when necessary. Eventually, this has led to a new
bill on Quality Assurance of Buildings that was introduced in May 2016 into parliament
(MBZK Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties/Ministry of Interior and
Kingdom Relations, 2015). The nal implementation is still under debate in parliament.
When adopted, this law will change quality control of constructions in The Netherlands
fundamentally. The control on compliance with the technical requirements will be
transferred from public authorities to private parties. Accordingto the policymakers, these
changes will have a general positiveeffect on the quality of the building stock. Besides that,
it will also streamline the building processes and diminish the administrative burdenon all
parties. This paper puts the current Dutch policy plans in a broader European framework
and places them within the main trends that have changed systems of quality control in
European countries in the past two decades. The paper is based on a series of research
projects on building regulatorysystems carried out by the authors from the mid-90s on. The
research questions and research themes addressed in these projects have been consistent
throughout these years. To name the most important ones: For what subjects minimum
quality demands are set? How are these demands formulated? Does the procedure make a
distinction in categoriesof construction works? How are permit procedures organised?What
tasks and responsibilities do public and private parties have with regard to permit
procedures and enforcement? These questions were answered in 1993 in 5 European
countries), in 1997 (7 countries),2002 (8 countries), 2009 (all European Union [EU] countries),
2015 (14 countries) and 2016 (7 countries). In all research projects, relevant policy reports
were analysed, such as the building regulations, technical documents, manuals and
guidances to interpret the regulations or the enforcement procedures). Additionally,
interviews were held with stakeholders in the various countries. In some projects, national
specialists answered specic questionnaires (e.g. 2009 and 2015). The state-of-the-art
description of the systems is mainly basedon the 2016 project. In our most recent European
comparative research project commissioned by the Dutch Government, quality control in
England & Wales, Ireland, Germany, France, Norway and Sweden were compared and
analysed (Meijer and Visscher, 2016). In these selected countries, private building control
already has been established withinthe regulatory framework. The insights into trends and
developments of the quality controlsystems are based on all studies mentioned. This paper
provides original and new insights into thematter. This applies to both the analyses of the
current situationas the analyses of the main trends.
This paper sketches the state-of-the-art of quality control systems for constructions in
Europe and places the insights into a wider perspective. The goal of the paper is not only to
explore to what extent current statutory quality control systems provide sufcient
assurance that constructions meet the minimumdemands set in the building regulations, it

To continue reading

Request your trial