Construction doesn’t end at Practical Completion: why even small projects need aftercare

31st May 2023 |

It’s a great feeling when a construction project is completed and handed over to the client. However, what about the thorny issue of the 12 months (and beyond) that follow completion? Commercial Director Alex Jenkins argues that everyone (clients, consultants, contractors, subcontractors) benefits from a Softer Landing.

Alex Jenkins

Alex Jenkins

The BSRIA Soft Landings approach, where a dedicated consultant is engaged to ensure a new or refurbished facility operates optimally over its ‘whole life’, is often viewed as a nice-to-have, rather than a must-have.

This is especially the case for construction projects below £5m. Saving money over the lifetime of a project is fantastic, but the reality for clients is: the upfront budget may not be there.

Therefore, we need to think differently.

Soft Landings doesn’t have to be a straitjacket. Instead, it should be thought of as a set of principles that contractors should embed into the heart of a project. At John Perkins Construction, we are rarely called upon to use Soft Landings in its purest form, but we are increasingly trying to use its ethos in every project – no matter the size.

We tend to describe this as ‘aftercare’ – looking after the needs of the facility in the weeks, months and years following Practical Completion. Historically, we haven’t always hit the mark on aftercare, which is why we’ve rolled out a new aftercare promise in 2023.

This is our aftercare commitment:

  • The timely close-out of defects – emphasis on timely
  • Quarterly visits during the defects period with the client representative
  • A single-point-of-contact Aftercare Manager, Mitch Duggan, for all the client’s queries

Here’s what we believe to be three key benefits of a robust aftercare plan.

1. Fewer headaches

Closing out defects can end up unnecessarily stressful for everyone involved. The site team has moved on to the next project, so they’re not there to fix the small problems that occur post-completion. Those small problems snowball, until they become an urgent issue. The client is stressed out, and the contractor has to scramble to fix the problem.

By creating an aftercare process, those small niggles get caught early. The client knows they can call the Aftercare Manager at any point and he’ll resolve the issue.

The goal is to create a process where there are no defects.

2. Enjoying your new space

Mitch Duggan

Mitch Duggan, JPC’s Aftercare Manager

Soft Landings principles are not just about cost; they’re also about involving the people who use the facility in the construction process. A good aftercare process makes end users feel more involved and listened to.

Instead of being overwhelmed by a new facility they don’t know how to use, the client is free to enjoy their new space. If they have a question, they’re not left in the dark; the Aftercare Manager is there to help them.

3. Greater control

The defects period can often be chaotic. Issues may be resolved, but it’s not on a set schedule. Tradespeople show up unexpectedly – or don’t show up at all. For the end users, this is frustrating.

However, an aftercare programme gives structure to this chaos, leading to greater control for the people who use the facility.

What’s next? Buy-in from everyone

An aftercare approach like this only works with buy-in from everyone involved in the project.

We need clients and consultants to hold us accountable to our aftercare promise.

We need our subcontractors to be responsive and see the importance of closing out defects. (After all, this is how retentions get paid.)

The construction industry as a whole has a reputation for ‘walking away’ following the delivery stage. But we truly believe greater attention to aftercare can be a game-changer for everyone involved.

We’re hoping to set a trend: no more walking away.

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