Project History: Undertaking 6,000 physical home inspections annually for English Housing Survey
Undertaking over 6,000 physical home inspections each year, recording statistically valid data to inform the Government’s policy decisions on the English housing stock
The C A Design Services Housing Surveys team currently delivers physical inspections of English homes as part of the English Housing Survey (EHS).
Commissioned by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), the survey records information about the population’s housing circumstances and the condition of the housing stock in England including its level of energy efficiency. The collected stock condition survey data is used for monitoring and developing Government housing and domestic energy related policies, distributing grant monies according to need and measuring the progress of initiatives.
The EHS is carried out by a consortium including ourselves, BRE and NatCen. We meet regularly with our partners to agree and manage the project timetable and experience-developed protocols. The consortium also meets regularly with the MHCLG to monitor progress and provide the required information to ensure targets are met.
We have been involved in this study since the inception of the continuous English Housing Condition Survey (EHCS) in 2002 and the subsequent EHS since 2008. Working in two different consortiums, we are responsible for delivery of the physical survey covering a sample size of 6,200 dwellings and 300 vacant properties per year; prior to 2012 it was 8,400 dwellings per year.
All service targets set by MHCLG have been consistently met by the team and our retention levels for surveyors have been 90% or more from year to year.
Our Approach: Developing practical processes for capturing housing stock condition data
In evolving the periodic survey format into a continuous one, we have developed practical methods to manage the accurate data capture process. This has included the use of a bespoke website and electronic appointment diaries, the deployment of full time Regional Managers and the use of a dedicated Helpline team. These are now the cornerstone of our excellent service delivery.
We have also developed a comprehensive online management system to track each case and overall progress in real time. This means clients can access accurate information on the number of surveys completed in line with the proposed schedules as well as specific details of the individual surveys.
Currently C A Design Services Housing Survey deploys 150 sub-contracted surveyors on rolling one year contracts and organised into regional teams. Many of our surveyors work on other survey projects for C A Design Services concurrently with EHS as this is not a full time commitment.
The Outcome: Fast, accurate and cost effective data delivery
We work closely with our consortium partners to capture and deliver clean data as quickly as possible. In particular, the team are familiar with the digital pen collection system and the computerised validation system used by BRE. The C A Design Services team has been instrumental in helping BRE develop and enhance this technology.
It is essential that the interview survey and the physical survey are conducted on the same property, so we have implemented tried and tested methods of communication and transmission to ensure this. Both interviewers and surveyors have a good understanding of the roles they each play, with the interviewer setting up the appointments for the physical survey. The Helpline staff also play a crucial role supporting surveyors and interviewers in the field and in managing appointments; they also collate information to facilitate access to vacant dwellings.
To ensure the quality of the survey data, we recruit and train all our surveyors alongside BRE. We also continually assess and support them. Every survey is seen by a manager and any errors or omissions are addressed before the data is passed to BRE. Our managers also accompany surveyors on regular visits to assess their judgements and conduct with respondents.
Real time monitoring systems allow rapid reaction to contingencies and our flexibility means that we can put alternative plans into place. Work can be covered by other surveyors where necessary, and the electronic appointment system facilitates re-arrangement when adverse weather conditions prevail. Surveys have always been conducted to time and do not over run.
Delivering the most comprehensive training, supervision and management in national housing surveys.
“The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has worked with C A Design Services Survey team in delivering the English Housing Survey since 2002. Our two organisations have a very close working relationship and between us are proud to offer the most comprehensive surveyor training, supervision and management in national housing surveys that is available anywhere.
Our Consortium Partner – BRE Simon Nicol, Group Director, BRE Housing and Energy
“It is a pleasure working closely with the team at C A Design Services. Together we design and improve procedures that ensure the best possible fieldwork outcome for the English Housing Survey.
Together we have rigorously developed the research process to ensure the quality and validity of the data our surveyors collect. It is this attention to detail that means we are able to consistently meet the DCLG’s targets and requirements. This means the DCLG can have total confidence that they are making informed decisions on the basis of the accurate information collected.”
Our Consortium Partner – Alun Humphries, Research Director, NatCen