Pre-qualification – a breakthrough?

In terms of effecting change, I have often heard Construction described as a super tanker; it takes a long time to alter its course. That is very definitely proving to be the case in areas such as payment and retention. I still hear differing views about how both can, or should, be improved and brought into line with most other industries who simply pay on time and don’t unfairly hold money. I take heart from the fact that we understand more about the complexities and contributing factors, albeit some, like incredibly low profit margins for main contractors and an unhealthy reliance on others money for cash flow, are worrying realities.

Measures such as the Government’s requirements to report on payment practices and performance make it more difficult to hide the extremes of abuse. The fact that construction and political leaders also regularly comment on the subject is important to the fight, but equally, on the ground I still often hear of companies having to battle for fair payment and return of retention, and there are rumours of main contractors ‘gaining the system’ to obtain better ranking in the reports. At the same time, there is also now the threat of not just when you will get paid, but whether the company you are working for will still be in business.

The fight goes on and through the CFA your voice is heard.

But one area that has been part of the activity of Build UK, and where I see potential for a breakthrough, is in relation to pre-qualification (PQ). As most flooring contractors will recognise, there are a multitude of assessment bodies that can be required by main contractors as part of their PQ process. This is not only time consuming and costly, but also involves a great deal of unnecessary duplication.

Driven by Build UK, with support from members such as the CFA, The Common Assessment Standard (CAS), represents the new industry standard for pre-qualification (PQ), and is currently available from three Recognised Assessment Bodies: Achilles, CHAS and Constructionline.

There are two levels of certification – desktop and site-based – and companies should apply for the certification level that is most appropriate for their business, based on a range of factors including trade, size and the requirements of their clients.

As members of the CFA, you can currently upgrade to CHAS Premier, which is the desktop level of the Common Assessment Standard for FREE.

Once the new PQ system is fully up and running, companies will be certified once a year by a Recognised Assessment Body and this should be accepted by Clients and Contractors who will no longer need to specify a particular assessment body.

The following assessment bodies have been recognised to certify companies against the Common Assessment Standard and have aligned existing or new products accordingly.

Common Assessment Standard





BuildingConfidence CAS Desktop Assessment

CHAS Premier (CAS)

Constructionline Gold


BuildingConfidence CAS Site Assessment

CHAS Premier (CAS) Assured

Constructionline Platinum


All the above recognised assessment bodies have demonstrated their capability to audit companies against the Common Assessment Standard.

The next phase of the system to be delivered will be a data sharing solution, which will enable Clients and Contractors to obtain key PQ data from any Recognised Assessment Body (RAB) regardless of which one carried out the certification to the Common Assessment Standard. This will ensure that companies only need to be certified by one RAB once the data sharing solution is rolled out.

There is still work to be done, but I feel that there is now critical mass and support that means this initiative has every chance of success. Delivering savings and benefits across the industry. Of course, it still needs support from specialist contractors and so I would urge all members and the wider industry to adopt and offer the CAS as their PQ solution.

The CFA is a leading trade association representing the Flooring Industry.  If you would like an application pack or further information on the benefits of membership, please contact the CFA offices on 0115 941 1126, email or apply online at