InSite | Interview with Head of Technical Standards

Interview with Head of Technical Standards John Gilbert

John Gilbert has been involved in construction since 1978 and has only recently celebrated his 19th year with Premier Guarantee.

Before joining Premier Guarantee, John spent more than 26 years in local government building control, the last nine of which he was Head of Building Control at North Warwickshire.

At Premier Guarantee, John heads up the Technical Standards team which is responsible for researching and writing all of the technical content for the Technical Manual and on our website, ensuring the manual is raising standards, and keeping up with a modernising industry.


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Hi John. You are Head of Technical Standards at Premier Guarantee. Can you tell us a bit about what this entails?


The main obvious function is to produce and maintain up-to-date Premier Guarantee Technical Manual on a regular basis; to ensure it actively manages the risks for the insurer by containing guidance based on claims learning and identifying emerging risks and trends.

We can’t do this without feedback from our surveying teams, developers, designers and contractors.
The aim is to make the manual easy to read and easy to navigate.

Unfortunately, as we try to provide more guidance, the manual get thicker and. funnily enough. a common gripe is the font size isn’t big enough!

Claims learning is an essential feeder to the Technical Manual, but we also identify potential changes from onsite observations, developer and designer feedback and talking with industry organisations to ensure the guidance is relevant and manages our risk.


A lot of work goes into producing Premier Guarantee’s Technical Manual behind the scenes. Can you tell us a bit about how long the process takes and what is involved in producing such an important document?

We have a build programme in place to identify each stage of the production process and time allocated to complete. So, just like a modern car, production on the next version has already started when the current model is launched.

People don’t realise that the deadline for receiving all the completed updated content has to be several months before the go-live date. As the document is produced in-house, the team carries out formatting, proof reading, design and production, then further proof reading before going through a compliance check and away to printing.

And, of course, we often get requests for amends right up to the wire!

I never thought that after being a surveyor for almost 46 years that my role would feel like a book or magazine publisher!

Not only do we produce the manual, but alongside it (as you will see with the latest 2024 Manual) a detailed ‘What’s New’ document to assist in identifying where we’ve made the changes.


Our Technical Manual is industry-renowned. What is it, do you think, that makes the manual so respected?

It’s easier to read in the current logical format. The older versions pre-2012 were chapter-based and didn’t really follow the stages of build so they were more difficult to navigate.

We undertook customer surveys and meetings with a developer group to get feedback, which confirmed the new, current format worked better.

The result is a much better look and design with clear Functional Requirements specific to each section.

We also recently introduced the ‘Provision of Information’ statements at the start of each sub-section to help developers and designers provide the correct information to us when submitting their warranty applications.

There will always be requests such as: ‘can you add this or that?’ The manual is constantly evolving which is why we produce updates on our website to support the manual until it is next updated.

The aim of the manual is for users to get to what they want quickly and effectively.

The maintenance of warranty standards has wider benefits for the construction industry. How important are documents like our Technical Manual for making sure the building of new homes are of the highest quality possible?

The Technical Manual’s aim is to reduce claims during the warranty cover and assist developers in identifying what a standard risk is.

We learn from claims experience what the causations of the defect reported were and provide guidance to help avoid repeated claims.

So whilst a lot of the guidance appears similar to some of the building regulation requirements, the manual contains warranty requirements which are of a higher standard to ensure the home achieves a defect-free warranty cover.

By identifying common defects and putting guidance in to help avoid them, the developer and home owner will benefit as a result.

Finally, what advice would you give to a developer or builder who gets their hands on version 16 of the manual?

Read it, give us feedback and we will continue to improve it. And repeat…