Abstract The extent of defects within the construction sector is considerable. This not only has implications for final built products, but also impacts on remedial and repair work, time delays and additional cost. This research work aims to evaluate the success of applying knowledge engineering (KE) techniques to the domain of defect prediction focusing specifically on brickwork mortar. A structured approach is developed which relates to the prediction of defects on housing developments. Knowledge engineering techniques are assessed to facilitate the provision of domain knowledge readily accessible by design engineers and architects. The KE techniques are used as an alternative to the current methods, techniques and technologies used within the construction industry. This is achieved by assessment of the predictive approach to facilitate decreases in ‘quality losses’, i.e. decreases in pre- mature failure and hence improved quality perfor- mance. Attention is also given to the consideration of complex defects to promote increased efficiency in communication and co-ordination of information for design and building processes, thereby helping to reduce the cost of maintenance and repair work.