Editor's Note: CSI is pleased to publish this blog from Ken Lambert, Director of Industry Development and Technical Services for the International Masonry Institute. He can be reached at email@example.com. If you have an idea or opinion you would like to share with your colleagues in the construction industry, please contact CSI Content Strategist Peter Kray at Pkray@csinet.org. He would love to help publish your thoughts.
Quality control and quality assurance within a construction project is not a new topic or concern, but its importance has been increasingly publicized and formalized over the last few years.
Recently, I joined over 100 AECO professionals for Hanson Wade’s 2-day virtual conference Advancing Construction Quality (ACQ). Many attendees were in leadership positions at the VP/Director level, and companies represented included Turner Construction, Perkins & Will, Thornton Tomasetti, Brookfield Properties, and Granite Construction.
Quality is noted specifically in CSI Specification Section 01 4000, with verbiage typically stating that “Quality control services include inspections and tests and related actions including reports performed by independent agencies, governing authorities, and the Contractor. They do not include contract enforcement activities performed by the Architect or Construction Manager.”
In many cases, the CM/GC does not have to formally submit anything for Review/Approval on this CSI Section, or regarding their QC/QA Program in general. But that varies from contract to contract and from architect to architect.
Here are some key takeaways and best practices from the interactive conference:
- Contractors with a formal QC/QA program may fill out quality-based “Incident reports.” If an entire building project is completed and there are zero incidents on their report, it is very likely not a complete or truthful report. The expert panelists at ACQ claim that no contractor can get better than 96% or 97% compliance. In simple terms, nobody’s perfect.
- Conduct pre-installation and first installation/first day reviews onsite. These are two different things, but equally important. Trade subcontractors are better off on the first day installing on a project to only send a small crew. After they get the approval from the CM (and possibly the designer) onsite, then they should double or triple the crew the following day.
- Insurance/surety companies are going to require more quality Incident reporting in the future.
- Use detailed checklists per trade to improve QA/QC.
- Project specifications need to be correct, not boilerplate. No missing or extraneous information.
Just as formalized safety programs have rapidly progressed in the last 15 years, with many commercial GCs and large subcontractors having dedicated Safety Directors/Officers on staff, Quality Programs are expected to follow suit, with more Quality Control Officers on payroll.
The bottom line? All parties in a building project are taking strides to greatly reduce the length (and pain) of project punch lists, when possible. Quality control and assurance before and throughout the building process is about being proactive and honest. Nobody wins, including the owner/developer, when there is a lengthy punch list near the end of a project. In fact, it can strain the relationship between all parties on both current and future work.
Having a written Quality Program is worth the effort, but the key is following it and learning from it. This can help reduce rework, which generally comes off a contractor’s bottom line profit.
It is best for all parties to identify and clearly define what “quality” really is before a project breaks ground. To many people, it is much more than just building to Code or building to the Plans and Specifications.
This is all much easier said than done, and implementing a formal Quality Program does take time, effort, and resources from all involved. Companies need to see a direct or indirect Return-On-Investment for everything, including Quality. It was the opinion of most at the ACQ conference that if real data and real costs are tracked, it will be quite evident that focusing on Quality pays for itself in short order.
The International Masonry Institute (IMI) provides free technical support and assistance for masonry and tile design, construction, and restoration projects. To help assure quality on your projects with qualified labor, you can include IMI’s certificate and certification language in your specifications. Visit https://www.imiweb.org/training/ for more information.