Oneof the definitions of “quality” is that it is the degree of excellence ofsomething. Exemplary quality should be what is desired by the construction industry,regardless of sector or type of work, whether it is new buildings, alterationsto existing, maintenance, etc. The functionality of a building as well as thebuild quality matter a great deal when discussing the importance of quality inconstruction. These two characteristics are what client’s and end users tend tofocus on more than anything else when taking over and occupying a building,this is most likely to be the case with the refurbishment works planned for theCooper building. Quality in construction starts at inception.
It all startsfrom the client and their chosen procurement route. Theclient for the Cooper building should encourage or incorporate higher standardsin the specification and contract documents especially in areas such as fireand electrical safety, structure, materials and workmanship. All, exceptworkmanship can be influence from the inception of the project at the designbrief stage and subsequent design development which would lead to a bettertechnical design, a stage in which future building managers should be involved asthey will ultimately be the ones ensuring the design in executed thus bringingvision to reality. Attention to detail to those key areas prior to a projectgoing out to tender are crucial as it sets the tone for what is expected fromthe contractor’s and it’s supply chain during the construction phase.
Currentindustry standards set out in legislation or other documents such as thebuilding regulations and ISO 9001 are minimum standards set for design,construction and alterations to virtually every building. Whilst ISO9001 allowscompanies to be accredited, attention should be paid to the word minimum asperhaps those minimum standards are ought to be raised to improve quality inconstruction. At present, punishment is the preferred route when failing tocomply with the building regulations, perhaps a different approach is to betested such as rewarding client’s and companies with monetary benefits as a wayto change attitude and behaviour towards quality.
Improvingpeople’s competence starting at educational establishments is likely to raisequality and reduce risks. With so much data available from historic projects,learning from mistakes previously made should be a key area to focus on, asthere is a real distinction between theoretical and actuals due to the pressureand challenges associated with construction. Projects are pushed to be finishedon time and on budget, consequently there is little to no time to learn frommistakes.
Acombination of high standards, awareness, continuous training and high qualityconstructible designs with a quality management plan from the inception stagewill be a good start towards achieving project quality. Thesignificance of client interface has increased due to a review of processes andthe introduction of new initiatives such as the Government Soft Landings (GSL)framework, which focuses on collaborative working, technology, information anda smoother transition from pre-construction to occupation. GSL can beimplemented with any procurement route; however, the importance forexpectations to be set out by the client from the offset does not change, asthese in addition to decisions will determine the path of construction and havea significant impact over the lifecycle of the project. Theclient must define roles and responsibilities at the design brief stage as keypersonnel should be identified and be tasked with developing the design as wellsupporting the procurement process. Exchange of information between clientpersonnel and contractor’s project manager will reduce the possibility of potentialerrors that often occur due to poor communication.
The client should collate asmuch pre-construction information as possible if risk is to be minimised. Embracingtechnology such as the Building Information Modelling (BIM) or any otherinformation model will strengthen quality assurance and quality control asthese would be incorporated within a centralized database in which variousstage gates will be flag any issues thus giving opportunity to rectify them.Whilst assurance falls with the contractor, quality control sits with the clienttherefore an allowance should be made to cover the cost of a quality controlofficer.
Undertaking a cost-benefit analysis would enable the client to weighthe advantages and disadvantages of having an allowance in the contract sum forinvesting in the services of quality control versus the cost on total value ofthe project. Having a quality control officer would enhance the process reviewas activities such as periodic inspections would ensure that works beingcarried out comply with standards and specification set out in the contract, itcould also mean less re-work and lower costs as non-compliance would be spottedand rectified as well as higher productivity Client’spersonnel need to undertake a value engineering analysis that focuses onquality in the buildings performance and function rather than being purely acost driven exercise as the latter is commonly assumed, across the industry, to be the only purpose suchexercise is carried out in the first place. Rather need to compare qualityagainst time and cost if they are to influence the quality of works from theoutset