Construction projects are typically constrained by three key factors: cost, time, and quality. Construction managers know how challenging it is to satisfy all three during a given project.
The common approach is to stay within the project budget and meet deadlines. This is because it is difficult to measure quality, while cost and time are more easily measured and understood. “See, we’re not going over costs and we’re on track for project completion!”
Yet, quality is equally important. You need to ensure high-quality work to reduce the risk of re-work, scrap, waste, overtime, and future problems for the owner. Looking at it another high, a lack of quality control will lead to added costs and delays anyways. So, it’s important to focus on quality as an equal part of the construction management plan.
That’s why construction managers need to implement strong Quality Control measures to ensure that you satisfy the full requirements of the project. Consider our construction best practice guide for quality control to deliver a complete construction project to the owner.
Quality Control Best Practices for Construction Management
Let’s start by examining what quality control is in the context of construction management. Quality control is the act of ensuring that the construction work described in the contract document is built to the specified tests, standards, codes, tolerances, and intended design.
A hurdle that construction managers must overcome is thinking that quality just happens. That is not the case. Like everything else on a construction project, quality must be planned and managed. This is referred to as a Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QAQC) plan.
Each QA/QC plan should be tailored to the needs of the specific project. However, there are several fundamental construction best practices that can be used to ensure the highest quality of work according to what the owner paid for.
1. Inspections and Testing
Before construction begins, the building under construction will need to be inspected as part of the building permit requirements. However, the building code represents the minimum level of quality allowed. Additional inspections by the superintendent, project manager, special inspectors, and other stakeholders should be used to ensure the quality of work.
It is often a good practice for the superintendent to inspect the work with the subcontractors’ foremen. This step helps reinforce to the construction crews that quality is an important aspect of the project and will be monitored. This sends a message that quality is equally as important as time and cost considerations.
Then, during the actual construction work, defective work should be re-done without compromise. Making exceptions or excusing subpar work will only create complications and headaches later on for construction managers.
As you near the completion of each phase of the project, it is also a good practice to invite the owner and designer to inspect the construction work before it is concealed. This can serve as a quality control check before advancing to the next phase.
2. Pre-Installation Meeting
Before subcontractors start on the overall job and start each major phase of the work, it is best practice to schedule a meeting with the project manager, superintendent, and subcontractor. The purpose of this meeting should be to establish clear expectations of quality.
During the meeting, construction managers should facilitate discussions about how the quality will be achieved and assessed. The conversation should include a thorough review of plans, submittals, and specifications.
Then, during the actual construction work, the manufacturers’ recommendations and testing requirements that are captured in the submittals should be strictly followed to support quality.
3. Use of Qualified Contractors
It’s tempting to cut corners by selecting contractors that will work fast and for less than the market rate in order to help you deliver on two out of three (time, cost, and quality). However, substandard work will often lead to quality issues that cancel out the benefits you are trying to achieve.
Ideally, only contractors and subcontractors that have been prequalified for the project should be allowed to bid on the work. As part of the prequalification process, contractors and subs need to be able to clearly demonstrate that they have the experience and qualifications needed to complete the scope of work to the specified standards.
If a contractor or sub is not prequalified, then the burden shifts to the construction manager to evaluate whether each entity that bids on the work is capable of completing the job prior to awarding them the project. This can place you and your company in a precarious position. That’s why it’s best practice to verify and authenticate each entity’s qualifications to alleviate this burden on your company.
4. Mock-Ups and Samples
A mock-up is a critical aspect of pre-construction work to ensure that all parties are on the same page about the work to be done. The mock-up does not need to be a perfect representation of the expected final outcome, although it should still be consistent with the requirements of the contract documents.
This small sample of the project can be used to help address any concerns, discuss problem areas, and arrive at a common understanding of how to balance cost, time, and quality before the work is performed on a large scale.
Mock-ups are an excellent tool to give the owner and designer an accurate picture of the level of quality that can be expected with the finished product. However, it is important to not over-promise and under-deliver.
If the finished product falls below the mock-up and cannot meet the level of quality that the owner purchased, then you could face disputes at the end of the project. Be careful about not creating false expectations for the owner. It’s best practice to use the mock-up as a tool to help visually represent the work, not serve as a definitive view of the final product.
5. Materials and Equipment Handling
What materials and equipment do you plan to utilize during the construction project? To support quality, it’s important that everyone who participates in the project understands how to properly use material and equipment.
- Care should be given to stored material to prevent it from being damaged.
- Crews should be trained on how to utilize heavy-duty equipment.
- Material should be covered or protected when not in use.
- Material should be located away from busy areas of the worksite to minimize the risk of accidental damage.
- Equipment should be shut off when not in use in alignment with on-site safety best practices.
- Extra care should be taken to minimize the amount of material on-site to prevent theft.
Following best practices for handling materials and equipment will help reduce scrap and re-work, support risk mitigation efforts, and allow workers to complete their tasks with quality in mind.
Find More Construction Resources for Quality Control
One of the benefits of focusing on quality control and quality assurance is that you can realize additional cost and time savings.
Striving for higher quality work can reduce the amount of time required to get the job done (e.g. measure twice and cut once) and can lead to a reduction in overall costs (e.g. not having to buy unnecessary material for re-work).
All three aspects complement each other when quality is given the same attention as cost and time.
We understand that it can be challenging to support quality throughout the duration of a construction project, even when following a construction best practice guide. That’s why we encourage you to become an AIC member to learn from other construction managers who are facing the same challenges or have been in your shoes before.
You will have the opportunity to network, learn, grow as a construction manager, and advance in your career. Join AIC today to become part of one of the industry’s leading organizations for construction professionals. Together, we are accelerating constructor excellence!