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Achieving Quality in Construction
Everything to know about quality in construction. Definitive guide to achieving construction quality control & assurance with a quality management system.
Achieving consistently high-quality project outcomes was once only realistic if you had an excess of budget and time. Not anymore. If you are a leader in construction looking for ways to achieve quality in construction projects, this article is for you.
In this article, we’ll share everything you need to know about quality in construction as well as the practical takeaways that will help you to significantly boost quality on projects. Let's dive in…
What is quality in construction?
"The term ‘quality’ in construction is defined as when a project exceeds or meets the Scope of Work guidelines set by the owner or the client. This is the roadmap that is there to ensure that a project is on track to success."
Quality is a hot topic in construction and there’s good reason for this. Some of the implications for poor quality projects include the following:
Poor quality drains resources
Did you know that a typical residential project containing 500 units, has at least one quality issue per apartment? The impact that the time and labour needed to resolve these issues has on the bottom line should not be underestimated.
In short, quality issues = time and money. Getting it right the first time will help you to deliver projects more seamlessly while holding on to more profits.
Poor quality leads to safety issues
Safety and quality are interconnected. Poorly executed work is more likely to give rise to safety issues. The Grenfell Tower fire acts as a reminder of the devastating effects of construction projects that fail to keep quality in mind.
With new legislation around the Building Safety Act demanding the Principal Contractor to manage building safety risks, with clear lines of responsibility during the design, construction and completion of all buildings, this is something that will now be a requirement on projects.
Note: Looking for a simple way to create the golden thread on projects and adhere to the Building Safety Act while improving the bottom line? Sablono can help. Learn more here.
Poor quality causes harm to the environment
The construction industry’s carbon output is expected to only grow over the next 30 years. Defective work leads to wasted material, extra manual labour, materials and extra fuel - all of which cause major harm to the environment.
The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment is new legislation that requires the construction industry to take the issue of decarbonisation more seriously by promoting smarter, more sustainable ways of working.
Quality mistakes to learn from
1. Using low-quality materials
Using low-quality materials quickly gives rise to leaking, damage, cracks, and toxic moulds. Around 45 million buildings in the US have high levels of mould, with 93% of chronic sinus infections directly attributed to mould exposure. It may initially appear as a cost-saving opportunity, but in the long term, the costs far outweigh the benefits.
2. Lack of site supervision
In most instances, constant supervision across a big site is impossible. Without a good construction project management software solution to help track and report everything that takes place across the day-to-day construction site, many obvious quality issues go unnoticed.
3. Lack of quality control
All work and materials within a project have to be appropriately managed by a quality controller. Failing to put the proper people and processes in place to look over this can lead to major financial losses.
4. No project auditing
Audits are used to determine the success of construction work - this includes quality, project internal, and pre-selection audits. These all help to monitor the project's performance and ensure that it remains within the original scope of work. Without such audits, it becomes extremely difficult to spot defects and mistakes before the project is completed.
5. Absence of the golden thread
To ensure quality projects, it’s crucial that all of the tasks and activities that make up the project are clearly documented. Failing to do this makes it difficult to have peace of mind that all work has been completed to the proper standard. It also means that if any claims are raised due to quality issues, you have nothing to serve as proof.
6. Absence of project objectives
Every construction project must have clearly stated objectives before work is executed. Besides preventing disputes, construction objectives also ensure that projects run smoothly. An absence of project objectives disrupts all functions and makes work difficult.
7. No defined goals or standards
Defining goals helps to ensure that everyone involved in a project understands the vision, while creating standards communicates how work should be completed in order to achieve the vision. Failure to define objectives and standards will lead to poor quality work that strays away from the original plan.
How to improve quality in construction
1. Establish quality objectives (Examples)
If you haven't already, you should clearly define the quality objectives of the project. Below is an example of objectives you may set out:
- Completion of the project within the stipulated time and budget.
- No accidents.
- All tasks completed right the first time without having to re-do work.
- At least 85% of on-site activities are documented.
- All materials meet local legislative requirements.
- The project to the contract specifications of the project.
To avoid miscommunication, objectives set for a project must be mutually agreed on by both the owner or the client and the management of the project.
The following are the factors that should be considered when putting objectives in place to achieve better quality projects:
- The time and funding available for the project.
- Existing corporate or local government policies.
- The key requirements of the construction project.
- The critical requirements of the stakeholders involved in the project.
- Other requirements set by external bodies (e.g. Historic England, the Design Council Cabe).
- Local and planning legislation.
2. Create standards
Establishing clear standards for each activity type not only helps you to complete projects faster, it will also ensure that all work completed is held to a standard that is in line with your wider quality objectives.
Utilising a digital construction quality management system that allows you to define the sequences of works that goes into each task to promote consistent best-practice, and then easily communicate these standards with everyone working on a project is key.
This can be as complex as creating a sequence to standardise your apartment fit-out process, or as simple as a 6-step façade sequence.
3. Establish quality processes and measurements
The construction workflow should be strictly controlled by conducting continuous tests and inspections before, during and after the construction project.
Setting up quality measurements in your construction projects mainly comes down to two factors - Quality Assurance and Quality Control.
Quality assurance (QA) checklists
Quality assurance in construction not only considers the project's final result but also implements a process-oriented approach. Therefore, it considers the systematic and planned activities executed during a job to fulfil the quality requirements of a project.
Utilising a quality assurance checklist will help you to assess the entire project workflow. You should look at answering questions such as ‘how many issues were reported across the project?’, ‘how long did it take for quality issues to be resolved?’ and ‘on average how long did each subcontractor take to rectify quality issues’.
Note: Did you know that a tool like Sablono has QA checklists amongst other quality assessments built-in? See quality issues in real-time and bring greater accountability across all parties through a fully accountable digital audit trail. Learn how Sablono can help you overcome your construction quality challenges by scheduling a personalised demo here.
Quality control (QC)
On the other hand, quality control in construction is more product-oriented and is concerned with the final outcome of a construction project.
Procedures involved in quality control:
- It examines if a job has been correctly accomplished and if it was completed according to the contractual guidelines and requirements.
- QC measures the quality characteristics of the completed job and compares it to the project standards already agreed upon.
- It also analyses the differences (if any) between the desired and the obtained results of the project to understand if any corrections are required.
As with construction quality assurance, utilising a digital construction tool to measure this will make this so much more simple.
4. Site audits
Employing independent third parties or owners within a project to conduct regular audits across your construction site is a good option to maintain high quality.
There are mainly three elements of quality that need to be kept in mind when conducting site audits:
1. Quality characteristics
Quality characteristics include attributes like strength, texture, height, colour, and dimensions of the construction project. It is related to the attributes concerning which quality control procedures are judged. Quality characteristics consider parameters like the practical usability of concrete in a slump or its compressive strength.
2. Quality design
It refers to the quality with which the project has been designed. It involves meeting the client's design standards and creating a design that is maintainable and sustainable.
3. Quality conformance
Quality conformance refers to the project confirmation rate to the original contract and specifications.
Note: Sablono makes project audits simple. You no longer have to rely on third parties or site walks to get an accurate picture of your projects. Subcontractors use the platform to report progress, flag issues, submit QA assessments, photos of work and more. Project managers get instant notifications pushed to their devices when work has been submitted. They can assess this against pre-defined standards, easily spot quality issues and approve or reject work. Learn more here.
An easy way to improve quality on projects
Sablono is a construction execution solution that provides a complete digital audit trail that helps to ensure quality is kept at the forefront of your projects. From the company executing work, QA assessments, the time of sign-off, who signed off, photos and more – Sablono makes it quick and easy to keep track of thousands of activities and retrieve quality data in moments. Plus, this audit trail runs for decades to provide on-demand access to data whenever you need it.
Here’s how Sablono can help you achieve better project outcomes:
Intuitive construction quality management system
Before Sablono, trades would rely on printing paper QAs and communicating through paperwork and email. This is very admin heavy and can lead to errors and mismatched data. Sablono provides a fully digital quality management system it stores all quality-related documents and simplifies processes.
Digital QA checklists
In construction projects, it’s common for trades to sign off a project with key criteria missing and without evidence that the job has been completed up to standard. With Sablono, digital QAs are directly linked to units. Before a task can be signed off, trades first have to fill out the relevant information and include the corresponding picture as evidence. This gives reliable evidence that all elements of the project have been completed to a high standard.
Before Sablono, projects required manual checks via site walks to make sure the project was up to standard. Sablono digitises this process to give a birds-eye-view of a project without even having to go on-site so that you always know what issues need to be fixed. See what tasks are in-progress and finished to give greater visibility.
One version of the truth
Before Sablono, it was common for trades to report inaccurate information. Sablono provides a centralised system backed by a digital audit trail so that everyone knows where a project stands.
Integrated Quality Control and Assurance
Thanks to the unique combination of progress and quality on one central platform, with Sablono, you can analyse the implications of defects and hold-ups in your process instantly. Analyse sign-offs, ITPs, defects and hold-ups. Gain insights into root causes for recurring quality problems and analyse lead times for resolving defects and sign-offs so you’re constantly improving.
Get everyone on a project reporting information and carrying out activities in the same way. Create clear quality standards. Have complete control over the framework and structure - ask trades the same questions, and review their work in the same manner. Standardise processes across the project to prevent mistakes and streamline project workflows. Over time collect data and insights around the best practices and expected timing for projects to be delivered based on past work.
Complete control over QA means that you can tailor anything you need into the system to match the specific requirements. Add new checksheet questions, remove old ones and ensure that you’re always on top of the latest industry standards and regulations.
Conclusion: improve construction quality on your next project
With the right technology, improving the quality in construction projects can be easy. Sablono was built with the quality of large-scale construction projects in mind. Built with real-time progress monitoring, project controls and data analytics, you’ll have greater control and peace of mind on your projects. To discover how Sablono can help your future projects, schedule a personalised demo here.