The Challenges of In-House QC Review of Construction Documents

According to a recent insurance publication, approximately half of the claims brought against architects are triggered by design errors and are related to a lack of procedures to identify conflicts, errors, and omissions in design documents. In other words, QC is either deficient or missing. There are a few common reasons for this:

  1. Most – if not all – architects enter the profession to exercise creative interests. Checking is tedious work, and most architects do not enjoy it. So, even in firms that have established QC policies and procedures, it can be difficult to enforce them and find staff who are willing to engage in the tedious process of chasing down details and references in drawings and specifications and across disciplines to verify completeness and coordination.
  2. Checking involves criticism of others’ work. In an office setting, this may be difficult on a personal level because it may feel like personal criticism of co-workers, the people who work near the checker or are companions in a regular lunchtime card game or after-work activities. The checker can lose friends. If there are other interpersonal issues – conflicts at or just below the surface – it may be difficult to review another person’s work objectively. All of the issues related to office politics and socializing may come to play in a way that makes objective checking difficult or impossible. So, the assignment of QC review work can be challenging, leading to complaints that the checker was unfairly critical or was trying to get even for something unrelated to the assignment. And the checker may be concerned about possible complaints to a boss or other forms of retaliation from a co-worker who feels aggrieved by the checking process. Checking can even challenge the chain of command or management hierarchy, as the checker may unknowingly make a review comment that appears to be critical of a decision made by someone higher up in the organization or even a client. So, the checker needs more than a little assurance of immunity from retaliation or retribution for review comments. That may be the reason that the responsibility for checking often falls (or rises) to principals or to senior staff who feel secure in their authority but may be overwhelmed by other demands on their time.
  3. Checking takes time, and project schedules are commonly consumed up to the last minute with other work tasks. A planned completion date that allows for a post-completion checking period is frequently abandoned in the eleventh hour rush to just get the work done – perhaps to incorporate last minute design changes or to make up for lost time earlier in the schedule. So, those who might do the checking are likely to be preoccupied with other tasks that either are or appear to be more important.

An independent peer review can be effectively objective without involving firm principals and staff in tedious and critical work that may also be an unpleasant distraction from other important tasks. The best approach to an independent peer review is for the reviewer to note concerns and pose questions related to apparent gaps and inconsistencies in the documents. The purpose of the review is to highlight apparent issues in the documents in order that the project architect can consider them and implement appropriate solutions to correct the gaps and inconsistencies.

Posted in Construction Documents, Practice Management, Project Management

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