Establishing new rules seems counterproductive to any business venture and may be viewed as “red tape.” However, construction projects are rarely ever completed linearly from point A to point B.
Between existing regulations that delay launch dates, soft costs that add up during the course of a project, and renovations that require active repair, establishing proper procedures during the pre-planning stage can save your project significant time and money.
We’ll discuss the benefits of quality assurance in construction and five steps to get your team over the hump so you can avoid unnecessary delays and soft costs.
Defining Quality Assurance in Construction
Quality assurance in construction is the proactive process of managing a project by establishing rules that help maintain uniform quality standards.
Quality assurance focused on several areas of improvement in construction from the pre-planning stage all the way through QA:
- Establishing a realistic budget
- Using high-quality materials and equipment
- Ensuring that final products are built to high material standards
- Implementing proper procedures for installing materials and using equipment
- Training people to meet these standards of quality
- Tracking quality through routine inspections and audits
By establishing meticulous rules for quality assurance in construction, project managers can ensure that projects are built to meet their intended standards.
How Does It Differ from Quality Control?
Keep in mind that quality assurance is a proactive process meant to establish certain standards that avoid the need for costly quality control.
Quality control is typically an end-stage process that seeks to correct or fix a product before it’s put onto the market.
For example, quality control may involve blower door testing to ensure that HVAC systems and insulation are built to EPA standards to receive the 45L tax credit. For more information, read about the differences between quality control and quality assurance.
5 Steps to Improving Your Quality Assurance in Construction
1. Establish Proper QA Standards
Defining clear rules to communicate to employees, subcontractors, and suppliers will help you avoid costly mistakes down the road. While there are several building codes put into place, there are several building standards construction managers can follow to improve the quality of their finished project, including:
- RESNET/ACCA Standard 310 for HVAC Systems
- Energy Star 3.1 Accreditation
- ISO 9001 Standards for Overall Quality Management
Organizations like the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) even have their own standards for construction-related materials, including masonry standards, adhesive standards, and more.
Determining your own standards will depend on your intended goals, costs, and level of expertise.
2. Establish Training Procedures
Once an acceptable level of standards has been determined, it’s time to train employees on these standards to ensure uniform compliance.
The use of certificates is a good way to ensure that only qualified employees can operate specialized equipment or handle certain materials.
Make training mandatory, not just for employees but also for all affiliated subcontractors across a project.
3. Create Benchmarks to Test Quality Progress
Programs like energy benchmarking have been lauded for their ability to incentivize continuous positive improvement. Instead of straying toward the mean on any project, use benchmarks to improve the overall quality of your project.
For example, you can set energy benchmarks for all of your heating and cooling needs, including specific R-values your insulation and HVAC system must complete.
Likewise, you can set benchmarks around budgets, timelines, and even customer satisfaction scores.
4. Conduct Frequent Audits and Inspections
Avoid saving inspections for the “snagging” stage just before handover by implementing frequent inspections throughout a construction project. Compare progress to internal benchmarks to see where improvements can be made or where potential repairs could crop up.
Catching any issues early in your build will save you down the road on costly repairs.
5. Hire a Quality Assurance Specialist
Taking on the role of project manager and QA/QC specialist can be very difficult, especially when you factor in things such as frequent inspections. Get a different perspective on your project by hiring a third-party quality assurance specialist.
These professionals can help you develop a proper QA process and handle all internal audits and inspections.
To find the best QA specialist, look for professionals with lots of experience and positive feedback.
What are some common quality assurance challenges in construction?
Common challenges include:
- Budget constraints
- Scope changes
- Unexpected soft costs
- Safety Concerns
- Timeline delays
- Regulatory Compliance
How can technology enhance quality assurance in construction?
Software, such as construction management software Building Information Modeling (BIM), and even drones can be used for better decision-making. These technologies help manage multiple variables, reduce costs, track inventory, and help establish benchmarks to track progress throughout a project.
What role do regulations play in quality assurance?
Regulations, such as energy-efficiency regulations, incentivize higher standards for construction managers to follow. Using rewards, such as tax credits, or punishments, such as fines, encourages companies to follow strict standards for improvement that deliver better final products to consumers.