Post #10- Do You Want a Happy Ending of Your Next Construction Project?

photo credit: unsplash- Matthew Henry

You had a happy beginning of your construction project; you were exited and you thought you would have a happy ending too.

Like it or not, most likely you will find yourself in an unhappy ending!

Then, you will be wondering: what happened? Before you find someone to explain the matter to you, you will jump into the next project and the vicious cycle will keep repeating itself.

You will then stop asking the question and comfort yourself, well, that’s how construction is!

It’s the biggest puzzle about construction no one ever tried to solve!

Did you guess why? The answer lies in quality, a mysterious subject to us. We love quality projects but hardly we think about the broader aspects of quality beyond inspections and checklists.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for inspections and checklists; However, quality has to offer much more than that. That’s what I will elaborate in this post.

If you disagree, please drop me a note below and we can discuss further.

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A clear vision for high quality provides a common ground for partnership

A great partnership environment from day one is a basic need for a successful project, but that hardly ever happens.

It is an extraordinary moment when the Owner dreams about a construction project to fulfil his or her personal or business goals. However, the goal of the Owner often gets misaligned with those of the Architect and Contractor. This misalignment is a result of poor communication between these parties.

Simply put, if the Owner is dreaming of a building to last for 50 years and that has not been communicated to the architect and contractor effectively, the building will not last as long.

The Owner may think, oh the architect should have known it by default! What this Owner does not know is many buildings are designed to last for just 10 years. So it is imperative for the Owner to communicate his or her desires timely and effectively.

The best way to communicate the desire effectively is to write down a vision for quality of the project. Let’s see what a vision may look like. “Design and build building #10 to last for 50 years using $20,000 per year in maintenance expenses with 3% escalation.” This vision is very simple but very strong to touch the heart of the issue.

This would be a great starting point! It will be then the Architects job to convey the message to the Contractor and render in the documents in a way that is idiot proof.

When things are idiot proof, partnership among the Owner, Architect and Contractor becomes easy. When vague documents are produced, seeds for an adversarial environment are sown.

This approach is going to be an additional service provided by the architect and his/ her specialty consultants, who have expertise in building, life cycle, cost, risk management and quality.

Many Owners actually spend the money to purchase additional services and fully delegate the duty to the Architect or assume that that’s Architect’s job anyways. The Owners do not follow through with the Architect from day one about how the grand dream will come true.

Some Owners know that the partnership is important for their project, so they think that they can purchase partnership by hiring a partnership consultant. Unfortunately, partnership is not a service that can be purchased. It is a result of deliberate attempts to achieve it using the right tools, e.g. vision for quality and missions to execute it.

To recap, a clear vision of quality and constant follow through will surely provide a provide a common ground for effective partnership.

It helps avoid scope creep, schedule slip and cost overrun during design and construction

Experts have always separated quality from scope, schedule and cost. It is also said that high quality can be achieved only at higher cost or with a longer schedule.

That’s a long held wrong view!

They assume that its the Contractor’s job to deliver quality, no matter how sloppy the document is or how unrealistic the schedule is or how low the bid is.

The quality of the completeness of program or project requirements is the foundation for the quality of the project, because that is what the Contractor bids on.

The Owner and the Architect have a choice to dump all the details of the requirements in the contract documents before going for a bid, or trickle down the requirements in small bites throughout construction.

The latter is a warranty for scope creep, schedule slip and cost overrun.

If the Owner and Architect ensure a set of high quality contract document focused on quality, the project will have a much better chance avoiding scope creep, schedule slip and cost overrun.

Again, understanding of quality in the perspective of life cycle and risk analysis is going take a project extra miles on the performance and happiness of the Owners.

It helps avoid burdening FMs with unforeseen cost to fix design and construction mistakes

I often hear this question- why don’t the new facilities last as long anymore?

I have real life example of a brand new facility, completed a year ago, a state of the art, LEED Gold certified green building that won numerous prestigious prizes, was on the news, and was published and republished many times.

The Owner, the Architect and the Contractor were all proud of it, but it was the worst nightmare ever for the Operations and Maintenance guys.

The brand new building was already generating ten times more work orders than any older building was doing. Literally, that fancy building was burning out the budget for other buildings.

How green or sustainable is that?

So I did some digging into the history of work orders of a 10 years old facility and compared them to those of the new facility. When I printed them out I was shocked- the 10 year old facility printed 3 pages of work orders and the 1 year old facility printed 30 pages of work order.


When the matters of scope, schedule and cost die down at the projects closing, then quality opens its eyes. Quality then lives throughout the life cycle of the building.

Who will be there to fix the low quality of construction created by low quality of program, drawing, and specifications that failed to provide clear directions to the Contractor on quality? The poor facility managers and the operations and maintenance staff.

It helps protect the construction industry and the national interest

So, how does the aspect of quality play out at the national level?

According to an article in Journal of Construction Engineering and Management published in 2009, “Construction projects often experience cost and schedule overruns and rework is a significant factor that directly contributes to these overruns. Research by the Construction Industry Institute reveals that direct costs caused by rework average 5% of total construction costs (CII 2005). Considering that the U.S. construction industry expended $1,502 billion in 2004 for total installed costs (Bureau of Economic Analysis 2006), almost $75 bIllion was wasted on direct costs caused by rework in that year alone. Therefore, rework must be considered a significant factor affecting cost performance in the construction industry.” (Bon-Gang Hwang; Stephen R. Thomas; Carl T. Haas; and Carlos H. Caldas)

That’s a huge loss annually for the country!

Consider that you can build one mile of an 8 lanes highway in New Jersey for $2 million. How much of roadwork would you do per year if a fraction of $75 billion could be saved?

If you are in design or construction business, you may be shaking your head by now.

If you would like to be a leader and change the status quo in favor of a happy ending of your next construction project, then you are welcome to subscribe to my email list.

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To help the industry I have decided to write a new book titled – OWNER’S, ARCHITECT’S AND CONTRACTOR’S GUIDE FOR LEADING HIGH QUALITY PROJECTS. This post is the introduction of the book.

A series of posts and interviews will follow this post and will become part of the book.

Would you like to join the discussion? Please drop a note and I will respond happily.

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