Profit from Quality Assurance Reviews

Why should you consider an independent document review?

The project deadline is looming, you are working feverishly to make that final bid issue deadline. You know there are areas that are not fully coordinated because of last minute changes, and you sent a bullet point list of these items to the entire team. You have been working on the project for months and are confident other parts are well coordinated by each lead designer. No structured interdisciplinary review was completed. So, why add even more stress to an already stressful situation?

Because, each uncoordinated item has the potential of generating another dreaded RFI or Change Order. Because an independent document review reduces construction costs, saves design team construction administration time, and reduces stress. . . That's why!

Here is an example:

We just completed reviewing drawings and specifications for a university interior renovation project. The project consisted of two similar, not identical, multi-story dormitories. There were a total of 260 drawings 30 x 42 inches in size. Each building had its own set of drawings.  One project manual (spec book) served both buildings.

The review was completed over nine calendar days, including two working weekends. A total of four staff contributed over 150 hours to complete the review, slightly more than 1/2 hour per drawing. In that short time, the review team marked the drawings and specs with over 2,000 comments about coordination and constructability issues. Granted, some of these comments are essentially duplicates. Coordination issues were noted on each drawing contributing to the problem. For instance, when toilet fixture locations on the architectural plan did not match the locations on the plumbing plan, a comment was made on both drawings to identify the same issue. This duplication is intentional to ensure each affected design discipline is aware of the issue so the correction will be coordinated.

The number of comments is great. Some comments such as correcting a detail reference have little, if any, impact on the project cost and schedule. However, columns in the middle of glazed openings, insulated pipes that do not fit within designed chases, utilities extending the length of the building without regard for building expansion joints, powered equipment without an electrical circuit, and hard ceilings without consideration of access panels to service mechanical equipment discovered during the review can have significant cost and schedule impact when found during construction.

When presenting the results of our reviews, I always have some trepidation about how the comments will be received. Some designers become defensive, but most receive the comments in the spirit intended: to produce a better set of documents and a better building. We strive to help design teams and projects to be successful.

Finishing our review by presenting our comments in a meeting with the entire design team leads to valuable group discussion of the primary coordination issues and often results in an agreed solution. This last presentation was well received by the entire team. The MEP engineers were especially grateful the review found items that everyone had grown accustomed to seeing, and therefore assumed were correct and clear.

During our meeting, the mechanical engineer was able to explain a code provision as the reason why fire dampers were not shown for a dryer vent shaft. This was something I was happy to learn. Today the same engineer called to discuss our comments about louvers. I was pleased to have the opportunity to explain louver construction and why drainable blade designs are not well suited for semi-circular louvers.

The purpose was served. Everyone learned something for the next project, and this project will have far fewer RFIs as a result. As for the owner's perception of this design team compared to others? Guess!

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