Controlling Quality on the Construction Site

Quality, quality, quality. I hear this word in the industry more than any other. In an industry where schedules are decreasing and budgets are becoming more lean the quality requirements seem to be going up.

You may have heard someone say “things used to be built the right way” and while that may in some ways may be true a lot of driving true quality also means providing the time and budget to do things correctly.

In this article we will be addressing a few issues surrounding quality:

  • What can be done early on to address quality?
  • Can quality issues be prevented?
  • What and where can investments be made to improve quality?
  • What does the Punch List process look like and when is the best time to start?
  • What other innovations and techniques can be used to improve the process?

What Can be Done Early on to Address Quality?

The preconstruction phase is where the whole project starts and the precedence and expectations for the project are set. One of the first things I recommend to clients to help deal with issues and reduce risk is to bring the team together very early on.

Bringing on all of your consultants (Architectural, mechanical, electrical, structural, LEED, building envelope, etc) at the start of the project allows everyone to start working together and coordinating early. One of my biggest pet peeves is the owner that signs up the Audio Visual consultant one month into construction (of course all of the openings and rough ins are going to change!).

Not only should you consider bringing on the consultants but a construction manager or general contractor should be involved as well. They can leverage their resources and knowledge to identify constructability problems early on potentially avoid costly change orders once the job has been awarded. In addition to providing the above the contractor can also provide schedules, costing and overall review of the documents being issued to ensure they have the information that they need to properly build it.

Can Quality Issues Be Prevented?

The short answer to this is no. Despite all of your planning and effort there will always be deficiencies or work not installed per the drawings and specifications. It’s part of what we do and the entire reason the punch list process exists.

We can however be mindful of what the issues are and make efforts to improve or reduce the occurrence of quality issues significantly.

Understanding what causes issues is the first step in preventing them, here are just a few causes of potential issues on construction sites:

  • Schedules that are too aggressive or ownerous on a single trade
  • Poor contract documents and design
  • Overly complicated details and design
  • Site conditions
  • Incorrectly selected contractors, subcontractors and consultants
  • Poor building materials


Invest in quality

What and Where Can Investments Be Made To Improve Quality?

This question is a good one because there are lots of really great areas where time and money can be spent to improve on quality to help prevent issues. This can start from very early on in the project and doesn’t nessecarily mean spending a ton of money on expensive materials.

One of my favourite areas to start is in the document and design stage. Having a general contractor do document reviews at the milestone submissions (ie schematic design, design development and various contract document submissions).

Another good idea both in preconstruction and during construction is investing in mockups. Mockups provide everyone with the ability to build a physical sample of what the drawings are calling for. This let’s everyone see it and any tricky details will come to light before the project goes into full production.

Spending a small amount on a mockup up front could save significant time and money correcting issues down the road.


Selecting quality vendors is also an important part of delivering a good product. If a glass guy only does window wall there’s a good chance that contractor is not going to be able to deliver on the custom glass ceiling that is specified. Understanding what vendors are good at and awarding to them accordingly is important. If something is a specialty item find the specialty company that delivers it and give the work to them, don’t give it to a generic trade and hope things work out.

The same comment can be said about general contractors and consultants. Not all consultants and contractors are good at offices, or residential, retail, etc. Choose a vendor that is specific to what you’re doing, they’ll have experience and the know how to get the project done right and on time.


What Does the Punch List Process Look Like and When is The Best Time To Start

The Punch List process has been around forever, it’s main goal is to catch and correct issues related to quality of the build.

There should be no project big or small that finishes without this process taking place. And the process is not limited to the consultant or owner, before an inspection is called for the contractor, subcontractor and supplier should be doing their own (formally or informally).

In days past there were numerous ways of performing this task and no matter who you talk to it’s always the most feared and dreaded part. In recent years technology has made this process much smoother and easier to manage. We will touch on this a little later on and we have actually outlined some products in our technology on the Jobsite article which we featured last year.

There are a number of items which should be logged during the punch list process, for your use we’ve linked to a few great examples of punch lists below:


As far as starting the process it should be implemented as soon as possible on a project. From outlining deficiencies surrounding layout to pointing out incorrect rough in it’s important that identifying issues early on is implemented.

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What Other Innovations and Techniques Can Be Used to Improve the Process


For the last part of this article I wanted to touch on some new technologies that are out there that can be helping us in this process. From monitoring site conditoins, to automTically reporting data, to making the constructoin punch list easier technology is improving many of the processes we use and making them simpler.

Some of the best examples of this are the punch list process, dont believe us? Just run a google search for punch liet software. Youll get hundreds of hits, but we’ve listed some of the best in our technology in construction article.

So where else can technology be used to improve quality? How about drones and HD cameras. On a recent project of mine we surveyed the entire building with a drone and high definition camera to give our historical consultant a chance to view areas he may not otherwise be able to see. Elsewhere drones are being used to survey projects and provide progress updates automatically to the team.

The last area I wanted to touch on is point cloud scanning. If your project is within or attached to any sort of existing condition point cloud scanning can be immensely useful. Baaically a laser scans every point and provides an accurate suevey of any surface. This technology used to be very expensive but in recent years has come down in cost quite sunstantially. The ease of use has also decreased. This service allows tou to understand details about a project and easily verify existing dimensions.

Quality In Construction

While safety, schedule and budget are all very important alot of times its quality that keeps customers coming back and paying more. Just think, all ofnthe best brands in the world don’t make things the quickest but make them the best. The next time you’re doing something on a proiejct. Ask yourself how can I do this right.

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