Quality assurance in construction is one of the most critical concerns on a building site. While almost 90% of customers say they are satisfied with the quality of their new build home, issues with construction quality can seriously damage a company’s reputation and cost them a lot of money. That’s one reason that the industry has developed challenging quality assurance standards. These self-imposed principles and benchmarks mean construction firms have a consistent and objective way of measuring quality.
But there’s always room for improvement! From digital reporting tools to supplier management, there are many ways we can further enhance quality in construction.
What is quality assurance in construction?
Quality assurance is a method of avoiding potential mistakes in a construction project by creating ‘rules’ about minimum quality while ensuring all decisions meet these standards. Quality assurance covers things like:
- Materials used: Are they of the right standard, size, shape and material?
- Equipment: Will it work in the environment and is it safe?
- Agreed ways of measuring quality: What does ‘good’ look like?
- Project management: Timeframes, fair bidding processes, agreed budgets, etc.
- Certificates and skills: Do your people have the right skills for the job?
So, quality assurance is about preparation. By building quality into decision-making throughout your projects, you can be confident that you’re ordering the right materials, using the correct equipment and everyone knows what to expect.
Quality assurance is different to quality control (although the two go hand in hand). Where quality assurance is about setting standards, quality control is about checking whether structures or elements meet those standards.
5 golden rules for quality in construction
Achieving quality in construction is a time-consuming and intensive process, which everyone is responsible for. It’s about constantly checking that decisions and work meet the quality assurance standards set.
Here are five golden rules for quality assurance on your projects:
Clear definitions of ‘quality’
Everyone working on a project needs to clearly understand what you mean by ‘quality’ and what your expectations are for the project. Document the details and explain them to all subcontractors, suppliers and project managers. For example, you might decide you want especially high standards of sound insulation (above the legal minimum of 45dB in new builds). You’d therefore want subcontractors to be aware of this when they are making purchasing decisions around insulation material.
Planning, design, and development of plans
Designers and project managers must conduct thorough assessments of plans, check for clashes and avoid cutting corners. If you can identify and fix issues now, there is less chance of delays occurring during the build itself. Recently, BIM technology has been shown to help with quality in construction by automatically checking for clashes.
It’s vital to ensure that all materials and equipment purchased meet your standards. Buying cheaper, lower-quality materials may save money in the short term but could result in problems later. Quality assurance when buying also involves verifying whether your suppliers are truly capable of meeting your demand.
Continuous interaction during the build
All project participants must be able to communicate, discuss issues and verify progress. Quality in construction relies on the site manager constantly monitoring the works, ensuring it meets your pre-agreed definitions of quality.
Handover and snagging
Once the structure itself is up, quality assurance also comes into play at the snagging and handover stage. This is about conducting checks to ensure the as-built structure meets your expected quality standards.
How to implement quality control measures
While project and site managers understand the importance of quality assurance in construction, other members of your site team might not be aware. It’s important to educate everyone on-site about the implications of shoddy workmanship. The easiest way is to use real examples from previous jobs. For example, if poor quality work from a bricklayer ended up delaying the plumber, electrician and plasterer, that’s a good example of how a team needs to pull together to avoid lost time and delayed earnings for everyone.
Make sure that everyone knows how your team handles on-site quality assurance. Will you sign off every job in person, or do you need every subcontractor to document their own work thoroughly? Set the standard and then be consistent. Treat every sub-team the same and scrutinise their work to the same level.
Regularly conduct quality checks on your site walks, even on work that was finished weeks ago. That way you might discover snags caused by a later phase of construction.
Share quality assurance reports with all stakeholders to make sure that you keep everyone accountable for their tasks. For example, using PlanRadar you can easily pull all unfinished or delayed tasks into a report, complete with images and communication. With everyone on the same page, you can take steps to make sure that quality issues don’t cause large delays to your project.
How construction quality management software helps
At present, much construction quality assurance relies on manual processes, especially during the building and inspection stages. The site manager conducts frequent inspections of the site, monitoring whether workers are meeting quality assurance standards. But this is a time-consuming and inefficient process, requiring them to use clipboards and write up reports based on their own observations. However, a new generation of construction quality management software aims to make this much more efficient.
With construction quality management software like PlanRadar, you get access to tools that support quality assurance processes. Everyone working on a project gets access to a powerful app on their smartphone or desktop which helps them to meet quality standards:
- Plan comparisons: If the architect’s plan changes, this information feeds through instantaneously to everyone on the project – rather than needing to wait for a paper blueprint to arrive.
- Task management: PlanRadar lets site managers assign tasks to individual workers and then verify if the work was done to the required standard. The workers can take photos or videos of their completed jobs to get this verified.
- Report generation: Quality assurance report templates can be instantly generated by site managers so all stakeholders can review progress. These status reports can also reveal emerging quality issues so that you can arrange remedial action.
- Building inspections: Verify work has been completed to your quality requirements and report on any issues directly on the blueprint itself.
- Communication: Quality in construction relies on constant communication and rapid responses to queries. An app like PlanRadar means all project participants can ask questions as they arise.
Keep learning: What is software for housebuilders?
Are you using construction management software yet?
Quality assurance in construction helps boost the reputation of the industry while reducing the risk of mistakes and costly errors. The UK construction sector already meets very high standards, yet they can reach new heights by using construction quality management software. This technology makes achieving the highest quality assurance standards faster, easier and more efficient. QA in construction doesn’t have to be a nightmare to deal with – it can be as easy as a couple of clicks.
This blog was originally published on 15th January 2018 and was last updated 1st July 2022.