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  • Alex Mathers

Get what you expect - Get quality

How would you rate the quality of your last construction project?

Would the whole project team agree? Would the owner?

If you ask 10 people what quality is, you will get 10 different answers. What is generally agreed upon is poor quality results in delays, budget overruns, frustrations, and possibly negative reputations when the owner does not get what they expect.

With so much variation and subjectiveness in construction quality, it is important to define and measure quality at the start.

Quality assurance is used by owners, owner’s representatives and developers to verify contractors are achieving specified conditions and design standards. Commissioning is a quality assurance process, focused on building and facility systems.

I have worked in the manufacturing industry in which ISO 9001 certifications are a cornerstone of quality. ISO 9001 is the international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system. ISO 9001 does not guarantee quality products or service, it is just a verified method of delivering quality. Similarly, Commissioning strives to deliver excellence, it is a verified method of delivering quality. It is a quality focused process.

One definition of quality is a trait, property, or condition of a product. In our case, that product is a building or facility. One could define quality as being free from defects, deficiencies and variations or a degree of excellence. These are qualitative description and are therefore relative to something. This relative is to a standard which can be an industry standard, guideline, or requirement.

I define quality as attention to the details that matter to the customer. In manufacturing the customer buying the product, defines quality. It is the same in our case of building construction. It is our customer; the owner, the tenant, the operator, the staff. These customers have expectations in which what is presumed is compared to what is delivered. Quality is meeting (or exceeding) these expectations.

It is therefore very important, if not the most important task, to first to capture the expected and presumed traits, details and properties of a project.

I have 10 years of owner operator experience where I created quality guidelines as an efficient way to communicate the owners requirements to the teams, 2 years of design engineering experience where I observed fractured and missing requirements from owners and 3 years of owning a commissioning firm helping owners define their requirements and verifying those requirements through testing in a trademarked process we call Calibrated Commissioning®.

We document the requirements of a project and the expectations of how it will function and operate. These parameters include project goals, measurable performance criteria, cost considerations, benchmarks, success criteria, safety, maintenance, and procedures.

To best ensure quality, we as commissioning authorities need to be one of the first ones on the project and the last to leave. By helping define quality at the start, we help close the gap between what is expected and what is delivered.

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