Applying a Four-Part Best Practice Model to Minimize Contractor Building Enclosure Risk

Applying a Four-Part Best Practice Model to Minimize Contractor Building Enclosure RiskContractors understand the concept of quality control (QC) and, for the most part, do an excellent job of monitoring the quality of their work. Complex, large-scale, and fast-track projects, however, have so many details to plan and implement and move so quickly that 3rd Party assistance is beneficial. That’s why quality assurance (QA) is vital for minimizing contractor risk. QA is that second set of eyes that, coming from a more objective position, can see the big picture and also bring additional insight, expertise, and knowledge to the project.

One of Pie Consulting’s services is providing QA. Most of the contractors that Pie works with are on one project for up to two years at a time. In a four year span, for example, a contractor team might complete two projects, whereas Pie will have been involved with dozens of different projects. That increased exposure gives our consulting engineers access to the latest building techniques, products and materials — expertise that allows us to spot potential problems.

As a third party in the QA role, Pie supplements what contractors do by integrating the QC teams for the contractors and subcontractors. As consultants, Pie has the experience to more easily spot what looks right and what looks wrong.

QC is a daily effort by contractors and subcontractors, whereas QA happens periodically. It assesses the work that’s being completed and observes issues as they arise and before they become costly or impossible to correct. QA does not duplicate the contractors’ QC. Rather, QA points out areas the contractors might not have even realized were a problem.

To effectively minimize contractor risk, this type of additional oversight is quite valuable. Integration of the QA and QC processes ideally happens at four key project stages.

Integration of the QA and QC Process

1.  Design:

In the design stage,which can be ongoing throughout construction as changes are needed, QA looks at what the design team puts on paper and checks several specific areas:

  • Accuracy  – Are the details correct?
  • Compatibility –  Do the materials function together and work well in the environment?
  • Constructability – Are the details possible to build and will the resulting system function the way it is intended?

2.  Pre-Construction:

QA identifies any gaps that exist at the intersection of different sub-contractors and ensures seamless transitions when moving from one step to the next. These gaps may be identified and resolved in several ways:

  • By reviewing submittals
  • By meeting with the individual teams
  • By reviewing shop drawings
  • By attending pre-construction kick-off meetings to establish and align the level-of-quality expectations

3.  Construction:

As a third-party consultant, Pie works with contractors to suggest a specific communication flow for the assignment of construction “issues.” For example, when an issue is identified we assign it to the General Contractor who then assigned it to the appropriate subcontractors. They corrected the issue and the General Contractor’s QAQC Manager photo documented and closed the issue.

  • Many contractors use software to manage QA and QC. ProCore and BIM360 Field are examples. Pie can integrate into this contractor-driven software to add and manage any issues identified during QA observations. The benefit to the contractor is single-source tracking of all quality topics.
    A surprising benefit of QA occurred recently when Pie worked with a contractor who had just adopted new QA/QC software into its process.  Usually, we integrate with existing systems, however, in this case, we realized we were more familiar with the software than the contractor was and could provide guidance and suggestions on how to track tasks and identify areas of responsibility within the contractor’s QA/QC module. We were able to get the team comfortable with the new software quickly and easily.
  • QA during performance testing of critical envelope systems and assemblies can include water testing windows and skylights, leak detection of waterproofing and whole-building airtightness. Testing a window mockup, preferably as a standalone, or the first installed window to “prove out” the design and installation, for example, identifies performance issues very early, avoiding the costly repairs that would be necessary if the issue wasn’t discovered until all the windows had been installed.
  • Roof infrared thermography after roofing is complete verifies whether or not the roof assembly is dry.

4.  Post Occupancy:

Pie conducts a site visit prior to the warranties expiring to meet with the building operators and identify any performance gaps.

Issues arising from miscommunication, a lack of efficient systems, or simply not being aware of the latest building trends that can make work easier, higher quality, and potentially more cost-effective can happen with any contractor. Having an objective set of experienced, knowledgeable eyes is invaluable in minimizing contractor risk.

For more information on how Pie Consulting can assist in making your next project run smoothly, contact us today.