On most building projects, quality control, conformance of the materials used and how the materials are installed is generally left as self-regulating exercise by the building contractors and their sub-contractors.

In contrast, OH&S is now statutorily regulated and stiff penalties apply if accidents occur which could have been prevented either by the operator carrying out their task correctly or if the line manger, supervisor or director of the company failed to ensure all safety measures has been put in place.

This same responsibility in ensuring the quality of the end product is always an ‘exemplar’ product does not seem to exist.

A quality end product is determined by two factors:

  • Conformity of the materials supplied as compared to the materials specified
  • Methodology on installation of the conforming materials

There are also problems with different bodies having a different interpretation of a definition. For instance, look at the stipulation that all products are to be 100 per cent asbestos free. In Australia, this means zero asbestos within the product. However products arriving from China that are said to be 100 per cent asbestos free can contain up to five per cent asbestos.

Generally, a client’s consultants are not 100 per cent site-based and will not therefore confirm installation is as per work method statements (manufacturers’ instructions) supplied by the contractor. Also as a rule, not every delivery docket is checked for product conformability.

Years ago, the client would have employed a ‘clerk of works’ who would have been 100 per cent site-based and whose responsibility would have been to sign off on every delivery docket and witness and sign off on the installation of all materials/products.

Since the demise of the clerk of works role, this quality checking process has been put back on to the contractor as a self-regulating process.

Consequently, we are often finding more failures in the final product, especially on large complex building projects such as hospitals, correctional facilities and courts, as is evidenced in recent failures in WA and SA.

PPPs have set up a process where an independent certifier/reviewer is required to sign off on the final product prior to commercial acceptance of the building. The independent certifier/reviewer is supposed to ensure the final built product complies in every way, in terms of functionality, installed materials, and quality to the deed/brief provided at the time of tender. The use of the independent certifier/reviewer has had limited success dependent on how diligently that person goes about their duties.

This independent certifier/reviewer role is normally undertaken by a quantity surveyor.

Since the quantity surveyor is not part of the design process, he or she can step back and provide a fully independent review on conformability and therefore quality. It is therefore logical to suggest the quantity surveyor is in the ideal position to ‘step up’ and fill this void in quality control during the construction process.

For all buildings to reach the ‘exemplar’ quality status on completion, the following criteria and steps should be in place:

  1. Only a certified quantity surveyor (CQS) is to be engaged to carry out and sign off on these works
  2. The CQS is to receive copies of all work method statements (WMS) prior to any tasks commencing
  3. The CQS is to receive copies of all inspection test plans (ITPs), prior to any work commencing
  4. The CQS is to have access to all delivery dockets during construction
  5. At each drawdown/progress payment, the CQS is to review current status of ITPs and WMS to ensure each stage of the installation is being signed correctly
  6. The CQS should have the ability to direct the opening up of any of the works if ITPs or WMS are incomplete
  7. The CQS is to have the authority to deduct monies from the drawdown/progress claim if ITPs or WMS are incomplete

The above will add a considerable amount of time to the certification of drawdown/progress payments, but will ensure quality of product and installation of the final built form is to a high quality.

Ultimately the above process will save the contractor time and money due to a reduction in defects, saving time and effort in terms of rectification works. Furthermore, the client will receive a higher standard built product that is fully functional from the time of handover.

This process may not replace the old clerk of works role, but it will place some accountability back on to the contractor while conducting their current self regulating role in terms of quality and conformance.

  • Hi Peter,
    thank you for your article it really summarise the issue, although I believe the Superintendent of works role should reside with the Architect who specified the products in the first place. The Quantity Surveyors role is vitally important to determine the cost of the project with the specified products as nominated by the Architect.

  • "The independent certifier/reviewer is supposed to ensure the final built product complies in every way, in terms of functionality, installed materials, and quality to the deed/brief provided at the time of tender. "

    The building certifier is only responsible for BCA and DA compliance. Compliance with contractual terms and specifications is not the responsibility of the building certifier.

    • Hi Tony
      I think we are talking about different roles, I agree a Building Certifier (Building Surveyor) is responsible for BCA and DA compliance for all buildings. The Independent Certifier/Reviewer role I discussed in my article is a role the final stakeholder on a PPP project will insist on to ensure the final built product complies with the 'brief' the joint venture partnership signed up to deliver for the 25 year lease period before the building is handed back to the stakeholder.

  • Thank you Peter for hitting the nail on the head in regards to self certification by contractors/builders, however I believe the architect is best placed to be the Superintendent of works which was their traditional role prior to self certification as they are the specifier of the products to be used on a building project. The QS Role is a very necessary role to properly cost the project using the specified items..

  • Isn't the quantity surveyor paid by the builder. Wouldn't this be a conflict?

    • Hi Paul
      Both the client side and builder can and do engage Quantity Surveyors independently. My article refers to Quantity Surveyors engaged on the client side, so no I do not believe there will be a conflict of interest in these circumstances.

  • There's much truth in what you have described here Peter. There has been a vast 'dumbing down' of any professional standards and technical capabilities associated with the management and delivery of building construction projects. Whilst complexity has increased, the capabilities and formal qualification requirements for admission and licensing as a builder have plummeted. The message that has been sent out is that you can become 'qualified' by the recognition (by whom?) of your 'experience' (good or bad – doesn't matter) has been actively encouraged and financially facilitated by the federal government, the consequences of this action is being willfully ignored by our statutory governing bodies. From the complete breakdown of our university sector ignoring any ATAR admission standards to get as many 'bums on seats' into tertiary training to the privatization of vocational education and training whereby businesses are happy to sell a qualification with no academic or intellectual assessment, Australia is in a steep decline.

  • Hi Clynton

    Thank you for your comment and feedback. I agree during the concept, design and tender stages of the project it is the Quantity Surveyor's role/responsibility to cost the project based on the specified products nominated by the Architect and Engineers. In my article I am suggesting the Quantity Surveyor's role during the construction phase should be expanded to include quality checks on the built product to ensure not only the correct products are installed but installation methodology is checked for conformance.
    In terms of the Superintendent role, Architects over the last 30 years have surrendered this role to Project Managers over this period. My article suggests this role can also be more than adequately carried out by the Quantity Surveyor due to the Quantity Surveyor's independence in the contract administration process.