Message from the president: Quality of construction documents

Kazim (Kaz) Kanani

Buildings between the 1930s and 1980s were typically built on a drawing package that was no more than 30 sheets and included all disciplines. Building design and strategies were quite simple back then; and contractors had to decipher the intent and translate it into construction.

Today, building design has improved on many fronts. Designs are more complex and take into account new knowledge on building science, energy efficiency, sustainability and durability, and software and technology, making it possible to achieve a designer’s inspiration. Arguably, what could not be achieved a few decades ago is now possible.

However, schedule delays, cost escalations, changes, value engineering, and an obscene amount of requests for information (RFIs) are often the reality in public and private sector projects across Canada. The root cause of these issues is almost always the quality of construction documents (or the lack thereof).

A recent CDAO study found “design document quality issues are rooted in inadequate time provided, inadequate fees, and inadequate information about existing conditions.” As professionals in the industry, we need to take a stance to ensure we are given the proper amount of time and fees to complete the work. Yes, technology has enabled us to, in many ways, complete the task with more accuracy, but it has not enabled to us to complete the task faster or better. We still need to put care and attention into the details.

In 2018, it was estimated that miscommunication, as well as inaccurate and inaccessible information cost the U.S. construction market approximately $31.3 billion annually. One can reasonably extrapolate that we, too, are losing billions of dollars due to poor quality of construction documents and miscommunication. The CDAO research study noted, “an error that costs $100 to address during pre-planning could cost $1,000 to address during the design phase and $10,000 during construction.”

We know poor quality of documents will lead to:

  • Increase in re-work during construction (which will lead to stress, burnout, and frustration given the time constraints)
  • Waste of productivity time on site
  • Delays and cost overruns (change orders galore)
  • Design inspiration being altered to suit budget and time requirements

Let’s ensure proper time is allotted toward the creation of construction documents and appropriate fees are charged and allocated. Let’s ensure the staff we put on the projects are properly trained, capable, and understand what’s required of them. Let’s take the time to educate, communicate, and collaborate with industry stakeholders to learn about construction materials and practices. Let’s instill a quality assurance/quality control process prior to the issuance of documents for bid. We’re the professionals, so we need to educate and advise our clients accordingly.

Yours in service. I am CSC.

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