So, as a member of the Quality Control team, is the Specifier’s role in the CD production theatre one of being backstage, in the background, as the antagonist, or as the protagonist? While most of us at some point in our career have played each role or will do so, it can depend on the Specifier, the CD team, the project schedule, and maybe even some part not written in the script. It seems like the best starting point would be to describe Quality Control (QC), then the players, their roles, and some examples.
While during construction the terms most frequently used are Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC), this post will use the term QC, as it relates to the production of the Construction Documents. Each drawing sheet and each specification page have a common start: a blank piece of paper. Therefore as information is placed on each sheet during every design phase, albeit the Schematic Documents (SD), Design Development Documents (DD), or Contract Documents (CD), all team members should be reviewing what is produced to eliminate discrepancies, omissions, and errors. The importance of ‘catching’ issues increases proportionally to finalizing each document set, CDs being the most crucial. We are looking for harmony between the drawings and the project manual, among all drawings, and among all specification Sections. All work to construct the project should be ‘owned,’ located one time in the documents and identified as a work scope by the appropriate construction party.
Although the size of the design team will vary with the project scope and size, members generally involved in a project will be the Specifier, designer(s), drafters, engineers, and project manager. The team’s effectiveness should improve with the education, experience, knowledge base, and communication skills of each member. If everyone is performing their work correctly, timely, and thoroughly, the design process parallels a well-rehearsed play. While cast members should be pursuing activities commensurate with their job responsibility, all should be reviewing the documents to make sure they are clear, concise, correct, and complete. Design team members’ responsibilities include: the Specifier, who coordinates and prepares written documents and specifications in the project manual including bidding procedures; the designer, who transforms the Owner’s written program into a 3-dimensional representation, which includes material selections; the drafters, who transform the designer’s representations into working drawings; the engineers, who input systems confirmed by detailed calculations; and the project manager, playing the role of the director.
On occasion, a project schedule and scope is such that the Specifier just ‘cranks’ without any scheduled time to perform a document quality review, which in this instance equates to being backstage. More frequently, the Specifier will ‘generally’ review the drawings throughout the process but offers little to no comment regarding quality, which in this instance equates to being in the background. This is like my parents who told me as a child when visitors were being entertained, “Children are to be seen and not heard.” When performing QC, we want the Specifier to be heard. Still further, there are some Specifiers who will ‘closely’ review the drawings, and who, depending on what they find and how their communication skills are honed and the fine line of when to make comment, could end up playing the role of the antagonist or the protagonist.
An experienced Specifier should be able to find more issues, and sooner, than a less seasoned Specifier, whether they are discrepancies, omissions, or errors. To this end, it is better for a company to employ a Specifier who is not an intern or even a ‘recently’ licensed professional, but someone having years in the field. If the Specifier is licensed with experience, the QC program is enhanced, as the possibility exists for discovering multiple issues, even those code-related. Ramping up the Specifier’s qualifications, more is brought to the table when CSI certifications are obtained, such as Certified Construction Specifier (CCS); even more so as a Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA). Other certifications are available that relate to the environment and sustainability, which further improves the QC program.
Lastly, a few examples spanning my three-decade career to prove the Specifier can play the role of the protagonist and alert other design team members of ‘issues’ discovered within the document package. If not found prior to bidding, CA staff would have to address these conditions and details in the field, with some being processed as a change order:
- Finding an interior designer’s toilet room tile elevations that do not take into account the specific location of toilet room accessories; one example being a wainscot ceramic tile installation with half of a mirror on the tile and other half above tile.
- Finding a situation where a prefabricated structure roof load is specified differently 3 times: on structural drawings; on architectural drawings as copied from the manufacturer’s guide drawings; and in the specification as copied from the manufacturer’s guide specification.
- Finding that incorrect toilet partition dimensions are noted on Drawings based on material selected.
- Finding work scopes that are not specifically defined, such as who provides firestopping, caulking, painting, and concrete pads in multiple prime contracts?
- Finding toilet accessories legend on Drawing indicating selections from multiple series instead of one series that would maintain a consistent aesthetic within a room; in this instance one accessory had a straight plane while an adjacent accessory had a contoured plane (both accessories made by the same manufacturer).
- Finding an inappropriate cartoon on a consultant’s drawing that would have embarrassed the entire design team and alienated the Owner.
In summary, every design team member should participate in QC to create a better end product, but the Specifier has the unique role to discover more issues, having to work the project manual while interpreting the drawings.