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D4COST Software

Arthur O'Leary, FAIA, MRIAI

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A short time ago Art OíLeary received an email from Scott Dorfield, from Astorino in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania regarding Quality Assurance/Quality Control. We felt other DCD readers may also be in the process of developing or evaluating their own programs for Quality Assurance/Quality Control, therefore with Scott and Artís permission, we have included their following correspondence. 

Arthur OíLeary solicits suggestions from the readers of Design Cost Data for subjects they would like to see covered. Please feel free to email art@dcd.com with any questions, thoughts, or subjects you would like to see covered related to the practice of architecture or construction law. 

Dear Mr. OíLeary:
Ray Sinagra, a cohort of mine at Astorino, forwarded your Design Cost Data article to me. I found it well-written, informative and consistent with my beliefs and training.

Astorino is an Architecture/Engineering/Interior Design and Design/Build firm located primarily in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our staff numbers approximately 180. Our clients come from the healthcare, commercial, institutional, transportation, and high-end residential sectors.

Nearly a year ago I accepted an offer from Astorino to be their Quality Assurance/Quality Control Manager. I had served in that capacity with my former employer since late 1999. Astorino had a written QA/QC program prior to my arrival. Iím in the process of evaluating that program. To that end Iíve attempted, with little success, to gather information from various sources to determine where we may want to improve our QA/QC program.

Would you be willing to make some recommendations or point me in directions that may help me with this research?

Do you know if regional or national organizations exist which focus on QA/QC?

I would appreciate hearing from you.

John Scott Dorfield AIA CSI
Quality Assurance/Quality Control

Dear Scott,
Thanks for your email and for reading one of my articles in Design Cost Data. You mentioned reading my article on the Professional Standard of Care for Architects and Engineers. Have you read any of my other articles? I have written approximately 80 articles for DCD during the past 20 years and many of them touch on the aims and objectives of quality architectural practice. Many of the articles form the basis for my book, ďA Guide to Successful Construction - Effective Contract Administration,Ē Third Revised Edition, published by BNi Publications, Anaheim, California. It is available for purchase through Design Cost Data. Talk to Barbara Castelli, (813) 989-9300.

As to the specific subject of Quality Assurance/Quality Control, I have seen very little written on the subject. As far as I know, it is a fairly new field in the architecture/engineering profession. I donít know of any organizations of QA/QC people. It is possible that AIA has a PIA on QA/QC or may have one in the future. 

QA/QC has always been there but it has never been isolated out as a separate field of endeavor to my knowledge. It has always been of keen concern to the architects and engineers who are the owners and operators of design firms. Keeping the quality up has always been essential, but even more so in the steadily developing climate of litigation in the construction industry. The main bulwark against financial ruin has been professional liability insurance. But, it is steadily rising in cost to the point that A/E firms have to be more aggressive in maintaining professional quality in order to lessen claims. 

In my opinion, there is no simple magic formula for promoting and producing quality practice. It always gets down to the basics. Quality work can only be done by quality personnel. This means that all work has to be done by competent, properly trained people. It has to be under the supervision of people who are competent and properly trained. Less experienced people must be under the supervision of more experienced people. There is no short cut available that enables us to eliminate thorough checking of all work. But the checking has to be done by people who know how to build buildings, evaluate the use of materials, and who are familiar with the clientís program, budget, and needs.

Advancement of information technology brings with it efficiency and time saving in the production of drawings and specifications and other contract administration activities, but it is the primary cause of a large number of extremely serious quality problems. In my view, the problem springs primarily from the office personnel who are using the CAD equipment. They are usually recent architectural and engineering graduates who are fantastically capable of manipulating the CAD systems and producing a beautiful, authentic-looking work product. But the drawings are a time bomb. They often contain important hidden errors and misconceptions. The drawings look terrific and therefor do not get checked properly. The drawing producers do not always know how to build buildings and how to use materials. 

The older, more experienced architects and engineers who know how to build buildings and to use materials should be utilized for checking the drawings and specifications. The CAD will accept practically anything that is programmed into it, but has no way of know
materials or other unsound ideas. Simply, CAD has no judgment and no wisdom. Recent graduates and other junior personnel, having little or no experience, are also sadly lacking in judgment and wisdom. 

These are only examples of some of the QA/QC problems. The basic concept is that the office personnel has to be competent. The checking process is just a way of sampling the quality of the work product. Checking will often discover what has to be rectified, but it would be better if the erroneous work were not produced in the first place. 

I hope that you are able to find what you are looking for, but I really donít have any practical suggestions as to where you will find it. You will probably have to invent your own systems. If you have any further questions that you feel I can help with, feel free to ask. 

I have just discovered some excellent articles on the general principles of quality management in AIAís Architectís Handbook of Professional Practice, Thirteenth Edition, Chapter 12.4, pages 359-372. The Chapter was co-authored by Douglas E. Gordon, Hon. AIA, with Charles Nelson, AIA, FRAIA. 

I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.
Arthur F. OíLeary, FAIA, MRIAI

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