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Revisiting Quality Assurance of Project Site Work
25 June 2015

A snag list (also called a defect list) is a term used in the construction industry to list out major and minor defects or omissions in a building works for the contractor to rectify before the project is taken over by the client. The process of handing over the works to the client is not considered to be complete unless the pending works or defects observed by the client or user or his consulting engineer are attended and resolved to their satisfaction. Failure to do so may result in:

• Issues popping up during handing over or soon after.

• Issues faced by the user during the first year of use.

• Fire incidents resulting in loss of life or property.

• Faulty operation, breakdown of the system or equipment.

Such problems are inevitably faced when Building Services are installed without following internationally recommended structured practices. Internationally, each project is accepted with an agreed program of stage wise inspection by agencies other than the workmen who installed the service. The agency could be the direct foreman, supervisor, contractor’s engineer, consultant, project manager or client representative. This article emphasizes the need for proper and structured supervision of large M&E projects in India. Work carried out by the contractor’s workmen must be supervised by a competent person who is qualified for the trade, not only to check the labor headcount and certify payments. Inspection check lists should be devised for checking workmen’s performance, to keep a control on the quality of work. Periodic inspection of the contractor’s work by the client’s project manager has the benefit of a ‘second eye’. Additionally, the designer should be involved in the critical aspects of use of specialized tools and methods, setting up of QC and QA such as stage wise inspection of equipment delivered to the site, material of services like pipes and ducts, material certificates, tools and machinery for site fabrication etc. However, in most contracts in India, one would rarely see the representative of the Design Consultant or the Architect involved in installation practices, or checking and certifying the progress of site work. The result could be:

• The contractor’s work goes on without anyone from the client’s or the consultant’s side ensuring the use of proper materials of the right size and accuracy.

• Any mistakes in installation, use of improper materials or dimensions could result in making it next to impossible to rectify the defect, as it may not become evident till commissioning or sometimes even at that stage.

• Contractual liability may not be able to cover the eventual losses due to the contractor’s failure to meet the contract deadline.

It is necessary that if the client wishes to use the facility or a part of it prior to handing over, a proper record is maintained by the concerned party to establish any liability arising out of stage wise handing over, warranty dates, etc.

Typical formats of Inspection Checklists for various services suggested for project engineers are the subject of an article by this author currently being serialized in the AC&R SIM supplement of the Journal. Some clients do have their own Quality Control regimes, but they need to be unified with all the other agencies. Perhaps ISHRAE, FSAI and IPA could develop a standard for Installation Quality Control, involving statutory agencies and NBC. This is the way shown by ASHRAE and NFPA. Adding the critical aspect of supervision to the consultant’s scope will increase his accountability for a realistic design. Presently in India, very few clients have their supervision teams, but there is hardly any involvement of the Design Consultant during the installation process. By and large the entire work is left to the sub-contractor staff and workers. It is true that the cost of supervision will be increase both for the designer and the contractor, and clients would need to allow for the additional cost. But it will result in better system and equipment performance for the benefit of the users. The safety aspects cannot be overstated when we see enormous loss of lives and property in fire incidents. Fire departments have very limited resources for checking and certifying the smoke evacuation and pressurization systems for multistoried facilities and residences. Supervision and certification by the consultant would certainly provide more reliable systems and lead to increased confidence in system reliability for all services. This is the way forward in my opinion. I believe ISHRAE can play a major role in providing better and reliable quality of M&E installations.


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