Project Success in the Field Part III: Product

Wrapping up our three-part series where we provide an in-depth look at our Construction Administration process here at KSS, we finally dive into the pot at the end of the rainbow–the product, our built work. In Part I, we discussed the importance placed on spending time in the field establishing solid working relationships with our construction partners and taking a proactive approach towards issues as they arise. We also talked about process in Part II, such as the need to establish expectations through the use of renderings and mock-ups to ensure all team members are reading from the same sheet of music. Regardless of whether it is a large development project or a simple tenant fit-out, this is likely a major undertaking for these clients and something which will have an impact on people’s daily lives. Overall, our mission is to help drive the collaborative process through project completion and eventual occupancy.


The first step in all of this is having a robust quality assurance and quality control program in place. Every good project starts with a good set of drawings, which is one of the few parts of the puzzle we have direct control and influence over. While each firm approaches this differently, there needs to be a multi-layered system involving quality control reviews provided by experienced reviewers at established intervals based upon the scope and complexity of each project. These reviews are then shared with the design team with high-level summaries distributed to Partners and Project Managers as needed. Whether it’s a Schematic Design milestone to confirm building layouts or a Design Development set to review the coordination of building systems, these build upon each other along the way and reinforce the integrated nature of the practice. The more we are able to get eyes on our drawings, the more consistent we can be with addressing concerns as they arise and getting ahead of issues on a firm-wide basis.


Previously we stressed the need for clarity in project documentation and proper communication of the design intent throughout the project team, even going as far as to engage manufacturers in advance to tee-up fabrication efforts. In today’s market this has been especially true, as material shortages and lead times impose significant delays on projects with minimal notice. Some of the feature elements of a project may become what makes or breaks the schedule or spurns significant budget over-runs. The earlier everyone is aware of the need for specific materials on a project the better a chance at procuring them on time. This can be achieved through issuing early release packages or advanced Shop Drawing reviews. The onus of coordination remains in the Contractor’s court but at least the Owner can get ahead by assisting with the procurement of materials.


Knowing how quickly things change in the field and how long it takes for design decisions to be fully vetted and documented, there is always a rush to disseminate new drawings to the trades to get things moving. The longer the project duration and the more drawings which are released, the harder it is to maintain accountability for everyone on site having the correct drawings. While this type of coordination is managed by the CM or GC, it never hurts to check with crews while you’re on site if you start seeing the progress of the work not aligning with the current project scope. You can save a lot of time, money, and frustration across the board by speaking up and addressing things head-on. We have all gotten better with file sharing and maintaining central files, but we understand that this only gets us so far.


Ironically, for as long as it feels to take a project to reach Substantial Completion it is the close-out that seems to take the longest. This process can be somewhat daunting for the Owner, as well as a nuisance for the Contractor, as the requirements for the associated paperwork and procedures are dispersed across the seemingly increasing amount of project documents. The goal is to get the process commenced as early as possible so that this doesn’t become a haphazard exercise which ends up short-changing the Owner or Contractor in the long term. This can be done by assembling a tracking document for all project close-out requirements well in advance of Substantial Completion which is reviewed by all parties involved. These can then be tied to expected Submittals for review by the design team over the course of the project and subsequently turned over to the Owner in the desired format. We’ve all been tasked with reviewing the stacks of binders or USB drives filled with unorganized files sent to us at the end of a project. This is a cumbersome process which can sometimes take months to achieve resolution, so why not set up a systematic approach early on and get a jump on it?


Due to the nature of design and construction, there will always be issues that rear their head in the field. While addressing and resolving these issues takes precedence to avoid schedule and cost implications, any takeaways need to be conveyed back to the quality assurance and control group as items to track moving forward. On a less formal level, we pass along these same lessons learned in occasional lunch seminars which provide opportunities for younger staff to share their photos and stories from the field. These always spark great conversations among project architects discussing how they engaged with those on-site and helped shape their projects in real-time. By placing an emphasis on the attendance of senior technical staff at these seminars we find this provides many in-roads for mentorship and education which greatly benefit our quality assurance efforts.


When the dust has settled, the punch list items have been resolved, and the last application for payment has been signed, it is important to stop and recognize the shared accomplishment amongst the group. It is far too easy to move right along to the next big project without taking the time to fully comprehend the significance of completing a construction project in today’s environment. We recommend hosting an on-site event to bring together all of those responsible for helping make the project a reality, especially those who have not seen the project in person. This is a wonderful opportunity for younger staff to get eyes on their work in the field and for senior staff to network with their colleagues. There is no greater way to understand the success of the project documentation than to see the end result in the field. When circumstances permit, we need to look for ways to extend the working relationship among the Owner, the design team, and the construction team, such as collaborating on final photography and marketing campaigns. Project photoshoots are also a tremendous opportunity to bring the whole team together to capture the heart of the project and showcase everyone’s efforts. Construction administration truly is the last handshake at the end of the project and many times the end of a long audition for more work down the road.

We thank you all for reading and for the great feedback we have received on this series. If you would like to speak with anyone from our team to discuss anything further please don’t hesitate to reach out.