Bespoke homes, budget apartments, swanky villas – the real-estate space has always had something for everyone. Just like the varied requirements, the stakes and risks vary too. The bigger the structure to be constructed, the bigger the commitment of the homeowner and demands on the contractor. But nobody would want to pay more for something when they can get it for less. Also, nobody wants to shell out extra for unwelcome surprises that can be averted with some extra precaution. Be it a home or commercial structure, aesthetics, functionality, and durability will always remain the priorities of the concerned stakeholders of the project.
Peer reviews – the strategy for predictability
Inconsistencies, errors, and omissions have always been the major concerns of the construction industry. These can happen at any stage, from design to construction. Even when you have an excellent and experienced design professional, there's a great deal of detail and thought that needs to go into any size project, and often these details can be missed or lost in the process. This is especially true when you are dealing with many different disciplines (such as an architect, structural engineer, contractor, etc.) and looking to maximize efficiency with lower costs.
Peer review, an evaluation done by a third party expert, is the tried and trusted solution to this challenge. In some cases, a peer review is mandatory, and some states and localities utilize companies to assist in plan check during the permitting process. But it can be helpful regardless of the size or scope of the project. A peer review, architectural or structural, generally comprises details of observations and suggestions by a licensed expert from the same industry. There are also peer reviews done by internal team members, but those are usually part of the regular process followed by most companies.
An inspection by a second pair of eyes could catch something that the first one overlooked. A peer review can improve the quality of designs, save time during construction, and prevent rework. A good review makes the life of the builder and contractor easy, and is often welcomed by the designer to protect them from issues or liability down the road. While choosing a reviewer, it is essential to check the credentials with the concerned authorities, customers, friends, and other reliable sources. The selected person has to be licensed and experienced in performing the task. The person also needs to be proficient in dealing with architects, engineers, and developers, aside from being a good communicator.
A form of self-regulation by members of the same group, peer review has certainly come of age over the years. Even in construction, there are different methods used by different companies and experts. But the primary objective of a review will always remain the same – ensuring quality standards and improving performance.
The scope of a peer review
When it comes to construction, everything starts with design. Errors or constructability issues can crop up at the design stage. Designs must, therefore, be thoroughly reviewed to ensure that they meet the intended functionality, quality, aesthetics, and cost expectations of all the stakeholders involved in the project. This not only applies to clear-cut design errors, but also to impractical designs that look good on paper. The results of a design peer review will either reaffirm the accuracy of the same or suggest alternatives for the areas that are problematic.
Title 24, CalGreen, and ADA – building codes are not the same everywhere, so the task of being fully compliant is a challenge for architects, engineers, and contractors. An external peer reviewer, who is well versed with the state and local regulations, can help inspect the designs and suggest changes if any.
This makes the transition to the next phase quicker and smoother, and speeds up the permitting process with the local jurisdiction. Compliance reviews can be done at different stages from start to finish.
Discrepancies can occur at any stage – from design to construction. A peer review can catch non-compatibility, improper installation of materials, and waste. Since the quality and longevity of the finished structure is largely dependent on the quality of materials, stringent review and quality control are indispensable. This makes every stakeholder of the project accountable for the outcome. Further, this can help reduce construction costs by revealing the possibility of substituting expensive materials with other cheaper options.
Construction projects, large ones in particular, are complex, time-consuming, and accident-prone. Thorough peer reviews are essential since they make sure that the concerned building is designed and constructed as per the legal requirements. These requirements cover multiple factors, including the environmental impact and convenience of the people using the premises. The idea is to minimize the possibility of injury and costly litigation that could follow.
The bottom line
Multiple factors indicate the probable success of a construction project – budget, schedule, success history, reviews, etc. But the truth is that every project is unique, and its requirements are different. Making peer review an inherent part of every construction project is a way to ensure that the deviations and uncertainties are kept at bay. The quality of a review is largely dependent on things like experience, guidelines, and available checklists. Nevertheless, it is wise to call for a review if the project demands a substantial amount of time and money.
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*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.