Whenever a construction project unfolds, swathes of people interoperate to create an innovation. Construction design documentation is where the story begins. The moment the plot thickens, the stakeholders responsible for the creation confront the challenge of facing and overcoming the unexpected – documentation issues.
With all new homes set to produce as much energy as they use by next year, it’s not surprising that each new edition of the energy code has raised renewable energy standards. In 2016, it introduced the so-called solar-ready requirements, which were aimed at preventing obstructions to future installation of solar systems.
Among the numerous documents used for the construction of a building, design documents are extremely important. They usually include floor plans, interior views, and exterior views of a building. In short, design documentation is a subset of the construction documentation that includes several other details and documents.
The scope of this article is limited to the key challenges for maintaining the quality of construction design documents. Any flaw in the design docs can result in the work getting stalled. Sometimes, the quality lapses are seen after construction; that’s even worse because it’s hard to undo what’s been done – especially in the case of properties where huge sums of money are pumped in. Here are three key issues that need to be addressed to avert delays and costly discrepancies in the later stages.
Lack of Accuracy
Missing or incomplete information can be a cause for concern since it can lead to complexities when the construction work is underway. These complexities can result in delay and rework. Further, inconsistencies are commonplace in distributed teams of designers working from different locations on the same project. Illegible writing, file conversion glitches, and incomprehensible symbols/abbreviations are some of the other accuracy-related issues that need to be addressed as soon as they are noticed. A software supplier surveyed 600 construction leaders, last year, and published a report that had a startling revelation: $5381 billion was spent on rework!
Setting expectations is the first logical step since most problems happen due to tight deadlines. An effective QC program has to be initiated for keeping inaccuracies in check. A checklist for quality assurance and a library that documents all previous discrepancies are essential for avoiding future issues and standardizing the entire process of design. This should reduce the inaccuracies to a great extent. A smart way to avert issues is to use detailed callouts. These callouts show where the details apply, and where unique situations occur, so the contractor knows how to build them. The use of clear notations and legends helps simplify the drawings and reduce clutter. If experienced and technically sound designers are part of the project, accuracy issues will become a thing of the past. That’s because they are aware of the contractor’s challenges and requirements.
Concerns with Constructability
It’s true that a drawing is a work of art. A designer applies a lot of creative thinking and spends a lot of time to complete a crucial design job. But the magic may not happen if the same is not functionally perfect. Inconsistent scales, facilities in the wrong places, and unbuildable elements are some of the problems that create roadblocks during the construction of a building. A mismatch between the drawings and finished structure is the last thing any contractor and homeowner would like to see. In spite of the constant quest for perfection, large construction projects continue to face the test of completing the project on time and within budget.
When the design documents are thoughtfully put together, the construction job will not run aground. They need to be developed using standard construction methods to avoid major issues. Issues related to construction feasibility can be minimized if the architects and contractors communicate clearly and seamlessly to clarify each other’s doubts well in advance. Research, surveys, and follow up meetings can help eliminate/minimize these problems. An experienced Engineer of Record can review and approve third-party drawings for compatibility and consistency. Perfect documentation can also help minimize costs during construction if the resources are optimized based on the principles of constructability or buildability.
Gaps in Communication
Different drawings can be interpreted in different ways by different people – designer, engineer, and contractor. If there is ambiguity, it creates room for stumbling blocks in the construction process. In larger projects, multiple people access multiple documents many times in different formats and versions. Not all comments/change requests are seen or understood by the construction team. The contractor is usually the one who is at the receiving end since he is responsible for turning the idea into a practical reality. What’s more, the owner of the proposed building will also insist on knowing the progress in a manner that he understands.
When it comes to design documentation, there’s no scope for misinterpretation. The architect approves the drawings, the owner gives the green signal for the costing, and the contractor determines the feasibility. A professional engineering team will ensure that plans are interpreted appropriately, so there are no roadblocks during construction. Whenever a clarification is sought by anybody in the core team, the same have to be addressed without delay. This is made possible by providing document access to all relevant stakeholders. Lastly, the key people in the project should be on the same page until the completion of the same. Real-time visibility is the ask today. The use of the right collaboration tools, combined with a sound process, will go a long way in making all this happen.
Robert A. Heinlein, a sci-fi writer, rightly said, “One man’s magic is another man’s engineering.”
The above adage is also relevant to the construction industry; more so to design documentation. Multiple characters have to play their part to make the experience meaningful and enjoyable while ensuring that the outcome is as per the expectations of all. The climax happens when the building is ready, and the stakeholders come together to see what’s right and what’s not. If everything is fine, it’s a moment of triumph for all. If not, it’s time to go back to the drawing board – documentation. Whichever way you look at it, design documentation is the foundation on which every success ‘storey’ is built.
The task of developing high-quality construction design documents need not be complicated or time-consuming. At Design Everest, we have a team of California-licensed engineers who can help you with the right advice and services.
Call Design Everest at (877) 704-5727 for a no-obligation quote followed by a consultation. We can also connect you with a professional engineer or designer right away for a virtual consultation or virtual on-site!
*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.
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