This post covers in-house sources of information that can be used to identify a particular company’s construction problems and mistakes.  These sources include:

  • punch lists
  • inspection cards
  • red-lined plans
  • requests for information (RFIs)
  • subcontractor extras
  • homebuyer walkthrough sheets
  • customer service complaint letters

Jobsite archive records for previous projects are sometimes not even kept…much less analyzed, condensed, and organized to be made available to project managers and superintendents starting new multi-unit tract housing or condominium projects.

This lack of lessons-learned information transfer is a lost opportunity because if past design and construction issues are not provided for new and future projects…then each new project must be individually analyzed and debugged from scratch…as if past history did not exist and the construction company was a new start-up company building its first project.

The new project superintendent cannot collect this past document information or allocate time for constructability analysis using this information…for pre-planning and proactive debugging before the start of the actual construction.

The only people who can collect this design and construction information on an on-going basis…and budget the time for upfront planning and analysis for proactive mistake prevention…are the company owners and managers.  If company owners and managers do not see the need to debug the construction on a project-by-project basis…using lessons learned on previous projects…this opportunity task will simply not get done.

This topic of discussion illustrates the differences between housing construction and other types of manufacturing.

Housing development company owners and managers unfamiliar with building construction incorrectly assume that housing construction is so similar and repetitive that it was thoroughly debugged sometime decades ago in the distant past…as a single assembly-line process is initially debugged.  They further assume that the benefits of this already accomplished industry-wide debugging are new common knowledge in the field and only slight differences remain to be resolved between projects.

Owners and managers unfamiliar with building construction think that by hiring an experienced and qualified field staff…and providing good subcontractors…they have exhausted the limits of their possible influence over the course of the construction…and they are partially correct from a functional standpoint.  New housing construction projects do get completed…smoothly or not.

The evidence that supports the notion that they is more that can be done by owners and top managers…to benefit the construction…is the existence of many of the same design and construction problems reoccurring on project after project.

Part of the problem also lies in the overconfidence and overreliance that people unfamiliar with building construction place in architects, engineers, subcontractors, and tradespeople.  Specialization does produce expertise…but it also multiplies the number of areas where less than absolute perfection in each area can add up to a lot of small problems overall.

For owners and managers to assume that the plans are 100 percent accurate and error-free, and that each subcontractor and tradesperson can do everything correctly because each is a specialist…is not being realistic.  Recognizing that everything cannot be 100 percent correct should signify that a strategy is needed…initiated and supported by upper management in terms of data collection and man-hour allocation investment…to proactively identify and remove any remaining conflicts or problems.