It is always better preventing than curing! This old adagio applies to many different situations and industries. Today, construction will be looked at to understand how good communication between contractors and consultants over construction defect management could improve the final quality of the property.
Stories of unsatisfied or even angry property buyers complaining about the delivered quality of their brand-new units have populated the social media newsfeed since long and this, reflects a disease which has been increasingly worsening instead of improving over the recent years: construction quality and final “perfection”, or should I say imperfection, of the end product.
Recently, looking for possible explanations of the property defects issue and drilling on the puzzling question “how could contractors, consultants and developers deliver a better quality in the building environment” I’ve had the privilege to moderate an expert discussion on this topic, the whole session can be seen here. In the course of the discussion, I’ve discovered several very interesting and unknown, at least to me, facts.
Let’s walk through together the main points of the debate about trying to find a reply to the construction dilemma of “Building the Right Thing Vs Building the Thing Right” or how to improve and measure the quality of a building while ensuring the delivery of high-quality products to the end users.
A Little Bit Of History
Malaysia Construction Industry Board, CIDB, was established in 1994 after the related Act (Act 520) was gazette by the parliament. The board was established to bring construction standards and related quality in the fast-growing Malaysian construction industry.
After defining the industry standards and educating a new generation of contractors, CIDB, in 2006, launched QLASSIC as an objective assessment tool to measure the level of quality of a building construction project. QLASSIC, designed to become the national yardstick to benchmark the level of quality performance in the Malaysian construction landscape, was based on the Construction Industry Standard CIS7:2006.
In other words, QLASSIC is the Malaysian construction quality assessment tool and scoring for any type of construction. Between 2006 and 2014 a total of 977 building construction projects had been assessed with QLASSIC with an average score of 70 percent. Unfortunately, the use of QLASSIC is still on a voluntary basis and not a required and compulsory standard for the construction industry where many still think that quality and its control are still representing a cost increase.
We all know well, ISO standards have shown the way since the ’80s and set multiple milestones in this regard, how much more expensive is construction a building or project with low or poor quality, Studies have clearly shown how the cost of non-quality is by far higher compared to the cost of quality!
The Root of the Problem
One of the invited speakers at the forum discussion mentioned above, Sr Isacc Sunder Rajan Packianathan (Chairman of the Chartered Association of Building Engineers – CABE – Malaysia Chapter and committee member of RISM, Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia), has been serving in several Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) Sub Committees such as Civil Engineering Standard Methods of Measurement (CESMM), Construction Industry Standard (CIS 7), Quality Assessment in Construction (Qlassic), Homeowners Guide to Defects. He is definitely an expert and a person who knows where the issues lay.
During the discussion, he pointed out that both standard and its assessment, respectively CIS 7 and QLASSIC, are focusing on the actual root of the quality challenge which is not related to foundation or piling and structural works or construction materials where, to my surprise, I discovered from Mr. Isacc words, that Malaysia is ranking very high worldwide.
The quality challenge, or the lack of it, is related to what we actually can see, touch and measure within a property and, here comes another big challenge, the buyers’ expectations.
One thing at the time, we start first understanding how the standard CIS 7 and the related scoring QLASSIC work and who are the main players involved.
CIS 7 and QLASSIC Playground
Both the standard and the checking CIDB’s tools are looking at three main components of the final quality scoring:
- Structural works
- Architectural internal and external works
- Mechanical & Electrical (M&E) works
- External works of the construction/development project, such as main drain, car park, common areas and so on
According to Mr. Isacc’s experience, the market generally accepts a QLASSIC scoring of 70% and above considering it a good achievement and definitely more than acceptable from the buyer’s standpoint. Then where are things getting wrong? How comes, quite often, we hear property buyers lamenting about the quality of the final product and the number of defects detected during the property inspection day? See our previous articles on defect management and ProFix here and here, and below let’s dissect together the issue starting from the Cause/Effect principle.
Cause And Effect Of Construction Defects
Normally quality issues arise when there is no or bad communication between departments or companies. Imagine the resident architect, in a construction project, finds out that some architectural finishing in a few units are not up to the required standards, i.e. tiles having a lot of hollow sound or misalignment of doors, but then communicates it to the related parties, sub-contractors-contractor, consultants, in a non-precise manner either verbally or using a simple text message.
Likely the rectification work might not happen or, eventually, some of the units might be left aside. Apparently, this happens every day on a construction project’s site and no one should be pointed to as the main cause of this issue. Everyone is very busy carrying on the respective works and very often, above all during the pandemic, headcount has been reduced to control costs.
All these are, at the end, excuses which are not resolving the issue and keep on making the buyers unhappy and the developer, contractor, consultants and sub-contractors paying extra costs and slimming the respective profits. In other words, if not managed properly the communication issue between all relevant parties will end up making the construction industry highly unsustainable!
ProSales, having seen the actual numbers of defect claims applied for by buyers of projects where the developer has subscribed for the use of ProFix, a digitalised solution to ease communication between buyers and developers over defect management, has been analysing the issue looking for a digitalised solution.
Proper Communication between the relevant parties at the construction site, as prescribed in CIS 7 (CIDB construction industry standards), has been and is the main source of low quality and related rectification works and additional costs. Leveraging on the experience acquired with ProFix, a brand new, CIS 7 Compliant application has been developed under the name of ProHouse and, recently soft-launched, is expected to help enormously in raising the final quality of most development projects.
In simple words, ProHouse allows all relevant parties, in real-time, to claim a defect, get the rectification work to be assigned, planned, executed and, at the end, checked, simply using mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets or laptops. No more paper and miscommunication!
As at today several developers, contractors and consultants are already using ProHouse and more are calling in every day to get it.
Expectation: The Worst Cause of Litigation and Additional Costs
In property development, all around the world, developers and their marketing and sale teams are doing their best to create unique experiences for potential buyers visiting their sales office and related show-houses. This is part of the game and is generally accepted and understood. What we all, property buyers, should learn to do, is to refer always and only to the signed and registered documents, the Sale & Purchase Agreement!
Buyers are entitled to receive what is written and signed there, nothing more nothing less than that! I’ve often heard property buyers lamenting, the sale agent told me this or that! Did then, whatever said, been reported in the signed document?
Hope all property buyers reading this article will get where I come from when I say, let’s be reasonable and lower a bit our expectations by listening less and reading more, what we have signed.
I’d love to hear your comment on this issue that has been generating so much of unsatisfaction, litigations and losses in the past. Leave a comment below or get in touch with us for a tailor-made demo and to get more information on our just released ProHouse!