E-news for the Construction Division Fall 2012

The Dynamic Paradigm of Construction Quality Management

What is the value of construction quality? The answers to this question are as varied as the interpretations of the word quality and within the construction community, the term remains subjective in meaning or definition. For some, quality is simply a measure of the degree to which a constructed project meets the expectations of the client. For others, quality may be more complex, representing strict adherence to project requirements, free of deficiencies or limited to few standard variations from projected outcomes.

The subtle trend in construction quality for nearly a decade has been a honing of traditional quality control and assurance methods, marked with a renewed commitment to manage organizational resources and tools to achieve benchmark performance levels in all facets of business operations not just the constructed project. Quality becomes more than a perception when it harnesses everyone's cooperation in reaching zero defects, controlling costs, and continually satisfying customer requirements.

There are several benefits to hosting a comprehensive construction quality management program, including increased employee morale, enhanced project efficiency and reliability, improved organizational image, and expanded revenue streams. Moreover, an efficient quality program is relatively simple to develop and initiate, particularly for smaller construction organizations with limited financial resources. And it all begins with a focus on three quality concepts: competence and integrity in the constructed work; compliance with documents, drawings, and specifications; and timely project completion according to the clients scheduling requirements.

Quality control and quality assurance have always been key components for addressing these quality concepts. More recently, though, quality improvement has been added as an essential element to the traditional QC/QA approach. This component can assume many faces Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, lean construction methodology, or adoption of ISO 9001 quality management system standards;but they all subscribe to a core belief that quality should be oriented toward the process, not the end result, and that the bottom line follows quality, not vice versa.

Quality improvement programs share other commonalities, too, such as customer focus, highlighting process development techniques for continual improvement, innovation, leadership from top management, education and training of employees, teamwork, two-way feedback mechanisms, recognition and rewards for outstanding performance, and evaluation of all organizational goals and initiatives.

Of course, a viable quality management system also requires continual review of QC/QA directives. Misronet Construction Information Services, an online data provider, suggests an approach toward quality control through proper planning in five stages:

  • Setting the quality standard or quality of design and construction required by the client;
  • Planning how to achieve the required quality, construction methods, equipment, materials, and personnel to be employed;
  • Constructing the project correctly the first time;
  • Immediately correcting any quality deficiencies; and
  • Providing for long-term quality control through development of a quality culture within the organization.
Misronet also points to the costs of quality, noting that quality is always proportional to the costs associated with any construction process, and that these costs need to be identified early on in the planning process in order to make proper management decisions. The online information service places quality costs in three categories, the first being failure costs, those associated with demolition and rebuilding and the loss of production time due to delays and change orders. There are also appraisal costs, which are necessary for inspection and testing purposes. Finally, there are prevention costs, which can be regarded in a positive, forward-thinking sense because they are aimed at providing better designs and more training to reduce failure costs or unnecessary maintenance overhead.

From a slightly different perspective, Donald Neff, president and CEO of La Jolla Pacific Ltd., a construction services firm located in Irvine, California, regards quality control as just one component of quality assurance. He contends that quality control is more short-term, limited to specific project considerations and generally addressing budget issues or expense reductions. Quality assurance, on the other hand, he explains, should be expansive to encompass all elements of a quality management program, addressing all levels of work and performance and focusing on greater value-added benefits.

Clients often look to quality assurance as a measure of reassurance that they will receive an optimum project outcome without undue quality problems. To help accomplish this, Neff says ongoing organizational interventions are usually required, such as process training in design, purchasing, construction, and delivery; technical training in all field risk elements; incentive benefit structures for both the office and in the field; and proactive document retention and archiving.

So, how does an organization develop a construction quality management system of value? The preferred method is to personalize a program using the expertise and resources already accessible within business operations, without the need to retain an outside consultant, if possible. Some construction firms download templates at a reasonable cost from providers on the Internet and then tailor the specifics to their organizational structure. Through personalization or the customization approach, staff personnel gain an intimate understanding of the quality management program and feel more confident in implementing it.

Regardless of how a quality management program is developed, it's necessary to build in safeguards. Neff emphasizes that new challenges in the construction industry pose new risks, including new technologies, innovative building practices, and increased expectations from project owners and tenants. There are risks specific to construction, too, he says, citing entity management, design direction, governing documents, the construction process, and maintenance obligations.

However, under an effective quality management system, risks can be avoided, Neff adds. For instance, project unknowns can be eliminated or mitigated by establishing expectations and specific performance standards in the project specification manuals. Also, regular insurance reporting throughout the construction process can play a vital role in risk avoidance, in addition to providing regular e-mail communications among project stakeholders as a continuous thread in quality assurance.

Happenings on the Hill

Final Drilling Safety Rule Requires Extensive PE Oversight

NSPE achieved a victory when the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement issued a final rule that makes permanent the additional safety measures authorized in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill. The rule requires professional engineers to be more involved in the design and certification of offshore oil wells. NSPE General Counsel Arthur Schwartz commented before the Chemical Safety Board in 2010 that professional engineers should supervise all engineering design, operations, and maintenance of offshore oil wells.

Specifically, the new rule stipulates that:

  • PEs must be involved in the well casing and cementing design process;
  • PEs must certify that well casings and cementing are appropriate for expected wellbore conditions;
  • PEs must certify well abandonment designs and procedures; and
  • PEs must certify that well designs include two independent barriers in the center wellbore and all annuli.

The rule also requires independent third parties to conduct blowout preventer inspections. These third parties must be licensed professional engineers, professional engineering firms, or technical classification societies. [ return to top ]

PEC Hightower Fellowship Awarded

Each year, the NSPE-PEC George B. Hightower, P.E. Scholarship is awarded to honor an outstanding engineering graduate student.

This year's PEC Hightower Fellowship winner is Lauren Boldon, a PhD student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in nuclear engineering and science. Lauren is presently pursuing research into pyrochemical reprocessing, a proliferation-resistant method of recycling the uranium from used nuclear fuel. This research would entail extensive computer simulation into the thermodynamics and electrochemistry of such a system. While pursuing her B.S. in nuclear engineering from RPI, Lauren worked with a small team on the preliminary design of a pyrochemical reprocessing system, under the guidance of advisors Dr. Emily Liu from RPI and Dr. Jinsuo Zhang from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Additionally, she studied dynamic light and X-ray scattering of nanoparticles and polymers as a member of Dr. Emily Liu's research group. This work was used to help develop a method to effectively analyze dendrimers, or cancer drug delivery nanoparticles, and was recently published as Characterization of Dendrimers with Scattering Techniques in the Journal of Polymers.

On campus, Lauren was president of Colleges Against Cancer for three years and a member of the School of Engineering's student advisory council and subsequently the MANE (Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering) student advisory council. She is also a member of the national and RPI American Nuclear Society chapters, the Nuclear Advocacy Network, the Association of Women in Science, the Society of Women Engineers, and the National Society of Professional Engineers. During her summers, Lauren worked as a nuclear steam supply system intern at the Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant, as a nuclear analysis and design intern performing reactor core design, and as a WISE (Washington Internships for Students in Engineering) intern sponsored by the American Nuclear Society and the Nuclear Energy Institute, gaining political insight in Washington D.C. Additionally, her interest in safety regulations led to writing the nuclear public policy paper, Fukushima and the Future of U.S. Nuclear Energy, which was recently published in the Journal of Engineering and Public Policy.

For more information on how to apply for the PEC Hightower Fellowship, please visit the PEC Web site.

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NSPE Fall 2012 Web Seminar Line Up

This fall, NSPE brings a wide selection of new and live online education opportunities. Each session is sold per connection, allowing your colleagues to join you. These sessions offer outstanding value. So don't hesitate to earn your PDHs: Sign up for one of our online sessions now!

Evolving Professional Risks: Construction Delivery Methodologies, Sustainable Design, Cases of National Interest, and Other Real and Potential New Risks
October 9, 2012, 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m. (EDT), 1 PDH

New construction delivery methodologies like integrated project delivery and other hybrid contracting techniques continue to evolve, potentially or in fact implicating liabilities, professional responsibility, and the applicable standard of care. Similarly, sustainable design continues to test capabilities of new materials and systems, creating risk. These risks and others can be tempered or exacerbated by the courts. These topics and more will be discussed during the seminar.

Leadership: What Matters Most

October 11, 2012, 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m. (EDT), 1PDH

Providing effective leadership can be a daunting challenge. So there's value in getting back to the basics of how leaders increase their impact. In this webinar, we'll concentrate on three issues: people, attention, time. Not the list you expected? Join our webinar to learn why these issues matter most.

Engineering Ethics: Technical Issues

October 24, 2012, 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m. (EDT), 1 PDH

This session will examine a variety of issues including codes and standards, expert witness testimony, patents, preparation of technical proposals, use of technology, and other issues. Participants will have the opportunity to offer comments, pose questions, and participate in interactive polling surveys.

Ethics and Sustainable Development
October 30, 2012, 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m. (EDT), 1 PDH

Sustainable development involves the simultaneous pursuit of economic prosperity, environmental quality, and social equity. In this webinar, Carlos Bertha will unpack what this means from a moral perspective. Is it possible for an engineering venture to remain profitable and still be environmentally and socially responsible? Is it ethical for such a venture not to expand its bottom line this way? Carlos will use a variety of examples to show that sometimes the problem isn't as simple as it sounds. As a special case, he will discuss how his experiences as a resident engineer in Afghanistan shaped his perspective on sustainable development.

These are just some of the courses NSPE has to offer. For full course listings, visit our Web site [ return to top ]

Support PEC: Become a 2013 Sustaining Sponsor

There has never been a better time to get exposure, and more business, for your firm than now. Now through October 31st, get 10% off the price of becoming a 2013 PEC Sustaining Firm and ensure your firm is listed in PEC's online searchable directory. When your company becomes a PEC Sustaining Firm, it will help to support the efforts of Professional Engineers in Construction (PEC) as we strive to promote the hard-earned professional engineer (PE) designation and enhance the image of the PE in Construction.

As a 2013 PEC Sustaining Firm, you will link more business to your future while receiving the following benefits:

  • Engraved PEC Sustaining Firm plaque to display in your office.
  • Free advertisement on NSPE Facebook and Twitter pages: Companies can provide a non-self-promotional tip of the day (250 words or less) to be featured on the NSPE Facebook page and Twitter page with a direct link to your firm's Web site and/or social media platform. Please e-mail to pec@nspe.org.
  • Free company listing: You'll be included in a searchable directory that includes a complete description of your firm's specialties. Let owners and other customers and partners find you! All PEC Sustaining Firms are listed at: www.nspe.org/PEC/Supporters.
  • Free company advertisement: Listing in an issue of NSPE's PE magazine (circulation is over 40,000) and in PEC Reporter, this very newsletter, which is sent to more than 5,500 PEC members.
  • Valuable discounts: 25% discount on ads in PE magazine, NSPE Update, NSPE Web banners, and job board postings.

Please click here and complete the enclosed forms and MAIL or FAX back today! Your participation will not only help you reach potential clients and partners, it will also provide valuable support for our industry and profession. Please visit www.nspe.org/PEC for a complete list of PEC programs.

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COFPAES Federal Markets Conference

Want a snapshot of upcoming federal contracting opportunities? Join the Council on Federal Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services for its Federal Markets Conference on Thursday, October 12, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at the American Institute of Architects, 1735 New York Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20006.

NSPE is a member organization of COFPAES. A $50 registration discount is provided to NSPE members.

Designed for principals, owners, and partners of A/E firms and marketing and business development executives, this one-day event will give you the opportunity to engage with top officials from key federal agencies as they discuss their programs' budgets and present upcoming projects and procurement opportunities for architectural, engineering, surveying, and mapping services.

Past conferences have featured the General Services Administration, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Federal Highway Administration, State Department Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, U.S. Agency for International Development, and Millennium Challenge Corp. COFPAES is assembling a similar line-up this year, so register today!

Registration for COFPAES organization members (AIA, ASCE, MAPPS, NSPE, or NSPS) is $195. The cost for nonmembers is $245.

Click here to view the preliminary agenda and register. [ return to top ]

Register today for the CI Summit!

Join Justin Weisberg, P.E., M.ASCE, the incoming chair of the EJCDC Committee, as he and a team of experts present a workshop on EJCDC: Engineering the Terms and Conditions to Plan, Design and Construct Improvements for Infrastructure, the Environment and Industry.

This program will provide the participant with a working understanding of front end documents and important contract terms for the design and construction of engineered projects. The program will provide an overview of the contract documents provided by EJCDC, the prominent partnership that provides forms specifically for engineered projects. The knowledge gained from this program should assist the participant in all aspects of design and construction, from negotiating a contract for engineering services with the owner to administering the construction contract.

Get your questions answered by experts and become an active participant in the workshop's discussions, including a panel on disputes: Payment, time and completion are probably the most likely factors to result in a dispute on the construction project. Due to the current economy and increased competition between contractors, disputes, and the necessity to terminate contracts due to the inability of a contractor to perform have been occurring at an increased frequency. This panel will discuss cutting issues regarding change orders, delays, claims, disputes, completion, and termination.

The 2012 CI Summit / ASCE Texas Section Fall 2012 Conference is coming to beautiful downtown Fort Worth November 7-10, 2012 [ return to top ]

201112 PEC Executive Board

Thomas L Paxson (Chair)
Lufkin, TX

Lee M Alexander
New Orleans, LA

Paul J Bakken
Centennial, CO

Paul E Harmon
Lincoln, NE

Douglas J Holdener
(Vice Chair)
Jupiter, FL

Thomas Korman (Vice Chair)
Arroyo Grande, CA

Colin J McKenna (Vice Chair)
Arvada, CO

Glen R Schwalbach (Vice Chair)
De Pere, WI

James J Yarmus (Vice Chair)
New City, NY

Donn Richard Zang
(Vice Chair)
West Chester, PA

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For more information on how to become a PEC Sustaining Firm click here. 

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