“TRUST BUT VERIFY” – Article by Carl A. Brown, RCI, RRO
These words were made famous by a well-respected president, and seem to apply to many aspects of our world. However they are especially appropriate to the condominium construction industry.
Here is why Quality Assurance Doesn’t Cost, it Pays.
In the 1960’s and before, the California construction industry was mostly union labor, from the least skilled (general labor) to the higher skilled like electrical work.
The various trade unions provided training with new workers entering a formal arrangement known as the “apprentice” program. After the required trade-specific classroom and mandatory work experience (at a reduced rate), these persons could earn their “journeyman” certification and then get the full union scale pay.
In the early 70’s, the construction industry generally went into a non-union situation, resulting in a lower number of companies and fewer employees given the opportunity to participate in a formal training program.
Lack of training is one of the main problems with the construction industry, including roofing, waterproofing, painting, concrete, drywall, electric, plaster and others. What ever training there is usually comes from other workers who learned from other workers, who learned from other workers. Ever hear of the game where ten folks line up and a story starts at one end and is completely different at the other end? Same result with construction.
So, today, how does a tradesman (male or female) get the knowledge they need to do a quality job that meets “industry standards”? And, what are these “industry standards” and who creates them? The answer is: contractor organizations like NRCA, WSRCA SMCNA and others such as ASTM, a lab testing agency. The contractors meet, establish a consensus of best practices and publish the “standards” for their trades. Of course with few workers attending trade schools, how do workers find out these “industry standards”? And the answer is: Many do not.
Typical union wages are paid at hourly rates with overtime if incurred, plus holiday pay and health insurance, etc. With the non-union movement, wages changed to “piece work” in many trades. That meant workers could earn more if they installed more (roofing squares, drywall sheets, etc). Higher productivity seemed to be a profit boon to contractors. However, it soon became clear that when production went up, quality went down and workmanship lawsuits became rampant in the CID industry. In particular, roofing and waterproofing (decks, windows, etc) were vulnerable to Low Bidders.
When combined with “piece-work”, little or no training, and the Low Bidder Syndrome, the result was a lower quality work product.
As a result of the large number of construction defect lawsuits and huge awards, more and more developers and builders are turning to quality assurance services to protect themselves. In addition, the insurance companies are making changes to protect themselves also. Changes such as the “Open Roof Exclusion” have been inserted in roofing company policies, sometimes without the contractor’s knowledge. That means there is No coverage during the time when the old roof is removed and the new roof is complete –the most vulnerable time of the work.
Quality Assurance Observation is not a new concept; it has been in place in the concrete industry for many years before the change from union labor to non-union. Concrete testing became the normal process for structural concrete on private and public works projects, and still is the norm. Quality assurance for roofing and waterproofing has become the norm for both new construction and re-construction over the past 15 years.
For low-slope roofing there are critical tests that should be performed to verify the maximum result and full performance of the roofing system such as: temperature of asphalt, number of fasteners, thickness of asphalt, full bond at seams, thickness of sprayed membrane and thickness of any coatings. For steep slope roofs these are: thickness of underlayment, spacing of tiles, nail penetration and spacing, proper overlap for penetrations, flashing into adjacent walls, chimneys, etc.
The quality assurance process starts with good clear specifications and bid documents (Project Manual) created by a professional consultant or architect or engineer.
Next, pre-screen bidders, allow only those with verifiable CID history and insurance.
Finally, Trust But Verify using independent, experienced, trained quality assurance observers. Third party certification similar to CACM and CAI is in your best interest.
Quality oriented contractors will always support independent QAO for their projects.
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