GUI Bytes

Do It Right the First Time!

there are no magic bullets; understanding the problem is the first step toward a solution

The subject of the February 2001 Mpls.-St. Paul Chapter meeting was the coordination - or lack thereof - of construction documents. The first part of the meeting was a panel discussion of coordination problems from the perspective of those who have to use those documents: the owner, consulting engineer, contractor, supplier, building official, and construction administrator. Each spent a few minutes discussing their own top ten list of problems they have seen, after which the panel engaged in an open discussion, and responded to comments from the audience.

To be sure, design professionals are aware of the many opportunities to screw up. Most projects can't be done by a single person; the more people there are on the team, the greater the possibility of miscommunication. Changes during production of documents aren't passed on to all team members; work that was thought to be done has to be changed, and some items are missed. Details are being drawn before elevations are complete, and specifiers work with incomplete drawings. Products change, codes change, standards change. And, with literally thousands of products in an average building, something is going to be missed.

The second part of the meeting featured Murray Schomburg demonstrating the procedures he uses to reduce the number of coordination problems at his office. He also spent time discussing the philosophy of quality assurance, which goes beyond plan review. Murray's most important advice regarding document review: "Just do it! A bad review is better than no review at all!"

Some of the attendees were probably disappointed. They came looking for the magic bullet, the quick fix to a poor or absent quality assurance process. A few wanted to know how to get time or money for document review into the budget. The accepted maxim is "There isn't enough time to do it - but there's always time to fix it." Michael Chambers, the panel discussion moderator, elaborated on this idea, saying "We pay for each mistake three times. First we pay to make it, then we pay to find it, and finally, we pay to fix it." And that assumes that the mistake is caught before it's built. When something has to be re-done in the field, things get really expensive.

Even though we weren't able to offer any magic bullets, programs such as this generate useful dialogue between those who create construction documents and those who use them. Understanding the problem is the first step toward a solution.

2001 Sheldon Wolfe, RA, CSI, CCS, CCCA 

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Material from CSI Chapter newsletters used with permission.