Construction Site Inspection: Why it’s Important to Your Construction Project and Business
Routine inspection is critical in each and every part of your construction project. Inspections guarantee that works within a project progress as planned and are according to requirements, standards and regulations. Because running a construction site requires the coordination of people, materials and equipment, construction inspections are executed for a great number of purposes in every construction phase and throughout the entire project duration to ensure that things are progressing smoothly.
Construction inspections are usually carried out as a contractual responsibility performed by the contractors to provide the client or a third party an independent view of the construction works and their progress. The usual construction inspections include the following activities:
- Inspection of the construction process to make sure that all materials and procedures comply with the plan and specifications
- Inspection and documentation of all contractor activities
- Reporting of daily on-site inspections
- Detailed inspections of the quality of installations if they comply to standards and specifications
- Scrutinising drawings and specifications and discussing deviations and non-conformities
- Keeping and maintaining inspection checklists and records in a complete, accurate, and orderly manner
- Participation in project meetings
- Monitoring the contractor’s schedule
- Inspections of paints and coatings
- Field testing and materials sampling of soils, concrete and asphalt, etc.
- Review and completion of change order/s
- Monitoring and documenting materials delivered and used in the construction works
- Performing semi-final and final inspections upon building completion
- Preparation of punch list/s and monitoring of completion works
- Handover inspection for smooth project close-out
Most inspections are usually conducted but not limited to the construction phase. However, before you can inspect and start reporting on a project’s progress, specific inspections are carried out as part of the general contract administration process. These inspections may be part of:
- Contract review and contract signing
- Pre-contract meetings
- Client onboarding
But there are also inspections during the construction phase that are still part of the general contract administration process according to Designing Buildings Wiki:
- Condition surveys of neighbouring structures before the start of any construction work
- Regular valuation inspections to evaluate work progress intending to appraise interim payments
- Mock-up and sample checks and test verifications
- Commissioning process inspections
- Inspection preceding the certification of practical completion
- Inspection succeeding handover of site to client on certification of practical completion
- Inspection at the close of defects liability period to draw up a schedule of defects
- Inspection upon completion defect rectification outlined on the schedule of defects
Construction site inspectors may either be the project manager, a member of the contractors’ existing team or an entirely different consultant. Depending on the size of a project, site inspectors may be permanently assigned on site or may be office-based but with regular scheduled visits. Depending on the size of the project, site inspection may have to be carried out by a team with specific inspectors per different department of the project: mechanical, electrical, structural and architectural works. Design consultants also play a role in periodic inspections, especially of those that fall under the terms of their own engagement conditions.
For specific aspects of a project, specialist inspectors may be required to perform inspections on environmental policy, waste management on site, accessibility, etc. Since site inspectors furnish the contract manager or project manager with independent evaluation of construction works and their progress, site inspectors usually keep daily construction logs or a site diary, front construction progress meetings, and create and submit regular reports.
Quality control (QC) inspections in construction involve those that ensure that the construction works comply with requirements and standards. For construction quality, there are technical specifications that describe what controls must be carried out to guarantee that construction works are carried out satisfactorily. These controls are not only for the products and materials, but also include the execution and completion of the construction works. Remember, a thorough inspection system is very important in pulling off high quality construction projects. And for inspections to be thorough, not only will you need the technical skills and knowledge of construction materials and processes, you will also need to have sound judgment, diplomacy and great communication skills.
Inspections are a way to control the quality of a finished construction work. The desired outcome is to refine the product or work before being presented to the client such that those that do not comply with requirements are fixed. For your construction company, the goal is to reduce the costs of poor quality and that the deliverable project complies with all of the client’s requirements whether you’re implementing internal or external controls, or even both.
Standards and procedures for quality control (QC) and assurance (QA) in construction are usually based on the implementation of the following:
- ISO 9000: Quality Management
- ISO 9001: Quality Management Systems – Requirements
- ISO 9004: Managing for the Sustained Success of an Organisation – A Quality Management Approach
- ISO: 19011: Guidelines on Internal and External Audits of Quality Management Systems
- Directive 89/196/EEC: The Construction Products Directive (CPD)
The international standards applied to construction is the ISO 9000 family of standards which includes technical guides, reports and specifications related to the efficiency of a construction organisation’s quality management system. Basically, the principles that determine the quality management in construction standards are: scope of the construction project, the budget of the project and the schedule for completion.
In the EU, the Directive 89/196/EEC or the CPD (the Construction Products Directive) that is being primarily followed for the standardisation of construction works, processes and systems. Specific inspections may be formulated to cater and qualify compliance to requirements associated with this directive.
Construction inspections related to quality may include checks for materials, work units, processes and services designed and planned by the construction company in order to comply with the contract’s quality requirements. For preventative strategies, an inspection scheme is also aligned with the quality plan for the construction works requiring guarantee in construction quality. Inspections may also be carried out around documentation, work instructions, action plans, etc. for the execution and control of construction processes. Remember, these quality control inspections may also be replaced with certications by third parties.
Health and Safety
Construction inspections are also important to make sure that health and safety, the Construction (Design and Management) (in the UK), and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work regulations and standards are being complied with and followed. These inspections can be internally conducted by the contractor, or externally by the regulating body, or by third party audits. These are the health and safety inspections needed to be conducted in the construction site or within a construction project (according to the HSE):
- Prevention of falls and personal fall protection systems
- Work at height
- Work platforms such as scaffold and mobile platforms
- Ladders and stepladders
- Personal protection equipment (PPE), including head protection
- Plant, vehicles and other equipment
- Electrical systems
- Asbestos risk
- Provision of welfare facilities such as toilets and handwashing facilities
- Site conditions and order
- Avoidance of obstructions
- Management of respiratory risks
- Structural stability
- Prevention of unauthorised access to the site
The timing of inspections should be scheduled as to frequency and accompanied with correct reports and actionable items.
The resulting inspection reports should contain:
- Details of the person creating the report
- Details of the person the inspection was conducted for
- Location of the inspection
- Date and time of inspection
- Details of the nature of the inspection
- Information on identified health and safety risks
- Description of action(s) taken
- Elaboration of any further action required
Construction inspections for building control are conducted to confirm that compliance with building regulations are met. In Europe, it is the Consortium of European Building Control that develops appropriate legislation and standards associated with health, safety, accessibility, energy conservation and sustainability of the built environment and includes professional organisations, government bodies or a comparable agency.
These building control inspections are usually executed by a building control local authority or by an approved third-party inspector. Building control inspections are generally required in the following key stages of a project:
- Excavation (before excavations are filled)
- Foundations (before they are covered up)
- Laying of damp proof courses
- New drains installation (before covering up)
- Construction of the primary structure
- Installation of insulation
- Roof construction
Since building regulations or building control inspections involve the participation of a building control body, an advance inspection notice of the works’ progress must be submitted to the relevant building control authority so that inspections are scheduled appropriately. If the needed inspections are not conducted, the completion certificate will not be issued and construction works may not proceed. However, if the contractor continues with the works, it may be necessary to open up parts of the construction project to carry out inspections in the future.
In the UK, there are what they call the competen person self-certification schemes or competent person schemes, which allows registed installers (usually small firms or sole traders) competent to self-certify specific types of building work.
There are other construction inspections not included in the categories above, which include:
- Planning inspections to substantiate compliance with planning permissions, conditions and obligations
- Inspections for release of funding by applicable agencies
- Insurance inspections
- Routine inspections of street works by highway authorities for road and sewer construction types
- Environmental inspections related to pollution (noise, water, smoke, etc.) and installations like kitchens and drains
- Fire safety inspection for fire escapes, protection systems, hazards and storage of certain materials
- Factory inspections
- Aracheological inspection of excavations
Some Construction Inspection Guidelines
As mentioned above, the main quality measures of a construction project are the project scope, the budget and the time for completion. Always go back to these three main points when you’re planning an inspection. Listen up as our construction inspection guidelines focus on them.
The defined scope of the construction project should be leading the inspection processes at all times wherein the client’s needs are the main focus of the scope. All construction inspection checklists and all construction reports must always have the client’s details with thorough notes of communication history between the client and your construction staff. Remember, every little thing adjusted or installed must be authorised by your client. Communication with the client is top priority of any of your construction project checklist. Use construction inspections to make sure everything is going according to the project scope.
All of your construction inspection checklists that deal with money must always reference the project budget. Completing a project within budget is another priority as a contractor or project manager, which greatly reflects the quality of your work. Make sure to have inspections that would ensure the coordination your suppliers, the purchasing of materials, labor activities and payouts, etc. Make use of your construction inspections wisely to monitor that every spending falls within the budget as you progress from one phase to the next even until completion.
Your construction project schedule directly affects your client’s budget and needs, which can turn a satisfied client into a dissatisfied one bringing some costly litigation to the table. Utilise construction inspections to monitor your project schedule on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Always update all relevant stakeholders of any kind of delay including their details. Delays in construction can cost a lot; always keep to the clearly defined project schedule at the start of all construction activities.
Construction Errors and Change Orders
Human error and change orders are inevitable in construction projects. The importance of construction inspection lies in a good inspection system that deals with errors and necessary changes. Having a clear guideline and focus in coordinating construction project inspections will help you with the success of your construction project. Organising and documenting your construction inspections and inspection checklists are the key.
If you want to get started with the organisation of all your needed construction inspections, head over our ultimate construction checklist article that will guide you in a variety of inspections on site. We also have a library of construction checklist templates that can be a foundation to your own construction inspection framework.