When an Architect is hired by an Owner to create a building, he or she needs to compose a space that responds to the Owner’s needs, that obeys the requirements of the Building Code, and that is a safe and hopefully inspiring place to occupy. And it’s a lot more than that. It’s a task that requires immersing oneself in a vision. During design, the designer will be sorting through ideas about materials, spatial configurations, utility, budget, and aesthetics. During production of the Construction Documents, the production team is immersed in accurately representing these ideas in words, drawings, instructions, and schedules. They themselves become intimately familiar with the designer’s intent in order to ensure they are carrying that out in a responsible manner. It’s a very real challenge to be critical of one’s own work while in the work process.
Quality Assurance Review, also called Risk Management, is a process whereby, at numerous stages along the way, a “third set of eyes” is brought in to look at each document very critically. A QA Reviewer is not only looking for spelling errors or poor drawings; we’re looking for a cohesiveness among the documents, a careful and regulated use of terminology, redundancies between documents (if you say the same thing in two places, it’s probably not “the same”), well-informed construction techniques, a positive coordination between architecture and the engineering disciplines, and a complete sense that every participant in the production of said documents knew what they were doing. In doing this, we are 1) attempting to contain the risks taken by the Architect for an innovative design, or even a simple design using innovative materials, or for using a large production team; 2) managing the risks taken by the Owner who is providing a budget that has a cap on it; but also 3) reducing the risk taken by a Contractor by having to interpret Documents the way he/she sees them. Nobody wants to end up in claims; it’s never a win-situation.
I can be that third eye. I’ve been involved in construction document production for over 25 years. I also understand the stressful times when a Contractor is assembling bids for a project. There is often no time for proper questioning and the documents must stand on their own. The Owner and Architect need to stay in front of that, and provide documents that result in an accurate and fair bid. It is not unusual for an Owner to hire a “peer reviewer” and in fact, Project Architects usually appreciate it. I have been involved in many of these sorts of arrangements, and most of them result in everyone coming away feeling more educated and more comfortable.