Construction phase handbook

Guidance for contracting authorities on the construction phase of a built asset project

This document is part of a collection

Chapter 3 - Quality


1.1. The purpose of any construction project is to deliver an output which contributes to one or more outcomes.  In order to do this the output, a physical built asset – whether a road, a hospital, a school or other public structure - must meet the requirements of the client in all respects.  

1.2. There are many techniques which can be used in order to increase the likelihood of a successful delivery and a quality management system is a key tool for the assurance of project delivery.  This chapter provides an overview of the client's role in achieving quality, in particular during the construction phase; although it should be noted that the delivery of quality outputs is secured in all phases of the project delivery from the moment of inception.


2.1. There have been a number of high profile cases recently where public sector works projects have failed to deliver on time or to quality and in some cases with catastrophic results. Notable amongst these is Grenfell Tower, Edinburgh Schools and a number of hospital projects. 72 people died in the Grenfell Tower fire and another 70 people were injured.  There were no deaths as a result of the failures of the Edinburgh Schools but the Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Construction of Edinburgh Schools (2017) led by Professor John Cole CBE, noted that this was down to good fortune. 

2.2. The delivery of quality is at the heart of the problems that arose on these projects and the subsequent reviews concluded that it is absolutely the responsibility of the client to provide the leadership and management to ensure that quality is delivered in all respects and by everyone involved in their project – regardless of the procurement route used. The quality culture of a project will derive from that of the client organisation. 

2.3. Research by the Get It Right Initiative (GIRI)[1] has found that errors in the construction industry cost between £10-25bn per year across the sector and client bodies in the UK. Reducing the requirement for remediation by improving quality and reducing errors would significantly reduce that figure. It noted that whilst the cost often lands initially with contractors this is generally passed on to clients. 

2.4. The indirect costs may be significantly more than project costs resulting from errors. All public sector construction projects contribute towards the delivery of public value, for example improved efficiency in delivering health outcomes, or improving transport efficiency.  The delay or failure of a public project will have impacts reaching further than simple project costs.  The Edinburgh School closures resulting from the failure of construction elements led to disruption across the whole of Edinburgh's schools estate and required a major operation to ensure the continued education of pupils and reassurance of the affected communities as well as the physical remediation of the schools.     

What is Quality?

3.1. The successful delivery of a construction project depends on many, sometimes competing, factors coming together. Quality is one such factor and an important one.  Quality is objective not subjective and must be measureable against a defined standard. It must not be mistaken for a simple aesthetic, a shinier finish or more expensive components. It is a combination of a number of aspects and can be defined as follows:

Figure 1

Quality has two elements to it. Firstly, it is about defining a specification which meets the functional and operational requirements of the use and users of the built asset and, secondly, it is about delivery in all respects of that specification through its design, procurement and construction.

3.2. Delivery of the specification in itself will comprise a number of aspects of the project and the following schematic describes the key elements which, when they are all present and correct in all respects, will mean a quality output has been achieved.

Figure 2- Quality
Diagram showing the three inter-linked aspects of quality; Design Specification, Materials and Construction.

3.3. Acceptable quality will not be delivered where there is un-remediated deviation from the specification. Therefore, there must be procedures in place to ensure its delivery and deal with any deviation from the specification. Remediation may include correcting the deviation or redefining the specification. This applies to each of the three requirements:

  • Design. If the design does not meet the statutory and functional requirements of the use and users of the building, acceptable quality is not present.
  • Materials. If the materials are not ordered, supplied and/or received according to the design specification or manufacturer's standard as set out in the contract, acceptable quality is not present.
  • Construction. If construction is not in accordance with any or all of the design specification, manufacturer's instructions and statutory requirements, acceptable quality is not present. 

3.4. There must be a continual review on behalf of the client by personnel with the requisite skills, expertise and experience of each aspect to ensure that the requirements are being met. This review must be routine as well as in response to planned or 'accidental' deviations. Each aspect should not be viewed in isolation. A change in one is likely to have a knock on impact on another. Therefore, a change prompted by a planned deviation during, for example, construction must be reviewed against that phase but also against the outputs of the design and materials aspects and any remedial action taken. 

3.5. The delivery of quality, as described above in Figure 2, is a non-negotiable.  Contractors and consultants are obliged to deliver it according to their contracts.  The contract must set out what is required to deliver the output.  The specification should define exactly what is required, no more no less; if more is required then the specification must be amended to reflect that.

3.6. Although the contractor is contractually obliged to deliver the specification the client cannot simply sit back and leave it all to the contractor.  They must be proactive in ensuring and assuring that an effective quality management system is in place and being followed regardless of whether the procurement strategy and associated contract documentation places the majority of the risk with the contractor.  This requires a collaborative approach led by the client.

3.7. Effective communication is essential and this starts with the client ensuring that everyone involved in the project whether part of the client team, the consultants or the contractors and their sub-contractors, is clear about what is required of them both individually and collectively as a team. This will be done through a number of documents including the business case, personal job descriptions and contracts as well as being reinforced during meetings. 

3.8. Procedures must be put in place to deal with issues relating to deviations from the quality standard set out in the specification. Remedial action to address such deviations must be taken and can include action to either correct the deviation or review whether the design specification requires to be redefined.


4.1. Recent reviews have highlighted the positive impact that robust procurement strategies, subsequent contract management and client-based site inspection can have on quality. It is not acceptable for a client to choose a contract route based on the belief that this will absolve them of any of the project risk or subsequent service delivery risk and discharges these responsibilities and associated risk to the contractor.

4.2. Chapter 5 of the Construction Procurement Handbook has a full breakdown and assessment of the main contract forms used to commission public building projects. It includes a matrix that highlights the different requirements, strengths and weaknesses of each strategy, supporting clients to choose the most appropriate contract type for successful delivery of outputs and outcomes. The guidance underlines the importance of not simply choosing a contract which absolves the client of the risk associated with the project.   

Quality Management Systems

5.1. The management of quality is a fundamental pillar of overall construction project management and is often the difference between success and failure. Quality management in construction is a combination of the roles and responsibilities, policies, processes and procedures put in place to underpin and support a client's quality environment and culture. These provide the structure that delivers the organisation's ethos and must be fed from the top of the organisation and reinforce that the delivery of quality outputs is a non-negotiable aspect of everything the organisation does, not just in construction projects.  These principles along with legislation and guidance – known as the Quality Management System (QMS) – will deliver the quality output desired.

5.2. Quality management incorporates a range of different activities:

  • Quality Management System: An organisation-wide approach to directing, controlling and coordinating quality (See Annex B)
  • Quality Planning: This ensures that quality requirements are addressed throughout the lifecycles. (See Annex C)
  • Quality Control: This focuses on process outputs to ensure that standards are actually met. (See Annex D)
  • Quality Assurance: This gives confidence that standards and requirements are being met. (See Annex E)
  • Quality Improvement: This process reviews all of the above activities and adapts the system to suit the requirements of the business. (See Annex F)


6.1. For a QMS to function and operate effectively, to ensure delivery of the required standard, it is essential that the client's quality systems and policies are driven from the top down by senior management. This means clients must take a proactive role in planning, implementing and operating the QMS, whether directly or through the management of their representatives.  The QMS is a reflection of their quality culture and environment, not an add-on or isolated system.

Roles and Responsibilities

7.1. It is essential that the roles and responsibilities of organisations and individuals are set out clearly and understood by all from the outset of a project and this must include clearly defined approval and authority levels.  Chapter 3 of the Project Initiation and Business Cases Handbook  highlights in greater detail the types of roles and associated responsibilities that are typical within a publicly procured construction project team. These roles should be considered in conjunction with those required by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. Guidance on Health and Safety can be found in Chapter 2 of the Construction Phase Handbook.

7.2. From a quality perspective, the formal management system provides the foundation on which a QMS is built.  To successfully implement the system it is necessary to establish a culture within the business that embraces quality as a default setting for all aspects of the business.  As clients establish unity of purpose and direction for the project, this culture must be set by them and instilled in the project team to ensure all members understand its importance and significance. They should create and maintain an environment in which people can become fully invested in achieving the project's objectives.

7.3. Defining processes and documenting them, where appropriate, is a comparatively simple task.  It needs to be based around what people are doing now and encourage them to evolve and develop these into a single way of working.  Developing the procedures must recognise actual levels of expertise and experience, including  what is required and what might need to be developed or brought in from outside the project team and identifying the means of integrating that into the delivery team.  

7.4. A suitably experienced quality management team can also help to develop an appropriate project culture through working directly with the supply chain, where the contract terms permit, as well as providing more formal training and other forms of communication.

Building Standards

8.1. The purpose of the building standards system is to protect the public interest. It is not intended to provide protection to a client in a contract with a builder.   The system is pre-emptive and the role of the verifier is to protect the public interest by providing an independent check of applications for building warrants.  The applicant for building warrant, or relevant person or their agent, is responsible for achieving compliance with the building standards at all stages of design.  Applicants and verifiers can be supported by certifiers of design and certifiers of construction who are members of schemes appointed by Scottish Ministers.

Budget, Time and Resource

9.1. It is essential that appropriate budgets, timescales and resources are deployed on a project. A project lacking in adequate provision in any, or all, of these elements will be at risk of failure.  Risks to the project will include programme delays, non-compliance with regulation, health and safety failures, each of which will pose a risk to the levels of quality which can be achieved and the ability to deliver the required specification. Deficiencies in any of these is likely to have an impact at some point on the aspects described in figure two and will require review and remediation accordingly. 


10.1. The standard of workmanship must be continually assessed and, where necessary, challenged by the client.  Regular inspection is an essential function of ensuring that the works progress as intended, both in terms of quality and compliance.  This requires the appointment of a suitably qualified inspector reporting directly to the client, for example a Clerk of Works; see Construction Policy Note 1/2017 Site Inspection and Assurance.  It is essential that the party, or parties, charged with inspecting the works on behalf of the client have sufficient time allocated to deal with the size and complexity of the project.

10.2. The inspection programme process should take the form of a 'top down approach', meaning the client should ensure they promote and maintain a culture of quality through their direct leadership and that of the design team. In turn, this responsibility should be shared down the chain of command of a project, from main contractor to sub-contractor, sub-contractor to sub-contractor and so on. All of these parties have a responsibility for the delivery of quality.

10.3. These inspections are carried out to give an independent overview of the works, either by the client or a third party appointed by the client. Whilst contractual responsibility for meeting the specification lies with the contractor, a client must check work is being delivered accordingly, either through an appointed inspector or, if this is not possible, organised on-site visits, offsite visits, quality meetings, and both arranged and ad-hoc inspections.

Review Processes

11.1. It is essential for clients to set out how work is to be monitored, measured, analysed and evaluated to establish that activities planned or being undertaken are suitable, adequate and effective in delivering the project goals. This ongoing review process is iterative, where each stage is formally holistically reviewed and collaborative action taken to remediate any non-conformities. To be effective, those charged with undertaking the review must have access to all necessary information to allow them to discharge their duty.

11.2. The flow chart at Annex A provides a possible review process for ensuring that all stages of the project are reviewed to ensure that they achieve a quality output. Note that although this suggests reviews at given points, review should be continual. Reviews should include checks to confirm that all statutory obligations have been complied with. The type of review, and how it is conducted, will be appropriate to the scale and complexity and the stage of the project. For example, the client review during construction will include inspection of works by a clerk of works where appropriate. These should not be confused with gateway or key stage reviews although can be considered as part of the level 1 assurance process. 


12.1.   As design and construction projects progress from inception through design and construction to completion and operation, it is vital that the client retains control of the brief, the direction of development and of costs.  Typically, this is done by the introduction of key decision points, or gateways, the points at which the client assesses the state of development of the project and its fitness to progress.  This allows the client to consider whether: it satisfies their strategic objectives; it is affordable; value is being delivered; and that risks are acceptable.  If such a process is not introduced, there is a tendency for projects to gradually wander off-course, with programme, budget and brief negatively impacted. Further guidance on project assurance can be found in Chapter 13 of the Project Initiation and Business Cases Handbook

Post Completion

13.1. A 'post project review' should begin during the defects liability period, when the client first occupies the development.  A post project review is undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the project delivery process.  This must include a review of the delivery of quality outputs and whether the design specification was achieved with or without any remediation and how that was done.  This is essential so that lessons learned may be applied to other projects. 


14.1. Successful project delivery relies absolutely on the delivery of quality as defined in paragraph 7 and is the responsibility of everyone associated with the project.  The client must provide the leadership and management to embed a quality culture within the project.  Good quality management not only assures the delivery of the built asset but also of the service to be provided through the asset.

Annex A: A Possible Review Process

Figure 3
Flowchart demonstrating a possible review process for ensuring that all stages of the project are reviewed to ensure that they achieve a quality output.

Annex B - Quality Management Systems


1. A Quality Management System (QMS) is an all-encompassing approach to directing, coordinating and controlling quality.  It is a set of policies, processes and procedures required for planning and executing production, development and service in the core business areas that can impact the organisation's ability to meet specific requirements.

2. A client's QMS should integrate the various internal processes and procedures within the organisation to provide a process approach for project execution.  This is a preventative approach, requiring proactive behaviours to prevent issues occurring wherever possible, as opposed to remedying them once they have occurred.

3. A process based QMS enables the contracting authority to identify, measure, control and improve the various core business processes that should ultimately lead to improved outputs and associated outcomes. Specific elements of this overarching methodology are described in greater detail in the other annexes.

Quality Management Systems for Clients

4. Contracting authorities will have a number of stakeholders and interested parties.  These stakeholders might include customers, employees, funding partners, contractors, regulatory authorities and so on.  All of these stakeholders will have their own requirements, which must be fulfilled.  A QMS is a system that will support a client to ensure they meet the requirements of their customers, shareholders and regulation. In outline, it supports this by requiring the following to be done:

  • Say what you do (document your QMS)
  • Do what you say (follow that documentation)
  • Prove it (audit)
  • Improve it

5. Most definitions of quality management emphasise the use of some type of system that is repeatable, measurable and constantly improving.  For example, in an ISO 9001 quality system, a structured way of delivering a better service or product is supported by documented information such as procedures, work instructions, policies and forms.

6. Regardless of the type of system deployed, the key is to provide all those who execute the quality system with documented, understandable and workable instructions which define both expectations, responsibilities and actions to achieve the stated specification, or 'acceptable quality'.  These systems will also require some type of external and internal auditing process which ensures that the system is in compliance with requirements.

7. The QMS is based on detailed planning and enhanced by quality manuals and tools. An effective QMS should identify risks and provide ways to manage and mitigate them. By identifying and managing these risks, a QMS can also provide an organisation with a more robust system for dealing with planned and unplanned deviations from the specification, ensuring the successful delivery of the asset and associated outcomes.

Quality Management System Process

8. The QMS proposes that the entire business becomes an interactive and linked system of processes that can deliver products and services. For each process within the system, a methodology known as Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) can be applied:

  • Plan: Establish the objectives and processes necessary to deliver results in line with customer service requirements and company policies.
  • Do: Implement the process.
  • Check: Monitor and measure processes necessary to deliver the results.
  • Act: Take action and continually improve performance.

9. Although a QMS requires certain documents (such as non-conformance reports, a change register and an approved supplier list), a common misconception is that it can be overly burdensome and time-consuming.  It should in fact be lean and agile; developed to suit an organisation or specific project according to its size, complexity and risk profile.

10. For a QMS to function and operate effectively to deliver the required standard of product or service detailed in the specification, it is essential that the quality systems and policies are driven from the top down by senior management.  Commitment and support is also required from the leadership team to ensure that the QMS delivers the intended outcomes through communication of the policies, correct allocation of responsibilities and the provision of adequate and appropriate training and resources to deliver the project.

Annex C - Quality Planning


1. Quality planning is the formal analysis and development of the arrangements for how quality will be delivered on a project.  In construction, it is about planning for the effective use of resources (people, plant, and equipment) as well as space, information, time, and money to deliver on time, on budget, and to the specification, or 'Acceptable Quality'.  It is a proactive process aimed at avoiding situations which may have detrimental impacts on all aspects of project delivery and ultimately the business deliverables of a client.


2. Quality planning should encompass all aspects of quality delivery from the overarching client organisational culture down through project governance to the contractors and their sub-contractors. It is good practice for an organisation to define the arrangements and standards for managing and delivering quality and there are two common documents that support this: 

  • Quality Manuals are generally used to define the generic arrangements for the whole organisation.
  • Quality Plans are prepared to cover specific situations, such as an individual project or element of construction work.

3. All quality plans at all levels, from client to the sub-contractors, must be integrated and complimentary to each other and seek to deliver overall organisational aims and the business case of specific projects.  The following diagram below the relationship of quality planning from the most strategic at organisational level where Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will be in place through programme and project level where business cases and quality plans will inform activity but be derived from organisational SOPs and down to contractor and sub-contractor quality plans and method statements.

Hierarchy of thinking, planning, delivery and assurance.
Illustration of the hierarchy of thinking, planning, delivery and assurance.

4. Note that quality plans are produced by both the client and the contractor, they must be complementary but will focus on different aspects.  From a contractor's perspective, a Project Quality Plan (PQP) is produced by applying the company's internal systems to the specific construction project requirements, either on or off-site.  Examples of this might include the process for ordering and accepting deliveries, the calibration procedure for plant and equipment, or the way labour is recruited, inducted and trained.  It must cover the approach to achieving the required quality and how quality will be checked and recorded. The PQP must be drafted by the contractor and provided to the client, before the start of the construction works, as compliance with it should form part of the contractual agreement. The contents of the PQP must be reviewed by the client who must satisfy themselves that it is comprehensive and complete. It must also be kept up to date during the course of the construction contract.


5. The client's PQP is likely to be required by designers and procuring departments and is therefore prepared as part of the project initiation and business case phase of work. It may include the process for appointing consultants, assessing design strategies or the method for reporting to the project sponsor.

6. The client's project manager develops and owns the client's PQP focusing on arrangements, including inspection and other assurance methods, to ensure the contractor delivers the required specification and that the project team deliver the required outputs and subsequent outcomes.  To do this, the client's PQP must clearly outline the activities, standards, tools and processes necessary to achieve quality in the delivery of a project and, critically, who is specifically responsible for what within that plan.


7. A contractor's PQP can help clients identify how the contractor intends to control the quality of materials and standard of workmanship on site to meet the specification and therefore achieve acceptable quality.  This can offer the client an insight into the processes that the contractor will deploy to ensure they uphold the quality management obligations.  It gives the client an early opportunity to carry out a gap analysis of the contractor's quality management preparations before they are committed by a contract.


8. Every PQP should be both specific and proportionate to the size of the project and avoid duplicating information that is available elsewhere.  The exact contents will be particular to each project but content should include:

  • Project Personnel – Details of the Investment Decision Maker, Project Owner, Project Sponsor, Project Manager, Client Advisor and their roles and responsibilities. The contractor's personnel, both based on and off site, should be detailed and their roles and responsibilities clearly articulated.
  • Quality Policies – Information regarding company quality policies and procedures, for example ISO 9001 certification.  Additional criteria or policies should also be detailed, such as those required by the client or funders.
  • Communications – Details of start-up meetings, project meetings, quality meetings and so on.  Descriptions of how this information will be disseminated to the supply chains should also be referenced.
  • Quality Assurance – How will the Quality Management System be implemented, assessed and reviewed, including how documents are controlled, to assure quality.
  • Monitoring and Reporting - Describe the process and procedures for assessing construction work and delivering continuous improvement.
  • Inspection and Test Plan – At what stages should the contractors work be assessed by the client or their advisors.
  • Change Management – What processes and procedures are in place to ensure change is effectively managed and de-risked?
  • Non-Conformance – How will the team deal with non-conformances to prevent them happening again and assist continual improvement?
  • Resources – Describe the resources required, including personnel and any training specifically required for the project.
  • Standards – List any standards that will apply and the tools and reference material required to implement them.

9. A robust PQP may be multi-layered, that is covering different aspects or levels of the delivery, depending on the complexity of the project and should also form part of a suite of documentation to support the overall governance of a project, outlined in 4.1, Chapter 2 of the Project Initiation and Business Case Handbook

10. The client's PQP should sit within the overarching Project Execution Plan (PEP) which sets out the overall strategy for managing the project, describing who does what and how, and defining the policies, procedures and priorities which will be adopted.  On larger projects, the PEP may include (or reference) a number of more detailed plans focusing on specific issues such as; the health and safety plan, risk management plan, value management plan, stakeholder management plan, and so on.

11. Both the PEP and the PQP can help track and control projects which have the potential to progress erratically and intermittently.  They should describe the project and processes in such a way that a competent person could take over and maintain the programme, service and performance in the unexpected absence of the individual currently in position.

12. Preventing mistakes is much more time and cost effective than correcting them, which is why establishing a robust PQP is a good way to improve quality.  The upfront investment of creating a coherent and comprehensive PQP often pays big dividends throughout the life of a project.

13. Above all, the information must provide for the effective management of quality on the construction project, with all its complexities and interactions.  It should be available when needed and organisations must ensure there is full control over any revisions and securely retain all previous versions.

Annex D - Quality Control


1. Quality control is the function of quality management that ensures that outputs comply with the requirements of the specification set out by the client. It is the method that enables the measurement of the quality characteristics of materials, elements (prefabricated units) and service. It compares them with the established 'standards' and analyses the differences between the results obtained and the results required in order to make resolutions which will correct any differences.


2. The British Standards Institution (BSI) defines a standard as 'something that is generally accepted'. British Standard (BS) publications are technical specifications or practices that can be used as guidance for the production of a product, carrying out a process or providing a service. ISOs (International Standard Organisation) are international standards intended to be used throughout the world.


3. In construction, the project specification will typically refer to a range of standards for materials to be used, quality of workmanship, test to be performed and so on. By establishing standards, greater reliability and consistency can be ensured in terms of the quality, compatibility and compliance of the particular product, service, or material.

4. A robust and unambiguous specification, communicated in a clear and effective manner, will positively contribute to the quality outputs of a project by ensuring those involved fully understand the requirements, simplifying and accelerating tests and inspections. This can be achieved by ensuring the outputs are achievable and measurable, with subjectivity replaced by objectivity, resulting in a clearer definition of exactly what is required.

Control Activities

5. Control activities in construction, such as verification of compliance with specifications, validation of specific processes, monitoring of activities, inspections and tests, which the materials, elements or services undergo must also be established. These activities can be defined through inspection, testing plans, action plans and where applicable specific tests (for example, slump tests for concrete).

6. Ensuring personnel are provided with adequate training, appropriate instructions and clear checklists is an important part of the quality control process. This is enhanced through on-site supervision and monitoring and an ongoing process of feedback to ensure continuous improvement.

7. A comprehensive record needs to be kept of all validation sign-offs and inspections of work. Supporting such records with photographic evidence would be beneficial. There are new technologies available to assist with this and their use is encouraged. Full adoption of these technologies will require accessibility by all those directly involved.


8. The quality control of a product or process can sometimes be replaced with certification of the quality characteristics by third parties. Whilst products that have received officially recognised quality marks may be exempt from controls and reception tests (for example a sling for lifting), the contractor's QMS would require use of product with the correct certification, in lieu of on-site testing.

9. On larger projects it may be appropriate to appoint a resident site inspector or inspectors, often referred to as a clerk of works (see Construction Policy Note 1/2017 Site Inspection and Assurance), to inspect the construction works as they proceed on behalf of the client (for example the installation of fire protection measures), providing certification of the works through independent assessment.

10. It is possible to certify almost any product, process, service or (management) system and, for reference, some examples of UK construction certification schemes include BRE Global Limited (BRE), British Board of Agrément (BBA), BSI Assurance UK Limited (BSI), Kiwa BDA, Lucideon CICS Limited and UK Certification Authority for Reinforcing Steels.

11. All of the above organisations are in turn accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). UKAS is the sole national accreditation body for the United Kingdom. They are recognised by the UK Government, to assess against internationally agreed standards, organisations that provide certification, testing, inspection and calibration services. Therefore, public sector project specification often requires certification bodies to be accredited by UKAS.

Annex E - Quality Assurance


1. Successful implementation of a Quality Management System (QMS) can enable an organisation to offer assurances about the standard of quality it can provide. Construction quality assurance is a way of preventing defects and mistakes when delivering materials, products and services to customers. This gives confidence that items or services meet requirements and will perform adequately in service.

Assurance Activity

2. To achieve confidence in the output, a set of planned and systematic actions must be incorporated, as part of the QMS, to ensure that products and services consistently comply with the specified requirements and project objectives. These planned actions not only involve checking the final quality of products and services to avoid defects (as is the case in quality control) but also checking quality in a planned way at all the production stages.

3. For the contractor during the construction phase, this might include having procedures in place to ensure the correct drawing revision is being used on site, implementing a policy and process to manage and control change, or having a system to deal with non-conformance to prevent the reoccurrence of mistakes and facilitate continuous improvement.

4. For a client at the start of a project, the most efficient way to confirm a contractor has a suitable QMS and the ability to manage the requirements of the specification, is often to assess their accreditations. Consultants will be expected to be appropriately qualified for the job they have been asked to do and for appropriate activity such as design integration and validation to take place regularly. ISO 9000 standards are widely used and generally accepted in most countries although others are available and procurement documentation should ensure that evidence of an equivalent standard will be accepted. The standards provide guidance and tools for organisations who want to ensure that their products and services consistently meet client's requirements and contractual specifications.

5. A client may request that a contractor has achieved a suite of quality accreditations that evidence their ability to offer assurance in regards to quality on construction projects. Accreditations should require the independent auditing of the organisation on an annual basis, allowing them to confidently evidence certified competence. 

6. The function of the accreditations are important as the contractor, likely approached during the initiation and procurement stages, has incumbent responsibilities through these standards. For example, ISO 9001 requires that appropriate processes and procedures are in place to record and communicate the outcome of meetings and that design change is effectively managed. The standards also ensure that the supply chain is regularly monitored through an approved supplier list.

7. Ensuring the principle contractor has a robust QMS or recognised quality accreditations is an effective way for the client to quickly understand the commitments a contractor has made to achieving and assuring quality. However, whilst quality may be the contractor's physical responsibility to deliver, it remains the client's absolute responsibility and they must therefore ensure they drive performance throughout the project, in addition to any quality certification held by the contractor.

8. The client should undertake this responsibility by utilising their own processes and procedures, holding the contractor and consultants to account at each stage of the construction work. This may be achieved by directly scrutinising the evidence (written checklists, photo/video, drainage tests, pre-pour inspections etc.), but equally by attending meetings, site inspections, checking certificates and so on. 

9. On larger projects, the client's representative(s) should undertake this work (in addition to the contractor's own quality control measures) as they proceed to verify compliance with the requirements of the specification. They may be based on site permanently as regular and specific inspections may be required as part of the general contract conditions. It is essential that they have access to all the relevant information with respect to the works.

10. It must be noted that the appointment of representatives or a clerk of works does not alleviate or lessen the responsibility of the client to ensure quality is delivered. Whilst the client has an absolute responsibility to deliver quality this does not nor should it absolve the contractor from of their responsibility for the physical delivery of a quality output in accordance with the contract. The client should remain proactive, continually challenging and questioning the project team to ensure the best outputs are achieved by the project.

11. Consideration should be given to having standalone quality management meetings (separate from the regular project management meetings) during the construction phase. There should be representation at these meetings from sub-contractors and designers as well as the client and main contractor. Checks on the operation of the various assurance and inspection mechanisms should be reviewed as well as discussing any reported non-conformances.

Annex F - Quality Improvement


1. A fundamental element of an effective Quality Management System (QMS) is the assessment and checking of work in order to facilitate continuous improvement. In general terms this is a circular practice, or cycle, to target a specific improvement or address a lingering issue.

2. No process is perfect; there is always room to improve. However, continuous improvement is not change for change's sake. Incremental changes are made after reviewing ongoing processes and procedures to establish where enhancements would benefit the system and this can be repeated endlessly. It is also used to ensure good practice can be learned and passed on. This ongoing practice highlights that a responsible client should not rest on their laurels; continuous improvement must always be the goal.


3. Understanding the construction industry as a collective system, rather than one that is fragmented with numerous, independent roles and tasks will help everyone in the chain improve. Clients, architects, designers, contractors and subcontractors need to work collaboratively in long-term partnerships in order to fully understand and improve the whole process. Quality in construction will not be significantly improved and delivered simply through intervention on site; a more holistic approach of the process needs to be taken.

4. For clients to recognise the importance of their role in the improvement of the whole industry, they need to fully understand how their decisions affect quality in the project and consequently during the lifecycle of the asset. They should consider the impact of changes in the whole process, from design to completion, to drive consistent delivery.


5. During the lifecycle of a construction project, continual improvement should be considered and undertaken from two different perspectives; firstly from a specific small-scale perspective, and secondly from a larger, overarching broad view for overall project lessons learned.

6. This broader view should be implemented at each of the key milestones throughout the project lifecycle, acting as a hold point to ensure a full review is carried out, prior to moving onto the next process. For example, development of the design and specification should be reviewed once complete and not allowed to progress to the development of the procurement documentation until it is fully signed off. Similarly, the procurement exercise should not be allowed to commence until the development of the documentation has been fully reviewed and signed off. In Design and Build procurements the client should ensure that the contractor has sufficient suitable processes in place to review designs in line with the schematic defining acceptable quality in the main part of this chapter.


7. The improvement opportunities offered by quality management of the whole of the project management process can be huge. The Get it Right Initiative sets out some of these Every problem on a construction site offers an opportunity for the appropriate project team members to carry out meaningful investigations into the systemic issues and analysis of how the whole process should be improved.

Collaborative Working

8. It must not be assumed that because the issue is 'on site' that it is simply something to be resolved by the construction team. Wider examples could include a lack of information or the supply of incorrect information, a delay in decision making or the non-payment of invoices within agreed timeframes. These are all examples of issues that will have a significant impact on the project but are not directly related to on-site activities.

9. Clients are responsible for ensuring the contractor understands that when issues arise, they need to feedback any learning to the client, designers and subcontractors, even if that slows project delivery in the short term, as it will pay dividends to all parties in the long term.

10. A client should enable not only the contractor but the whole of the supply chain to succeed by supporting their efforts in learning from their mistakes, conducting proper root cause analysis of quality matters that do arise, and improve the underlying systemic issues that would support continuous improvement. Each improvement made within the supply chain should, even indirectly, benefit the delivery of the asset. This learning process requires distinct and identified lines of communication. This might include toolbox talks, meetings, root cause analysis and project reviews, the requirements of which can be incorporated into contractual documentation.



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