Many consultants are performing more work with fewer employees. Maintaining high quality control standards can be an issue. Instead of offering our tips and tricks, we decided to ask two, local experts to weigh in on the topic. We’re pleased to have Dennis Randolph, Public Works Director, City of Grandview, Missouri and Mike Latka, Park Project Coordinator, City of Olathe, Kansas share their thoughts and ideas below.
How do you judge the quality of a set of plans?
Dennis Randolph: I look for the following:
- The plans are concise and contain an appropriate number of sheets. Especially in the days of electronic drawings and PDF’s, there is no reason to place standard details on sheets unless there is some special modification. Standards can be referred to their source or a link to the source can be provided. For example, if you are referencing a manhole detail from the Kansas City Metro American Public Works Association’s (APWA) standards, provide a link or a clear reference in a note. More pages does not mean better, but often means more cost, if the plans are paid for by the sheet.
- There should be white space in the plans that clearly separates different items and blocks of notes and text. The white allows for pencil markings and also makes it easier to read.
- Plans should be prepared using good drafting practices. This includes using fonts that are plain and straightforward. If colors are used they should be consistent from page to page. Plans should also include a table of contents, list of abbreviations and most importantly location maps.
I also look to see if a consultant has looked at plans my organization has done in the past and then, makes sure their plans are consistent with those. I do not want my plans to be laid out like the neighboring community's or highway department's, unless I have specifically asked for that look. Remember, if you are making plans for Grandview, they should reflect Grandview and not someone else's or the consultant's standards.
Mike Latka: I judge them based on clarity of words and the line weight of drawings. I consider whether they will convey the message to a contractor who is unfamiliar with the project and if the contractor can build from the plans without a lot of questions or change orders.
What is the most common error you see in construction documents that has the potential to make a significant impact on the outcome of a project?
Dennis: Most commonly, I see a lack of consistency and failure to check the basic information that goes into plans. Surveys should be checked and double-checked before designing a project. Stationing should follow the standard for my community and be clear in its use. Plans should be consistent with the specifications, and quantities should be the same in both documents. Line types should be consistent, and symbols should be the same from page to page. I should not be able to tell if two or three different designers/draftspersons have worked on my plans. They should be the same regardless.
Mike: Construction documents that are vague and allow the contractor to under bid the project and then, ask for change orders once awarded the contract are the most detrimental.
What is one common error that just drives you crazy?
Dennis: When I read the plans and documents and find another community’s name where Grandview should be. It indicates a lack of care in the preparation of the documents and also, that the people working on the documents don't know who is paying the bills.
Mike: When consultants talk about their excellent quality control methods, but it’s obvious when they turn in a set of plans they have not used those quality control methods and expect the client to do it for them. Also, when a consultant refuses to make changes the client specifically requests.
Which three things should consultants check when preparing documents to prevent issues in construction?
- That quantities are correct.
- The document has been spell-checked and checked for grammar and punctuation.
- That whatever has been designed is constructible. While we cannot tell a contractor how to do their job of building (except of course in Design-Build), we always need to make sure what is shown in the plans can actually be built.
- Clarity in plans and details.
- Quantities should be double and triple checked.
- Making sure all elements in the plans are accounted for in the Bid Tab.