Quality and factors that determine the performance of a building project

In a building project, there is a gamut of professionals hailing from diverse backgrounds and work as a team to design to construct a building. Predominantly there are three teams involved:

  1. designing consisting of architects and civil engineers,
  2. construction consisting of contractors and suppliers and,
  3. execution consisting of quality managers and third-party consultants.

It is obvious that in long-term building projects, multiple problems arise as different professionals tend to work independently but their decisions also impact the others involved as well. This is the peculiarity of the construction sector that deeply influences the building quality (Delgado-Hernandez & Aspinwall, 2008). Hence, like all product categories, it is vital to ensure that the building quality is as per the promises made to the customers.

Performance of a building project

The conventional performance measuring techniques were predominantly based on a financial assessment and thus, with time garnered considerable disapproval for not being holistic in approach. In this pursuit, Chua et al. (1999) propounded a hierarchical model wherein quality parameters were also considered. Four primary facets of a building project identified were:

  1. project characteristics,
  2. contractual arrangements,
  3. project participants and,
  4. interactive processes.

Furthermore, experts and scholars emphasized the organization’s commitment towards a persistent quality augmentation. This includes the efforts of the managerial leadership in fostering process quality including regular training of employees and well-coordinated efforts of all channel partners. Substantiating this by an array of case studies Pheng & Teo (2004) professed that the globally acknowledged philosophy of Total Quality Management (TQM) can be applied in the construction industry as well. This will exhibit results in terms of optimized costs and improved employee satisfaction (Jha & Iyer, 2006). However, with time several dimensions like time, cost, quality, customer satisfaction, client changes, business performance, health and safety surfaced. Out of these, time, cost and quality still remained the chief parameters (Enshassi, Enshassi, Mohamed, & Abushaban, 2009).

The construction sector is often slated for its underperformance, perhaps, due to the sectorial peculiarities as discussed in the above section. Hence, the need for a multi-dimensional approach was always felt and eventually revisions are being done to address the evolving requirements to enumerate the efficacy and proficiency of the projects both at individual and organizational levels (Wadugodapitiya, Sandanayake, & Thurairajah, 2010).

Dimensions of the building project performance

Based on the above discussion, five dimensions of performance of building projects were considered:

  1. cost and time,
  2. quality,
  3. customer satisfaction,
  4. health and,
  5. safety.
Dimensions of a building project performance
Figure 1: Dimensions of a building project performance

Cost and time

The primary objective of the managers of any construction company is to accomplish the project within the stipulated timeframe and allocated budget. The other factors tend to follow then. This is regarded as a tedious task as it includes continuous assessment of the progress, appraising of plans and adoption of corrective measures as and when necessary (Olawale & Sun, 2010). Therefore, cost is often regarded as the most crucial performance pointers of the success of a building project that is acceptable and adopted by all parties involved. It not only exhibits the efficiency of the organization with regards of productivity but it in itself is a benefit to be within the prescribed budget. Construction sector has a repute of delay and going over-budget. Aljohani et al. (2017) opine that the primary causes of it are:

  • repeated design alterations,
  • contractors’ financing,
  • delayed payments,
  • inexperienced workers,
  • improper cost estimation and,
  • mismanagement.

Likewise, timely completion of the project is regarded as a feat of success by all the stakeholders. It is perhaps, the only factor that is accepted unanimously across the globe as the simplest technique to gauge the performance of the building projects. Every project manager attempts to abide by the pre-determined timeline to enhance the efficiency of the building projects and manage costs. Even customers harbour a high reputation for the company that completes its buildings on time, i.e. from the preparation of the construction site to the customers getting the possession (Menon, Rahman, & Azis, 2012).

However, it is a sad reality that regardless of the accessibility and adoption of multiple control techniques and project management software, most of the building projects fail to accomplish their cost and time objectives. It is righteously attributed to the intricacy and ambiguity involved in the construction sector wherein no two projects are facsimiles. Even if this happens, there are faint chances of experiencing the same issues and benefits as majority of the elements of a project are unique to the land or site of construction (Aljohani et al., 2017).

Quality

Quality is an integral aspect of any market offering by any organization across the commercial landscapes. This holds true for construction ventures as well as quality will not only promote customer satisfaction but also foster prolonged sustainability and competiveness. This makes efforts in regards to quality management worthwhile. Quality management establishes a setting wherein interrelated tools, systems, and actions can be implemented effectually promoting operational efficiency. This becomes more crucial for a construction company where quality management is not an independent function but is intermingled with operational and managerial strategies. This amalgamation of quality management and project management applies the concepts of quality planning, quality assurance and quality control and also employ various statistical and non-statistical tools and techniques (Chin-Keng, 2011).

Focusing further, quality of the buildings can be comprehended as the contentment of all the parties involved not only customers. This is because a building project is a long duration endeavour that passes through several phases:

  • conceptual planning,
  • feasibility study,
  • design,
  • procurement,
  • construction,
  • acceptance,
  • operation and,
  • maintenance.

Therefore, the quality aspect of a project requires efficient quality management across all phases of the project life cycle. However, the two most critical phases where quality of the project is prominently influenced are design and construction (Ashokkumar, 2014).

Health and safety

Occupational health and safety are an imperative aspect of building projects. Absence or negligence on this part has an adverse effect on not only the key pointers of project management’s success, i.e. cost, quality, and timeline but also the sustainability of the environment. Causalities, accidents, and ailment at the construction site or office retard the progression of the project and add significantly to the total costing of the project. This also adds an additional cost of workers’ compensation as labour overheads and impending legal implications (Smallwood, 1999). Building on this, Aminbakhsh, Gunduz, & Sonmez (2013) are of the view that the integral yet exclusive risks of construction projects many a times post core challenges to the contractors.

Health and safety risks are one of the primary risks involved in the construction sector due to its nature. This work is highly prone to damage to life and property. Hence, it is mandatory for civil firms to conduct a safety risk assessment and recognize the potent perils and appraising the risks generated from the same. Subsequently, prioritizing of the risks is a vital aspect of planning, budgeting, and management of the project. The inclusion of health and safety norms into civil projects can aid tremendously in keeping the accident rates minimal and also curtail the overall project costs. Also, more focused attention is required in the initial design phase as the chances for mishaps are the maximum here (P.Reyes, T.San-José, Cuadrado, & Sancibrian, 2014). However, despite the rules and regulations and the awareness about occupational health and safety, the construction sector is still notoriously the top-most industry with highest risk and incidents and deaths.

Satisfaction of buyer

The business world has acknowledged customer satisfaction as a vital source of fostering customer loyalty and securing an enduring source of revenue generation. Customer satisfaction adds longevity to the buyer-seller relationship which is eventually more profitable rather than attracting new customers. This holds relevance in the construction sectors, where the competition is intensifying, and customer expectations are constantly mounting. In this light, experts are rejecting the conventional norm of evaluating the performance of construction projects in the purview of three key factors:

  1. costs,
  2. time and,
  3. quality.

Now civil companies are adopting a more comprehensive customer focus with customer no longer perceived as the submissive partner of the value chain. Now customer satisfaction is regarded as a vital factor of performance assessment along with the conventional triple constraints (Kärnä, 2009).

In the context of residential projects, scholars like Jesin & Mary (2014), Sakthivel & Ahamed (2013) are of the view that since customers have a diverse set of preferences, it is important for the builders to ensure to seek lessons from past experiences and feedbacks. Customer satisfaction has emerged as a prominent challenge of modern times for the building projects. Even from a nationalistic viewpoint, buildings are a reflection of the socio-economic development of a country. Hence, it is imperative that they add value and quality to people’s lives along with social growth (Lepkova, Butkiene, & Bełej, 2016; Suffian et al., 2016).

Social environment

No organization can work in isolation. Hence it is obvious that the external environmental factor will exert some influence on the functioning of the organization. This holds more relevance to the construction industry as it invades social, economic, and environmental settings of a location (Assefa et al. 2007; Howard-Grenville et al. 2008). This was further explicated by Akanni et al. (2015) in context of developing countries like Nigeria. The scholar deduces that costs and time span of projects in developing countries increase, even before the actual construction begins. This is because of the challenges that society at large poses on them and on which, the company cannot exert any influence.

Some of these intrinsic factors stem from the political scenario include unnecessary bureaucratic contract procedures and inadequacy of infrastructural services like roads, transport, power telecommunications, and security. The environmental factors can be categorized as political, legal, institutional, cultural, and sociological, economic and technological. Furthermore, the most crucial external environmental factors that impact the performance quality of construction projects are local societal concerns, weather conditions, economic stability and government policy (Akanni et al., 2015).

Role of the government in maintaining building project quality

The implementation of the quality practices is to be governed by the government authorities, regulating the functioning of construction companies, and adherence to established codes and regulations. The construction sector needs to be ingrained with the obligation of commissioning responsible business practices, to avoid any legal consequence and damage to the society in the form of life and cost.

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