Achieving quality in the delivery of architectural services comprises two very different parallel processes. The design process is non-linear as it strives to respond to factors and challenges that are unique to every project. Quality management, on the other hand, is a very linear process that strives to apply standardized methods which are intended to consistently assure predictable outcomes. Given that the non-linear design process is so central to the delivery of projects, it is commonly believed that linear quality management approaches are a hinderance and are incompatible with project flow.
This however is a misconception. The design process can be successfully managed with the ultimate aim of achieving quality. In order to do so the project team need to understand what is required and be familiar with approaches that lead them to these goals. This is about communicating expectations transparently and clearly. As such, quality expectations need to be defined.
Planning for Quality Assurance
Ultimately client expectations establish quality goals on a project. These include the owner’s requirements and needs, as well as those of the authorities having jurisdiction over the project where code, bylaw and technical standards carry a prescriptive weight over the project. The design team must be completely versed in all of these factors before they begin the design process. Quality plans are often used to communicate the following factors:
- Project details such as the address, contact information for all team members, etc
- The client’s stated project requirements and program
- The scope of services as defined in the contract
- Applicable requirements of the authorities having jurisdiction over the project
- Applicable best practices
- Methods of measuring project success through thorough checking and verification procedures
Quality Assurance Checking
The checking and verification must occur before project documents are issued in order to verify that all factors which were identified in the quality plan have been addressed. This must be done every time a document is issued externally in order to assure a consistently accurate flow of information to all members of the project team. Usually this involves checking drawings and documents for completeness and coordination. In situations where documents are found to contain errors or omissions the project team works to make necessary corrections prior to the issue date.
Ultimately the delivery of architectural services is firmly rooted in quality. It is far easier to approach the question of how a project team achieves quality when all requirements are fully understood and verified. The process of Planning-Doing-Checking is known as quality management and in the broadest sense is the central core of what architects do.