August 5, 2021

Rough Landing in Infrastructure and Land Development: Quality Control Issues and Costs

Construction accounts of about a third of the global capital formation (World Bank 2018) and corruption and quality control can have a serious impact on its benefits (FIDIC). Under pressure to reduce construction costs, cutting supervision will have an adverse effect on quality. Developers and contractors risk not meeting specifications by reducing this initial cost, by putting added pressures on safety, quality and long-term costs. To address this unintended issue, actors in the construction domain will have to play their roles in a coordinated and consistent manner.

The absence of independent quality control in government projects has had unsustainable costs. For example, roads built without earth retaining structures on hill sides, or housing projects with substandard concrete and waterproofing can cost USD2 million to USD5 million to replace and, more importantly, can cost lives. Mitigating actions would have cost USD500,000 to USD2 million, if supervised by a competent professional. Supervision is key to avoiding rehabilitation costs.

The cost of geotechnical information in both infrastructure and land development is among the least expensive initial costs. Yet this component is often overlooked. An example from Jamaica is the failure of a slope and road valued at over USD2 million, along a rural road network, which could have been avoided by implementing USD40,000 of professional advice. The role of professionals and government as a regulator is key in avoiding similar missteps.

Level and lines are key to minimizing material costs and encroachment issues. Local examples of excess or insufficient fill abound. Half metre of fill on two kilometres of roadway in a subdivision can results in a hidden loss of over USD200,000 dwarfing the cost of a land surveyors involvement in quality controls. Maintenance and use of project controls or benchmarks is key. Setting out issues are less frequent but result from pegs being moved by construction activities. In subdivisions, it is not uncommon to have a few lots with boundary issues. These have to be addressed with either demolition or subdivision application amendments. Again, the involvement of professionals in the quality control process adds value and sustainability.

Economic and sustainable development of Caribbean states can be maximizing by seeking the rewards of quality control in infrastructure and land use development. The useful involvement of key actors, including government, NGOs, developers, professionals and contractors will require a refocusing and inclusion of quality control management on par with cost control.

Actor Some roles in Quality control
Government as regulator
  • Through laws, regulations and enforcement, register professionals and contractors and reward sustainable work with continuous registration
  • Enforce building standards and planning approvals.
Government as Employer
  • Adjust values and attitudes to include quality management and supervision in construction alongside cost management.
  • Include quality-based selection in procurement processes in the selection of contractors.
  • Use standardized contracts to engage contractors with detailed specification
  • Engage professionals in quality control throughout the project cycle.
Professional Organizations
  • Engage in quality training routinely.
  • Ensure compliance and police reputation of registered professionals
  • Lobby government for quality control standards.
  • Incorporate a quality control management system at the organization level with suitable funding and professionals.
  • Economics of scale can be realized by spreading the cost across projects.
  • Provide active and timely communication with employers and consultants to correct issues.



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