Cliff Moser, 2016
So why hasn’t BIM changed things?
A computational rules-based model in architectural deliverables will help us redefine our standard of
care within our instruments of service. Architecture 3.0 is not about building a new framework of QA/QC
within the profession, it is our opportunity to begin to identify how to finally liberate ourselves from the
archaic confines of inspection-based quality control.
The truth shall set you free.
Architects have continually failed in the delivery of complete and coordinated construction phase
documents. We embraced Building Information Modeling (BIM), as the next documentational
improvement, to which we imposed our aspirational goals of coordinated success. However design
teams find themselves unable to fully embrace the process quality tools within BIM. Hindered by our
master-apprentice based past, we are unable to recognize and abandon the shortcomings of our
inspection quality control efforts.
As construction deliverables become increasingly more complicated and regulated, design teams do not
have the expertise to successfully delineate the technical details for a complete and coordinated set of
construction documents. While BIM has been recognized for enabling the ability to document and
coordinate complex building structures, which, in the 2D past would have been an impossible task, we
haven’t created or leveraged the tools within the software to frame a rules-based deliverable.
In my book, Architecture 3.0; The Disruptive Design Practice, I describe the problems with traditional
QA/QC activities within the practice. These issues are based on legacy activities that designers bring to
projects. Applying quality measures to these activities and the resultant deliverables is the basis for
many incumbent processes deployed not only during construction, but through the entire project
While the baseline requirements of a successful project upon delivery to the owner can be specified
through applied performance metrics; such as energy use, user satisfaction, neighborhood integration
for example. Creating and applying similar requirement to our deliverables and service in support of
construction phase activities is more difficult. Therefore, in order to understand our industry's
problematic relationship with QA/QC and construction phase deliverables, we first need to ground the
historical context of what comprises Quality Assurance/Quality Control activities.
Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) began as a formalized inspection activity in the early part of
the twentieth century. It was initially based on product standardization within the manufacturing
Quality Control was defined as creating measures of the internal processes for minimizing deviation in
the production of readily interchangeable parts and equipment received from manufacturing suppliers.
Quality Assurance was the manufacturer’s internal inspection of that product, prior to delivery to the
customer. The need for creating specifications and standards in order to scale the mass-marketing of
parts and equipment began the process of turning craftsmen into assemblers. Quality control created
requirements and specifications for interchangeability and adaptability of parts and systems, and the
requirements were applied to the deliverables and service of manufacturers and suppliers. World War II
accelerated the requirements for quality, as reduced the tolerance for deviation in order to scale
manufacturing for globally deployed militaries. Quality Assurance/Quality Control requirements became
even more important because millions of soldiers’ lives depended on an established quality supply
After the war, QA/QC continued its role within industry, and moved into design and construction
activities, as the concept of standardization and manufacturing took hold in commercial and household
products. Since the design team is a key supplier of the construction industry, our deliverables followed
the same rules of supplier standardization and quality control.
Inspection Based Systems
Creating and enforcing internal organizational quality control systems was built on an inspection-based
approach. Early in the twentieth-century, most architectural firms organized around a design and
production approach. The design architect would create schematic level design documents which were
then handed off to the production team who would develop the project through design-development
and into construction-documents. The deliverables for these documents; typically plans and
specifications, were internally reviewed by a quality control team within the firm prior to delivery to the
owner of the project. The owner would submit the construction document package to selected general
contractors to obtain a price for building the project.
In this process, completed deliverables were internally measured by quality control, accepted within
defined tolerances and then released for use to the owner. Quality assurance measured and accepted
the deliverable against defined requirements and standards. Quality control was enforced through
internal inspection-based processes, which had naturally evolved from our past apprenticeship culture.
This deliverable quality was defined by our agreements with owners and legally binding local standards
of care, which included construction phase service activities by the design team. Enforcement was
established through calibrated fee payment schedules. Rework was the resultant activity to correct the
failure to provide deliverables within measured tolerance of those requirements.
Through established internal quality control services design firms tried to maintain services and
deliverables based on applied standards with oversight. Inspection and rework requires that there be an
understanding and adherence to standard of care, project requirements and organizational standards
within the firm that sets the baseline for acceptable delivery, as well as internal training and inculcation
of that understanding, against a past measured standard. Therefore, in order to successfully provide
deliverables and service to industry requirements, enforced through standard of care and organizational
quality standards, the firm must create internal programs for training and oversight into producing
quality deliverables and services.
In the past this was accomplished through an apprenticeship methodology, by pairing experienced
project architects with junior staff, and then training through the iterative development of drawings and
details along with continuous review and oversight. The end result was that the inexperienced drafting
staff would gradually learn the requirements of the firm's and industry's standards. Expertise would be
inculcated through oversight and rework, similar to apprenticeship activities in the past.
However, the advent of electronic deliverables as well as a mobile and contingent workforce introduced
a huge gap in the oversight and rework process. With the advent of technology, the profession lost the
role of the master draftsman; the seasoned member of the organization and industry, who usually
without a professional architectural degree, was a master in understanding the requirement of
construction phase activities.
For example, Mary Woods, in her book, from Craft to Profession, outlines the role of master draftsmen,
craftsmen-builders who became architects. Their activities were shaped by the construction process,
and they organized professional societies and worked for architectural education, appropriate
compensation, and accreditation.
Furthermore, George Barrett Johnson, in his book, Drafting Culture, outlines the codification of the
“draftsman’s Bible” Ramsey and Sleeper’s Architectural Graphic Standards. The authors, one a
draftsman and the other an architect, created a graphic compilation of architectural details and
standards that attempted to codify the shared knowledge of the integration of drafting and design. AGS
delineates the boundaries of the shift from the draftsman's craft to the architect's academically based
knowledge. The former “drafting culture” gave way to massive postwar changes in design and building
Today most firms no longer have the ability to support an apprentice-based culture within its design and
production, its “architectural labor” staff. Furthermore, all firms outsource and distribute “architectural
labor” tasks throughout their own supply chain internal and external design team members (including
engineering and other consultants). This distribution completely outpaces the ability of inspection teams
to oversee project deliverables quality control.
However, the tasks of quality assurance; with the building contractor’s reviewing our deliverables
against our internally inspected standards, continues today, reinforced by contracts and legal
requirements. Our quality control task is made ever more difficult as we struggle to create our
deliverable through electronic, computer generated means. Oversight and inspection QC is impossible
Process Based Systems
Therefore, a new quality model is required in order to leverage electronic deliverables, accelerated
project delivery models, globally distributed teams, and increasingly complicated building types, which
are ever-more regulated and difficult to build. This model requires an integrated quality management
system which goes beyond an inspection-based approach and leverages the members of the
construction industry supply chain in order to deliver a more integrated and robust process-based
organizational approach. Additionally it requires agreements which differ from the legacy standards
built on oversight of paper deliverables. This model is fundamentally different than the inspection-based
systems of the past and requires a new approach to providing deliverables and services.
The background for this model is based on the integrated quality management systems that
manufacturing has long developed and embraced in its deliverables and services. Former inspection only
quality control systems in manufacturing have evolved and migrated to process-based systems.
Accordingly, the workforce that serves manufacturing is cross-functionally trained in order to
understand and integrate process-based systems of quality control. These systems instill deliverable and
service quality by incorporating quality reviews into the process as deliverables are created rather than
waiting for inspection of the end results. They also incorporate quality management built on supplier-
based initiatives, such as Lean, as well as individual customer-focused quality requirements, such as a
balanced scorecard, and ISO 9000. Therefore, a successful quality management program is based on a
blend of process-based systems, supply-chain integration, and identified deliverables and service,
reinforced through oversight of processes and performance sampling of deliverables.
Creating a process-based system enables the ability for a practice to leverage tools and deliverables such
as building information modeling and project lifecycle integration which will add value to your client
services and leverage the talent within your distributed team and supply chain beyond successful
construction phase activities.