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Last edited 19 Nov 2021
Quality Benchmarks - A Construction Perspective
 Executive Summary
The intent of a benchmark is to give the appropriate parties an opportunity to verify and accept the required workmanship standards for installation early enough that any issues can be addressed at the outset of site works. Effectively this ensuring that errors are not built into the works.
In the context of managing construction site quality control, a benchmark is a representative example of an element or component of the works that has been constructed in full scale and full compliance with the design and specification.
A benchmark is subtly different from a sample or mock-up as it is used to validate the workmanship and installation characteristics and for best effect should be undertaken at the start of site operations for a work package.
The primary purpose is to confirm the selected brick sample panel meets the design intent, i.e. to confirm the brick, mortar, and jointing design characteristics; this exercise is generally concluded before the requisite materials orders have been placed.
A benchmark should be constructed to a standard that meets the specified criterion yet is a fair and reasonable representation of the agreed standard for quality that is sustainable throughout the construction of the element in question.
- A panel of brickwork or concrete surface finish
- A finished element of floor, wall, or ceiling, e.g., shadow gaps
- A section or run of an MEP installation – with / without thermal insulation / cladding to piped services / firestopping
- Show apartments / completed rooms or areas used for reference
- Typical attributes for benchmarks would include the standards in workmanship, tolerance, dimensional control, consistency of colour or texture and visual conformance with technical requirements.
Benchmarks should be seen as an opportunity for the client and professional team to confirm the quality of workmanship to be achieved before works progress to a point where disputes may arise over interpretation of requirements, i.e. setting the standards at the outset of the work.
 Typical benchmarking process
Common defects or personal experience of issues with particular materials or construction techniques and sequences in meeting expected outcomes may prompt the need for a benchmark to ensure alignment of expectations and delivery capability.
- Location and boundaries
- Key measurements and tolerances where applicable – these could be anything from a measured distance to a colour
- Date inspected and agreed
- Signatures from parties inspecting and accepting the benchmark.
Use of Quality inductions with the operatives undertaking the works should be implemented using the benchmark as a reference point and a briefing on the inspection and testing requirements. This should include details of hold points, 3rd party checks if required and any specific issues to look out for that were identified in producing and signing off the benchmark.
Traditionally, we would look at the completed element as the benchmark. However, the use of digital media means there is now the ability to record details of the installation works as they proceed in realising the physical benchmark. This can provide invaluable pointers in how to ensure that the finished work meets the agreed standard as well as providing opportunities for feedback and lessons learned.
In this way the works can be managed to ensure the works to meet the agreed standard and ensure that snags / defects / non-conformities are recorded and reported when work is not up to scratch while ensuring that the works are not over delivered, leading to cost, time overruns.
Progressive monitoring should be undertaken, and standards reinforced through use of toolbox talks as the works proceed, with lessons learned from snags / defects / non-conformities being fed back as the work proceeds.
Individuals responsible for accepting the completed works should regularly use the agreed benchmarks progressively review the works to ensure the smooth and timely sign off and acceptance of completed works.
This will help achieve the objective of avoiding building in faults that necessitate rework and consequent delays as well avoiding any disputes that may arise from not agreeing quality expectations at the outset.
Establishing quality benchmarks early reduces the potential for disputes over whether the finished element meets expectations and supports the drive to achieve a defect free product by eliminating built in snags and defects.
Rev 1.0: Original article written by Jon Adshead & reviewed by Neil Mellor on behalf of the Construction Special Interest Construction Working Group (ConSIG CWG). Article peer reviewed and accepted for publication by ConSIG 19/10/2021.
--ConSIG CWG 12:09, 26 Oct 2021 (BST)
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