Issues of construction quality and workmanship have always been a major challenge in developing countries – Malaysia is no exception. As revealed in A Study of Contribution Factors to Building Failures and Defects in Construction Industry (2011) conducted by Ahzahar N, Karim NA, Hassan SH, Eman J; poor workmanship is one of the popular factors that lead to building defects and failures in local developments.
In November 2008, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan said the ministry had received on average 250 complaints every year on building defects from buyers.
The need for quality workmanship in construction should not be taken lightly as it ensures future marketability of developments and enhances the confidence of property purchasers.
Recognising its importance, the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), which is vested with the responsibility of developing and ensuring quality in the construction industry introduced the Quality Assessment System in Construction (QLASSIC) in 2007. It is an independent assessment tool to measure and evaluate the quality of workmanship of building projects based on the Construction Industry Standard (CIS) 7.
QLASSIC enables the workmanship quality between construction projects to be relatively and quantitatively compared. It also serves as a tool for industry players to benchmark their quality performance against industry standards besides serving as a quality yardstick for the construction industry.
Achieving QLASSIC high scores require planning right from the beginning. The commitment to produce quality workmanship will influence the design, materials used and the selection of consultants and contractors to carry out the project,” said Dato’ Sri Fadillah Haji Yusof, the Minister of Works during his opening speech at the recent QLASSIC Day 2016.
A commitment to building excellence
Dato’ Ir K Laxana Naidu, Principal Consultant & Director at Sysnovate Solutions Sdn Bhd and an accredited QLASSIC trainer says that construction industry players cannot afford to overlook quality issues and this is where QLASSIC can play an important role.
Developers are able to use the QLASSIC scores to set targets for contractors to achieve and also to assess the quality of the finished building.
The assessment tool has the capability to identify the quality shortcomings of a project and provide ways to overcome them. More effort should be placed in planning and adopting best work practises during construction stages in order to get building processes right – a practise which is not being widely implemented shown by the numerous complaints by purchasers over the years involving cracked walls, sagging ceilings and improper drainage.
Industry players have much to gain from QLASSIC because when construction jobs are carried out with quality as its main agenda, it saves cost in the long term as developers will be free from rectification works which can cost a lot of money.
As discovered by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, 6-15% of construction cost is found to be wasted due to rework of defective components detected late during construction and 5% of construction cost is wasted due to rework of defective components detected during maintenance.
Implementing QLASSIC during project development and construction stages enables quality to be managed and controlled throughout the project lifecycle, thus assuring customers of quality properties.
According to Dato’ Laxana, past QLASSIC assessed development projects had shown substantial reduction of workmanship defects upon completion of said projects. The developers involved have also reported that the number of defect complaints received from customers has declined tremendously.
The assessment process
The QLASSIC assessment is carried out during the construction and completion stages of a development. The scope of assessment includes structural works, architectural works, mechanical and electrical (M&E) works as well as external works.
The scores for each component is as shown below:
Category C is without centralised cooling system, Category D is with the centralised cooling system.
*Source: CIS 7:2014, Table 1, Page 4
QLASSIC assessments are carried out through site inspections, visual assessments and the use of assessment tools and equipment. QLASSIC utilises the principle of ‘first time inspection’ where construction works that are rectified after an assessment will not be re-assessed. The objective of this principle is to encourage contractors to “Do Things Right the First Time and Every Time”.
An assessment will be carried out based on the random selection of samples that adequately represent the entire building project. Samples are selected statistically from drawings and plans and the selection is pre-determined based on the sampling guideline detailed in the CIS 7:2014 standard.
Say, for instance, a certified QLASSIC assessor carries out an assessment for a housing project and the living room is being evaluated – elements such as the floor, walls, ceiling, doors, windows, fixtures and electrical fittings will be assessed. Some examples of on-site assessment include:
An uphill climb
The value of the construction sector in Malaysia topped RM70 billion in 2015 and out of this there were 4,612 development projects that should have registered for evaluation. However, only 6.6% or 303 projects were registered for QLASSIC assessments. This percentage is far too small and is still a far cry from the target that CIDB has set for the local construction industry.
Dato’ Laxana mainly accredits this to the QLASSIC assessment being a voluntary act. Also, most developers, especially small and medium sized ones have yet to jump on the bandwagon due to a few challenges. The most common concern is cost – clearly there is a premium to be paid in achieving higher construction standards as more training and supervision is involved. Other challenges include lack of skilled labour to deliver quality workmanship, competitive pricing of construction and a high dependency on conventional construction methods.
However, bigger developers have seen the necessity to implement QLASSIC in their development projects and have made significant inroads in improving the quality of workmanship over the years.
One of them is Sime Darby Property Berhad, who recently bagged the Special Appreciation (Developer) QLASSIC Excellence Award 2016. Speaking during the award ceremony, Jeganathan Maniam, Assistant Manager Quality Assurance – SQM at Sime Darby Berhad said that the developer has its own internal team which carries out the assessment and inspection of all of its projects, as shown below:
*Source: Sime Darby Property Sustainability Report 2014
A good management team will provide the proper enforcement and supervision required in ensuring that the quality of workmanship is not being compromised during all construction stages.
In encouraging more developers to board the QLASSIC train, Jeganathan says that the additional cost involved and time spent for briefings and training in the initial stages of construction justifies the end result.
He revealed that these quality management programmes, which complements the QLASSIC system have not only enabled Sime Darby to enhance its brand value and customer satisfaction over the years but have also reduced building defects considerably, thus minimizing the amount of rework required.
Encouraging a higher take-up rate
There are plans to make QLASSIC mandatory for all development projects as stated in the Construction Industry Transformation Plan (CITP), a comprehensive plan that encompasses four strategic thrusts — quality, safety and professionalism (QSP), environmental sustainability, productivity and internationalisation.
With QLASSIC falling under the QSP component, it has been proposed for the system to be part of the requirement for the Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC), Certificate of Practical Completion (CPC) and Sales & Purchase Agreement (SPA). Various discussions with relevant stakeholders are being carried out at the moment as an effort towards making QLASSIC a requirement for all development projects.
Under the CITP, it is expected that more than 50% public projects will achieve an acceptable QLASSIC score of 70% by 2020.
In encouraging the higher adoption of QLASSIC, CIDB is being more aggressive in creating awareness among property developers, contractors and government agencies through roadshows and seminars. On top of that, the organisation provides courses and training for developers and contractors to guide them in applying QLASSIC for both ongoing and new projects.
The CIS 7: 2014 have also been recently revamped and the updated version will be used for all QLASSIC assessments beginning July 2016.
Dato’ Laxana is hopeful that these steps will help to inculcate the ‘quality culture’ amongst industry players and that CIDB will continue to train sufficient capable quality assurance personnel to carry out QLASSIC assessments efficiently and effectively.
Need for demand from purchasers
As mentioned by Dato’ Sri Fadillah during a press conference, the masses should be aware of the function and importance of QLASSIC and demand for their homes and offices to have the minimum QLASSIC score. A good QLASSIC score indicates an attention to detail, which encourages the perception that the developer is committed to its efforts to deliver the best product to property purchasers.
After all, the quality of a product is a basic consumer right – will you buy a T-shirt with a frayed sleeve? Your home or office should not be any different.
Only when there is a push from the end-users or purchasers, more developers and contractors will make the effort to improve the quality of workmanship. What these industry players should realise, however, is that QLASSIC is key to saving both time and cost in the long-run besides boosting properties’ saleability.
This article was first published in the iProperty.com Malaysia July 2016 Magazine. Get your copy from selected news stands or view the magazine online for free at www.iproperty.com.my/magazine. Better yet, order a discounted subscription by putting in your details in the form below!