Make Building Inspection a Norm (Part 2)
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Make Building Inspection a Norm (Part 2)
Posted Date: Jun 01, 2008

“Why is the quality of the works so terrible?  It is totally different from what I saw in the show unit.”

This might be the first impression for most house buyers when they first enter into their new houses. The worst part is, during this time, the show unit that you had visited before is definitely “gone”. Without the show unit, what are the quality standards that we can refer to on the issue of shoddy workmanship?

Moreover, whenever a complaint has been lodged to the developer, the same answer will be given: “The quality of works has been certified & approved by the consultant.” (In this case, the consultant is the architect.)

What is the standard referred to by the architect in certifying the construction quality of a project? Why there is an inconsistency in quality from project to project? What are the right of the house buyers in getting the right quality of their dream home?

The development

In 1988, the Construction Industry Development Board Singapore (now known as the Building & Construction Authority (BCA)), together with major public agencies and various leading industry professional bodies and organisations, developed a Construction Quality Assessment System or CONQUAS to measure the quality level achieved in the construction industry. CONQUAS was designed with three main objectives: -

  1. To establish a standard quality assessment system for construction projects.
  2. By sampling approach, to make a quality assessment to measure the constructed works against workmanship standards and specifications. 
  3. To enable quality assessment to be carried out systematically with reasonable cost and time

Today, CONQUAS has been renamed as CONQUAS 21 and has evolved into the seventh edition. 

Our efforts

Slowness does not lead to failure, but taking the first step is essential for success. The Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) Malaysia took the first step to resolve the inconsistency in construction quality by establishing the Construction Industry Standard; CIS 7: 2006 (QLASSIC). Quality Assessment System in Construction or QLASSIC was jointly developed by CIDB Malaysia with various professional bodies, associations, universities and government agencies. Although with a different name, QLASSIC serves the same objectives as CONQUAS 21 which is to benchmark quality standards in construction, to have a standard assessment system and standards to measure the workmanship of a project, and to evaluate the performance of the contractors as well as to compile data for statistical analysis. Today, QLASSIC has been adopted as an evaluation system for most government projects as well as private developments across the country.

How does it work?

CONQUAS 21 or QLASSIC is an independent assessment carried out by assessors from BCA Singapore or CIDB Malaysia. It was designed to gauge and benchmark the quality of workmanship through the sampling approach. On the other hand, it means not every unit will be inspected or evaluated by the assessors. Random samples will be pre-selected and inspected to represent the quality of the whole project. A CONQUAS or QLASSIC score will be produced after the assessment, to reflect and benchmark the quality standard of a project. A low CONQUAS or QLASSIC score does not mean every unit in a project is poor in quality. In contrast, a high CONQUAS or QLASSIC score also does not mean the houses in a project are free from defects. It is still our right to get the building inspected and submit a defects report for defects identification and rectification purposes.

Components of the assessment

The CONQUAS/QLASSIC assessment is basically divided into four main components namely, Structural Works, Architectural Works, M&E Works and External Works. (In CONQUAS 21, external works has been classified under Architectural Works)

  1. Structural Works
    1. Site inspection of formwork, steel reinforcement and finished concrete during construction.
    2. Laboratory testing of compressive strength of concrete and tensile strength for steel reinforcement.
    3. Non-destructive testing of the uniformity and the cover of hardened concrete. 
  1. Architectural Works – Architectural works deal mainly with the finishes and components. This part is where the quality and standard of workmanship are most visible. The assessment covers:
    1. Internal finishes – floors, walls, ceiling, doors, windows, components (permanent fixtures such as wardrobe, kitchen cabinet and etc)
    2.  Material and functional test
  1. M&E Works – The assessment covers:
    1. Electrical works
    2. Air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation works (ACMV)
    3. Fire protection works
    4. Sanitary and plumbing works (including M&E Fittings)
  1. External Works – External works assessment covers general external work elements in construction such as, link-way, road works, car park, footpaths, turfing, children’s playground, swimming pool, guard house, courts, drain, fence and gate, hardscapes and electrical sub-station. (In CONQUAS 21, this assessment is covered under Architectural Assessment.)

Due to logistical constraint, only architectural works and M&E fittings are being assessed by CONQUAS 21 currently. 

How does it relate to me?

Whether you are an investor in property or a house buyer who is seeking a roof over your head, CONQUAS 21/QLASSIC is an additional assurance provided by developers to ensure the quality of the workmanship of a project. This independent assessment actually provides a benchmarking on the overall quality finishes of a completed project. However, as mentioned above, the score does not assure that individual units are free from defects or having the equivalent construction quality standard as reflected in the CONQUAS 21/QLASSIC score. The score is merely based on a random sample assessment to suitably represent the whole project. Therefore, as a smart investor or house buyer, we shall never let the score blind our eyes and overrule our rights to carry out building inspection and defects report submission. It is always our right to get the quality that we deserve.

Furthermore, with the establishment of construction quality standards in Malaysia (namely, QLASSIC), we now have a common understanding and quality standards on constructed houses or buildings. Construction quality standard will no longer belong to the accreditation of a certain profession, but the industry. We are now able to question, measure and challenge the quality standards delivered by the developers. In contrast, house buyers must also draw a line on the minimum quality standards set and should not go beyond the specified industry standards unless it has been specially specified by the developer before signing S&P agreement. Whether as developers, consultants or house buyers, we should always respect the construction industry standards (QLASSIC) that have been set and agreed upon by government agencies, professional bodies, associations and universities.


Establishment of construction quality standards is definitely a good move to resolve the issue on shoddy workmanship and inconsistency of the construction quality standard in the industry. Both CONQUAS 21 Singapore and QLASSIC Malaysia systems were designed to standardise the construction quality standard and to benchmark the constructed workmanship of a completed project. Do you know the standard set in QLASSIC or CONQUAS? How do you know if your house has been constructed to the required standard or not? We will reveal some of the common standards that has been set in QLASSIC or CONQUAS in our next article. Stay tuned with us and continue to know more about your rights as a smart house buyer or property investor in our coming topics.

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