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VIEWS OF AGENCIES ON TRENDS IN CONSTRUCTION QUALITY In order to determine if, from the agencies' per- spective, construction quality has declined in recent years as some commentators have suggested, the committee asked the agencies to give their views on the subject, supplemented with statistics if possible. Their answers are summarized below. It will be noted that most of the agencies responded in terms of the definition of quality that most procurement officials use; namely, that quality is achieved when the requirements of the contract docu- ments (especially the plans and specifications) are fully satisfied. CORPS OF ENGINEERS The Corps of Engineers has no statistics on quality. The CoE's quality control/quality assurance program is designed to assure compliance with the contractual requirements. The contractor is responsible for correc- tion of all defects. NAVAL FACILITIES ENGINEERING COMMAND The Naval Facilities Engineering Command has not noticed much change in the quality of construction work over the past 5 years. In general, work is completed in accordance with the standards established in the contract documents. The most serious quality problems have been encountered with projects involving the installation of complicated mechanical and electrical systems, 17
particularly those with the newer types of electronic equipment. Roofing, with both the older and newer types of material, also is a source of problems. VETERANS ADMINISTRATION The Veterans Administration is unable to provide data on trends in the quality of work performed on its con- struction projects over the past five years due to the lack of records on the subject. However it is the general concensus in the VA that overall quality over the past five years has changed only to the degree that VA design standards have changed. GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION The General Services Administration noted that quality is the most difficult element in construction to measure. Quality is a variable that increases or decreases as time and resources (funds and personnel) increase or decrease. GSA has frequently sought ways to measure quality, but with limited success to date. GSA believes that it is fair to describe the quality of work performed on its contracts as "meeting the requirements of the contract documents." INFORMATION FROM OTHER SOURCES Many of the Air Force officials interviewed in the course of the special investigation carried out under the committee's auspices (Brett and Poe, 1985) were less reticent about expressing their views on trends in quality than those who responded to the committee's questionnaire. This was probably due in part to the fact that most of the Air Force officials apparently used the broad definition of the term quality that the American Society for Quality Control has adopted; namely that quality is "the totality of features and characteristics of a product or service that bears on its ability to satisfy a given need." Using this interpretation of quality, many Air Force officials expressed dissatisfaction with the current level of quality of Air Force construction. However, 18
many of those who expressed dissatisfaction, also recog- nized the link between quality control and contract documents, and they suggested that the first step should be to improve the contract documents. (Contract documents were, of course, not the only source of construction quality control problems identified by Air Force officials.) 19