Best Practice for Completion with Zero Defects

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Best Practice for Completion with Zero Defects

The Problem:

While the standard of construction in Australia has improved over the years the industry is still plagued by many projects with either poor quality or a mass of defects at the end of the project. In a typical scenario a large list of defects is identified at the end of a project which the builder and trade contractors then spend a long time rectifying – often the whole of the warranty period. Then there are many other defects that don’t materialise until years later which may even occur outside any warranty period leaving the owner with the problem. The amount of disputes over defective workmanship is staggering.

Research conducted by the UNSW City Futures Research Centre in 2012 found that 72% of completed home units had defects. In my experience it is closer to 95%. One of the common failings in the industry is subcontractors failing to supervise their own workers and leaving the supervision of their own workers entirely up to the builder.

Defects are not only a great concern to the owner but they are also a huge risk to the builder. In some cases, particularly high rise residential, even if the nature of the defects are minor the extent of minor defects can be huge and take years to rectify all of which erode the profit made on the project.

Defects on high risk elements of the building, such as waterproofing, acoustics, fire rating etc can incur a significant cost to rectify, involving multiple trades, delay the project and even potentially prevent settlement of the completed apartments.

Defects on low risk elements of the building may be less costly to remedy however there is a significant risk of the builder incurring a massive list of minor defects where the task of rectification is absolutely overwhelming.

The Solution:

SDC Projects have spent years looking at this issue and have developed a system that has produced defect free buildings at completion including high rise residential buildings. An overview of the key elements of the system are as follows:


The zero defects on completion strategy is designed to eliminate all defects at the time the work is constructed through the application of the following principles:

  1. Assessment and identification of all high risk elements of a project (eg: waterproofing, acoustics, fire rating);
  2. The development of additional design details for the high risk elements of a project to ensure a thorough design consideration;
  3. The development of checklists for the high risk elements to control on-site installation;
  4. Pre-commencement induction of the subcontractors supervisors and employees to communicate standards, expectations and the application of the system prior to commencement of on-site works;
  5. A system of primary inspections administered by the subcontractors direct-line supervisors backed up with ‘sign off check-sheets’ to identify and resolve problems as early as possible in order to eliminate the need for costly rework;
  6. A system of secondary inspections carried out by the Builders supervisors to serve as a ‘safety net’ rather than the primary inspection;
  7. The use of ‘tool box talks’ as a means of raising awareness with subcontractors / tradesmen;

The system is complimentary to, and builds on any existing quality assurance system.

All high risk & low risk elements of the building receive progressive inspections and also a final inspection prior to commencement of the following trade. The inspections cover standard of workmanship and also specification compliance.

The strategy equally applies to low risk elements of the building where the risk is ending up with a massive amount of minor defects becomes an overwhelming task to rectify.

The strategy is based on a goal of ‘Zero Defects’ on completion. A key part of the strategy is to place the responsibility for quality back squarely with those performing the task, namely the tradesmen and their direct-line supervisor (so often the subcontractor will leave the supervision of their own workers entirely up to the builder).

This does not in any way suggest that the builder assumes a passive role in ensuring finished work meets the required quality standards and expectations. Rather, the builders role is to oversee the works and serve as a ‘safety net’ to ensure defects are not allowed to be ‘built-in’ or left to accumulate only to be fixed at the end of the project, or in some instances, after project hand-over.

These inspections by the sub-contractors, & the integrity of their inspections, need be linked to the subcontractors progress claims.

In the end the success of the system will boil down to strong, determined leadership.

SDC Projects can provide a detailed explanation of how the system works and how a zero defects completion is possible. SDC Projects can also develop such a system for a builder or for a specific project.