How Debugging Affects Quality

            Quality in housing construction is affected by the extent and thoroughness of debugging…because supervision time in the field is a limited resource.

For example, suppose that over the course of a two-year construction project…a total of 500 decisions must be made, items checked, and directions taken that will result in a smooth and efficient construction process.

If people in the field get 300 of those 500 issues resolved upfront through a company-wide debugging program…before the construction starts…then only 200 issues and questions remain to be solved individually during the construction.

There is a finite numerical limit to the issues and questions that need to be addressed on every building construction project…irrespective of the magnitude of each issue or question.

Therefore, if 350 problems and questions out of the 500 are easily answered upfront through constructability analysis and a checklist of past solved issues…then only 150 real problems remain to be solved during the construction.

If at the outset of the project…there are 400 easy solutions and answers to the original 500 problems…then only 100 more remain to be analyzed and resolved during the construction.

The greater the number of problems, questions, and bugs that can be identified upfront and quickly and correctly resolved…the fewer the number of problems remain to be confronted and solved during the construction…and the more time is made available for genuine quality-control rather than spent in frantic “putting out fires.”

            A building construction project gets into trouble in terms of quality…when the number of latent/hidden problems inherently buried in the project…are greater than what can be handled by the field staff.  When the field staff is constantly engaged in “putting out fires”…the construction is forced into a reactive, damage-control mode…which pushes out the option for investing time in genuine quality-control.

The benefits of spotting and resolving design and construction problems upfront…before the construction begins…cannot be overstated in terms of quality-assurance.

Small problems and mistakes…minor if caught and corrected early…can grow into larger problems in building construction due to a phenomenon known as the “ripple effect.”

For example, a bowed wall framing stud by itself can be easily removed by the framer…requiring only one repair effort.

A bowed or twisted 4×6 or 4×8 structural post in the wall framing…with electrical wires running through it requires the framing carpenter and the electrician…if the post needs to be replaced.

A bowed wall along the floor baseboard…if not discovered until the wall is drywalled, painted, and the baseboard installed…requires three or more separate building trades to repair and straighten.

A bowed wall along a bathroom floor…with square-shaped ceramic tile flooring…that is not discovered until very late at the time of the homebuyer walkthrough…requires not only the framing carpenter, drywaller, painter, and finish carpenter…but also the floor tile installer…to replace the tiles at the bowed wall after the wall is straightened.

The longer a problem or construction bug goes undetected…the worse the repair can get.

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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