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Top Practices for a Zero Punchlist Commercial Construction Project

The concept of a zero punchlist project has been the golden standard for owners, designers, and contractors for decades. We all want the satisfaction and bragging rights of being part of a collaborative team that truly delivers the completed project on time. However, getting to the level of a zero punchlist project requires the intentional effort of all stakeholders. The desire for everyone to finish error-free requires clear planning, continuous communication, and managing the zero-punch goal into the project from the day you turn dirt.

When asked, owners will most likely communicate an incomplete building is their greatest frustration with the construction process. Our new processes implement the term Building Start-up as replacement terminology for Project Closeout. The goal of this implementation is to better view the total project from the client’s perspective rather than our own. The client is not as interested in the project closeout as much as they are looking forward to the beginning of their business operation. As such, understanding what is most important to them as they prepare to utilize the new building is a critical component in eliminating the things that distract from their delight.

The most successful zero-punch programs put the focus on building error-free with the first installation, then protecting the work from subsequent damage. The project team must agree that issues or deficiencies are the results of a failed quality process. Stop – evaluate – document – correct, and then move forward to the next activity.

The following are common concepts found with companies who have an effective zero-punch program:

  • A “rolling” punchlist is the most common approach toward the ultimate zero-punch goal. By definition, the rolling list is a constant internal inspection of the construction activity throughout the duration of the project with a rigid closeout schedule assigned to each task.
  • Identify the zero-punch goal in each subcontractor & vendor master agreement.
  • The requirement should include they provide a process or checklist designed for quality verification of completed work and setting a specific schedule for the frequency of internal inspection.
  • Define in the subcontractor or vendor agreement how many days they have to correct rolling-punch items. Otherwise, the GC may complete the work at cost plus 25 percent.
  • Withhold all future payment disbursements until the list is clear of past-due items.
  • Assign the responsibility of the list to a single, responsible employee and ensure they have the authority, skill & resources (checklist) to meet the task. This is a significant role and not a secondary position unless you want secondary results.
  • Walk & inspect the project frequently and thoroughly with the architect and owner. Their satisfaction is the ultimate goal and it must be predominant in their overall experience with the construction process.
  • Encourage & hold open conversations among all trade partners to identify potential issues as early as possible. If the plumber is pointing out missing window sealant, misaligned doors, or damaged drywall with the spirit of helping achieve a zero punch, you have created the right opportunity for success.
  • Require from the trades that they deliver O&M and other Building Start-up documents 30 days following submittal approval in lieu of waiting for completion of the project.
  • Consider & Implement a rewards program tied specifically to zero-punch. Least number of items, fastest response, best initial error-free team member, etc. Make it a competition and communicate the standings and results during project meetings when the owner is present.

Finally, above all else, deliver what you promise. If you agree to be finished by a certain date, do it or finish earlier. Never accept incomplete work and hanging loose ends as normal for the industry – close the loop – finish the job.

At Maxx Builder, we have now implemented as a part of early-stage project planning is the establishment of a project-specific quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) plan or quality management plan. Quality assurance (QA) plans to focus on laying the groundwork and articulating the processes that will lead to the best results. Quality control (QC) is a set of activities that determine whether the results of work performed to meet the criteria that were outlined in the QA plan, which means QC relies heavily on inspections.

Maxx Builders QA/QC processes include:

With our cloud-based inspection technology, our construction teams can:

  • Create standardized QA/QC inspection checklist templates to use across projects Generate and fill out inspection forms with mobile devices
  • Take photographs and link them to inspection items
  • Add comments and attach files to an item
  • Perform safety audits
  • Identify “conforming” and “deficient” items
  • Work offline on your mobile device and have your data sync automatically when reconnected
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