BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1. 1. 0.
The acquisition of constructed infrastructure usually represents a major capital investment, whether the owner is an individual, a private corporation or a public agency. For each infrastructure constructed (building or road), there is a minimum level of quality that is expected at a given cost within an acceptable time frame. To achieve the above, a higher level of “control” is required as things do not happen by chance.
Control is therefore a process of regulation which seeks to maintain conformity to some kind of plan. Those charged with the responsibility of executing the plan must be aware of the objectives on which it is based, and the resources at their disposal. On a construction project these resources include materials, services, skills, energy, information and working capital.
Flanagan et al (1997) state that the construction industry and the environment in which it operates have changed significantly – the process of change now seems to be never ending and hectic. There have been: new approaches to buying design and construction;
fragmentation of the industry with the increase in specialist trade contracting; the demise of direct employment and the growth of labour-only and fixed term contracts; fee competition for consultancy services;
the introduction of partnering; and
more conflict and less trust; and clients wanting more value for money.
However, what has not changed is the importance of effective quality and cost control. Quality and cost on construction projects should not be simply monitored, they need to be controlled and managed from the early design stage through to project completion if the project’s objectives have to be successfully realised.
Quality Control in construction is the process of verifying that the project is built to plan, that the tolerances allowable by industry standard and engineering practices have been met or bettered, and that the finished project meets the specified quality standards given by the client through the architectural and engineering designers. Since defects or failures in constructed facilities can result in very large costs and loss of human life or injuries, it is therefore important to ensure that quality is monitored and controlled to avoid incurring such costs and encountering catastrophic failures. Hendrickson et al (2000) state that even with minor defects, re-construction may be required and facility operations impaired; resulting into increased costs and delays. In the worst case, failures may cause serious personal injuries or, indeed fatalities. Construction fatalities account for 22% of the US total, while employing only 7% of the total workforce. In comparison, manufacturing employs 15-21% and accounts for only 11% of fatalities (BLS, 2003). Further, workers compensation premium cost contractors anywhere from 1.5% to 6.9% of total project costs (Agarwal et al, 1997). Additionally, from a quality/productivity standpoint, labour typically accounts for 30% of project costs (Picard, 2000). Manpower mismanagement and construction delays were found to contribute to 40-60% non-productive time for onsite work (Jereas et al, 2000); rework costs up to 12% of total project costs and up to 11% of total project work hours (Love et al, 1999).
The Zambian Construction Industry has been one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy in the last 10 years recording an average annual growth of 17.3%. The table below shows the levels of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution and the respective growths during the same period.
Table 1: Construction Sector Annual Growth (Source: Bank of Zambia Annual Reports) Construction
GDP at constant
(Unit K’ Billion
Growth Rate %
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