Construction is one of the fastest-growing industries out there, currently experiencing the active introduction of digitisation. National construction projects have always—even before this active digitisation of the sector—been relatively more complex and involved considerable amounts of state and European fund financing, which makes the role of construction supervision particularly important. A harmonised understanding of what construction supervision is across the industry will significantly boost the efficiency of monitoring the fulfilment of public construction contracts.
Construction supervision is built on honest and professional representation of the rights and interests of the client, with the goal of ensuring that the construction is safe and complies with the construction design. Professional construction supervision prevents any potential unauthorised deviations from the approved construction supervision and specified production technologies by the parties involved in the construction themselves, and prevents breaches of laws and regulations governing construction. These duties of construction supervisors have become more and more complex over the years because the industry keeps changing, in terms of its materials, construction site requirements, laws and regulations, as well as the building contractors themselves.
Prior to introducing an internal construction supervision service, SJSC State Real Estate (SRE) used an external construction supervision contractor for its projects. At the time, there were no detailed requirements set for construction supervision, because of the lack of a uniform understanding about the standard of quality for construction supervision, and its overall effect on the execution of a project. External contractors mostly performed their duties, but their work was often limited to detecting various violations (such as changing materials or construction technologies without authorisation, changing reported costs after the construction is over, not using materials in the way prescribed by their manufacturers etc.).
The situation in the industry as a whole has improved, and clients have become more demanding and knowledgeable. Three years ago, we made a strategic choice at SRE, establishing our own internal construction supervision service. Its goal is to deliver professional, high-quality construction supervision and representation of client interests in day-to-day construction processes throughout the duration of the construction, providing the client’s project team with a more objective view of the progress of the construction.
Our internal construction supervisors not only work in line with applicable laws and regulations, but also follow good industry practices. It’s also worth noting that the number of deficiencies found does not always suggest that the construction was poorly done. In a larger construction project, a meticulous client and construction supervisor is very likely to find minor defects, recording them and preparing a list of such defects. Obviously, every client wants these situations to be as rare as possible, but in real life, quality issues have to be tackled again and again. We already succeed at eliminating many potential errors, and in the future, we will enhance this process by implementing building information modelling (BIM) and other digital technologies, although the human factor causing design and construction mistakes will always be there.
We have developed technical specifications for internal construction supervision at SRE, providing a uniform understanding about the methods, duties and construction site quality requirements pertaining to construction supervision at the company. The implementation of such uniform requirements and standards has improved the protection of the professional interests of the client, the compliance of the final project deliverables with quality requirements, and the conformity of the project progress reports to the standard developed. We can get an objective view of the course of construction and confirmation of its progress because we have everyday access to detailed information about defects found, reasons for additional funding, as well as up-to-date information about any deficiencies that must be corrected.
Since our decision to establish the internal construction supervision service, we have also implemented a SRE standard for construction supervision requirements. As of now, we have found that decisions made by a highly-skilled construction supervisor result in financial benefits for the client. An example of this is the new Prosecution Service building at Aspazijas bulvāris 7 in Riga, where we saved some 112,000 euros’ worth of state funding by discovering that the actual amount of work performed did not match what was originally planned in the construction design. Having closely monitored the amount of work performed in detail, we achieved significant savings in the funds allocated to the project. In the long run, professionally done construction supervision can also reduce the cost of maintaining the building.
Right now, we are taking the next step, collaborating with construction experts on developing uniform construction supervision guidelines for the entire industry, to protect the interests of the clients, and to make it possible for clients to have a harmonised understanding of what high-quality construction supervision should be like, of how to monitor the fulfilment of contracts, and of what to do if there are violations.
FIDIC contracts are another source of opportunities for the future. They are based on a standardised, uniform approach that only requires detailing specific provisions for cooperation between the client and the contractor, which are adapted to the construction project in question. The format of this contract makes life easier for both the client and client’s partners: all parties involved enjoy clarity as to what the key principles for their working together are, and know what they can demand and expect from the other parties. By signing a FIDIC contract, we can use our internal competence to provide the necessary expert reviews by a FIDIC engineer, and we can work with external experts to provide significant support to projects together. This is particularly important when we face a large number of construction projects.
This and the next year will be especially active for SRE in terms of projects, as the company works on 54 different national construction sites, with a total budget of more than 193 million euros. With a uniform industry approach, it will be easier for us as a client to monitor the quality of the work performed as part of these projects. It will enable the early detection and correction of defects, compliance with deadlines, and better use of funding and other resources allocated to construction. And everyone will enjoy the benefits: the client, the builder, the industry, and our country as a whole.