The board chairman of SJSC State Real Estate Renārs Griškevičs is convinced: quality construction supervision offers the best way of protecting the client’s interests and guaranteeing that the building will serve future generations for centuries to come. A high-quality result is only possible if all of the parties involved in construction work as a single mechanism, in which the construction supervisor plays an important role of the ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ of the client, representing the interests of the party that initiated the project. The duty of the construction supervisor is to prevent parties involved in construction from deviating from the construction design without authorisation, or from breaching any laws or regulations governing construction, from changing any technologies specified in the construction design or the work execution plan, or any other technologies. This helps the client balance deadlines, costs and quality, and protects the client’s interests, making it possible to have a harmonised understanding of what high-quality construction supervision should be like, how to monitor the fulfilment of contracts, and what to do if there are violations.
The State Construction Control Bureau (SCCB) worked with SRE, and a number of construction supervision and building contractor companies, to create new Construction Supervision Service Guidelines. Their goal is to support parties that initiate construction and help them understand the complexities of construction supervision and provisions of a number of laws and regulations. ‘The guidelines were developed taking into account the practices and recommendations provided by the construction supervision sector, as well as the experience of SCCB in effecting government control of construction. These guidelines will help clients understand the duties of construction supervisors, as well as the applicable minimum requirements and good practice examples, and assist them in concluding contracts with parties involved in construction,’ Māris Demme, head of SCCB Construction Control Department, pointed out.
‘Three years ago, SRE made a strategic choice, establishing its own internal construction supervision service, making it possible for the company to gain an objective understanding of the construction that is taking place, and to confirm the progress of these projects. This is a way for us to get timely information about challenges and risks, defects and their causes. As a result, we can predict how long particular work can take to complete, and more effectively manage the funding earmarked for construction. The requirements for construction supervision adopted at SRE – both for internal and external services – are stricter than those set in laws and regulations. We have found that decisions made by a highly skilled construction supervisor result in financial benefits for the client, and in the long run, make it possible to save on building maintenance. Since our decision to establish the internal construction supervision service, we have also implemented an internal standard setting construction supervision requirements, and we have shared our know-how, bolstering the good practices in the industry through the construction supervision guidelines drafted by SCCB,’ Griškevičs highlighted the activities of SRE.
From ideas to designs
In the most important national projects, construction supervisors join the process with the beginning of the strategically vital and very complex project idea stage that involves surveying the site and assessing the risks. The professionalism of the construction specialists matters here, as it helps with the early detection of errors that could not have been otherwise found. Up to five construction specialists in different fields can participate in assessing more complex projects.
SRE construction supervisors support project managers in assessing construction solutions, changing materials, approving construction products, and reviewing project change reports. In assessing the solutions of a construction design, construction supervisors pay particular attention to the terms of reference, the specific requirements of the client and the user of the building, applicable laws and regulations, and experience with previous projects.
The assessment of construction design involves the use of various technologies and software. In the past, construction specialists prepared comments on construction designs by making notes on paper or in digital documents. Today their work is made much simpler by such modern technologies as Fieldwire software, in which all of the parties involved in a project can comment on the design solution in a clear manner. Building information modelling (BIM) and 3D technologies make it possible to create an overall model of the building, helping the client and the user to visualise its forms and identify any adjustments necessary in the design. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that in building reconstruction projects, even BIM technologies do not completely prevent the errors that can be done away with by assessing the actual situation on site, conducting an engineering inspection of the building, and a survey of its load-bearing structures, uncovering them in certain areas. Structures of buildings can be in worse condition than assumed, or on the contrary, be in a better shape. This can only be done by disassembling and exposing all structures and deciding on whether to keep them or replace them. For example, the discovery of the real condition of the structures of the Puppet Theatre historical building during its renovation led to the decision to reinforce the load-bearing structures, making sure that the building remains strong in the long run.
The stage that sees the most involvement by the construction supervisor and most of their immediate work is the construction of the building itself, which the supervisor monitors in detail, spending almost every day at the site. The duties of construction supervisors at the projects ordered by SRE extend beyond what is required by construction standards, in that the construction supervisor monitors every task performed, accepts it and prepares quality control certificates, records the results achieved, approves every material brought to the site, and checks if the work was done in line with the work execution plans approved individually for every type of work. If additional work turns out to be necessary, the construction supervisor verifies the rationale for the costs, and assesses the solutions for the changes in the design, and their compliance with laws and regulations, and the preferences of the client and the user. Construction supervision involves construction specialists certified in various fields who together form an extensive and experienced supervision team. High-quality results can be achieved in construction if work at the site takes place in a coordinated manner, with all of the parties—construction supervisor, design supervisor (designer representative), building contractor—functioning as a single mechanism. This is also where modern technologies and software simplify the activities of various parties involved in construction, helping them quickly and effectively cooperate in a digital environment.
Acceptance and warranty period
With the completion of construction at the site, the construction supervisor performs final inspections for defects and tests the utility systems based on the expected operating conditions. A definitive list of defects is prepared at the end of this final inspection. In larger projects, the number of such defects can be as high as several thousand, from very tiny, almost undetectable problems to major deficiencies; this depends on the overall size of the project, and its complexity. The number of defects is not always an indicator of low quality, but instead pointing at the meticulous quality to the work performed by the construction supervisor, which results in the end user getting the best possible building. The acceptance of a building and its handover to the client are two different processes. A building is accepted once the construction is over, and it is safe for the operator and the public. It is handed over to the client, and the client accepts it once all the deficiencies found by the construction supervisor are corrected. For example, in 2021, after the acceptance of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia building, SRE construction supervisors and builders corrected hundreds of defects, as the museum was actually moving to the new premises.
The acceptance of a project is followed by the warranty period: the first year of operation comes with the biggest challenges in a building, as its user actively moves in and tests the systems installed, and as a full annual cycle elapses with a heating and a cooling period. During this stage, one can detect various system deficiencies that do not lend themselves to discovery during construction, and the building contractor corrects these problems at its own expense.
Since SRE decided to strengthen its internal construction supervision processes, its construction supervision team has grown from just a few to a few dozen specialists. The company keeps investing in better construction supervision and specialists, both internally, boosting its effectiveness in the construction of national projects, and externally, contributing to the best practices in the industry.
The new Construction Supervision Service Guidelines are available on the SCCB website.
To summarise good practices in construction supervision, we offer a video overview of the work of construction supervisors on all stages of a project, from an idea to a finished building: https://youtu.be/11mwgovwqUw. In it, head of the SRE Construction Supervision Division Arnis Minikovičs explains the duties of a construction supervisor during each of the project stages.
* Article prepared by SRE, in conjunction with the State Construction Control Bureau