In my columns, I am often critical about the general level of quality in construction. Subsequently, my writings often advocate a higher quality and ways of achieving that.
Strikingly enough, our most carefully executed projects are infrastructural projects, built by contractors from the infrastructure branch. Both the new bus station in Tilburg and the Moreelsebrug in Utrecht were realized with visible knowledge, expertise and attention. Whereas in the case of utility projects it usually takes tremendous efforts to get a designed building kit executed integrally and with integrity, the designs for these projects were embraced and professionals simply realized them as perfectly as possible. Of course, we are very satisfied about them; you would almost wish infrastructure constructors would carry out all your projects.
But in what do infrastructure and utility constructors actually differ? Do they have a different sense of quality, a different view on their profession or significantly different forms of organization? You could argue that things are often more coarse in the infrastructure, but that is not necessarily the case. The example projects mentioned are characterized by a high level of minimalistic detailing.
I can think of a few reasons. The most important one is that the infrastructure constructors are forced to have much more control over their processes. The practical and logistical frameworks concerning construction sites, available ‘time slots’ and safety aspects are generally so strict that you can only work extremely monitored and prepared. In addition, self-supervision and self-verification of quality has been required for a long time already in the infra branch, whereas these are only just upcoming in the utility sector. Finally, the number of subcontractors in the infrastructure is often considerably smaller while these subcontractors are also more specialized. On the one hand this leads to fewer coordination problems and on the other to higher quality.
All these aspects carry opportunities for utility construction; be better prepared before you start building, cluster your procurement in a limited number of integrated packages and take responsibility for consistent and continuous quality control.
Ronald Schleurholts, architect partner cepezed
Cobouw, July 4th 2019