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5 Ways Peer Reviews Improve Design Quality & Project Efficiency in Construction

construction site sticky note Construction projects are seldom error-free, as their design undergoes multiple revision cycles and receives the input from numerous design professionals and engineers. Peer reviews are an effective means of averting errors before construction gets underway.

A peer review is a procedure that subjects a project to thorough scrutiny by third-party industry experts, such as construction project management companies. During the process, drawings and specifications are assessed by professionals who haven’t spent copious amounts of time working on the project, and are thus well positioned to find flaws. The reviewers also bring their unique industry knowledge to the table, and with that, fresh perspectives on how to make the project more efficient.

During a peer review, the third-party experts look for errors and omissions, assess drawing clarity and design quality, search for cost efficiencies, and suggest ways to make the project more constructible.

1. Find errors

To err is human, and even experienced architects can make mistakes as they work through the many cycles of design. With drawings changing hands between draftsmen and undergoing multiple revisions, there are plenty of opportunities for flaws and omissions to find their way onto paper.
Common errors on architectural and engineering drawings may include:
  • code violations
  • incomplete work
  • inconsistent scales
  • poor coordination and clashing
  • impractical spaces
  • missing components
  • doors opening the wrong way
  • improper tags / symbols
Left unnoticed, such errors can have consequences. During bidding, the contractors quoting the project may base their prices on invalid information. After construction starts, the field personnel may likewise be confused or misled by the drawings, possibly leading to the issuance of Requests for Information (RFIs) or costly change orders. In the worst case scenario, drawing errors may lead to construction deficiencies.

An unbiased peer review can detect drawing errors, potentially thwarting unnecessary expenses and delays.

2. Provide feedback on the clarity of the drawings

Despite being error-free, a set of drawings can still raise some eyebrows from the building contractor. Missing details, incoherent notes, inconsistent line weights, and poor use of labeling can undermine drawing clarity, another key attribute of an effective design.

When drawings lack clarity, contractors have two ways of going about business – they can raise an RFI, or ignore the ambiguity and go with their gut. The former option costs money and sometimes causes delays, as the formal query makes its way to the party responsible for the ambiguous drawing, and comes back as a response. The latter option has a quicker, but potentially more dangerous outcome as the contractor makes inferences they are not 100% sure about.

To avoid either scenario, architectural, structural, civil, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) drawings must be clear. They have to be drafted with the end user-the contractor-in mind. A peer review allows a second set of eyes to check the drawings. If the reviewer is confused, or interprets the drawings differently than the design team, now is the chance to improve clarity before the set is issued.

3. Improve design quality

The drawings are a technical representation of the client’s vision. They may be clear, complete, and error-free, but if the design lacks quality and doesn’t reflect the client’s intent, the project’s outcome will be disappointing for the client.

Peer reviews take a second look at the overall quality of the design. “Quality” in design has many facets, which may not be the same for each client. That said, common aspects of quality include cost-efficiency, energy-efficiency, functional program, and aesthetics. The reviewing professional can pinpoint areas for improvement in all of these criteria.

4. Find opportunities for a more cost-efficient design


In construction projects, cost-efficiency is an important determining factor of success. Whether this means meeting the prescribed budget or lowering the cost of construction relative to the building’s expected revenue, the majority of clients want their project to satisfy their financial objectives.
An independent review of the design can bring the reviewer’s unique perspective to the table. The professional may be able to identify areas of savings based on their experience that the project design team missed. Perspectives from construction professionals with field experience are of particular value in finding savings opportunities.

5. Identify ways of making the design more constructible

Constructability is a useful tool in construction project management. Its aim is to make building easier, cheaper, and more sustainable. To ensure a project’s constructability, the design should be optimized to reflect factors such as: 
  • chosen construction methods
  • site access and logistics
  • standardization of building components
  • modular construction, if and where possible
  • reduction of construction waste
  • reduction of energy consumption during operations
Implementing a constructability program into a project entails getting all team members on board with the task. Even so, focusing on individual components of the design, and ensuring interdisciplinary coordination may be more beneficial and take precedence over a formal constructability review. For this reason, peer reviews are among the best construction project management tools that help make projects more constructible.
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