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Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 198).        

Life is a game of risk. This was beaten into me during my time as a property development manager.

Risk management choices are “tactics” in the strategic game of property development. Ultimately the owner always carries the risk, this is why Design & Build sucks. Attitudes to risk depend on probability and likely impact. 

Risk does not magically go away, it can only be:

  • Reassigned – good for high probability, low impact risks.
  • Acknowledged, analyzed and actively managed – good for low probability, low impact risks and for high probability, high impact risks depending on in house skill sets.
  • Insured against – good for low probability, high impact risks.
  • Ignored – never good to do this IMHO, as hubris and karma will eventually get you. 

Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) in the property context, is the “testing of mission critical equipment at the factory to verify specified performance.” FAT is not a requirement but recommended on projects with “mission critical” elements. FAT is:

  • A risk management, programme (schedule) and commissioning tactic.
  • A project milestone.

Typical high risk, mission critical building types that benefit from FAT: 

  • Data centres.
  • Bank buildings with trading floors.
  • Hospitals.
  • Bio-hazard labs.

Typical building systems & equipment that benefit from FAT: 

  • Generators.
  • UPS.
  • PDU’s.
  • Chillers
  • Fume Hoods (Bio-Hazard).
  • Systems software interfaces.
  • Envelop (High Performance Buildings).

So for clarity, FAT is a test that evaluates mission critical equipment & systems by verifying they meet project specifications before being moved to site. FAT ensures that the equipment, local controls and safeties are working correctly under varying load conditions. For example a generator load test would test the generator under part (25%, 50%, 75% and 100%) and full load conditions over a period of time commensurate with intended use. Deviations or abnormalities observed during testing are documented in report format and corrective action taken if necessary.  

FAT consists of:

  • A test plan / method statement for each item to be tested.
  • Up to date specifications and approved shop drawings.
  • Clear test procedures / scripts with pass / fail criteria.
  • Physical attendance at the factory to witness all tests.
  • A FAT test report detailed actual test results and observations.

The benefits of FAT under full load conditions are:

1. Performance is verified prior to being called on in a mission critical scenario.

2. Deficiencies, defects, design issues and performance issues are identified early and can be addressed without impacting the project programme (schedule) critical path.

3. Once tested (pre-commissioned) at full load in the factory, an on site full load test is not necessary, therefore pressure on construction programme (schedule) is reduced. 

Who benefits from FAT?

1. Contractor, due to minimized risk to construction programme (schedule). 

2. Owner, from quality control and risk to completion on time perspectives.

3. MEP engineers, due to the ability to identify design and specification issues early.

4. Manufacturers, as they get the chance to network with property teams and showcase the companies abilities.

Who should attend FAT?

1. Design Engineer (Mechancial or Electrical depending on equipment tested)

2. Commissioning engineer (Mechancial or Electrical depending on equipment tested)

3. Contractor

4. Owners representative (This can be the commissioning engineer/manager if appointed by the owner)  

FAT is a cost to the project therefore a cost / benefit discussion with the client is necessary. It all comes down to the clients appetite for risk mitigation and how much they want to be certain the building will be ready and fully tested on time. 

I recommend all tender documentation;

  • Call out FAT as a line item cost or explicitly state it is not required. 
  • Specifically list the systems and equipment that require FAT. I see many specs where FAT is asked for with no list of equipment & systems.
  • If FAT is not required, specify if load testing is required on any equipment & systems on site. Load banks cost money and this can be off set against the cost of FAT. 

Once FAT is quantified and costed a decision to proceed can be made based on data. It should also be noted that in my experience, manufacturers want the business and will throw in FAT for minimal or no cost. 

One suggestion. When I go to FAT I mark the equipment tested in a concealed place so I can verify the equipment tested is actually the equipment delivered to site. Testing “typical” equipment has zero value, you have to test the actual equipment that will be delivered and installed. 

When executed correctly, FAT is a risk mitigation tactic to actively manage, acknowledged project risks.


Twitter: @BLDWhisperer

Related posts & links:

#85 – Who Wants Free Risk & Quality Management?

#167 – Design & Build? Still Nope! 

#34 – Commissioning Management – A Project Management Derivative? 


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