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Information Quality & Transmission

Information Quality & Transmission

Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 111) – All IMHO:  

We were told in the 1960’s that by the year 2000 we would be working less than 5 days a week, nuclear energy would make electricity so cheap it would almost be free and computers would enhance information then eliminate the need for paper. Here we are in 2017 and we work at least 5 days a week, electricity where I live is expensive and every project I work on is awash with paper and incomplete, poor quality information. 

To be fair, computers are eliminating paper in everyday life, when was the last time you read a physical news paper? However, in property design and construction there are still vast amounts of paper in use and the quality of information is very poor. Not withstanding my frustration with the slow rates of innovation and change in building design and construction, what is going on? 

IMHO we are experiencing the law of unintended consequences. Computing has been very successful in reducing the cost of producing and transmitting information and data. When I started work in 1980, drawings were developed by hand and replication was expensive. Today, many drawings are copy & paste derivatives with little personal ownership and replication is zero cost. This results in:

  • Information and data overload
  • Uncontrolled, over transmission of poor quality information (think about CYA e-mails with everyone from the prime minister down being copied in)
  • Multiple errors and omissions leading to wasted time and costs 

There seem to be two issues;

  1. Quality of information
  2. Over transmission of information

Quality of information

In any context, there is a necessary quality for information to have value. In building design and construction, quality of information is vital. There are three components to information quality:

  1. Accuracy
  2. Completeness
  3. Ease of use (Clarity), the more complex the information the more thought is required in presentaion 

Lets apply this to building drawings and specifications.


Errors in drawings and specifications cost money and it is the owners, not the A&E firms, that pay. IMHO 80% of every problem on a project is “baked in the cake” of the tender issue drawings and specs. Spending time pre-tender ensuring accuracy is vital. Maybe owners should penalize firms that produce inaccurate drawings and specifications?


Many projects go to tender with incomplete drawings and specifications. Deadline pressure and low design fees almost guarantee this on some projects. Owners need to acknowledge that unrealistic deadlines lead to higher costs no matter what they tell themselves about passing on risk to the professional team and supply chain.

Ease of Use

This IMHO, is the big one. Information has to be easy to read and understand. Thousand pages of text in specs and drawings with no single line diagrams, no cross referencing or information keys really do suck. 

Anyone producing drawings or specifications should be clear that;

  • Data is not information
  • Information is not knowledge
  • Clarity helps everyone

Recommendations for improving quality of information include:

  • Double check your work, then have a second set off eyes review for accuracy 
  • Be honest with yourself about level of completeness and overtly highlight underdeveloped areas of design and information
  • Present information with the end user mind. Assume they are not familiar with the project and a non-expert. 
  • Specifications should be concise, digital, fully searchable and project specific. 
  • Drawings should be accurate, have information keys, and revision dates plus notes on revisions made
  • For building services, line diagrams should be developed which summarize the complete system plus design performance criteria. 

In my experience, many construction people are visually biased. Clear diagrams with accurate information make a hugh difference in communication and quality outcomes. 

Transmission of information

Transmission of information should be controlled, recorded and targeted to the people who need it. Drawings for tender or information should IMHO, be issued in PDF to ensure integrity of information and ease of use.

Also, can we all please give drawings real names like “Blk A level 1 HVAC” and not “BA-M0023”? If a document is required that deciphers drawing code names to useful names, people are being set up to waste time.

To miss quote Richard Feynman (I think), “if you cannot explain it simply, you do not understand it well enough”. Clear communication and clarity are the keys to reducing wasted time, bullshit and poor work.

Twitter: @BLDWhisperer

Related posts & links:

#99 – E&O’s, CO’s & Shame ( )

#53 – Completion, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder ( )

#39 – Balderdash, Commissioning RFP’s & The Benefits of Clarity ( )

#42 – The “Hot Potato” That Is The Controls Sequence of Operation ( )

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