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The AIA Technology in Architectural Practice Knowledge Community (TAP) serves as a resource for AIA members, the profession, and the public in the deployment of computer technology in the practice of architecture. TAP leaders monitor the development of computer technology and its impact on architecture practice and the entire building life cycle, including design, construction, facility management, and retirement or reuse.

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Use of Checklists for Q A

  • 1.  Use of Checklists for Q A

    Posted 09-21-2017 16:00
    I'm formulating some QA strategies that involve checklists for our firm, and the effort is prompting a few questions about strategies for developing and using them.

    Does your firm make extensive use of standard checklists for completion of projects? Or do you rely more on some senior, well experienced staff to guide the project to successful completion?

    Do you use one "office standard" checklist, or do you have different checklists based on project type?

    If you have office checklists, what level of frequency do your staff actually use and refer to them?  Every project?  Or do the binders full of checklists sit on shelves collecting dust?  Do you have any formal requirement that staff members must complete and sign a checklist at a project milestone, for instance?  or are they just a guidance tool for staff?

    How detailed are your checklists?  Many checklists (published by the AIA and others) are very comprehensive and long, attempting to address everything in cursory terms.  When trying to apply these to projects, I expect most staff would miss half of the nuts and bolts that are required to complete the documents with sufficient thought and detail.  which begs the question, how much detail do your checklists go into?  Do you attempt to spell it all out in specific terms, or touch on the topic (i.e. "coordinate foundations with utilities") and rely on the knowledge, expertise, and memory of the production staff to "fill in the blanks"?

    How are your checklists organized?  One large 50 page nonstop list?  Again, many checklists can evolve into one unbroken string of tasks with little logical organization, making them difficult to use and manage.  Organized with tasks by phase? Organized by spec section or division?

    The bottom line - I'm attempting to build a series of checklists that follow the CSI spec sections, and organize tasks within those sections by the appropriate phase.  The idea being that the Job Captain or Project Manager (lead technical production manager for the project) can go through the list of Spec sections, pull out the checklists, and compile them, handing or assigning the appropriate sub-lists to the appropriate  BIM workset modeler (who owns that content) to complete over the course of the project. Tasks are organized by phase, and at the end of each phase the BIM modeler would initial the bottom of the column showing those tasks checked off and confirming the tasks have all been completed.  A benefit of this is that each checklist is relatively short, and specific to the products being used.  I've written many of them, and we've conducted an office "reveal" to the staff going over the content of each one. Prior to the "reveal" training session, staff have been emailed a copy of the PDF file for the list directly.  While we haven't created checklists for all CSI sections that we normally use yet, we've focused on those where the mistakes often happen - like Washroom Accessories of all things.  Accessories often go in at the wrong height, or conflict with grab bars, and when child height dimensions are involved, staff will often not remember the correct heights (or consult the codes and guidelines). The checklists lay all of this information out, in one convenient location with graphics.   Until we have all of our "usual" sections complete, we encourage the staff to use them; but to date, usually the staff don't even remember that we have them to refer to.  Before I expend a signficant part of my life developing more of these, I'm wondering if the checklist black hole syndrome is widespread, or if it's just us, because we aren't enforcing them yet.


    John Thompson
    Production Coordinator
    Dore & Whittier Architects, Inc.
    Burlington VT

  • 2.  RE: Use of Checklists for Q A

    Posted 09-22-2017 17:52
    Hi John:
    This is a timely post, as I am starting to develop office checklists myself. The difference is, we are a small firm, so the checklist is really for myself as much as for others. I've gotten to the point where I need to make being thorough as easy as possible. That said, I am developing one checklist in Excel. I am using MasterFormat as well as Uniformat columns, along with major consulting disciplines as columns so that I can create tables of checklists. For instance, I want to be able to sort building shell items into a printable checklist, and I can do that sorting by Uniformat. Ultimately, database structures are the best way to organize knowledge, but it's going to be Excel for now.
    With regard to BIM and checklists, I've tried to bake things like grab bar mounting heights directly into our Revit template file.

    Mike Sealander, AIA
    Maine Licensed Architect
    cell 207.266.5822

  • 3.  RE: Use of Checklists for Q A

    Posted 09-26-2017 13:37
    John & Mike.....

    Good topic to improve your finished product.  I use the Project Information as a checklist.  It goes on the first sheet of every project.  Items that don't fit are in the back of my mind after many years of doing this.  Knowing the IBC pretty well is the best source for the list.

    Jim McArthur, A.I.A.

  • 4.  RE: Use of Checklists for Q A

    Posted 09-22-2017 18:05
    Our firm has checklists in excel, one worksheet per each phase.  We expanded on prior checklists such as Redicheck and AIA by-phase checklists.

    It is very thorough, extensive and therefore, exhaustive.  It does assign various roles as to who has primary responsibility, secondary, etc. which adds some clarity but also makes it more cumbersome.

    I've rarely seen it actively used consistently through all phases, if the PA or PM even remember that it exists.  Perhaps it is not effectively used because it is so exhaustive in covering all the bases, or maybe not used because it is not demanded by the Principal-in-charge or the QA/QC team.  Or perhaps because many developer-as-owner projects are too fast-paced and too poorly financed to have the time.

    Either way, it is a great tool which is necessary to teach junior staff AND ensure consistency.  Finding a way to ensure use is a difficult hurdle once created.

    Good luck,

    Nicole Dress AIA, LEED AP
    BLT Architects
    Philadelphia PA

  • 5.  RE: Use of Checklists for Q A

    Posted 09-23-2017 12:36
    Hi John,

    When I was doing QA-QC work, I developed a "Redi-Check Checklist" in Excel.  I created tabs that helped break down the checklist into categories:  SD/DD, General (applies to all project types), Civil, Structural, Demolition, Architectural, Mech & Plumbing, Electrical, Food Service, Specifications, Masonry, Roofing, Stairs & Ramps, Elevators, Basements, and Toilet Rooms.

    The checklist was meant to be used by experienced staff and was not intended to be comprehensive.

    It included items that could easily be overlooked (e.g. "North arrows have been provided at all plans, including enlarged plans."), as well as items that were added either after noticing patterns of problems in recent reviews or problems found during Construction Administration (e.g. "Projects with Labs and Vocational Shops in E Occupancy:  Labs/Shops are separated from the remainder of the building with either 1-hour fire barrier if building is not sprinklered, or with smoke partition type construction per IBC 508.2.5.2 if building is sprinklered.").

    Ultimately any checklist needs to be tailored to the project types and issues the firm encounters.  If the list is too long or not well organized, it will not be used.

    On the general subject of QA-QC reviews, I consider it best performed by a dedicated staff member, or at least by an experienced staff member not associated with the project.

    I hope this helps.

    Ed Dueppen, RA, CSI, CCS, LEED AP

  • 6.  RE: Use of Checklists for Q A

    Posted 09-25-2017 20:26
    No doubt we have all created checklists in many forms, I spent months creating dynamic spreadsheets with IF,&,OR,Vlookup statements that automated checklist tasks according to project type using Visual Basic in Excel.  I am not sure anyone could create a generic spreadsheet that will be a one size fits all for design and construction businesses. In saying that starting with the basics that can be built upon would save a lot of us a lot of time initially.

    In my professional opinion, I think that excel sheets with basic line items are ineffective, once you start to automate these sheets, everything is reliant on IF,AND,OR  which can easily be corrupted. 
     Associating the checklist with the design is the key in my opinion as it reduces the likelihood of oversight. The majority of, if not all of the checklist information can be imported and associated with the BIM software I use in Sketchup. It can also be intuitive as staff can see what they are doing live instead of ticking boxes, which we all know is laborious.  Can you Imagine importing your checklists into your 3D model and selecting items and associating them with templates and geometry? This functionality makes a dreaded task an enjoyable one, one that is easy to check by superiors.   
    I have a working version for my own company, feel free to PM me if you would like to find out more as it is not public. I believe that everything should/can be connected to the geometry and layout visually and that this method is a better way of eliminating mistakes while communicating downstream via a 3D model. Does anyone agree?

    This image shows an imported searchable  spreadsheet Check list with Master format

    Andrew Dwight
    Designer/BIM manager AAD Build
    BDM RubySketch
    Sydney Australia

  • 7.  RE: Use of Checklists for Q A

    Posted 09-25-2017 17:27
    For some interesting history and theory about the use of checklists, see The Checklist Manifesto

    He lays out some interesting ideas about the efficacy of this approach for general thoroughness.

    Atul Gawande remove preview
    The Checklist Manifesto
    Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, is a surgeon, writer, and public health researcher. He practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital and is professor in both the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Department of Surgery at Harvard Medical School.
    View this on Atul Gawande >

    Phillip Bernstein FAIA
    Yale University, School of Architecture
    New Haven CT

  • 8.  RE: Use of Checklists for Q A

    Posted 10-10-2017 15:07
    Edited by Maggie Brown 10-13-2017 10:43
    For 30 years, my little 5 man firm has annually authored buildings in the two to eight million dollar range.
    To keep on track and out of litigation, and working with a data baed program, File Maker Pro, I've automated
    most of the housekeeping side of the business. QA for us has been more than a checklist. More of that later.
    To this topic, each Project starts with a project workbook, a process guide, QA to the max.
    While the content is imbedded in the data base, a paper copy is used for the day to day.
    Part one - scope of service
       The AIA contracts confuse lay clients. The scope of service check list clearly outlines all of the elements
    of our services. Is also notes items not included. I have used it as an attachment to the AIA Contracts.
    Part two - project tasks
       We grey beards all know what is needed to get through a project. But what about the office staff?
    This list includes items like, where do I send the invoice, has the intent to provide water been received to preparing for substantial completion.
    Part 3 - Critical path for project development / Check list for document prep.
    Part 4 - Agencies and jurisdictions
       This check list dives into verifying sign offs by approving agencies.
    Part 5 - Code Summary
       This part is the worksheets for code info that will eventually end up on the documents.
    Part 6 -Drawing Index
       I have organized our drawing sets to represent biddable chunks of a project. These are identified by some common and some not so common letter designations.
    LS series are Life safety
    SD series are Site Development ( what, not "C" !)
    S series is structural
    A series include plan notes, demolition, dimensions, finishes, rcp's
    AD series include doors, frames windows and hardware
    AM series include architectural metals
    AW series include Architectural woodwork, cabinets etc.
    B series include building exteriors, roofs
    MPE is the usual stuff.
    With a master list of drawing, I can quickly create the document set and get it set up.
    Sort of I know where we are going and then get there!
    Part 7 - Document checklist
       This is a checklist of items (usually missed in prior projects ) to verify on each drawing.
    Part 8 - Detail Summary
        This is a list in old CSI format of standard available details from the detail file
    Part 8- Outline specification
       This checklist itemize all variables needed and defines what will be included in the final project manual.
    It is also a heads up on what additional new info may need research to be included.
    I'll gladly share a copy of this to interested Architects. Email me at

    Robert Ashley AIA
    Folly Beach SC

  • 9.  RE: Use of Checklists for Q A

    Posted 10-11-2017 17:48
    That's cool Robert, don't go the grave with it my friend, please teach a few pups so the legacy continues.  I'd like to see it one day.  My beard is silvering yet would not be considered grey by anyone except my children, I've still a thing or two to learn before I get it right. :-)

    Andrew Dwight
    Designer/BIM manager AAD Build
    BDM RubySketch
    Sydney Australia

  • 10.  RE: Use of Checklists for Q A

    Posted 10-12-2017 18:04

    For 30 years, my little 5 man firm has annually authored buildings in the two to eight million dollar range.
    Robert Ashley,  10-10-2017 15:07
    I am impressed with your system!  I will email you...

    John Brunt AIA
    JSBA Architecture & Planning
    Salt Lake City UT