The Value of Construction Observation Services

Having a Resident Project Representative (RPR) on site during the construction phase of a project is a valuable asset to the project owner. In the project planning phase, however, we’re often asked to explain the purpose of having someone continuously on site. People wonder where the value is in having someone observe construction.  Will it impact the outcome? Our view is that it’s always a good idea, and can sometimes make all the difference.

While many feel having an RPR on site is not necessary, there is a lot to be said for having someone there, monitoring the project’s every step. An RPR provides the owner with a technical field representative to observe the contractor’s construction activities, to serve as the owner’s “eyes and ears” during construction and to promptly address construction issues as they arise. In situations where an RPR catches something and provides a corrective course of action, the end user or project owner (often taxpayers) can save lots (and lots) of time and money.  

Having an additional person on site to communicate with the contractor and residents, perform/observe quality assurance tests and keep important documentation can definitely smooth the construction process. Having said that, let’s dive in a little deeper to explore exactly what these guys do, and don’t do.

QUALITY ASSURANCE

Having a person on site to observe construction activities and progress generally provides the owner with a higher level of confidence that the owner’s objectives and the intent of the architect’s/engineer’s design is met during construction. However, an RPR’s presence is not a form of insurance. This can be confusing to those unfamiliar, so let’s put this simply. Quality control is the contractor’s job. Quality assurance is the RPR’s job.

Quality assurance includes observing, documenting and monitoring progress, and informing the contractor when work appears to not meet the intent of the plans and specifications. So, essentially, the RPR serves as the liaison between an engineer’s plan and the actual project outcome. Or, to the contrary, the RPR and contractor can evaluate how they can deviate from the engineer’s design to make the project better or different, if such a situation or opportunity arises. Of course, this requires consultation and approval from the design engineer, as well.

COMMUNICATION

Property owners and city officials may not understand how important communication is until a project has begun and everyone desires an update.

Ideally, an RPR is on site during all hours of construction so they’re available to answer questions from the contractor, the city, property owners and residents. They’re also on-call for questions regarding work on site.

The communication between all parties helps move the project forward and keep people at ease. Further, they’re an “on-the-spot” reporter of any construction challenges and bridge the gap between the engineer and contractor, endeavoring to ensure that problems and solutions are communicated effectively and efficiently on a daily basis. An RPR is the eyes and ears for the engineer and owner of the project, aiding the engineer in being an agent to the owner.

RECORD KEEPING

An RPR tracks all progress on a project, including the review of documents from the contractor, analysis of plans prior to construction and maintenance of project files.  RPRs are there to record what has been installed or constructed, what hasn’t started and what parts are a work-in-progress. Their photos and records validate the quantity of materials that come on to and leave the site.

OUTSIDE THE REALM

An RPR’s responsibilities seem fairly cut and dried, making many people believe that having an RPR on site “guarantees” the quality and timely completion of a project. That is not the case, for a variety of reasons. First, it is unrealistic to make one person accountable for ensuring an ideal outcome. In addition, there are a handful of tasks an RPR is not authorized to perform and, in some cases, forbidden from doing.

For example, RPRs do not direct the contractor on how to perform work, or undertake any of their responsibilities. That being said, RPRs do not schedule work or subcontractors, make the call to stop progress or change the schedule. Further, RPRs do not make any changes or alterations to contract documents without an engineer’s approval. Finally, they do not inspect – they observe. The RPR oversees testing and records for quality assurance purposes – the RPR does not inspect at the end or give final acceptance of the contractor’s work.

WORKING TOGETHER FOR A SUCCESSFUL PROJECT

Obviously, everyone – the owner, the engineer, the contractor and the RPR – wants each project to turn out perfectly. The RPR’s job is to work hand-in-hand with the contractor – through communication and attention to detail – to get the project as close as possible to that ultimate goal. If you have questions about an RPR’s role, please don’t hesitate to contact us to chat – or catch an RPR on a project site sometime. They’d love to talk to you.

If any of this sounds like an interesting career, check out our current job openings. Maybe you’ll find something right for you.