The construction industry is one of the oldest in the United States and can chart its history to the creation of the earliest skyscrapers and railroads. Despite this history, it is constantly evolving. Every year there are new developments and technologies with new acronyms; in recent years we have seen CAD, BIM and P3, to name a few.
Verification and validation (V and V) is an exciting, new development gaining popularity. Originally used in systems processes for the military, aerospace and medical industries, V and V is increasingly being used outside of its original audience to capture requirements and demonstrate compliance, forming an integral part of overall quality management systems. V and V is applicable in the infrastructure design and construction industry.
What is V and V?
V and V is a part of ISO 9001, the international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system and has been used in systems engineering for some time. While systems engineering appears primarily suited to complex technical industries, there is merit in a broader application.
Systems engineering is defined by International Council of Systems Engineers (INCOSE) as:
“an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems. It focuses on defining customer needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem”
The ability to accurately capture customer needs and required functionality in a timely manner, and to ensure compliance with them, is especially useful in construction projects.
V and V are independent quality review processes that are used together to check that a product meets requirements and fulfills its intended purpose.
Why V and V?
Typically, on construction projects, requirements and scope are received ad hoc, from a variety of sources. Usually, these requirements come at various times through the project lifecycle. Often, these cause multiple last-minute changes resulting in delays and cost escalation. The ability to incorporate these changes into an output that meets the needs of the client is dependent on the experience and thoroughness of project individuals.
The contractor often struggles to demonstrate the quality and compliance of the product because the evidence to work with is limited.
Some construction projects have attempted to implement V and V, but have done so too late in the process by including it at the very end, during site inspection and acceptance. This results in attempting to inspect the quality of a product that is already built.
How to implement V and V in Construction
In simplest terms, when applied to a construction project:
- Verification is intended to check that an infrastructure design meets a set of specifications; and
- Validation is intended to ensure construction results in infrastructure that meets the operational needs of the user. In other words, checking that the finished product meets the requirements.
Implementation of V and V involves the development of a team and system that allows project requirements to be captured, understood and distributed to all staff. The process must be embedded in design and construction processes. There is little value in establishing a V and V team located separately, producing paperwork that remains unused. Cross communication is critical.
Once established, the V and V processes provide evidence, typically at the end of the design stage and upon completion, that all the requirements have been achieved.
A small team is required to assist with the implementation of the process and overall ownership, but the day-to-day activities are a part of business as usual.
Before embarking on V and V implementation, a plan needs to be prepared which outlines how the processes will be implemented. The what, when, how and who are described so the process is understood in advance, avoiding reactionary efforts to scenarios as the project develops. As Benjamin Franklin said: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
This is the key stage of the process: Establish a singular depository for all project requirements at an early stage. This drives V and V into everyday design and construction processes.
Capturing requirements is usually performed in dedicated computer software, allowing the user to link the requirements and assign their applicability. It can also easily be achieved using readily available standard quality management packages. Creating a list of sound technical requirements is critical.
Having created the V and V requirements list, it can be used through the design and construction process in many ways, including the following.
- Designers can filter the list to find the applicable requirements for their design package. On large infrastructure projects where design requirements can be thousands of pages, having a singular list greatly simplifies this task.
- Design reviewers use the list, complete with the evidence, to undertake their reviews.
- The project manager can readily identify changes to project scope.
As the design progresses, it is imperative that designers record any documentation that demonstrates compliance with the requirement in the list.
Before construction, the requirements list is submitted to the client to demonstrate that all requirements have been met. Usually, this is achieved using hyperlinks to the appropriate design drawing, report or approved documents.
Similar to the design stage, the requirements list allows monitoring of progress against specifications and criteria. It provides site engineers with a tool to allow them to check the construction and provides a baseline against which changes are evaluated.
Site engineers record the emerging evidence showing compliance with the requirements. This is done through site inspections, test reports, measurements and photographs.
Validation demonstrates compliance with the requirements—this time of the constructed, finished product. Again, the requirements list is submitted to the client with, and with links to, the appropriate evidence.
Benefits of V and V in Construction
Although originating from another industry, there are significant benefits to adopting a V and V process. Benefits for the contractor include the following.
- Designers can readily identify all applicable requirements, removing re-work because key requirements were missed.
- Changes to requirements are easily captured and can be agreed upon, reducing the chance of claims.
- The completion process and subsequent payment are sped up, allowing demobilization and mobilization onto the next project.
- ISO9001 accreditation is achieved, demonstrating to clients the organization is one that places emphasis on quality, building a stronger brand.
Benefits for the client include the following.
- An end product that meets their needs. The systematic process adopted by the contractor has reduced the chance of mistake.
- A clear demonstration that their needs have been met, with information that can easily be identified and used for ongoing maintenance.
- Ease of audit of the processes and developing infrastructure.
A lack of understanding of project requirements and regular changes to requirements result in delays and cost overruns. Although originating from a systems background, it is clear that the V and V process helps overcome a number of these issues and needs to be more widely adopted within the industry. Adequate planning and embedment of the V and V process into overall infrastructure design and construction activities is imperative to achieve the maximum benefit.