National Academies Press: OpenBook

Risk-Based Construction Inspection: A Guide (2023)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Research Council. 2023. Risk-Based Construction Inspection: A Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27099.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Research Council. 2023. Risk-Based Construction Inspection: A Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27099.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Research Council. 2023. Risk-Based Construction Inspection: A Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27099.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Research Council. 2023. Risk-Based Construction Inspection: A Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27099.
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3   1.1 Background Inspection of highway construction is fundamental to meeting the mission of state departments of transportation (DOTs) and the FHWA to provide high-performing products and facilities that meet or exceed specified quality standards. Construction inspection practices are often based on historical experience and national standards, or engineering judgment when standards are difficult to measure. Key inspection activ- ities typically include the interpretation of contract plans and specifi- cations; project recordkeeping and reporting; construction surveying; field inspection and testing procedures, techniques, and equipment; and oversight of construction. This guide will assist agencies in priori- tizing inspection activities based on the inherent risks related to construction operations and optimizing inspection resources based on project profile, inspector experience, technology tools, and other factors. In response to shrinking budgets and dramatic reductions in both the numbers and experi- ence levels of inspectors and engineers, DOTs have implemented strategies to achieve greater efficiencies in construction inspection. Standard inspection practices may not take advantage of advances in technology or be disproportionate to what is needed to ensure compliance with specification requirements. To achieve this goal, DOTs have implemented risk-based strategies to accomplish construc- tion inspection more efficiently and with optimal allocation of resources. Figure 1.1 shows some of the current strategies that help DOTs optimize or offset shortages of experienced inspection resources. These interrelated strategies include risk-based prioritization of inspection, accep- tance by certification, reduced inspection frequencies for low-risk or low-profile projects, use of emerging technology applications to save inspection time, alternative project delivery methods, and using contractors’ test results in the acceptance decision. 1.2 Scope and Purpose 1.2.1 Scope This guide, prepared under NCHRP Project 10-102, “A Guidebook for Risk-Based Construc- tion Inspection,” provides a step-by-step approach to developing and implementing risk-based construction inspection protocols that will help agencies working to optimize their field inspec- tion efforts. The guide is designed to assist DOTs with risk-based inspection (RBI). RBI is an inherently scalable activity driven by existing DOT construction inspection and testing protocols, an organization’s tolerance for risk, and the criticality and cost of the work. This report focuses C H A P T E R 1 Introduction • What level of resources do we devote to construction inspection? • Can inspection be prioritized based on risks? • What is the optimal level of inspection resources for the program or project?

4 Risk-Based Construction Inspection: A Guide primarily on RBI for construction, but it also addresses similar risk-based protocols for materials testing applied to both eld and plant produced materials or products. Implementing RBI protocols might entail adopting a less rigorous inspection plan (e.g., lower frequency of inspections and testing, fewer in-house inspectors, and greater reliance on certica- tion) to achieve the same result. It could also mean incorporating more advanced technology— even if at a higher initial cost—to improve the eciency of inspection and testing if such practices improve durability, reduce the risk of failure, or enhance life-cycle performance. 1.2.2 Purpose e purpose of this guide is to provide a robust, transparent, and practical method for address- ing failure risks for typical categories of work and establishing appropriate levels and frequencies of inspection across the full range of project types, sizes, complexity, and delivery methods. ere are dierent levels of maturity in current inspection practices among DOTs. What is a standard practice in one DOT may not be a standard practice in another. Inspection prac- tices are also evolving, particularly regarding shiing more responsibility to the industry for managing and documenting quality, advances in e-Construction that allow for more ecient data collection and documentation, and advances in remote sensing and related technologies that provide for more ecient or automated data collection. Evolving inspection practices and technologies are not fully addressed in the current DOT inspection protocols. ere is an immediate and compelling need to incorporate risk-based approaches into current practices for construction inspection. is guide addresses the range of current and evolving practices in today’s inspection programs considering current standards for highway construction inspection and provides practical strategies to implement a risk-based construction inspection program. 1.3 Overview of Risk-Based Methodology A three-stage framework has been developed to help DOTs implement an RBI program that can be applied to their entire construction program or a specic project, as shown in Figure 1.2. 1. Risk-based inspecti 3. Reduced inspecti frequencies and sti l w-pr file s 4. i l ls that enhance inspecti e ienc 5. l ti deli er me s 2. Certifi ti n esses 6. si c rac r QC tests acceptance 7. i ti f tw r m re f the precedi s Figure 1.1. Approaches to enhancing inspection resources.

Introduction 5   • Stage 1. A top-down identification of inspection and testing activities that can be done either as a programmatic exercise, including all the construction items requiring an inspection in the construction program, or a more focused exercise limited to a core list of the key inspec- tion and testing activities for major project construction items and operations. • Stage 2. A qualitative risk assessment of the baseline or core list of inspection and testing activities and items that entails rating the likelihood of failure or noncompliance of the work item or operation and the consequences of failure or noncompliance to determine a risk rating. Stage 2 further describes how to prioritize inspections and testing based on risk ratings and assigns levels or tiers of inspection, testing, and documentation frequency commensurate with risk levels. • Stage 3. A project-level (bottom-up) assignment of inspection resources based on the con- struction item risk tiers with further adjustments to inspection and documentation require- ments based on project profile and material criticality, staff experience, project delivery method, and technology and tools. 1.4 Overview and Organization of the Guide This guide is organized to evaluate the existing DOT state of practice for construction inspec- tion and sampling and testing protocols used in a standard inspection and testing plan, and then to introduce practical strategies for setting up and implementing risk-based construction inspection. Understanding current inspection practices is an essential starting point for developing an optimization framework that can be adapted to programs or projects of varying types, sizes, and complexity. Chapter 2 discusses the current state of practice for DOT field inspection programs and provides information on standard inspection and testing protocols, how inspectors spend their time, and potential strategies and tools being considered or used to prioritize inspection or optimize resources. The subsequent chapters present risk-based optimization strategies being used to adjust inspection levels and practices based on risks and what is needed to ensure a quality product: • Chapter 3 presents a 4-step risk assessment process to identify a core list of construction items and operations requiring inspection or testing and rate the risks of these items to deter- mine the priority of inspections and testing methods. Based on risk ratings, the assessment Stage 3: Assign inspection resources based on risk tiers and adjust inspection and documentation requirements based on project profile, experience and capabilities of inspection staff/industry, project delivery methods, technology, and tools. Stage 1: Identify a baseline or core list of key inspection activities for construction items/operations requiring inspection and testing. Stage 2: Conduct a qualitative risk assessment of the Stage 1 list of inspection activities/items. Rate the likelihood of failure or noncompliance of the work item and the consequences of failure or noncompliance to determine appropriate levels/frequencies of inspection and testing for each key construction item/operation. Figure 1.2. Overview of a risk-based development process.

6 Risk-Based Construction Inspection: A Guide process then assigns appropriate risk tiers to construction work items and materials that yield appropriate frequencies of construction inspection and materials testing for each key construction work item or operation. • Chapter 4 addresses a step-by-step approach to estimate the project-level inspection resources needed for specific types of construction work items or operations based on the RBI priori- ties and material criticality determined from the Chapter 3 risk assessment process. After quantifying the inspection resources for a project based on risk priority, the level of inspec- tion and documentation effort can be potentially further optimized based on the project pro- file, inspector staff experience, industry capabilities, and emerging technology tools used to improve inspection efficiency and reduce inspection and documentation level of effort. • Chapter 5 describes implementation strategies and tools to educate DOT staff and integrate RBI into a standard construction program. Integrating RBI on a selected number of con- struction activities as part of a field trial on several projects is suggested to test its impact for a period, and then evaluate the effectiveness. In addition to piloting the methodology, an implementation plan includes training for inspection staff to introduce the steps involved in RBI. Case study examples demonstrate how RBI can optimize inspection based on risks and other considerations, including project profile, staff experience, industry capabilities, docu- mentation requirements, delivery methods, and emerging technology tools. • Four appendices are provided. Appendix A includes sample Risk Input/Assessment Forms used to assess risks for representative inspection activities and provides sample data collec- tion forms related to inspection frequency, documentation efforts, and inspectors’ experience associated with representative inspection activities. It also summarizes the expert ratings for core inspection activities. Appendix B provides supplemental information for materials RBI. Appendix C includes additional information on emerging technology applications in terms of applicability, how to implement them, potential benefits and constraints, and additional resources to assist with implementation. Appendix D presents an illustrative RBI case study application to optimize resources.

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Due to budget cuts and reduced experience levels of inspectors and engineers, state departments of transportation (DOTs) have implemented risk-based strategies to achieve greater efficiency in construction inspection. These strategies include prioritizing inspection based on inherent risks related to construction operations, using emerging technology applications to save time, and accepting certification and contractors' test results to offset shortages of experienced inspection resources.

NCHRP Research Report 1039: Risk-Based Construction Inspection: A Guide, from TRB's National Cooperative Highway Research Program, discusses the importance of construction inspection and aims to assist state DOTs and the U.S. Federal Highway Administration in meeting quality standards.

Supplemental to the report are NCHRP Web-Only Document 344: Risk-Based Construction Inspection: Conduct of Research Report and an Inspection Risk Assessment Questionnaire.

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