Most job specifications include a section on quality assurance, but you'll find that the requirements in masonry specifications vary widely and that few include everything that should be there.

The purpose of the project quality assurance program is to assure the owner and the architect/engineer that the materials and workmanship will meet or exceed the requirements of the specification. Quality is subjective. The specification's job is to define quality on a project.

QA, quality assurance, defines the program that will assure quality; QC, quality control, evaluates the quality through testing and inspection. QA is a management tool; QC is a production tool.

Depending on complexity of the program, QA will vary, but every QA program should include a few basic components. The Commentary on Building Code Requirements and ACI 121, Quality Assurance Systems for Concrete Construction, provide good guidelines.

The QA program must clearly define the responsibilities. The MSJC Specification lists the services and duties of three parties: the testing agency, the inspection agency, and the contractor.

The QA program should describe the methods used to design the building and provide details of the design reviews: who is responsible for reviews and approvals.

The specification should clearly state who is responsible for obtaining the materials for the job and how the materials gain approval.

The level of inspection on a project depends on how the building was designed and on its intended use: whether the building is empirically designed or "engineered, or whether the building is deemed "essential." From these two criteria, three levels of inspection are defined in the building.

The QA program should indicate the required qualifications of the inspector, the level of inspection required, what constitutes acceptance, and any exceptions or additions to the code-required inspection tasks. It also should indicate the required qualifications of the testing lab. When problems occur, the QA program should spell out who reports to whom, who is responsible for resolving the problem, who has the authority to make a final decision. There should be a description of what will happen if it is agreed that he work does not conform to the specification and must be repaired, reworked, accepted as is, or rejected.

A QA program often includes the details on how to construct a sample panel or mockup.

All records generated during construction should be signed and dated, and the QA plan should indicate who gets what records and when.

A good QA program, though not simple, can serve as an invaluable tool throughout the construction of a project. While a QA program does not guarantee a quality building, it is a significant step in the right direction.

The article also details the three levels of inspection and includes what a good QA program does as well as what submittals may be required.