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QA/QC – It’s More than a Checklist

By August 23, 2023Conduit

Mechanical and electrical Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) play a significant role in today’s data center construction. Coordinating all design, construction, installation, and start-up efforts in any project involving multiple trades and interests is challenging due to differences in participant philosophies and overall approaches. While this role was not essential in the past, the schedule, size, and complexity of today’s facilities mean QA/QC is necessary to keep projects on time and on budget. The volume of contractors, vendors, and technology, along with a tight skilled labor market, often leads to gaps in the construction process.

What is QA/QC?

QA/QC is a systematic effort to verify that electrical and mechanical equipment and systems comply with all project requirements. QA/QC has two significant elements:

  1. Verifying that the installation process and quality meet the contract documents – i.e., verifying labeling, sizes, torque, components, and location
  2. Determining if all components are functioning properly and ready for start-up

This assessment becomes necessary as multiple people or companies may touch the same equipment. For example, one electrician may pull a conductor, another terminates the conductor, and a third labels it, but no one verifies it was the correct wire or location.

“The Hood Patterson team has been phenomenal and has helped guide an extremely difficult commissioning and quality effort on site. We would not be where we are without the talent this team has brought to our site.” – A Satisfied Client

QA/QC is performed after installation but before testing and commissioning. Therefore, a competent QA/QC provider must be familiar with the equipment, installation practices, and testing and commissioning processes. Additionally, QA/QC personnel should be able to provide recommendations and solutions, not just point out issues or check off a list.

Why is QA/QC Essential?

In more nuanced cases, equipment may be installed correctly but may not be the right equipment to meet the owner’s design intent. Again, only an experienced provider would be able to identify these types of non-apparent issues.

Here are some examples of problems we have identified during QA/QC inspections:

  • At one site, the electrical contractor had failed to install grounds to pumps and skids. We identified this condition before energization and corrected it.
  • Our QA/QC inspection found cables landed on the wrong equipment prior to energization. Had we not uncovered this, the wrong equipment would have been energized, possibly causing harm to people and equipment.
  • Our mechanical QA/QC team found a copper pipe in a data hall used to reference outside air installed on top of a building thirty feet in the air per the design drawings. We realized that the temperature change from the inside (positive) to the outside reference point (negative) was giving a false reading. Our solution was to relocate the reference point outside to a lower elevation allowing the system to operate properly.
  • A facility did not engage QA/QC during construction. After energization, a soda can was found lodged in a pump, fortunately, before causing problems. QA/QC would have caught the problem.

“We’ve found the level of professionalism, technical expertise, and partnership at the highest caliber. We are appreciative and grateful for the QA/QC services the HPD has provided.” – A Satisfied Client

QA/QC is not a role that should be commoditized (determined by price), as its contribution to project success and value will be significantly greater with a more experienced firm. This role can pay for itself by identifying issues and solutions before they become problems that create project delays and added costs.

HP&D’s Solution

QA/QC is more than a “checklist,” in fact, there is no checklist or process by itself that can replace the practical application of experience. Each member of the HP&D team brings their own unique knowledge, background, and skills to augment the overall experience and capabilities of the team. When it comes to QA/QC, you get what you inspect, not what you expect.

Hiring QA/QC inspectors to review equipment and installation practices ensures a quality project while avoiding expensive delays. HP&D’s professionals work seamlessly with contractors, installers, and vendors to bring an informed third-party perspective to all phases of your project. Let us help align team member priorities and perspectives using a common-sense, experience-driven approach based on manufacturers’ recommendations, industry best practices, and applicable codes and standards.