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Top 10 typical NCRs in a Construction Project

The construction industry is one of the most unpredictable environments to work in.

But at some point, we have to accept the fact that there will be nonconformities, there will be things that will go wrong and we should be there to fix them. That’s all what Engineering is about: create and fix stuff. Be a constant problem solver.

So, NCRs shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. Even to Clients and Project Managers. They are part of the building process and part of the challenge.

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However, some typical NCRs always come up in construction projects and it will be for the benefit of everyone in the industry to learn from them and try to avoid them because they are probably the biggest generators of waste (of any kind of resources):

1. Not available design drawings

design drawings not ready ncr in construction

It is not uncommon for the teams on site to proceed based on some draft drawings, some previous revisions of existing drawings or even worse…just use some handwritten sketches drawn in some meetings. It is probably by far the most common scenario of a nonconformity in construction industry…(root cause: extremely bad planning and last minute.com decisions and changes).

2. Construction proceeds without having other documentation in place (usually Method Statements and ITPs)

construction documents

Even when construction design drawings exist, sometimes the teams on site are given instructions to proceed and to leave the paperwork for the future (programme is the King!). Bad planning, miscommunication, and lack of clear requirements then an even make things even worse. This is a very typical NCR in construction.

3. Method Statements and ITPs are not followed on site

Shortcuts, in order to stick to the programme and maximise production (progress) without considering the consequences, can lead to many nonconformities on a construction site. “Safety” and “quality” should be part of the programme. If it’s not done right and safe, then it’s not done at all. Moreover, many NCRs occur because materials are not tested on the frequency that is required, inspections are not done as agreed through the ITP and more often, the Client is not invited properly to release the Hold Points on site.

4. The Drawings are not followed on-site or they are not detailed enough

design drawings construction

It may sound obvious, but there are quite a lot of cases where the drawing is not followed or the available drawing is not detailed enough to provide the right information to the people on site. Confusion, delays, waste of time, materials and resources in general are all linked to this issue.

5. The RFIs or other instructions from the Client are not followed on-site

In another scenario, there might be an approved Method Statement, an ITP and a drawing in place, but an RFI or an instruction from the Client’s Representatives could easily change many things. There are cases where people forget that there are also some additional information that should be taken into account (RFIs, Client’s replies on documents, letters, instructions, etc).

6. Changes on site and repairs are not approved by the Client

Many NCRs occur because for some (logical) reason, the teams on site have to deviate from the approved design or the approved method statement, and this change is not recorded anywhere. In most construction contracts, there has to be approval before changing or even repairing something on site.

7. A different material than the approved one is used on-site

material construction crack

This is very typical οφ miscommunication, bad planning, and last-minute decisions, which often lead to compromises in order to avoid further delays and finally use the one material that is available (even if it is not approved by the Client). To be fair, the lack of availability of a specific material from the supplier also causes this quite often.

8. Use of non-calibrated equipment

calibration sticker construciton

This is quite embarrassing, and it’s usually caused by improper follow-up, out-of-date spreadsheets and calibration schedules. The root cause of that might also be lack of resources.

9. Construction records are not filled out properly

construciton checklist

As a result of lack of training and obviously rush, the checklists, forms and other records that need to be in the As-Built/Handover Folders can be a big mess. Missing signatures, missing information and incomplete checks are discovered when the responsible people might not be in the project anymore…This could cause delays and significant contractual breaches.

10. Material Failures that are expected (more or less)

Construction is an extremely unpredictable environment and how materials behave is not always known or cannot be designed 100% accurately (and that is why we have so many safety factors in general). So, it’s quite common for materials to fail either because they were not installed properly or simply because they were not prepared or constructed properly. One very common example of this is the concrete strength and the cubes that are tested to determine its compressive strength. It’s quite common for some of these cubes to fail the tests for many reasons (cubes not prepared properly, environmental reasons, improper storage conditions. transport errors etc). In those cases, the teams on site must be made immediately aware as the failures may affect the structural integrity and the safety of the project. These issues must be recorded as NCRs, investigated and get closed properly with (usually) the Designer’s opinion.


To be fair, all of the above issues usually have the same root cause which is lack of resources or in general lack of proper planning and management. It’s often the cases that 1 person or 1 Engineer is doing the job of 20 different people which is really a shame in our day and age but unfortunately it does happen.

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Pavlos Inglesis
I am a Chartered Civil Engineer (CEng-MICE) and a Chartered Quality Professional (MCQI CQP) working in the construction industry for about 20 years. My specialty is Quality Control and Quality Assurance Management in Construction Projects. I have worked on projects in the Middle East, and Greece and am now based in the UK.

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