Michael W. Clippinger
Blog Category: 
Thought Leadership

Best Practices for a Zero Punchlist

The model of a zero punchlist project has been the gold standard for owners, designers, and contractors for several years. We all want the prestige and bragging rights of being part of a cohesive team that truly delivers the completed project on time. However, getting to the level of a zero punchlist project requires the intentional effort of the entire team. The desire for everyone to finish error-free requires planning, communication, and managing the zero-punch goal into the project from the day you turn dirt.

When asked, owners will often identify an incomplete building is their greatest frustration with the construction process. We recently starting using the term Building Start-up as replacement terminology for Project Closeout. The goal is to better view the total project from the client’s perspective rather than our own. The client is not as interested in the project closeout as much as they are looking forward to the beginning. As such, understanding what is most important to them as they prepare to utilize the new facility is a key component in eliminating the things that distract from their delight.

The most successful zero-punch programs put the focus on building error-free with the first installation, then protecting the work from subsequent damage. “The aim is for a zero punchlist and not to zero-out the punchlist.” (Roebuck, 2012) The project team must agree that issues or deficiences are the result of a failed quality process. Stop – evaluate – correct, and then move forward.

The following are common concepts found with companies who have an effective zero-punch program:

•A “rolling” punchlist is the most common approach toward the ultimate zero-punch goal. By definition, the rolling list is a constant check of work throughout the duration of the project with a rigid closeout schedule assigned to each task.

•Identify the zero-punch goal in each trade partner agreement.

o   Require they provide a process or checklist designed for quality verification of installed work and set a specific schedule for the frequency of confirmation.

o   Define how many days they have to correct rolling-punch items. Otherwise, the GC may complete the work at cost plus 25 percent.

o   Withhold all future payments until the list is clear of past-due items.

•Assign the management of the list to a single, responsible employee and ensure they have the authority and skill to meet the task. This is a significant role and not a secondary position, unless you want secondary results.

•Walk the project frequently and thoroughly with the architect and owner. Their satisfaction is the goal and it must be predominant in their overall experience with the construction process.

•Encourage open conversations among all trade partners to identify potential issues as early as possible. If the plumber is pointing out missing window sealant, misaligned doors, or damaged drywall with the spirit of helping achieve a zero-punch, you have created the right opportunity for success.

•Require deliver of O&M and other Building Start-up documents 30 days following submittal approval in lieu of waiting to the end of the project.

•Consider a rewards program tied specifically to zero-punch. Least number of items, fastest response, best initial error-free team member, etc. Make it a competition and highlight the standings and results during project meetings when the owner is present.

Finally, above all else, do what you promise. If you agree to be finished by a certain date, do it or finish earlier. Do not accept incomplete work and hanging loose ends as normal for the industry – close the loop – finish the job.


Work(s) Cited:

Roebuck, K. (2012). Lean: High-Impact Strategies - What You Need to Know. Emereo Publishing.