QUALITY ASSURANCE IS A major topic for every home builder, and the inspection process is receiving close scrutiny. Greenbriar Homes Communities, based in Fremont, Calif., incorporates quality assurance into every step of the process, from plan design through warranty service. As a result, Greenbriar won Eliant's 2003 overall quality award for large-volume builders, which is measured at the end of the first year after move-in.

“Our philosophy is that quality is not only the standard, it's the entire process to get to the standard,” says Carol Meyer, Greenbriar's chairman of the board.

Earning the overall quality award is tough, says Bob Mirman, CEO of Eliant, a provider of home buyer satisfaction solutions. The award comes from totaling quality scores at move-in, five months, and 10 months. Getting the award means that the builder has good internal processes, good trade contractor relationships, and clearly defined and maintained buyer expectations.

“You can have great quality and still get lousy scores because buyer expectations are allowed to wander upward,” Mirman says. “Greenbriar put procedures in place to manage the expectations of buyers in reasonableness and accuracy.”

EAGLE EYE: An inspector for Greenbriar Homes checks deep flooring as part of the builder's award-winning quality assurance program. The key to Greenbriar's success, Mirman says, is a system structured to track performance throughout construction and the warranty period, and a top-down commitment to quality.

“They call every buyer to thank them or to fix the problem,” Mirman says. “They're very responsive… . They are just consistent to beat the band in quality scores.”

Trade contractor training is a big part of the process. They're trained on the company's quality levels and the service that is expected. Each trade contractor gets feedback from warranty calls and Eliant surveys. Products undergo similar scrutiny.

The same commitment to quality is expected of Greenbriar's employees. New hires are made based on the applicant's commitment to quality, and bonuses are based in part on customer satisfaction surveys. An 18-month construction management education program for all employees covers such topics as bidding, trade contractor evaluation, and how to read blueprints.

Cutting Errors The quality system at Greenbriar starts with a 12-week design review of all new plans by the architect, the engineer, the project manager, the vice president of construction, a marketing representative, customer service director Richard Gilmore, representatives from the major trade contractors (foundation, framing, HVAC, electrical, and plumbing), and a forensic architect.

That step alleviates costly, time-consuming rework in the field. For instance, one plan had a tub floating in the bathroom against three windows. The plumbing contractor identified insufficient space for venting, and the plan was redrawn.