Does Quality Have a Face?

I have been in the construction industry for over 25 years, working all across North America for PCL Construction. I have been fortunate to work on some amazing and fascinating jobs: large and small, complex and simple. Throughout this journey I have often wondered what makes for a quality project. Is it the project itself—the intricate assembly of materials and components that come together to form a thing of beauty? Or is it the mix of consultants, architects, and subcontractors working harmoniously together? What does a quality job look like? Does it change from project to project, or is it the same? Does quality have a face?
The lift span of the new Gilmerton bridge, under
construction, on temporary piers.

The lift span being floated down the Elizabeth river
to be installed at the location of the new bridge.


I recently had the privilege of watching an amazing group of craft workers do the final assembly of the Gilmerton lift bridge in Norfolk, Virginia. The new bridge replaced the old bascule bridge over the Elizabeth River. The new bridge consists of two adjacent lift towers (225 feet tall) separated by a 5-million pound lift span across 250 feet of river. 
The new lift span was assembled at a yard seven nautical miles away in the Port of Norfolk. It was constructed 39 feet above the water on temporary piers. The project plan called for the lift span to be floated down the river on a barge and pushed into place on the lift towers.


The face of quality became evident on a cold January evening in 2013. It was the night that the crew transferred the lift span from the temporary pilings to the barge to start the float sequence. As the load of the 5-million pound beast was laid on the barge, the barge moaned and creaked eerily as if it had a spirit of its own. The transfer was successful and the barge was ready for launch in the morning to carry the lift span upriver from the Port of Norfolk to the site of the lift towers.
The next morning dawned with clear blue skies and calm winds. The barge was launched at 8 a.m. and everything worked as planned. Two tugboats guided the mammoth structure down the river. A narrow bridge crossing was navigated without incident. What a spectacle! Finally after waiting for Mother Nature to control the tides to the precise elevation, the lift span slid into place between the lift towers without delay or incident. Years of planning, hard work, and attention to detail had paid off in a flawless float-in process! You can read about this exciting project at


I saw the face of quality that day in the expression of every member of the team. Tears of pride welled up in the eyes of the crew, who had put their hearts and souls into executing the complicated project. Everybody had contributed to creating a successful outcome. Each person knew the part he or she had played in delivering a quality project.
Quality doesn’t just come at the end of a project when all the individual components are assembled. Rather, it is infused into every aspect of the job by the craft workers who take pride in their work. For people like this, construction is a passion, and their commitment to quality is evident in every bolt and weld. Their attitude is to “Build it Right and Build it Once.”
TAGS: Quality


  • 250' span with 1 1/2" tolerance at each end - now that speaks to quality. Well done!

    Andy Ahrendt
  • An excellent motivational composition, summed up so eloquently!!!

    Patrick Martins
  • This sounds like quite an amazing project. Congratulations to the entire team!

    Darcy Belanger
  • Great first post!

    Sean Zook


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