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Process for implementing a quality management system (QMS) adapted to architectural practices in Tunisia , in the case of ISO 9001.

Published onFeb 09, 2024
Process for implementing a quality management system (QMS) adapted to architectural practices in Tunisia , in the case of ISO 9001.


This article explores the significance of implementing quality management systems (QMS) in  architectural practices, focusing on the ISO 9001 standard and alternative methodologies like  “Planer am Bau.”, the article delves into the benefits and challenges of adopting ISO 9001  and provides insights into setting up a QMS tailored to the unique needs of architectural  firms in Tunisia. 

Keywords: ISO 9001, quality management systems, architectural practices, Planer am Bau, TUV certification, process optimization, international standards. 



ISO 9001 is an international standard that outlines the requirements for a quality  management system (QMS). It is recognized and applied worldwide across all  sectors. Adopting this standard can provide numerous benefits for architectural  practices, including improved service quality, increased customer satisfaction, and enhanced organizational performance.  

ISO 9001 is based on quality management principles such as customer orientation,  staff involvement, process approach, continuous improvement, and evidence-based  decision-making. Adopting this standard demonstrates an architectural firm's  commitment to quality service and customer satisfaction.(Hoyle 2017) In a  competitive environment where service quality is a key differentiating factor, ISO  9001 is becoming a strategic tool for architectural practices. This enables them to  structure their processes, improve efficiency, and meet customer expectations.  

ISO 9001 can play a crucial role in helping architectural practices in Tunisia improve  their performance, manage complex projects, comply with current regulations,  satisfy customers, and manage resources. The objective of this article is to emphasize  the significance of ISO 9001 for architectural practices in Tunisia. The article  examines how this standard can enhance the quality of services, increase customer satisfaction, optimize processes, and ensure long-term success. Additionally, the  article discusses the process of implementing a QMS tailored to architectural  practices.  

In summary, ISO 9001 is more than a quality standard. ISO 9001 is a strategic tool  that can assist architectural practices in navigating an increasingly complex and  competitive environment. By adopting this standard, architectural practices can  improve the quality of their services, strengthen their market position, and ensure  long-term success. Several quality standards can be applied to architectural practices.  

In addition to ISO 9001, one such standard is NF X 35-102(Ghuilaine Clouet 2009),  which defines ergonomic criteria for office workspaces. For instance, it mandates 15  m² of space for each employee in a shared workspace (such as a coworking, flex  office, or open-space), and 10 m² for those in individual offices.  

Additionally, it references the Planer am Bau quality standard, which was created in  partnership with TÜV Rheinland certification body. Finally, it mentions a quality  control system. This fragment describes the measures implemented to achieve the  quality standards defined in a quality management plan. The purpose of these  measures is to prevent errors, reduce the costs associated with correcting them,  shorten lead times, and increase productivity. 

Architectural practices can improve the quality of their services, increase customer  satisfaction, optimize their processes, and ensure long-term success by adhering to  these standards, in addition to ISO 9001. It is essential for architectural practices to  understand the importance of these standards and strive to adopt them in their daily  practices. The purpose of this article is to offer a comprehensive guide on how to  implement an ISO 9001-based Quality Management System (QMS) in architectural  practices. It explains the fundamental principles of ISO 9001, such as customer focus,  staff involvement, process approach, continuous improvement, and evidence-based  decision making. The article emphasizes how ISO 9001 can enhance customer  confidence, improve complaints handling, optimize processes, and drive continuous  improvement. This article describes the process of implementing a Quality  Management System (QMS) from initial assessment to review and improvement. It  encourages architectural firms in Tunisia to adopt ISO 9001 to improve their  efficiency and quality of service. The article aims to be a valuable resource for any  architectural practice seeking to implement an ISO 9001-based QMS.



ISO 9001 is an international standard that defines the criteria for a quality  management system (QMS). It is based on several quality principles, including  customer orientation, employee involvement, process approach, continuous  improvement, and evidence-based decision-making.  


ISO 9001 stipulates that organizations should aim to comprehend their customers'  present and future needs, meet their requirements, and strive to exceed their  expectations. This involves establishing clear communication with customers to  understand their needs and expectations, and implementing processes to effectively  and consistently meet those needs. Employee involvement is also a crucial principle  of ISO 9001. Employees at all levels are crucial to the success of an organization.  Their full participation enables the organization to benefit from their capabilities.  Management must ensure that staff understand the importance of their role in the  QMS and have the necessary skills and resources to carry out their tasks. The process  approach, as promoted by ISO 9001, is essential for developing, implementing, and  improving the effectiveness of a QMS. A process approach involves managing  activities and resources as a process that transforms inputs into outputs, resulting in  more predictable and consistent performance.  


To take a proactive approach to improving their products, services, and processes  through continual improvement. Improvement objectives should be set, plans to  achieve them should be implemented, progress should be monitored and measured,  and corrective action should be taken when necessary. Also stresses the significance  of evidence-based decision-making. This requires decisions to be based on data and  information analysis and evaluation, ensuring their effectiveness and contribution to  the organization's continuous improvement.  

ISO 9001 is a robust standard that can enhance the efficiency and quality of service of  architectural practices. By comprehending and implementing the principles of ISO  9001, architectural practices can establish a QMS that caters to their customers' needs,  engages their staff, adopts a process-oriented approach, fosters continuous  improvement, and facilitates evidence-based decision-making.



In United Kingdom , Large Chartered Practices (with over 51 staff)1 must adopt an  externally certified QMS satisfying the almost universal quality assurance standard:  ISO 9001. For some clients, particularly those in public sector, having ISO 9001 in  place is a prerequisite of bidding for work. 

Small Chartered Practices (up to ten staff) are only required to prepare a Project  Quality Plan (PQP) for each project to satisfy the minimum RIBA requirement  for Chartered Status. 


There are multiple ways in which an architectural firm's adoption of ISO 9001 can  enhance customer confidence.  

Firstly, ISO 9001 is a globally recognized standard. When an architectural firm is ISO  9001 certified, it means that it has implemented a Quality Management System  (QMS) that has been assessed and approved by an independent certification body.  This gives customers confidence that the architectural firm is committed to quality  and has processes in place to ensure consistency and continuous improvement of its  services.(Krajcsák 2019) 

Secondly, ISO 9001 emphasizes customer orientation. This means that the  architectural firm must understand its customers' current and future needs, meet  their requirements, and strive to exceed their expectations. Improved communication  with customers, a better understanding of their needs and expectations, and a greater  ability to deliver services that meet or exceed those expectations are some of the  benefits of this approach.  

ISO 9001 requires architectural practices to establish processes for monitoring and  measuring service quality. This may involve methods such as customer satisfaction  surveys, contract reviews, and internal audits. The information gathered can be used  to identify areas for improvement and take steps to enhance service quality. ISO 9001  certification gives customers confidence in the architectural firm's commitment to  continuous improvement and proactive management of service quality.  

  Small Chartered Practices (up to ten staff) are only required to prepare a Project Quality Plan (PQP)  for each project to satisfy the minimum RIBA requirement for Chartered Status.

Additionally, ISO 9001 promotes evidence-based decision-making, ensuring that  decisions are based on data and information rather than supposition or opinion. This  can improve the quality of services provided by the architectural practice. Adopting  ISO 9001 can increase customer confidence in the architectural office's decision 

making process and commitment to quality. It emphasizes customer focus, monitors  and measures service quality, and makes evidence-based decisions. This can result in  increased customer satisfaction, a better reputation, and greater success for the  architectural firm. 


When a customer makes a complaint, it indicates dissatisfaction with a product or  service. It presents an opportunity for the organization to rectify the issue, improve  the customer relationship, and enhance its processes to prevent future  occurrences.(Tzelepis 2006) 

ISO 9001 provides a structured and managed process for handling complaints.  

The process involves receiving the complaint and taking appropriate action. The  organization should provide a clear and user-friendly process for customers to file  complaints. This process can be facilitated through an online form, a dedicated  telephone number, or an email address. Additionally, all claims must be registered to  enable tracking. Registration should include the customer's name, the date, the  nature of the claim, and the product or service in question. Claim Investigation:  Upon receipt and registration of a claim, an investigation must be conducted to  understand the cause of the issue and determine potential solutions. Complaint  Resolution: Based on the investigation's findings, the organization must take  appropriate steps to resolve the complaint. This may entail replacing a defective  product, offering an additional service, or compensating the customer in some other  manner. Communication with the customer is crucial throughout the process to keep  them informed of the status of their claim. After resolving a claim, it is crucial to  confirm with the customer that they are satisfied with the handling of the claim.  

The organization should also conduct regular reviews of claims and their  management to identify trends and areas for improvement, in line with ISO 9001's  commitment to continual improvement. In summary, ISO 9001 assists organizations  in effectively managing complaints, transforming them into opportunities to enhance  customer satisfaction and the quality of their products or services. 

For architectural firms, this can result in increased customer confidence, a stronger  reputation, and ultimately, greater market success. 

ISO 9001 can help prevent complaints in several ways. 

Firstly, it requires organizations to understand their customers' needs and  expectations, promoting customer orientation.  

Secondly, it advocates for a process-based approach, which ensures that products or  services meet customer needs and expectations. By following these guidelines,  organizations can prevent claims arising from misunderstandings or  disappointments. ISO 9001 encourages organizations to view their activities and  resources as interconnected processes. By understanding how each process affects  the others, an organization can identify and resolve problems before they become  complaints.  

Additionally, ISO 9001 requires organizations to continually seek to improve their  processes and performance. This means that individuals or organizations must  regularly evaluate their performance, identify areas for improvement, and  implement changes. This practice can help prevent complaints by ensuring that  problems are resolved before they become major issues.  

ISO 9001 requires that decisions be based on the analysis and evaluation of data and  information. (Tarí 2012)This means that organizations must collect data on their  performance, analyze it to identify trends and problems, and use this information to  make decisions. Doing so can help prevent claims by ensuring that decisions are  made on the basis of facts rather than supposition or conjecture. Additionally,  managing relationships with interested parties is crucial. ISO 9001 recognizes that  organizations have multiple stakeholders, including customers, staff, suppliers, and  the local community. By effectively managing these relationships, an organization  can ensure that it meets the expectations of all stakeholders, which can help prevent  complaints.  

ISO 9001 provides a framework for effectively managing an organization and its  processes, which can help prevent complaints.(Rusjan 2010) This is why many  organizations choose to implement this standard.


One of the fundamental principles of ISO 9001 is continuous improvement, which is  intrinsically linked to process improvement. ISO 9001 can help improve processes in  an organization through process identification.(Demirors 2002) Organizations are  required to identify and understand the processes required for the QMS. ISO 9001  requires organizations to document not only production or service delivery processes  but also support processes such as human resources, purchasing, and infrastructure  management.  

This documentation helps organizations understand how these processes interact  and contribute to product or service quality. Documentation is crucial for  maintaining quality and ensuring consistency and standardization. It also serves as a  basis for process analysis and improvement. 

Additionally, ISO 9001 mandates that organizations monitor and measure their  processes, which may involve collecting data on key performance indicators like  cycle time, defect rate, or customer satisfaction. This data can be analyzed to identify  problems or opportunities for improvement.  

ISO 9001 promotes a fact-based approach to improvement, meaning that decisions  should be based on data and information rather than assumptions or opinions. This  ensures that improvement efforts are focused and effective. Additionally, ISO 9001  emphasizes continuous improvement.  

Finally, ISO 9001 requires organizations to engage in continuous improvement. This  means that they must constantly look for ways to improve their processes and  performance. This may involve innovation, adopting new technologies or methods,  or simply adjusting and refining existing processes. ISO 9001 provides a framework  for process improvement. Organizations can use process management to  systematically and objectively identify, understand, document, monitor, measure,  and improve their processes. This can lead to improved quality, greater efficiency,  and increased customer satisfaction.  

For architectural practices, process management can result in better design quality,  more efficient project management, and increased customer satisfaction.

Table 1 Example table for quality management in an architecture office .© 2024 by [Author] 

This table presents a structured methodology for quality management that is tailored  to architecture offices. It outlines five key steps that are essential for ensuring the  delivery of high-quality projects, efficient client communication, and overall  organizational excellence. The methodology includes the identification of processes,  documentation of processes, monitoring and measurement, fact-based improvement,  and continuous improvement. The first step in establishing a robust quality  management system (QMS) within architecture firms is to identify the core  processes. These processes, which include design, project management, client  communication, and supplier management, form the foundation of the quality  management framework.  

Documentation of processes involves detailing specific procedures, workflows, and  quality standards associated with each identified process. This documentation serves  as a reference point for maintaining consistency and adherence to established quality  protocols. The next step is monitoring and measurement, which emphasizes defining  Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each process.(Rezgui 2017) Key Performance  Indicators (KPIs) enable effective tracking and evaluation of process performance,  including project timelines and client satisfaction.  


Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are quantifiable metrics used to evaluate the success of an  organization or a specific activity in achieving its objectives. They serve as measurable markers of  progress toward desired outcomes and are typically tied to strategic goals. KPIs help organizations  track performance over time, identify areas for improvement, and make informed decisions based on  data-driven insights.

The fourth step, fact-based improvement, involves analyzing data collected from KPI  measurements to identify areas for enhancement. This evidence-based approach  enables architecture offices to pinpoint weaknesses, inefficiencies, and opportunities  for process optimization. Finally, continuous improvement emphasizes the iterative  nature of quality management. Targeted improvement actions are implemented  based on analysis findings. This iterative process cultivates a culture of excellence,  innovation, and continuous learning within architecture firms. This table presents a  comprehensive framework for architecture offices to systematically manage quality,  enhance project outcomes, and maintain a competitive advantage in an ever-evolving  industry landscape. 

Table 2 Formulas for measuring performance in quality management. © 2024 by [Author]

These performance indicators are essential for monitoring and improving quality  management processes within an organization. Regularly tracking and analyzing  these metrics enables organizations to identify areas for improvement, address  potential issues, and optimize their operations to enhance overall quality and  customer satisfaction. The provided formulas enable organizations to objectively  calculate and benchmark their performance, facilitating data-driven decision-making  and continuous improvement efforts. 



ISO 9001 is a widely recognized framework for establishing and maintaining quality  management systems in various industries worldwide. Its adoption by architectural  practices in developing countries, such as Tunisia, presents significant advantages  and potential challenges. 

On one hand, ISO 9001 offers tangible benefits for architectural practices. Firstly, ISO  9001 provides a structured and standardized framework for assessing, managing,  and improving the quality of services provided. This can lead to improved customer  satisfaction, reduced errors and non-conformities, and optimized internal processes.  Additionally, ISO 9001 certification can enhance the credibility and reputation of  architectural practices in the national and international marketplace by  demonstrating their commitment to quality and operational excellence. Moreover,  ISO 9001 certification can create new business opportunities for developing  architectural practices. By adhering to globally recognized standards, companies can  access larger international markets and attract discerning foreign customers who  seek reliable and high-quality suppliers. 

Nevertheless, implementing ISO 9001 can also pose significant challenges for  architectural practices in developing countries. The implementation of the standard  often requires a significant up-front investment in terms of time, human and  financial resources. Companies must devote time and effort to training staff,  documenting processes, and setting up quality management systems that comply  with the standard. Additionally, the administrative complexity associated with ISO  9001 can be an obstacle for architectural practices, particularly in environments  where resources are limited and traditional practices predominate. However,  documenting processes and keeping records in accordance with the standard's  requirements can add an additional administrative burden and require significant  cultural and organizational adjustments.  

Several developing countries have chosen to adopt ISO 9001 for their businesses,  including architectural practices. For instance, in recent years, India, Brazil and South  Africa have experienced a significant rise in the number of ISO 9001-certified  companies. These countries acknowledge the potential advantages of ISO 9001, such  as improved quality, enhanced competitiveness in the global marketplace, and access  to new markets. 




"Planer am Bau" certification is a quality standard specifically designed for architects and  engineers. It was developed in collaboration with the certification body TÜV Rheinland.

TÜV Rheinland is an internationally recognized provider of technical services, including testing,  inspection, certification, and consulting. With its headquarters in Cologne, Germany, TÜV Rheinland  operates globally and offers a broad range of services across various industries, including automotive,  energy, information technology, healthcare, and manufacturing. TÜV is known for its expertise in  quality management, safety, security, environmental protection, and sustainability, and its  certifications and assessments are widely respected in the industry.

The standard aims to improve productivity through structured office organization. It offers a  practical alternative to ISO 9001, with just enough and not too much.  

"Planer am Bau" certification is based on a pragmatic approach to quality management. The  text focuses on the essential aspects that directly impact the quality of planning work,  including project management, communication with customers and stakeholders, resource  management, and risk management. The 'Planer am Bau' certification is designed to be easy to  implement and maintain, without excessive documentation or bureaucratic procedures. It  encourages a proactive approach to continuous improvement. Architects and engineers can  focus on their planning work with confidence that their processes conform to a recognized  quality standard. 

Table 3 Comparison of Planer am Bau and ISO 9001 © 2024 by [Author] 

The 'Planer am Bau' method, a German approach to quality management, is  considered an effective alternative for architectural and engineering practices due to  its pragmatism and focus on essential planning and construction aspects. This  method's relevance is evident in its structured office organization. "Planer am Bau"  promotes a structured office organization by establishing clear and efficient  processes for project management, customer communication, resource management,  and risk management. This fosters better coordination of activities and optimized  workflows. An important aspect of the "Planer am Bau" methodology is the exchange  of experience within ERFA circles.

  The Exchange of Experience Working Group (ERFA) : was founded in Germany in 1984 in order to  facilitate an exchange between companies in the mechanical and plant engineering sector and thus to  jointly become more competitive. Representatives from industry and science have joined forces in this working group to jointly develop practical solutions for the challenges in the field of assembly. :

These circles allow members to share knowledge, learn from each other, identify alternative solutions, and highlight best practices.  This exchange fosters innovation and continuous improvement within the  profession. 

'Planer am Bau' promotes a proactive approach to continuous improvement,  encouraging architectural practices to identify and implement improvements on an  ongoing basis. Based on feedback and lessons learned from ERFA circles,  practitioners can adapt their practices to meet evolving market needs and customer  expectations. Additionally, architectural and engineering firms can obtain the 'Planer  am Bau' quality certificate from TÜV after passing an examination. This certification  provides customers and stakeholders with added assurance of the quality and  reliability of the company's services. The 'Planer am Bau' method presents a  structured and pragmatic approach to quality management in architecture and  engineering. It provides a viable alternative to conventional quality standards like  ISO 9001, as it prioritizes collaboration, continuous learning, and adaptability to  market demands. By adopting this method, architectural firms can improve their  operational efficiency, enhance customer satisfaction, and maintain their  competitiveness in a constantly changing environment. 

5.2 IN FRANCE:  

The adoption of the HQE® method by French architects and engineers has prompted  a reassessment of design management processes to incorporate new environmental  objectives into architectural solutions. Consequently, AFAQ AFNOR, the Fédération  “des Promoteurs Constructeurs de France”, and CERTIVEA have introduced the  QUALIPROM® referential. This framework enables constructors to integrate HQE®  goals into all operations, demonstrating the ability to fulfill client requirements and  environmental standards. Table 4 provides further details on this methodology,  which draws from ISO 9001 requirements and HQE® standards. 

This document serves as a comparative analysis of various regulations pertaining to  quality and environmental management, emphasizing the imperative to adapt  design management processes to address contemporary sustainability  imperatives. (Salgado 2012)


CERTIVEA is France's leading provider of certification and labeling services for commercial buildings and  regional development. 

QUALIPROM is a certification attesting to the quality of the production processes used by developers and  builders. It is issued by CERTIVEA, a certification body committed to sustainable living.

Table 4 References on Quality and Environmental Management in France (Salgado 2011) 

The French standards, such as ISO 14001 and ISO 9001, provide a solid foundation  for environmental and quality management. These standards offer a framework for  organizations to establish, implement, maintain, and improve their management  systems effectively. However, the applicability of these standards may vary across  different sectors and organizational contexts. However, although the French  approach has strengths, there are areas where it could be further improved. One such  area is accessibility and awareness.  


The HQE EMS (High Environmental Quality Environmental Management System) is part of the HQE approach,  which includes an environmental management system (EMS) and a building environmental quality (BEQ)  objective defined by 14 targets. The EMS is a set of procedures relating to project supervision, put in place  during construction by the project owner3. HQE is a multi-criteria optimization approach 

QUALIMO is a certification issued by CERTIVEA. It attests to the implementation of quality criteria in  residential rental operations.

While there are comprehensive standards and certification programs in place,  ensuring that stakeholders, particularly smaller firms and practitioners, are aware of  and have access to them may be a challenge. Efforts to promote education, training,  and outreach initiatives could enhance participation and adoption of quality and  environmental management practices in the construction sector.  

Achieving meaningful integration and effective implementation of these practices at  the operational level may require additional support and resources, despite the  framework provided by standards and certification programs. Enhancing capacity building efforts and providing practical guidance could facilitate smoother  implementation and ensure the desired outcomes are achieved. 

Table 5 Comparison of Approaches for Small Architectural Practices in Tunisia © 2024 by [Author] 

This table provides a comparative overview of the advantages and disadvantages of  each approach for small architectural practices in Tunisia. It is essential for  architectural firms to carefully consider these factors and assess their specific needs  and priorities before choosing the most appropriate approach for their practice. 


The adoption of ISO 9001 or other quality management methods presents significant  opportunities for architectural practices in Tunisia. By adhering to internationally  recognized standards and implementing structured quality management systems, architectural firms can enhance their service quality, increase customer satisfaction,  and improve overall organizational performance.  

ISO 9001 provides a strong framework based on principles such as customer focus,  continuous improvement, and evidence-based decision-making. Although  implementing ISO 9001 may present initial challenges in terms of resource  investment and administrative complexity, the long-term benefits outweigh the costs.  ISO 9001 certification not only enhances the credibility and reputation of  architectural firms but also creates new business opportunities in the global  marketplace. Moreover, there are alternative approaches, such as 'Planer am Bau,'  that provide pragmatic solutions tailored specifically for architects and engineers.  These methods emphasize structured office organization, collaborative exchange of  experiences, proactive continuous improvement, and certification by reputable  bodies like TÜV. 

On the other hand, the French HQE standards, including ISO 14001 and ISO 9001,  offer a comprehensive framework for integrating environmental sustainability and  quality management into architectural projects. While these standards provide  valuable guidance on environmental stewardship and regulatory compliance, their  applicability to Tunisian practices may depend on factors such as regulatory  alignment, resource constraints, and market demand for sustainable design  solutions.  

In essence, whether adopting ISO 9001 or alternative methods, architectural practices  in Tunisia can benefit greatly by prioritizing quality management. By embracing  internationally recognized standards and implementing systematic approaches to  quality assurance, architectural firms can strengthen their market competitiveness,  build trust with clients, and ensure long-term success in a dynamic and competitive  industry landscape.


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Zoltán Krajcsák. Implementing Open Innovation Using Quality Management Systems: The Role of  Organizational Commitment and Customer Loyalty. Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and  Complexity 5 Elsevier BV, 2019. 

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