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7 Areas Where Construction Conflicts Can Arise

THURSDAY, JANUARY 21, 2016

By Bob Bailey, AIA, CCS


More items for Good Technical Practice

Many construction projects are rife with potentially overlapping trade responsibilities.

Here are seven areas where conflicts can arise.

1. Site Work

The general contractor typically controls out to 5 feet outside the building line. This is usually, but not automatically, the case.

Worksite dispute
©iStock.com / SharpPhotoPro

Certain aspects of design and construction require coordination with consultants and contractors.

The "5-foot line" has traditionally marked the intersection between trade engineers and trades contractors performing work their work, and civil engineers and site trades performing theirs.

2. Temporary Utilities

This area of coordination can be contentious if not delineated carefully. In a single contract scenario (new construction), it’s the least complicated; the general contractor has its HVAC subcontractor provide temporary heat and the Electrical sub provide power and lighting. 

In a multiple prime scenario, the HVAC contractor most often provides the temporary heating (and ventilating) equipment, with the general contractor paying the cost of the fuel until the building is closed in. Once the building is closed in, heating and ventilating is then handled with the permanent equipment and the cost of fuel sometimes transfers to the owner. Also in a multiple prime scenario, water and power are most often provided by the plumbing and electrical contractor, respectively, with the general contractor paying utility costs.

3. Firestopping

This application is similar to painting and cutting and patching. The use of a passive fire-protection method is now not only required by the International Building Code (IBC) but the code also mandates that its installation be inspected and that the owner must engage and pay for this inspection. There has been some movement to have a single entity applicator perform all firestopping required for the project, but there are areas of the country where this has not gained much traction.

4. Air Barriers

The general contractor controls who installs the vapor barrier, but most are putting it in the package of whoever installs the substrate. This way, said installer is responsible if the substrate doesn't meet the air barrier minimum installation standards. If the sheathing, masonry or insulation contractor does not install air barriers, then they subcontract it. With general contractors controlling the sequencing, it can depend on a variety of factors as far as knowing if the air barrier is going on before or after the roof is installed. Most often air-barrier installation is occurring before or during the roof installation.

5. Access Doors

Ultimately it’s the system contractor (plumbing, HVAC, etc.) who’s going to know where access doors are needed. It’s incumbent upon the architect to review the location with the contractor to determine the aesthetic acceptability of the panel. 

planning
©iStock.com / RawPixelLtd

Finger pointing can be avoided down the road when responsibilities and limits are spelled out beforehand.

Also, the architect should specify the doors to ensure that other aesthetic issues like flush appearance, type of trim, and material of the door are in accordance with the design concept, and that fire-resistance-rated panels are specified for fire-rated walls. If the panel material requires painting, the issue of which entity does the painting needs to be addressed.

6. Cutting and Patching

According to the General Services Administration, “cutting and patching” refers to cutting into existing construction to provide for the installation or performance of other work and the subsequent fitting and patching required to restore surfaces to their original conditions.

There are several schools of thought on cutting and patching and each carries its own pros and cons.

  • Each trade contractor cuts, the general contractor patches all. The benefit of this method is that the cutting takes place where it needs to and is done by the entity that needs it, and the finish work is all done by one entity that is also the one most likely to respond to aesthetic concerns about patching. The possible downside is that the general contractor may not be able to control where cutting occurs.
  • The trade contractor cuts and patches its own work.  With this method the general contractor doesn’t have to be bothered with patching the trade contractors’ work. The disadvantage is that the system trades aren’t artisans when it comes to finish work, and would often rather perform patching with their own forces than hire a drywall (or other) contractor.
  • The general contractor provides cutting and patching for all trades. The downside to this approach is that it gives the trade contractor someone to blame if the cutting is not to their liking. The advantage is having one entity doing it all and therefore being solely responsible.

Whichever method is decided upon, it must be clearly delineated in the specifications, particularly if the project is being constructed under multiple contracts.

7. Painting

We’d all rather see exposed equipment and infrastructure be painted by a professional painting contractor than by a mechanical subcontractor. Decide up front if the painting contractor is responsible for finish painting of mechanical work and be sure to specify finish coats that are compatible with prime coats.

painter
©iStock.com / Visivasnc

Decide up front if the painting contractor is responsible for finish painting mechanical work.

Coordination is also important for exterior exposed (often architectural) structural steel. A steel fabricator’s standard primer is not going to be a high-performance primer, and that’s what an exterior application that is to be high-quality and durable demands. Additionally, if the exterior steel is galvanized, proper surface preparation is both demanding and crucial.

Conclusion

Anticipating these potential areas of conflicts ahead of time and having responsibilities and limits spelled out at the outset can go a long way towards minimizing finger-pointing, change orders, project delays and ill will.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Bob Bailey, AIA, CCS

A full-time specifier for more than 25 years, Bob Bailey, AIA, CCS, CSI, LEED AP, is Specifications and Constructability Specialist for IKM Inc. of Pittsburgh, PA. An award-winning specifications writer, Bob is the founder of the Pittsburgh Specifiers' Roundtable and immediate past president of CSI Pittsburgh. His professional passions: continuing education and internship development. Contact Bob.

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Tagged categories: Consultants; Contractors; Designers; Developers; Disputes; Engineers; Laws and litigation; Partnerships; Specifiers

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