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Things to Consider When Dealing with Submittals

FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 2018

By Bob Bailey, AIA, CCS


More items for Good Technical Practice

Submittals are the bridge between contract documents and construction. They are also a vital aspect of construction administration that the architect needs to handle well. This article offers a few points of consideration for those of you out there processing submittals.

1. Contractor’s Submittal Schedule. This is a requirement of AIA Document A201, General Conditions, the foundation of many construction contracts. A submittal schedule is important because it provides a framework for both sides to effectively process submittals in a timely manner and forestalls the all-too-common practice of a contractor sending the architect a pile of 30 submittals at once. Raise your hand if you have experienced difficulty in getting the contractor to comply with providing a submittal schedule. You are not alone.

Submittal schedules take time to produce and require contractor management and coordination of their subcontractors and suppliers. What is your leverage in this situation? It could be not processing an application for payment. Proactively, your specifications could state explicitly that payment will be withheld until the submittal schedule is approved. Making this clear at a preconstruction meeting is also important. In return, once the submittal schedule is submitted, process it immediately as a show of good faith. And if you’ve held up a pay application, process that immediately also.

2. Contractor’s Review of a Submittal. A201 also says that the contractor is required to review submittals for compliance with the contract documents and approve them. It further states that by submitting a submittal, the contractor represents to the owner and architect that it has reviewed and approved it, and that it has verified materials and criteria, and checked and coordinated the information.

© iStock.com / junce

Submittals are the bridge between contract documents and construction. They are also a vital aspect of construction administration that the architect needs to handle well. This article offers a few points of consideration for those of you out there processing submittals.

Have you ever received a submittal wherein it was abundantly clear that the contractor had not reviewed the information? In the rush of the project schedule, contractors may hurry submittals along without proper review. As the line from the old Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks commercials used to go, “throw it back.” Send the submittal back with the notation “unreviewed” and the qualifier that the submittal contains incorrect information and appears not to have been properly reviewed by the contractor.

3. Shop Drawings. A201 further states that shop drawings are “specially prepared for the work.” In other words, they are to be newly prepared information, specifically for the project. Manufacturer’s standard details are NOT shop drawings; they are product data, and if submitted as such should be returned with the notation that they are not acceptable as shop drawings.

4. Published Color Charts and Prints/Photocopies. Sometimes contractors will send a photocopy of a color chart or a printout of a color chart on a website for the architect to use for color selection. Because of the obvious potential variation in rendition, a print or photocopy is simply unacceptable for the architect to make color selections from. “Throw it back.”

5. Procedural Submittals. Procedural submittals can include items such as a site utilization plan, moisture and mold protection plan, dust control plan or waste management plan. These are primarily informational submittals rather than actionable submittals, since they involve the contractor’s means and methods, but are important to receive in order to ascertain that the proposed plan is complete and will be effective. Many times, these are overlooked by the person doing construction administration, because they are most often part of specifications sections that are not product-centric, such as in Division 01 General Requirements.

6. Submittal Log. Every architectural office likely has its own format for keeping track of submittals, but I would offer these suggestions to optimize a submittal log. Make it easy to read, as opposed to laboriously detailed. Make prominent the statuses of what submittals are outstanding and where the submittals are (contractor, architect, consultant). Consider tracking intraoffice progress of the submittal if more than one person is reviewing it. Be sure to record the date the submittal is received from the contractor. The contractor may have its own dating system, and try to use the date on which they sent the submittal to begin the count of how many days have elapsed under the architect’s review.

© iStock.com / mediaphotos

Every architectural office likely has its own format for keeping track of submittals, but I would offer these suggestions to optimize a submittal log. Make it easy to read, as opposed to laboriously detailed. Make prominent the statuses of what submittals are outstanding and where the submittals are (contractor, architect, consultant).

7. Identification of Key Information. I often see submittals that are very non-specific as to what is being provided. There may be variations of the product and the variation being proposed is not identified. There may be options and accessories available and no indication of which would be provided. Incompleteness also exacerbates the evaluation of a proposed substitution. Make known that the burden of proof of equivalency is on the proposer. It is not the architect’s job to ferret out what is being intended; it is the contractor’s responsibility to indicate point by point how the proposed substitution compares to the specified product.

8. Substitutions After the Bid. Sometimes the specifications stipulate that substitutions after bidding will not be considered except in extenuating circumstances (e.g., specified product is no longer available). If substitutions following the award are acceptable (they are not precluded by A201), keep in mind that they are considered a modification of the contract requiring acceptance by both parties (architect and owner). In other words: A product swap-out is not a free pass; there is typically an expectation of an adjustment to the contract sum.

9. Construction/Fabrication Samples. Make use of these. A construction sample can show, for example, the composition of a solid core flush wood door, enabling the architect to evaluate the core, the veneer plies and the edge condition. A fabrication sample shows how an assembly such as a decorative railing will be fabricated, so that the architect can clearly see the railing components, how the component will be finished, and the proposed connection and anchoring methods. These types of samples are different from in situ mockups.

10. Delegated Design. The discussion of the risks and responsibilities of delegated design is ongoing and will depend on the law of the place and the authorities having jurisdiction. Delegated design should be evaluated by the architect, but the specifications should clearly spell out the responsibilities of the delegated design and how the delegated design will be evaluated. It has been suggested that the architect not ask for engineering calculations as an action submittal because the architect then becomes responsible for them; it's more prudent to require a letter of certification saying that the performance criteria has been met.

11. Material Safety Data Sheets. Because they are readily available with other product literature, contractors often send them along as part of the submittal package even though they are not requested. And they should not be requested. MSDSs relate to contractor safety and should be on the jobsite for the contractor’s information. The architect should not review these and better yet should not even receive them. If the owner requests to have them available, the contractor should send them directly to the owner without going through the architect.

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: Contracts; Documentation; Specification; Specification writing

Comment from Steve Black, (3/19/2018, 9:31 AM)

Deal, if architects edit down the boiler plate specification sections to include only those submittals which actually require review and those that are for information only and agree not to mark up submittals with changes without sending along the appropriate contract modification forms and will clearly stamp an action submittal "Approved", "Approved as noted" or "Rejected". None of this "Reviewed", "Appears to conform with", etc. language that appears on stamps these days.


Comment from Douglas Pearmain, (9/24/2018, 1:34 PM)

Items #3 shop drawings are notorious for being standard product drawings that hardly ever apply to expansion joint closure systems installations. Take a 2, 3 or 4 way configuration that may include, in some cases a membrane or weather cover with insulation or a fire barrier and or drainage systems. These can get very complex and may even involve a number of trades with installation delays. THE time to figure this out is as early as possible to avoid "reconstruction" or poor install taking into account ABAA considerations for building envelopes. # 11 is now commonly referenced as SDS.


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