Contributed by Russell Harrison
In my last blog post we looked at the struggles a product rep has comparing a product that is specified that doesn’t match the drawings. Or, how we compare apples to oranges.
In this post, we’re going to take it one level further and look at one small thing that happens at the subcontractor level during the bid phase. Before I go there, I’m going to sidetrack into the glazing side a bit, but we’ll bring it back around to the metal panel industry we spoke about in blog post #1, I promise!
In a past life, I was a subcontractor in Oregon working in the commercial glazing realm. We would install anything glazing related in commercial buildings or high-end residences. That could be curtainwalls and storefronts, automatic door entrances, or even vinyl windows. The reason I bring this up is because it gave our team exposure to items from Divisions 5 (Metal), 7 (Thermal and Moisture Protection), or 8 (Openings). As our work was based around Division 8, this forced us to sometimes work with quite a few items outside of our realm of expertise and brought up a lot of questions internally. Anytime we had time to reach out to a rep and discuss the things we didn’t understand, we would do so. However, when our bid lead times were short, we’d have to make a lot of guesses.
Guessing isn’t an abnormal occurrence in construction estimating. Unfortunately, it’s quite normal. Controlling the amount of guessing for subcontractors is an area where we can all help.
Subcontractors, like most people involved in the commercial construction industry, have to clearly understand the work to bid a project accurately. As product reps, we try to work side by side with our subs to make sure they have all the information they need by the bid date so they can provide a thorough bid, but sometimes things happen outside of our control. A recent item outside of our control, and a very relevant example, would be our white-hot construction market in a booming economy.
During a construction boom, most estimating teams at the subcontractor level are working 60-70 hours a week in an attempt to keep up with the number of projects that are bidding. This doesn’t leave much, if any, time for other daily tasks. Estimators are typically very selective of what they will consider bidding during these times, will only work with general contractors (GC's) they like, will choose to bid jobs that are completely detailed and well specified, or will chose projects that fit into their available labor calendars.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
Once upon a time, I wrote about a project we were awarded in an article titled ‘Not Quite Ready Yet’. That piece was a follow up to piece called 'Project Compaction: Not Just for Soil'. In that article, I had taken part in a pre-construction meeting on February 25th where the contractor asked if we could install flooring on a slab five days after the concrete pour. Needing to understand that one correctly, I said run that by me one more time? Their contract to us had flooring finishes being installed between March 21st and April 12th and as of that call, the concrete slab had not even been placed. Well, time flies and I’m here to provide an update on the project. Officially, we’re done as of Friday July 26th. Which all-in-all, isn’t horrible as that’s only three months and change behind the schedule that was dictated to us.
Numerous times in the last week I was struck by a recurring issue, and one that wraps up my trilogy on this particular project in one of the five boroughs of New York City.
If you ask 100 people what they would like more of in the day, I would guess that a vast majority would answer time. Ask the modern marketer what one of their primary objectives is and most will tell you its to gain peoples time and attention.
All the time we’re being reminded how our time is short and how time is of the essence and within construction, it always seems to be a race against time and before we know it, crunch time. Well, I beg to ask, in a business where time is money, and money is time, how did we get to a point where we seemingly no longer respect someone else’s time?
So, on this project that we just wrapped, we were informed that there were site inspections scheduled for Monday on Friday the 19th. Now in a borough of 1.5 million people, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that our customer, the General Contractor, had to schedule this inspection at least a few weeks in advance, if not a month or more. So, how is it we were told that we wouldn’t be able to work Monday, (which then turned into Tuesday as well) on a Friday afternoon?
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
I think there’s a big problem with the way substitutions are often handled, at least here in Colorado.
CSI has some great solutions – for example, 2 different substitution request forms, one for use during bidding, and one for use during construction. MasterSpec has what I consider to be fairly decent language regarding substitutions, in Division 01. But these solutions are often not implemented.
I think that “what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate” on several levels:
As a specifier, I sometimes add some language to the “acceptable products” list in each spec section that refers to the Division 00 section “Procurement Substitution Procedures” and/or Division 01 section “Substitution Procedures,” or if I have a Basis-of-Design product by one manufacturer listed, and a list of comparable manufacturers after that, I sometimes add language in each spec section that indicates that the contractor should “Comply with the requirements of Division 01 Section ‘Product Requirements’ for comparable product requests.”
But as with everything else, the project architect still has to know what’s in the specs (and then enforce the specs), the G.C. still has to comply with the requirements of the construction documents (and make sure his subs do too), and the Owner still has to understand that proposed substitutions have to be very carefully evaluated since everything was designed around the specified product.
I think this is where our work as CSI members lies – we should try to educate the rest of our industry about the roles that all parts of a project team play in this substitution process.
This post originally appeared on Liz O'Sullivan's website as "Substitutions: Often a Quagmire, but CSI Can Help"
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Contributed by Roy Schauffele
Late fall and during all winter, concerns and problems arise with air barrier applications on CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit). I know because I get the phone calls. Generally speaking, the fluid applied water-based vapor permeable air barriers go on OK but take a long time to cure or set.
Additionally, I’ve observed a myriad of job site problems with self-adhered vapor impermeable sheets, flashings and tapes. The vapor impermeable materials were applied properly but exhibited blistering and lack of adhesion within days. When investigated there was always liquid water on the adhered side of these sheets.
Observations of quite a few jobs leads me to state that, in this investigation, the vast majority of “problem” jobs had the following in common:
OK, let’s deal with what will lead to an excellent new construction air barrier installation and long-term performance:
1. If the Architect/Specifier has specified a dry water repellent in the CMU, it is already causing a potential problem with the adhesion of a water-based air barrier or primer. This issue has been written about previously in an article in Coatings Pro Magazine July 2018 “Legacy Specifications, Wall and Air Barrier Performance”. The Air Barrier installer absolutely needs to make the Architect/Specifier aware of this prior to bid.
2. If the project is wide open with doors, bay doors and windows not finished or openings not protected from water entry, then a tremendous amount of water can enter the CMU causing some of the problems referenced above. The top of the walls and window openings should be treated in such a way as to prevent water from running in to these open areas.
One of my friends and great technical writer in Austin, TX, Mr. Dave Watts, RA, has the following statement in his specifications: Section 04 20 00, 3.18 PROTECTION OF FINISHED WORK, 3.18.e “Protect tops of masonry with waterproof coverings secured in place without damaging masonry. Provide coverings where masonry is exposed to weather when work is not in progress.”
Contributed by Jori Smith
So, you have a non-Design-Bid-Build (DBB) project on the boards? Hurrah!
Collaborative project delivery methods such as Construction Management At-Risk (CMAR) have a proven track record of improving project outcomes for everyone. This is a different way of doing things though, and we all must adapt to the new normal. Are you evolving, or hanging on to old habits? Here are some ways that the A/E (Architect/Engineer) team can short circuit a successful process.
Having Meetings Without the Contractor
Anticipate that your builder will be included in all project planning activities and emails. A truly collaborative team works together as much as possible and appreciates the extra brain cells solving problems. The project benefits from builder attendance even at programming sessions with users, where the opportunity to learn about the priorities of both the client and the designer will affect feedback down the road.
Not Taking Advantage of Your Partner's Field Skills
Camera scoping of existing piping, roofing cores, investigative demolition inside walls or above ceilings, and surveying. I've had to BEG designers for lists of field verifications helpful to the project. This is a chance to change the reliance upon as-built documents provided by the Owner. Can we reduce, or even eliminate "unforeseen" conditions? Dare to dream!
Figuring it Out on Your Own
The construction team brings access to trade skill sets and constructability experience. In addition, they have been exposed to a diversity of project experience with multiple designers - some of whom might have had a great idea or two. We want to help you solve system/assembly problems while the project is still in design.
Letting the Engineers Put Off Progress Until You Finish "Moving Walls"
This is one of the most effective ways to cut the pre-construction process off at the knees. The builder cannot provide the estimating and constructability services we've been contracted to do when provided empty floor plans on the engineering sheets. Anyhow, BIM is forcing the team to make decisions earlier too, so this is a habit that needs to be broken.
Leaving Out the Details
The project will still be competitively bid by, all or most of the subs, and they need that information for an accurate scope. Sure, the builder at the pre-construction table heard you say “that” months ago (and may even remember), but she/he can’t be charged with communicating your design decisions to the bidders –unless you want to let her/him have the authority for those decisions. To maintain control of design and protect the Owner from unnecessary change costs, a fully complete set of construction documents must be provided.
Forgetting About the Bidding Documents
Again - the subcontracts are still being competitively bid. Additionally, all of Division 01 likely still applies and will require a thorough review by both teams, as changes are generally needed to align the requirements with the project delivery method.
Not Taking Advantage of Scheduling Options
Changes are inherent in the pre-construction process. We're working together to make them now, instead of later – because later costs the owner money in change orders. This is an opportunity to reconsider putting out incomplete or uncoordinated drawings just to hit a milestone date. Ask how your builder can adapt the schedule to give you more time to finish. Early work packages are a fantastic tool. Give me the foundation and steel, I'll get started while you finish the door hardware schedule. Fast track concepts are easily incorporated into these projects.
I’ve had several A/E professionals tell me that public procurement must be DBB. Not so! There are several states which are allowing CMAR and Design-Build. Encourage your lawmakers to open the process and allow other project delivery methodologies. While no delivery method is perfect, there are definite advantages to be had from partnering with the construction team - leading to a more successful project for all.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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