Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
On a recent project of mine, the lack of a submittal for the contractor’s proposed solution to an unexpected situation caused a problem. The contractor didn’t think that a submittal was required by the contract documents, and the architect didn’t realize that a submittal was required by the contract documents. The contractor could have saved himself some money and time, and could have saved the architect and the owner some time, if the contractor had just prepared a submittal for the architect’s review before proceeding with the work. (Oh, yes, some freshly-installed flooring underlayment had to be removed before the project could proceed. THAT was a waste of time and money.)
If something is added to a project, because of an unforeseen condition, everyone (architect, owner, contractor) often acts as if it’s the first time this sort of thing has ever happened. It’s not. Unexpected things happen all the time on construction projects, and that’s why we have standard processes to deal with them.
Anything that wasn’t originally in the project, but is part of the project now, is in the contract as the result of either a change order or a minor change to the contract. Whether it’s a moisture mitigation treatment for an existing slab, or a whole new roof assembly, whether it was initiated by an owner as a late addition to a project, or it was initiated by the contractor as a solution to an unexpected condition, or initiated as a substitution request because of a sudden product unavailability, it ends up in the contract as the direct result of a change order or a minor change (such as the type authorized by an ASI, Architect’s Supplemental Instructions). Even when the change results in no added cost to the owner, and even when its purpose is solely to repair a mistake made by the contractor, it’s a change, and it should be documented (and submitted on).
Architects and specifiers can make sure that the contract documents require submittals for things that weren’t originally in the project. Requiring submittals for items added to the project during construction is a good idea. In fact, requiring submittals for items added to the project during construction may be even more important than requiring submittals for things that were originally part of the design, since the new element wasn’t originally thought through along with the rest of the design. The contractor’s preparation of the submittal, and the architect’s review of the submittal, act as a double-check mechanism to help make sure that the added item will be appropriate.
The Race to the Bottom
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
I'm knee deep in a project right now that I'll call it what it really is: bailing the Owner out. Know what you get when you don't create bidding documents and rely solely on a low price? You get what you get. And if I say that phrase aloud in front of my 5 and 8-year-old, they add "and you don't pitch a fit".
Well, when one doesn't create an RFP, not to mention any sort of construction specification or drawing, how can one hold any level of expectation about their finished product? This Owner bought off a non-descriptive proposal and carried what matters most in the construction industry too much of the time: the lowest price.
I don't have the time, the space, nor the want, to fully go down the road of the low-bid scenario. I will call it as I see it as a subcontractor: it's the short end of the stick. And yet it is still the "solution" for the most popular project delivery method in the construction industry today: design-bid-build.
Let us Cliffs Notes design-bid-build within a tweet's 280-character limit:
Owner has vision. Owner works with architect on design for vision. Architect develops schematics. Fine tunes. Vision formalized. Architect develops formal drawings & specifications for GC. Duration? Years? GC gets days to decipher vision. End result? Be cheapest.
But that's simplifying things, you say. Sure, that may be. But in a nutshell, that's the process.
One of the frustrating things about working with designers and developing specifications is becoming the basis of design, or an approved equal, only to be just breaking the sweat of the marathon race. Once you're named in a spec, you now must win the spec. And how do you ultimately win the spec? Match it and be the cheapest and ultimately, hope. Hope? Sure. Hope your price lands in the lap of the estimator in time. Hope they have time to read it. Hope they pick up what you're putting down. Hope they want to work with you. Hope you meet their qualifications to work together. Hope you can meet your estimate and make goal profit margin. Hope it all goes to plan. Hope you get paid in full in a timely fashion.
This Isn't the Birds and the Bees
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
You can never start a conversation early enough in construction. Why is it that we wait so long to have that difficult talk? This isn't the birds and the bees with a pre-teen. This is real world ramifications that can affect many on a project.
We' are working on a flooring replacement project that we bid in April of 2018. This project has been on the verge of installation since September. We go over and above to ensure that our proposal is very clear at the time of the bid: What we will do, what we won't do and what is the responsibility of others.
It's important to note that any flooring contractor is not the Clark Kent of a renovation project. More importantly, we are not Clark Kent's alter ego, Superman, on a project. Meaning, we don't have x-ray vision. Conditions underneath existing flooring are unknown to all until the existing flooring and adhesive is removed and the base slab is 100% visible. You could have unexpected layers of flooring or adhesives, hazardous materials such as asbestos, mercury or lead, excessive concrete cracking, delaminating patching or high concrete moisture. Since we've seen each and every one of these unforeseen instances in the past, we exclude any and all subfloor preparation.
If you are preparing construction documents or readying for a flooring project yourself and you have a certain end result in mind and it needs to be included as part of the base bid contract, you need to be very exact and precise with wording. The end result should be so clear in your documents that a layman can understand the proposed scope of work.
On this particular project, the scope of work included flooring removal and to provide the following:
What's wrong with that scope? From a flooring contractor's perspective, I offer you the following response on each line item.
In the Specs? In the Contract!
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
I’m going to say it again: If something is required by the Specifications, it’s required by the Contract.
A procedure or item specified in the Specifications is part of the Contract, just as much as if the procedure or item were specified in the Agreement. (The Agreement is what many people usually think of as the “Contract,” because it’s the particular document that gets signed by the Owner and the Contractor, and it has the Contract Sum indicated in it. But the Agreement is only ONE PART of the Contract.)
The Contract is made up of the Agreement, the Conditions of the Contract, the Drawings, the Specifications, etc. AIA Documents state this requirement most clearly; Owner-generated Agreements and Conditions of the Contract sometimes fall short of being explicit about this. (This is one of many good reasons to use AIA Documents instead of Owner-generated documents.)
This requirement is SO IMPORTANT that it makes up ARTICLE ONE of AIA Document A101-2017 (Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Contractor where the basis of payment is a Stipulated Sum), a very commonly used Agreement.
“The Contract Documents consist of this Agreement, Conditions of the Contract (General, Supplementary and other Conditions), Drawings, Specifications, Addenda issued prior to execution of this Agreement, other documents listed in this Agreement and Modifications issued after execution of this Agreement, all of which form the Contract, and are as fully a part of the Contract as if attached to this Agreement or repeated herein.” – from Article 1 of AIA Document A101-2017
I don’t think I can say this any more clearly.
But somehow, there are a number of Contractors out there who don’t seem to realize that the Specifications are part of the Contract, and there are even a few Architects out there who don’t seem to realize that the Specifications are part of the Contract that they are supposed to be administering during construction. An Owner agrees to pay a Contractor a certain sum, the Contractor agrees to provide the Owner with certain things indicated by the Drawings and Specifications and other Contract Documents, and, in a separate Agreement, the Architect and the Owner agree that the Owner will pay the Architect a certain sum, and the Architect will administer the Contract between the Owner and the Contractor. We all have contractual obligations during construction, and we all need to understand, and follow through on, all of those obligations.
Remember, if it’s in the Specs, it’s in the Contract.
This post originally appeared on Liz O'Sullivan's website as "If It’s in the Specs, It’s in the Contract"
(Editor's Note: The CSI (Construction Specifications Institute) Construction Document Technologist (CDT) Certification is an ideal resource for this core knowledge of project delivery. Want to learn more about the CDT and the Study Groups offered for the Spring Testing window? Please visit here.
"...As Required" By Whom?
Contributed by David Bishton
The ranks of the great overused and often misapplied phrases in architectural and engineering drawings and specifications include gems such as:
To this list we must add the ubiquitous and often redundant phrase “…as required.” A further aside on instructions to kids: “Clean this room as required“ may lead to somewhat unsatisfactory results.
Many times I have reflected on the possibility, after wrestling through a problem in the field, that one extra phrase or even a word added to a drawing note or specification might have prevented the problem from occurring. The phrase “as required” has never been associated with such reflection. Musing in my previous chapter, I wondered if a slightly longer version such as “…AS REQUIRED BY ANY SANE PERSON WITH HALF A BRAIN THAT OBSERVES THIS CONDITION” would be more helpful. Recently I began to wonder which other technical/scientific fields or even everyday endeavors regularly use this term with success when providing instructions.
What if this term was used regularly in cookbooks? You’d list all the ingredients like 2 oz. vodka, 1 oz. melon liqueur, pineapple juice to taste…wait a minute, that’s the recipe for a Pearl Harbor. What else do you need after you have the ingredients – ice and a glass? Let’s try something more complicated. Say it’s an extra special dinner to impress your family at a holiday. Something liked the filling needed for a Stuffed Boar’s Head. You have your 2 lbs. cooked ground pork sausage, 7 cups boiled long grain rice, 5 tbsp. melted butter, 2 cups chopped onion, 1 lb. coarsely chopped walnuts, and on and on. After all that work the last thing you want to see is “Boil boar’s head in a large stockpot, scoop out head meat, stuff and bake as required.” Or even less “Prepare and cook per manufacturer’s instructions.” And yes, the full recipe actually exists in Joy of Cooking. I’ve never tried it.
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