Contributed by Joe Schiavone
(Editor's note: While addressed to glaziers, this article is ideal for any building product representative or manufacturer)
Substitution Requests are prevalent in construction projects of all scales. They offer several benefits to glazing contractors, such as helping them win a job; however, there is a right way and a wrong way to submit them.
A firm understanding of the procedures involved in Substitution Requests can increase the likelihood of the product being accepted, and of repeat business as a result of building a favorable reputation. With architects facing increasingly tight schedules, the submitter should be aware that the odds of success often depend on how clear and concise the Substitution Request is.
Substitution Requests are simply proposed changes in products, equipment, and/or methods of construction from those that are specified by the architect. Nearly every project—regardless of project delivery method—encounters product substitutions so opportunities are abundant.
The most opportune time in the project lifecycle to submit a Substitution Request is during the bid phase when the general contractor is seeking out a glazing contractor. This creates a level playing field amongst bidders. It's possible to submit a Substitution Request during construction, but the process can be more complicated and should only be pursued when certain issues arise such as material unavailability, excessive lead times, or a change in code requirements.
There are several scenarios where substitutions are practical and feasible. CSI's Construction Contract Administration Practice Guide identifies key areas in which a Substitution Request should be reviewed. They include:
The substitution should add value and present clear advantages to the architect, and ultimately the owner, if it's to be approved. It must also be equal or superior to the specified product, and cannot adversely impact the project cost or schedule.
When submitting a Substitution Request, glazing contractors and product manufacturers should work directly with the bidding general contractor. Not doing so can be detrimental to the team dynamic and slow the project's progress. Although contacting the architect is possible, you risk immediate rejection. You also risk building a detrimental reputation for not following established protocol, which can cost you future work.
In some cases, a designer without formal Contract Document training writes the specifications. They may also be written in haste because of rushed schedules. This means that an experienced glazing contractor has more opportunities to spot potential conflicts that are overlooked, and suggest substitutions that will improve quality or reduce risk.
(Editor's Note: Please make sure you've read Part 1 of this article here)
5. The Actual Specification Section for your Work: At our workshops and presentations, the general feedback from Subcontractors has been that they only look at the sections specific to their work, if they look at the specifications at all. This is a mistake and you are exposing yourself to added risk if that is how you operate.
Part 1 GENERAL of the Section is the third layer of Administrative Requirements on the project. These requirements are specific to your product. Part 1 will include things like submittals, warranty, pre-installation meetings, codes, closeout procedures, samples, mock-ups, testing, etc. SPECIFIC TO YOUR PRODUCT/INSTALLATION. These requirements are IN ADDITION TO the General Conditions (Broad Project Requirements) and the Division 01 Requirements (Specific Project Wide Requirements). Basically, you have three places to look to understand what you are required to do and provide.
Part 2 PRODUCTS is everything you need to know about the products you are to provide for your work. Manufacturer, type, style, size, color, transitions, accessories, etc. You will also find things like factory testing requirements.
Part 3 EXECUTION includes all of the information and requirements for the installation of your product. This can include things like pre-installation testing, limits on substitutions, performance criteria, operation and controls, shop fabrication, assembly, finishing methods, installation instructions, preparation, site quality control, cleaning, closeout activities, training and maintenance.
The bottom line is that there is very important information in the full drawings and specifications of which you need to be aware. Having full knowledge of these items will help you spot conflicts between the drawings and specifications, understand what work is expected of you and help you reduce risk from the very beginning. If you are awarded the project, this early knowledge of the requirements will help you ask the right questions, plan your work efficiently, proactively address issues and save you time.
This article represents only a portion of the knowledge you should have if you work in any discipline in Architecture, Engineering or Construction. The good news is, there are places you can get this knowledge with programs that are well rounded and affordable.
The Construction Specifications Institute offers cradle-to-grave education in Project Delivery through the CDT (Construction Documents Technologist) Education Program. You can find out more here: https://www.csiresources.org/certification/cdt
The FCICA (The Flooring Contractors Association) offers the CIM (Certified Installation Manager) Program which also offers education in Construction Documents. Information on that program is located here: https://www.fcica.com/CIM
We hope you join us at the table for better coordination and collaboration with less risk!
(This article was previously published in the Flooring Contractor Magazine, Volume 13 No. 3, which you can read here. )
It is an enlightening experience when you get out from behind your desk and start talking to other people in the industry. It doesn’t take much time to figure out that every discipline approaches a project and the documents from a unique and different perspective.
What is a real travesty in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) is that many of us are not getting adequate Contract Document education in our colleges, universities, trade programs or on the job. This leads to added risk, cost overruns, conflicts, disputes, time delays and sometimes even litigation. The worst part is that it is an easy thing to fix. If we were really moving forward, Contract Document education would be required for everyone working in the built environment.
Right now, our education mainly comes from a trial by fire. You screw up on the job and then you learn what you should not do again. Unfortunately, we continue to hand down bad habits, misconceptions and incorrect information from senior to junior staff. As a result, we continue to make the same mistakes. We would like to try to start fixing that.
This article is meant to give you just a taste of some of the things you should be thinking about and looking at before you submit your bid and, if awarded the contract, before you start the work. Trust us when we say there is plenty more to learn but hopefully this will give you a head start.
Every single bulleted item above has the potential to affect the time you have to spend on the work of the project, which then affects the bid you need to prepare. Nobody wants to find out after they have signed a contract that the project has extensive submittal requirements that may take a lot of hours, or an expensive mock-up or something else that you did not include in the bid because you didn’t see it. Remember, you are required to review ALL of the Contract Documents.
Click here to read Part 2 of 'Construction Documents: What Don't you Know?'
(This article was previously published in the Flooring Contractor Magazine, Volume 13 No. 3, which you can read here. )
Contributed by Elias Saltz
There is some misunderstanding, both inside the profession and among the population at large, about what architecture is and what architects do. The misunderstanding begins with popular cultural depictions of architects, both fictional and real, as iconoclastic visionaries who wave their hands around, making beautiful buildings appear - buildings that will be immortalized in the glossy pages of magazines and hardcover coffee table books. This image of the architect is being reinforced by modern home improvement shows like "Fixer Upper" in which the designer and builder are the primary on-air personalities and it only takes one hour to buy, design and renovate an entire house. It's also being reinforced, unfortunately, in architecture schools, where professors are teaching aspiring architects to think of their designs as grand conceptual gestures and to equate architecture with culinary arts and fashion design, but not to anticipate what working as an architect will really be like.
Architects are taught in school that what they want to design matters, and little is discussed about client expectations, except that in the case of design studios, the clients are the professors. Architects learn to please other architects to ensure the best critique, grade and peer recognition. That peer recognition extends into professional life, where architects look to have their work published in journals juried by other architects.
This is obviously a wrong approach. Architecture is a professional service. Most architects come to understand this fact as they move up the ranks of practice. When you look in the offices of real architecture firms today, you don't see Joanna Gaines or Howard Roark (perish the thought!) or Bobby Flay. You see people who are working hard, using their knowledge and experience and skill to design projects on behalf of their clients. But habits of hand-wavy thinking remain, embedded through the architect-as-chef idea, where big ideas matter and where a silver cover is whipped off a plate, revealing the delectable and beautiful creation hidden within (or, similarly, posterboards on wheels that depict the "before" condition are pulled apart to reveal the hour-of-TV creation), and that is why architects sometimes think that their beliefs matter more than those of their clients.
If I had a dollar for every time I have heard ‘I’m too busy’ in my 30 years in the AEC Industry, I would be a very rich woman. Very rich!
According to AIA Best Practices “Quality Control: Managing the Top 5 Risks”
“No matter how desirable a program of in-house loss prevention might be, such a program will not function if it imposes unrealistic burdens or unobtainable goals. It must, therefore, be implemented with little or no increase in general overhead expenses.”
This original article was published by Schinnerer & Co. in 1973. Since that time, the five areas within architecture practice that most frequently give rise to claims have remained the same.
Seriously? 45 YEARS and we still haven’t found a way to knock these items off the list. Why? Because we are too busy! Sorry, sounds like an excuse (and a poor one) to me.
In my humble opinion, we have to make the time. We can’t afford not to. In the long run we make it up tenfold in the often challenging construction phase of the project.
In my experience, most design contracts are front loaded. Most of the fees are received by the design team by the end of construction documents. The construction phase portion of the fee (typically 20% to 25%) is spread over the length of the construction period. This can be a long time to break up a very small portion of the fee. Most design firms can’t financially survive unless they have projects in design at the same time they have projects in construction. There is just not enough money coming in during construction to pay the bills.
Anyone in this business who has been around for a while will know this. Yet, we continue to operate in way that expose us to this risk. Why? I will go out on a limb with this one and say it is because it is easier to do what we have always done rather than find new methods. Change is hard, it takes work and nobody has time to learn to do it a different way. At least that is the excuse I hear.
If you haven’t read a blog from me before, you should know I have worked for a general contractor, an MEP engineering firm and now for an architecture firm. The short story is that I have seen these issues from multiple viewpoints.
Some of my personal observations on these items of risk:
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.
Get blog post notifications here