Submittals, Submittals, Submittals

CSI's Specifying Practice Group met to debate why contractor submittals are required, how submittals are classified, and the A/E's responsibilities for submittals. Must the A/E require submittals to ensure the owner gets what is due? Will submittals help protect the contractor from itself? Many examples suggest both answers are a resounding "yes!" Yet, discussion dwelled on how A/Es can limit the submittals needed from the contractor.

View the presentation with the member poll results:

Louis Medcalf, co-host from Gresham, Smith and Partners, started the discussion with a story of a contractor's mistake that would have been discovered, easily, during the submittal process, had a submittal been made. Avoiding the submittal cost the contractor $20,000, just to remove the wrong coating on a pedestrian bridge deck.

More submittals are not necessarily good. When A/Es require more submittals, they assume more liability, require more processing time, and increase construction administration costs. Submittals should be limited to what is essential. A/Es must avoid processing submittals that are not requested and avoid approving things for which the A/E has no responsibility.

For privately bid projects, A/Es can limit submittals when contractors certify the specified products will be furnished. When the spec includes the manufacturer and model number for a soap dispenser, is it really necessary to review a submittal if the contractor confirms the specified product will be used? Exempting submittals for named products can benefit the contractor and A/E. Tom Gilmore, Torti Gallas and Partners, shared the following text as his firm's means for limiting submittals.

"With the exception of structural and building envelope materials, product data submittal review will be waived when named or basis of design product is used; but will not be waived for unnamed products of named manufacturer."

A quick review of AIA B101 Owner Architect Agreement and A201 General Conditions revealed that architects are required to "approve" product data, shop drawings, and samples submitted by the contractor. Informational submittals permitted by AIA documents must be defined by the specifications. The definition does not exist in the AIA documents.

Kevin O'Beirne, Malcolm Pirnie, Inc, provided comments about the corresponding requirements included in the EJCDC E-500 Owner-Engineer Agreement and C-700 General Conditions. The approach is similar but not identical. EJCDC makes no distinction between types of submittals. Engineers must approve shop drawings.

According to CSI's SectionFormat 2008, submittals may be specified under a single article, or they may be split into two articles: Action Submittals and Informational Submittals. Group members indicated no clear preference for splitting submittals into two articles (48%) or specifying them in a single article (52%).

No definition exists for what submittals belong under each article. CSI's SectionFormat offers no help. MasterSpec, SPECTEXT, and Speclink, commercial master specification systems, are consistent for most submittals, but diverge for Sustainable Design Submittals and Delegated Design Submittals.

Group members indicated a slight preference (59%) for specifying Sustainable Design Submittals as informational. Members agreed that the A/E must review informational submittals to ensure the submittal is what was requested.

The bottom line comes to this. Control submittals you must review by carefully specifying the project requirements. Process submittals you request following established procedures. Review and approve what is required by your contract.

The submittals topic drew a record 61 Practice Group members with at least 15 posing questions and sharing thoughts. Tom Gilmore wrote, "Thanks again for yesterday's webinar.  It's been very helpful to have a forum to compare notes with peers." Come listen, share, and learn. Join the Specifying Practice Group and take advantage of this free industry forum. The group meets the first Thursday each month from 3:00 - 4:00 PM eastern time.

This meeting started a new format. Louis Medcalf joined me as co-host for the Practice Group. Sharing the presentation was not without a glitch or two. Larry Nordin, Solomon Cordwell Buenz, commented, "I think you are enjoying doing this with Louis. You guys remind me of my favorite radio show, Car Talk." Click and Clack, we are not. We only hope we can live up to the comparison, have some fun, and help the group share experiences.

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