Importance of Tables of Contents

Tables of Contents are a valuable coordination tool to ensure the project manual includes everything required without duplication or conflict. The first step for writing construction specifications is to create the table of contents listing the expected spec sections from every design discipline on the project team. This first step allows discovery and correction of duplications, conflicts, and missing items before the spec is started.

Yesterday, I received a phone call from an architect wondering why epoxy coated reinforcing was specified in the cast-in-place concrete spec for a project currently under construction. He insisted the last review issue of the specification included only galvanized and pain finish reinforcing.

We wrote the structural specifications, so I opened the last file we issued for bidding to check. No epoxy coating; only galvanized and plain finishes were included. So what happened? Why is the bid issue spec different? Only one cast-in-place concrete section is shown in the table of contents and only one section is included in the project manual -  the one with epoxy coating.

Thanks to a great utility, FileLocatorPro, I was able to quickly search the entire project record for files named 03300 with the word epoxy in the file. And there was the culprit. We received a set of Word files from the architect that were "issued for bid" with two sections 03300 - the section we wrote for the structural engineer for the building, and the one the civil engineers wrote for the site work. The civil engineer's section contained the epoxy coating.

Only the civil engineer's section was published in the project manual. So no vapor retarder is included for the slab-on-grade that is barely above the ground water table. No architectural finishing was included for the exposed concrete foundation and site retaining walls. No special testing was included to meet code requirements for buildings. You get the picture.

After some discussion with the architect, the rush of assembling the project manual came back in a flash. We already delivered the architectural and structural specs with the table of contents for printing. The civil engineers delivered their documents directly to the architect. During the final project manual assembly, the structural engineer's concrete section was removed - probably because there were two sections with  identical section numbers and section titles. Obviously the sections were the same, despite having different file names.

Did I mention this was a publicly bid project and that issuing the correct concrete section for the building will probably result in a change order before the first footing is dug? An embarrassment for the design team that could have been easily avoided.

Tables of Contents are a valuable coordination tool. Insist the spec lists be completed early and updated with each design phase and each spec issue.

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