What Should I Look for During Submittal Review?

An architect recently asked that I give an opinion about a shop drawing and what was actually installed on a project site. The installation was consistent with the shop drawings, but inconsistent with the contract documents. What I did not see as part of the submittal prompted this posting.

This could be an extensive list, but I want to focus on some basics that every reviewer - experienced and novice - should know. Specifics will vary firm-to-firm and project-to-project, but the basics remain the same.

Where is the transmittal?
The contractor's transmittal should list the applicable specification section number, title and paragraph number and drawing detail as references for the submittal. Without a transmittal you will be guessing at the scope of work covered by the submittal. No transmittal, no review.

Did I specify the submittal?
Be sure to check the specification section referenced in the contractor's transmittal to be certain the submittal was specified. If the spec section did not require the submittal be cautious. The best response is to return the submittal to the contractor without review. Document on your transmittal that the submittal is not required.

Where is the contractor's review stamp?
Contractors have an obligation to review and approve the submittal before sending it to the architect. If the contractor's stamp and initials are not on the submittal, stop here and return to sender without review.

The contractor's review is necessary to ensure each submittal is consistent with the subcontractor and material supplier's contracted scope of work and that the submittal is consistent with the contract documents.

What are the variations from the contract documents?
The submittal should clearly indicate variations from the contract documents. When undocumented discrepancies are discovered during review, ask the contractor to identify the differences before completing the review. Finding any undocumented deviation, may indicate there are others that are not obvious.

Do apply some discretion and common sense to these requests. Deviations from basic materials, manufacturers, models, sizes and operation are cause for concern, especially if the deviations affect aesthetics or performance. Minor deviations can be corrected by simple notation on the submittal.

Where is the substitution request?
Acceptance of manufacturers and products that are not specified requires a separate substitution request. Do not review and approve submittals including substitutions without separate documentation, proving the substitution meets the intent of the construction documents.

Consider the substitution request first, independent of the submittal. When accepted, then review the submittal. Otherwise, return the submittal without review.

More about substitutions: https://www.conspectusinc.com/blog/2011/04/acceptable-product-submittals.html

Know the rules!
Before reviewing any submittal read the Division 01 specification section governing submittal procedures. Make sure you understand and enforce the rules from day one. Do not rely on your memory. Read and reread the specifications to be certain. Quote or cite the rules to the contractor to enforce them.

Playing by the rules makes the process smooth and efficient. Ignoring or selectively enforcing the rules can lead to unexpected, and sometimes expensive, consequences.

What other basics do you want to add?

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