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« Understanding the Risks and Obligations Involved in the Preparation and Review of Shop Drawings | Main | Officials Learn Several Lessons About BIM, Lean Methods from California Hospital Project »



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Absolutely! If the GC is making money off the sub, they should take the initiative to follow submittals and actually act like a contractual partner.

If the GC needs help in explaining a sub's submittal, the GC should have the sub in the meeting with the Owner. The sub should be told to 'sit down & shut up' until the GC requests info. No monies should be mentioned by the GC, Owner or sub.

If this rises to the level of obligation, it would be problematic to measure the prime contractor's performance. How much assistance would be required? What if the submittal is faulty or the subcontractor is seeking to substitute a feature required in the specification? If the submittal meets the plans and specifications, I believe the prime has an obligation to fulfill in obtaining an approval in a timely fashion. But if a submittal is faulty or contains proposed substitutions, the obligation of the prime diminishes and in some cases disappears.

If the sub submittals matched the plans and specs - there should be no delays - I have found it is when a sub tries to cut corners and submit "as equals" that are not equal that major delays take place.

It depends. If the submittal does not comply with the requirements of the contract documents, then the prime has a responsibility to reject the sub's submittal before it even gets to the design professional (DP) or owner. However, if the prime believes the submittal complies with the contract documents, then most specifications require the contractor to indicate his approval via a stamp or other means before passing the submittal on to the DP or owner.

However, if the DP or owner rejects or does not approve the submittal, they must state the reason or reasons why. If the reasons are clearly supported by the requirements of the contract documents, then the contractor has no other option than to return the submittal to the sub. But, if the reasons for rejection or nonapproval are questionable, then the contractor should defend the submittal on behalf of the sub.

The article, however, is unclear as to the true situation of the submittal. If the sub was attempting to get approval for a substitution through the submittal process, then most specifications require that the submittal be rejected, whether it meets the salient features of the specified product or not, and be resubmitted as a substitution request and be approved before the submittal process can begin. In that case, the prime must follow the procedures established in the contract documents and require that his sub follow them, too.

Most contracts I've worked with required the GC to review and approve the sub's submittals BEFORE they go to the A/E or the Owner's Rep.

Why would a contractor NOT expect to help secure approval? The GC is bidding the job, not the sub. The GC controls how the project is put together and only he (she) can choose which sub gets the sub-contract. Architects only review submittals which bear the contractors stamp of approval indicating that the product or system meets the requirements of the contract documents.

Re: Submittals, especially shop drawings -

I will simply not accept shop drawings, nor any submittal from the GC not signed by the GC. Architects review shop drawings for design conformance, only. The dimensions, and architecturally relevant details, are already on the drawings and in the specs, and it is the responsibility of specialty shops to elaborate upon the architectural docs with specialty details,and to either pick up the dimensions off the drawings or from field measurements as indicated. Before I review and stamp shop drawings, I expect the contractor to certify by signature that he has reviewed the shop drawings (and other submittals), and that they are correct as to project specs, dimensions and those specialty details beyond the architect's competence or scope of the arehitect's work. If the contractor identifies conflicts, they should be addressed in advance by an RFI.

There has to be more to this story. Sounds to me like the the sub is suing because he is probably being sued or not being paid because of his alleged delay. any prime that doesn't help to facilitate approval is only putting his own contract at risk.

I don't know if I would agree that the GC is really a "conduit" in the submittal process. If, in this scenario, the Owner's only contract is with the GC, then I think the submittal essentially "belongs to" the GC. He almost surely had an obligation to review and approve the submittal himself prior to submitting to the Owner's rep for approval.

His obligation to advocate for timely approval of the submittal would be directly related to his obligation to meet his contractual schedule requirements.

Ideally, the contract documents would include a requirement for the GC to furnish at the start of the project a schedule of submission dates and approval deadlines for all shop drawings, product data, etc., just as he is (presumably) required to submit a project schedule and schdedule of values.

I would think that any assistance from a GC to a sub would / could be misconstrued as trying to force an item on an owner / architect. Admittedly, not all GCs and subs are looking to play a shell game with submittals and prices but if there is even a hint of foulness in communication between the design team / owner and the builders, then I could see the submittal being rejected even more forcefully. Maybe I am just looking at the worst case scenario, but to me it would be like buying a car and then all of the sudden the sales manager wanders into the room and tries to find something that will "make you get in the car today". Those negotiations rarely sit well...

The contactor is responsible for the coordination of the review and approval of the submittals. The purpose of the contractor is to be the single point contact during the construciton process. These problems generally occur when the contractor puts an inexperience project manager in charge of the construction process. It is the responsibility of the construction project manager to review and expedite the submittal process. By creating a submittal log and managing critical submittal approval dates the project manager is responisble to do what ever it takes to make sure the submittals meet the specifications and get the approvals from the owners representative or architect.

The premise of the original post is incorrect. Ignoring questions regarding the referenced lawsuit and focusing on the GC’s responsibilities it is long established that the GC makes submittals, not the subs.

Language in AIA A201 General Conditions is very clear: 3.12.5 states “The Contractor shall review for compliance with the contract documents, approve and submit to the Architect shop drawings,…”. It does not say the subcontractor will submit.

The Contractor has the agreement and he is solely responsible for them. 3.12.6 states: By submitting Shop Drawings…, the Contractor represents to the Owner and Architect that the Contractor has (1) reviewed and approved them, (2) determined and verified materials, field measurements….”. Also, the GC is responsible for maintaining the submittal and construction schedules.

As stated above there has to be more to that lawsuit than the post mentions.

"The subcontractors’ ability to perform and perform on schedule is frequently dependent on the timely approval of submittals."
The timely approval of submittals once they are submitted to the A/E is covered in AIA documents. Too often the submittals are not received by the A/E until the last minute leaving no time to deal with any issues found in the review. Timely submissions by the subcontractors to the prime and then to the A/E assures the work can be completed on schedule.

As previous posts have alluded to, the Prime has the greatest responsibility for their sub's submittals. The project's schedule depends on the timely review and approval of the entire submittal process. If the Prime is doing their job, then there really shouldn't be any reason a submittal is returned as rejected; the Prime should have picked up on any deviations from the drawings and specifications PRIOR to the item's submission.

If the Prime is truly acting in the Client’s best interests, then there should be a team effort by the sub, the Prime and the A/E. If the Prime doesn’t advocate nor assist the sub when it comes to an A/E pushing back, then all parties involved will fail. For example, why would a sub risk their money to purchase, let’s say, electrical gear without both the Prime and A/E’s approval?

There are quite a few opinions on how the Prime, the sub and the A/E should act/say/do, but in the end it’s up to everyone to try to complete the project on time, under budget and ahead of schedule; isn’t that what the Client is paying all of us for?

The private sector should take a lesson from public contract ptocesses. Public contracts only recognize the Prime Contractor (he who makes the accepted bid or proposal). Public Contracts require a progress schedue that indicates when submittals have to be submitted to the agency for review. We always insert plenty of float time to assure one are more re-submittals can occure w/o impacting the production parts of the schedule. All submittals are required to be reviewed, approved, amd certified as contract conforming, by the prime, prior to submittal to the agency. On projects requiring a full time Quality Control Manager that process consumes a large share of that individual(s) effort. When subs are late on submittals (many wait hoping to slip something through) thery are warned by us (in writing) that if there is an approval process glitch they will become liable for schedule impacts. As mentioned above, the value added for the prime is a diligent and knowlegable Project Manager or when allpicable the same qualities in the QG Manager backed up by the clout of the PM.

Over time, general contractors have become simply conduits in the submittal process. This has been an evolution- but not a good one. The GC has the obligation to the owner to satisfy the contractural requirements, so the GC should be reviewing the submittals to ensure that the work described in the submittal satisfies the GC's contractural duity. The GC has an obligation to the sub to coordingate and facilitate the process in order to not unduely or adversely affect the sub's ability to perform. Many GC's simply pass the submittal on, then pass the approval or disapproval on. They are not fulfilling their obligation to the project, the owner or the sub when they do not contribute to the process. However, it is not reasonable to expect the typical GC to be an expert in some highly technical submittal review, - but the GC should make a diligent effort to satisfy themselves that the submittal does in fact satisfy the requirements of the plans and specifications before sending on for A/E review.

if all the dimensions on the plans co-respond to each other the shop drawing process would, should be easy, but usually the a-dwg,s and the s- dwg,s dont match and no body wants to take the responsibility or time to fix the problem. this is the number one reason for the delays that i experience in the shop drawing process.

As a Subcontractor and GC I have been exposed to both sides of the problem with Shop Drawings/Submittals.
Relative to Subcontractors, it has become more prevalent for the GC to "play with the sub bid numbers" to get a lower contract cost to land a job as low bidder. He will then beat the subs up on their proposal which requires alternate materials other than specified. This change in Manufacturer/Provider slows down the process of approval from the Architect/Owner.

As a GC, I find that most subs do not have the technical knowledge to know about say " 6 bag concrete mix as opposed to a 4 bag mix with fly ash ( which is cheaper ) They bid the jobs with their basic price and then find that the requirements are going to cost them money which is not in the price.

In these economic times, with profits being minimal, it behooves the GC, during the bid process, to pay attention to all bids and realize that the "LOW BIDDER" may not have the wherewithall to provide the services required.

The basics are that the Sub is contracted to the GC and is responsible for his/her work. If the GC cannot support the shop drawings because they do not meet the spec, then he/she also cannot "advocate" for them. the GC, however, must advocate for the sub's submittals to be reviewed in a timely manner (after the GC has reviewed them.)This advocacy is directly reflected in the maintenance of the schedule.

A change or substitution is a different situation. the specifications generally outline a process for changes. The changes are generally supported when they represent an improvement to the construction or a cost savings to the Owner. In these situations, the GC must make an evaluation and support, or not, based upon the specified guidelines and the GC's professional experience and opinion.

A collaborative spirit enhances the process and takes the edge out of questions and on-site decisions. Sometimes, however, the answer is "no".

Paraphrased...in accordance with most contractual agreements, it is a subcontractor's duty and responsibility to provide submittals in a timely and accurate manner which meet or exceed the requirements under the contract documents including plans and specifications. The Prime is then has a duty and responsibility to timely and accurately process the same to the designated owner representative or design official per the conditions outlined in the specifications, contract, and or procedures outlined in the presiding document. AS stated by others, if the submittal is orginated speicifically compliant with the intent of the specs and drawings, there should be no reason for any delay. Learn to use electronic means to save mounds of time and money. Secondly, the originator (Subcontractor/ vendor) is responsible to get it right and present in such a way to facilitate rapid review. The Prime has an absolute duty to timely process and comment on submitals, as does the design team (whether they are working for the Prime or the owner) to be timely and accurate in the review of the submittals. Submittals that result in a change of the intent or expecation of the designer of record can result in back and forth discussions. I think the lessons learned is that the sub or vendor who wants to substitute product or service outside the intent of the design drawings or specifications should have a burden and higher threshold of providing submittals with higher levels of qualifiable data showing that this change will integrate with specified assurances. The Prime and or higher authority has the obligation to act in good faith to process but not accept the ultimate responsibility of the originator of the submittal into the process. Be responsible and timely when you must say no and do the same when your think the substitution on a submittal may work. It's is all about attitude and duty to cooperate.

One thing that also comes into play is that the prime or GC generally has a percentage markup on the subcontractors work. This is typically stipulated in the Owner-Contractor Agreement and General or Supplementary Conditions. This 5% or whatever(dependent on how the contract is written) on top of the Sub's work is not just there to allow the GC to make more money. It to pay for the GC's time in administrating the contract, which would include review and timely submission of Sub's Submittals. They are not getting the markup on Sub's because they are good guys and owner's like to make them feel warm and fuzzy.
This is also one of the reasons that many owners have chosen to go with a multiple prime contract which can eliminate the mark-up on top of mark-up. You are now paying the CM for the administration as opposed to the GC.

One common commentary I see in the given situation is that, there are elements that seem to be missing for anyone to make a proper assessment or be able to decide in general terms whether the General Contractor should Advocate for Approval of Subcontractor Submittals to the Owner. On the same line of thoughts, we should also consider the fact that, sometimes, there are terms to a contract that are not expressed by the parties but are implied by the circumstances or the pattern of dealing that had been established. These must be considered first.

A well-defined project has a lot of information that should tie itself together that in the end, anyone can make clear as to who is responsible for what. The simple table called the RASCI (or RACI to some)is one that comes with the Project Execution Plan (PEP) or the Construction Execution plan (CEP). My suggestion is that the signed contract should always be referring to such document. The responsibility matrix can be an addendum to the contract as it provides pretty clearly the important information on who is R=Responsible, A=Accountable, S=Who needs to Support, C=Who to be Consulted, I=Who to be informed for key contract deliverables. This table is quite useful especially on cases where the obligation between parties were not specifically stated.

If I am to quickly reply to the above-subject question, with reference to the the common goal philosophy, and the fact that there's really no contractual relationships between the Sub and the Owner; I feel that the General Contractor should process and expedite the approval of the Subs submittal after passing the GC's inspection satisfactorily. I see no other way as the GC is the Owner's single point of contact. The GC manages the project for Owner.

As always, when a dispute cannot be avoided, with no implied terms identified; the court will, as a rule of thumb, stick “within the four corners” of the contract. I believe that the court is bound to refer to the four corners of the sheets of paper on which the contract is written. The court will consider anything written therein and nothing else.

Therefore, and I say it again and again. It will depend on what kind of relationships were established between key players (stakeholders)! Relationships! Relationships!.

Regardless of how complete the contract is, the GC's ttitude will ultimately governs its business ethics, its dealings and its relationships.

---Cheers, RCF

Based on the very generalized questions here, the contractor should facilitate a meeting with between the architect and the sub to try to resolve a problem with the submittal. The sub shouldn't be communicating separately with the architect, especially if a revision to the submittal might be the end result and the contractor has already approved the one in question.

Regarding whether the contractor should defend his sub, it depends on the merits of the issues involved and whether the contractor can help his sub more clearly communicate a valid argument to the architect.

Shop drawings are tricky. A good post bid review would ask "How long for shop drawings or submittals?" As well as the lead time for fabrication and delivery. Those time periods are entered into the project schedule. The time for the architect to review is also included in the project schedule. If shop drawings are not provided on schedule, shame on the sub. If architect review takes more than reasonable time the CM is responsible to light a fire under the architect's butt.
Problems arise when architects get lazy and boiler-plate details that are not job specific and subs don’t know enough about their own products to provide accurate shops.

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