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Construction engineer working with desktop

A Quick Thorough Guide for Construction Submittal Process and Ways to Improve the Process


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Being involved in any construction projects requires anyone to know further about submittals. So what really is a submittal and what is its major purpose in the construction industry and how to efficiently improve the ways of processing it? To begin with this, submittals are commonly prepared by either the contractor or subcontractor. The prepared submittals will be used to illustrate how other portions of the work within the project will be proposed for it to be carried out. Shop drawings, product brochures, technical data, schedules, diagrams, specifications, and even mock-up samples are common examples of submittals. Picture out a huge project, obviously, there are numerous professionals and workers involved in the project. If that is the case, expect that there will be more than a thousand submittals to prepare. The medium-size projects usually take hundreds of it. 

A submittal is a contractor’s solid proof of successfully complying with all necessary construction documents. The approval process and the review methods for construction submittals have many aims. First and foremost, it does ensure the safety of the building and all the people involved both the construction crew and the future occupants. Second, the process is a way of verifying the adherence to the design concepts as well as the quality of materials used. If this is all done accordingly, it can able to help the project finish on time and within the budget.

Basic Definition of Construction Submittal

To know further about construction submittals, these are clearly defined as “documents submitted by the contractor to a particular architect for getting approval to use in the project”. These documents consist of information and details provided by the contractor for the design professionals. There will be an approval process for chosen materials and equipment before these resources will be fabricated and used for the ongoing projects. 

As of today, project submittals have included more in-depth elements. With this, any projects particularly the bigger in size should necessarily require compiling of specifications as well as pre-construction planning. 

The Documents Included in the Construction Submittals

Before any construction project starts, each single material type and equipment has to be meticulously reviewed and should need approval via submittals. For small to medium size projects, the contractor must allow 14 days of reviewing these items. Construction submittals can possibly involve in a variety of different items depending upon on the project.  There are several and different types of submittals, the following are the common examples:

  • Material product certificates
  • Progress Schedule
  • Quality control and test reports
  • Safety plans
  • Material data
  • Shop drawings
  • Product cut sheets
  • Finished colored selections
  • Finished product components

Approval has to happen before these items will be delivered and fabricated. Otherwise, it might be late to prevent any uncommon setbacks if there’s any. It is also important to remember and consider that the quality of the submittals also matters. A better and accurate schedule and budget timeline will be provided if the submittals are more precise and detailed. If by any chance, a superior detail might not be included, expect more errors upon creating the log which might cause to compromise the whole project. That is why, it is very important to meticulously review every item. 

Simplified Preparation for Submittals

The equipment and all building materials can possibly fail anytime which leads to devastating consequences. Upon figuring out what causes for it to fail, human errors are usually the major factor. In order to prevent such mistakes from happening again, the submittal process for construction should be established so that approval authority will be given both for the contractor and the associated design team. It will hold all involved parties liable for permitting and authorizing non-compliant items that are prone in failing.

Upon the preparation of submittals, it usually begins with the contractor. This expert will basically delegate and provide the tasks respective towards the participating crews. A subcontractor agreement will be then prepared and classified. The contractor will be reviewing everything right after receiving the submittals from these experts. The contractor can also ask for explanations if there’s any unconventionality and irregularities present in the construction documents. Take note that there are also rejected submittals. The rejected ones have to be sent back for revisions. After revising and once satisfied that everything is compliant, the contractor will going to approve it and will submit it all getting ready for another set of reviews – engineering and architectural reviews. 

The Planning of Submittal Process

The submittals for construction has played a crucial role during the development of the project. Thus, the planning for it is expected to start earlier. Out of all professionals involved, the design team will be the one who will prepare the technical specifications for the equipment and materials to be utilized for the project. All items that are to be used and require construction submittal will be necessarily determined, identified, and logged.

Before even the contractor start managing construction projects, this professional together with the client, architect, and engineer have to discuss the following and establish each:

  • items that require a submittal
  • method for submittal delivery
  • submittal delivery deadline
  • the review process for submittal
  • deadlines for the review
  • document control

Once the procedure will be finally outlined, the ownership for the entire process will be taken by none other than the contractor. A protocol will be then set out for submittals in order to ensure that all involved parties have clearly understood their respective obligations. And most importantly, a well-planned communication should be established between the people involved as well as a clear overview of the deadlines in order to get by on the anticipated schedule. 

Upon the preparation of the schedule, the contractor must factor the lead time for every item in order to permit enough time for installation. And also the allotted time it takes for reviewing the submittals and revising the rejects from design team has to be included and integrated into construction schedules.

The Review Process for Construction Submittals 

The majority of the construction professionals involved have agreed that the submittal review process is long and tedious. All submittal items have to be necessarily aggregated. Detailed data and other specifications for all project phases are ensured when all submittal items are combined. Before, the process itself took longer and prone to a lot of inaccuracies. But since technological advances are continuously dominating today, software solutions are designed and created for better application and management. 

There are several software tools today that could help to automate the process. With the application of construction project management software like Pro Crew Schedule, submittals, and thousands of other important documents involved are collected and sorted appropriately. Accessing these documents as well as making updates, modifying, checking, and reviewing it is absolutely easy. 

Design Team Review

Aside from the contractors, the design professionals have also the right to whether they accept or completely reject the submittals. During the review process, the role of these design experts comprise with identifying and verifying every item’s compliance with the approved documents. Every item should also be verified if it’s compatible with the design concept. All construction-related methods, implementations, and techniques as well as the concerns for safety will usually be the appointed responsibilities of contractors.

It is also clear that the reviews coming from the design team are purely unbiased. The team only ensures that the owner’s design is met. In terms of reviewing every item, a review might be involved a couple of standard disciplines and should be under several revision cycles if necessary.

Specifying the Rising Issues

Regardless of having the best plans and implementations in place, issues will most likely occur that will certainly challenge the entire team. To keep the project on time and within the track, actionable plans are required. Below are some of the common pitfalls that usually occur:

  • Late submittals provided to the team
  • Abbreviated submittal review time coming from the architect
  • Submittals without detailed review distributed by the contractor
  • Items having product substitution
  • Incomplete schedule coming from the contractor

The above-mentioned issues greatly create potential litigation in the future if it doesn’t resolve right away. Limiting the submittal review liability can be a great option to resolve this. In order to limit the liability of submittal review, do the following:

  1. A contract language should be properly prepared
  2. A consistent reviewing process within the contract for shop drawings and other submittals is a must 
  3. Diligently avoid reviewing of submittals in an exaggerated manner. 

Improving the Construction Submittals and the Process

By the time you’d already understand what construction submittals are, its purpose, and the process, you have to start asking yourself how you are going to improve these essentials particularly now that there are many evident times when the construction flow gets so overly complicated. 

In order to improve the process and the submittals, you have to start recognizing the following three pillars and make sure to improve each:

  1. Provide Complete Visibility – the team must have access to all necessary documents with full details and information right there and then 
  1. Simplify Administrative Work – simplifying the overall work comprehensively reduces delays and manual mistakes and errors
  1. Modernized Tracking – anybody has the access to see where the submittal items are during the processing, they can check it out anytime and anywhere and can figure out directly what actions to take next.

Key Takeaways

The submittal process evidently provides essential balances and checks in every construction phase of a particular project. Every single worker and professional involved must definitely know the major purpose of this process – ensuring the end results have conformed to the intended designs illustrated and depicted from the construction documents as well as meeting the demands and expectations of the owner. Therefore, the contractor together with the architect and the owner during the pre-construction conference must have a clear and thorough understanding of the tasks and roles assigned to them executing the submittal process. Otherwise, failure to implement this often results in economic loss, disputes, and uncontrollable delays. Definitely, reviewing and processing submittals is a mandated work before the project started.

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