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By: Daniel Sammon

In a perfect world, when a contractor is handed the design drawings for a project, there are no questions, there are no hiccups during construction, and everything is installed exactly as how it is shown in the drawings. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. As the Contractor is performing construction, there are often questions which naturally arise and which require answers from the Designer of Record; in exterior building restoration, these are often concerning unforeseen field conditions that were not fully addressed in the original design. At times these inquiries can range from relatively simple questions, such as asking for a change in fasteners or a different brand of sealant, to complex ones that may require for a different type of connection between steel beams, a change in spacing of structural elements, or even a different sized beam or channel. While the simple questions can often be answered with a relatively short review, the more complex field conditions require more extensive clarifications. One way in which these more complex questions are relayed is through shop drawings.

Shop drawings are typically provided to the Designer of Record during the submittals process which occurs before the Contractor’s mobilization of the job. Shop drawings are representative of the exact field conditions, including measurements, product information and attachment. Once these drawings are submitted to the Designer, they are reviewed to ensure that they meet the applicable minimum standards and intent of the design. Often times the designer includes notes or modifications to the shop drawings to add clarity for the Contractor. The submittal and review of shop drawings helps provide the first instances of communication between the design team and the Contractor on different elements of the design.

If a submittal process is long and drawn out, this may cause delays in the project schedule. In order to minimize any potential changes in the schedule, the Contractor and the Design Team should coordinate to meet on-site to discuss the field conditions. There are instances when destructive probes are required to further expose underlying conditions in order to make informed decisions for adaptations to design and scope of work. This may require the shop drawings to be revised and resubmitted; through a healthy collaboration, the Contractor may provide input and recommendations.

The final step in a shop drawing submittal process is for the Designer of Record and the Contractor to come to an agreement. If there is a change in cost, due to a reduction or an addition to the contract, this is the point to elevate to the Client and present for approval to proceed with a change order. In the event that there are additional costs, a project with some built-in contingencies will help alleviate budget overruns. The point of success in any shop drawing review process is to adequately document the requirements and provide a substantive communication loop between all parties for approval.

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