Per-SPEC-tives No. 255: Submittals and the Client

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT, Cincinnati, OH

The title seems to indicate a rather strange and innocuous discussion. How many clients really care about submittals on their construction projects? Some will be quite interested; others will take little if any interest.

Many clients still see the submittal as the verification of what they will receive on their project-- a “checks and balances” ensuring the true value received for dollar spent. Some see the submittal as the record of what is placed, for future reference, maintenance and replacement or trouble shooting. This of course, really is part and parcel of the Operating and Maintenance Manuals required on most projects.

Well, a big part of the answer may lie in the adverse impact of submittals when they disrupt the project schedule, and completion of the project. Yet there are other considerations. Some people has professed that submittals are useless, needless and obsolete. Is that true? Or is there a valid and proper place for submittals—properly requested, produced, processed, and utilized?

There is need to address several issues with the Owner, so there is full understanding of all circumstances surrounding submittals;

  • Submittals will be requested ONLY to ensure that the Contractor[s] understand the requirements of the contract;
    • Only a minimum number of submittals will be required;
    • Requests will only be required for those submittals containing crucial information;
    • The Contractor is responsible for the “means and methods of construction” and is therefore the primary reviewer of submittals and their compliance with the contract documents; erroneous, incomplete, and non-compliant submittals are to be returned to the preparer by the CONTRACTOR [all in accord with AIA A201, General Conditions of the Construction Contract];
    • The Contractor is to review all submittals, check for errors, and stamp them with an approval stamp, PRIOR to submitting them to the design professionals [complies with A201];
    • The design professionals ARE NOT responsible for an extensive review, not for any information other than pointing out errors-- NOT correcting them [in accord with A201];
    • Reviewed submittals will be returned in a prompt manner;
    • Submittals sent to the design professionals without proper Contractor review and approval, will be DISCARDED/Returned with no further action [complies with A201];
    • Any schedule disruption[s] attributable to faulty processing of submittals accrue to the Contractor [NOT the design professionals].

A conversation, with the client, on this topic is most important--and strongly urged and advised. It lays the groundwork for the procedures to be followed on the project that will ensure compliance with the project requirements and will give the full value of the work to the client. That context and conversation falls within the purview of the design professionals.

The Contractor may well have a very different “take” on submittals and the whole of the process. AIA Document A201, however, makes the submittals program and process quite clear and directed. It delineates the responsibilities of the various parties, and denotes a very specific progression of preparation, processing, review and approval—by several parties and with certain specific guidelines.

It is most important that the client be aware of these provisions so the work of the process will not be a surprise or an irritant to the client. Being made fully aware of the reason for, the background of, and the inner-working of the process is important, not so much in the minute details, as in the overall value and correct operation.

The submittals program is in place for good reason, and is time tested in the results it produces. Obviously, it is wrong to obviate or ignore this program for any reason or changed condition in a project. Of course, the client does have the right to pursue the project as seen fit-- hopefully this determination does not involve elimination of this clearly directed and helpful process.

Its value directly contributes not only to project success, but to value given to the client!

© 2014, Ralph Liebing