By: Hang Cho
For building construction projects, architects and consulting engineers prepare contract documents (Instruments of Service), which provide instructions to the general contractor as drawings, details, and technical specifications. Due to the complex nature of building construction, contract documents do not include direction on the methods of construction; they simply assist the contractor in using their best judgment on the selected approach to finish the project.
Large, complex building projects can dwell in the design and document production process for an extended period, sometimes years. Product manufacturers routinely discontinue products, make modifications to products, or create improved products that may be more suitable to the project conditions than those originally specified. New products and materials, which may not have been manufactured or available a few years prior, may then become available because of the demand for more sustainable, eco-friendly products and a rapidly developing high-technology industry. All these dynamic industry factors must be accounted for in the building design and construction process.
Another purpose of the architect’s contract document is to express design intent and the level of quality expected. The products and materials used may vary, so long as they comply with the design intent. The contractor holds the responsibility to develop an understanding of the design and quality specifications and provide the materials, products, and people vital to complete construction.
The submittal process of construction administration is the vehicle through which the contractor expresses his understanding of the design intent to the architect and owner. It is the contractor’s responsibility to select products and materials that comply with the contract document requirements, submit them to the architect for approval, and incorporate the approved products and materials into the work of the project. Proper management of the submittal process is of vital importance to the construction project’s success, as approved submittals during construction administration become the detailed documents from which individual elements of the building are built.
Overall, submittals and job site visits are equally as integral to the construction process as contract documents. As an example, let’s compare construction administration with cooking: CA is akin to the phase in which we check all of our ingredients (products and materials) to determine their freshness and the exact amounts needed in order to produce the desired taste of food (quality and design intent), according to a recipe (contract documents). Without construction administration, the process is risky and the results are subpar.