New Hampshire Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute

Construction Documents: What Don't You Know?
By Cherise Lakeside, CSI, CDT, SCIP, CSC, Arch Specifier. 

It is an enlightening experience when you get out from behind your desk and start talking to other people in the industry.  It doesn’t take much time to figure out that every discipline approaches a project and the documents from a unique and different perspective. 

What is a real travesty in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) is that many of us are not getting adequate Contract Document education in our colleges, universities, trade programs or on the job.  This leads to added risk, cost overruns, conflicts, disputes, time delays and sometimes even litigation.  The worst part is that it is an easy thing to fix.  If we were really moving forward, Contract Document education would be required for everyone working in the built environment.

Right now, our education mainly comes from a trial by fire.  You screw up on the job and then you learn what you should not do again.  Unfortunately, we continue to hand down bad habits, misconceptions and incorrect information from senior to junior staff.  As a result, we continue to make the same mistakes.  We would like to try to start fixing that.

This article is meant to give you just a taste of some of the things you should be thinking about and looking at before you submit your bid and, if awarded the contract, before you start the work.  Trust us when we say there is plenty more to learn but hopefully this will give you a head start.

  1. Understand that the Drawings and Specifications are written for the General Contractor and it is the GC’s responsibility to administer the means and methods on the job site, with all of the other parties involved, to complete the work.  That said, understanding the Contract Documents will help you prepare a better bid, reduce risk during the work, better communicate and protect your interests with the GC if there is a problem.
  2. Do you have a full copy of the Contract Documents?  Drawings and Specifications? You are misguided and at risk if you think you have all of the information you need on just a couple of sheets of drawings that show your work.  There is a reason they are called ‘Contract Documents’.  It is because the Contract between the Owner/Architect and the Contract between the Owner/Contractor names the Drawings and Specs as part of the Contract.  Would you sign any other contract without reading all of the requirements? Also, if the documents are prepared correctly, the drawings should show locations and spatial requirements and your specifications will outline the products to be used, installation requirements and other special administrative requirements that pertain to your work.  There is no way you can properly prepare a bid without reviewing all of the documents that pertain to the work you are required to provide. The Contract Documents also require that the General Contractor review all of the documents related to the work.  Most Subcontractors and Installers would not know this because they don’t see the Owner/Contractor agreement.  If you get the job, you will be asked to sign an agreement with the General Contractor that includes ‘flow down language’ requiring you to comply with those same requirements.  This typically means one sentence that says you have to comply with the same contract requirements that the General Contractor has agreed to with the Owner.  The only way to adequately understand these requirements is to get a full copy of the documents and read them.
  3. Division 00 – Procurement Requirements Division 00 is typically the first section in the Specifications.  Sometimes it is distributed as a separate volume.  These are all the rules of bidding and will include the General and Supplemental Conditions (broad administrative requirements for the project).   Division 00 will outline how your bid must be prepared, what documents must be reviewed, how bids will be awarded, when the bids are due, required (or not) pre-bid meetings and a host of other information.  If you are a Subcontractor, a one or two page bid sheet from the GC with a couple sheets of your drawings and your spec section is not enough.  You need to, at the very least, review all of the Division 00 requirements to understand if there are other things that affect you and your work.
  4. Division 01 – Administrative Requirements Division 01 represents the rules of the road for your specific project (the 2nd level of Administrative Requirements for the Project that is more narrowly defined than the General Conditions).  The list is lengthy in Division 01 and every item could potentially affect you, your bid and your work. Division 01 applies to the entire project and you will find items like: (this is only a partial list)
  • A description of the project.
  • Owner work or Owner furnished items.
  • Price and payment procedures for the project.
  • Codes and reference standards.
  • Required pre-installation meetings and scheduling.
  • Submittal and mock-up requirements.
  • Alternates, Allowances and Unit Prices potentially effecting your bid.
  • Sustainable design requirements for the project.
  • General product requirements.
  • Project closeout requirements.
  • Maintenance material requirements.
  • Substitution Requirements (before and after the bid).
  • Rules of communication.
  • Quality assurance and testing requirements.
  • Requirements for how your materials are delivered, handled and stored.
  • Project warranty requirements.
  • Temporary facility requirements.

Every single bulleted item above has the potential to affect the time you have to spend on the work of the project, which then affects the bid you need to prepare.  Nobody wants to find out after they have signed a contract that the project has extensive submittal requirements that may take a lot of hours,  or an expensive mock-up or something else that you did not include in the bid because you didn’t see it.  Remember, you are required to review ALL of the Contract Documents.