Part 5:  Submittals and Responses: Prioritize, Track and Notify.

This is the final article in the 5-part series on pro-active measures to improve construction information management. Project participants in Ontario, Canada should take particular note, as legislation mandating adjudication of construction disputes is likely to take effect at the end of this year. All parties will need to have standard practices in place to capture information and maintain supportive documentation of issues and claims during construction.

Communications between various parties on a construction project consist to a large extent of submittals for which formal responses such as: “reviewed”, “reviewed as noted”, “revise and resubmit”, “rejected” and/or “approved”, are required. These include: design drawings, shop drawings, requests for information (RFIs), request for change orders, contemplated change orders, change directives, quotations, change orders, etc.

Contract general conditions typically identify the type of documents required to be submitted for review and/or approval as well as a schedule for submittals. The contract will often (but not always) include the required timing for responses; some contracts indicate only that the response must be in sufficient time so as not to affect the construction schedule. For contractors and subcontractors bidding on a tight construction schedule, it would be prudent to negotiate a required response time for review and approvals, and include such timing as a supplementary condition to the final contract.

Contractors and subcontractors need to ensure that they provide submittals in a timely manner in accordance with schedule and so that the other party has sufficient time to perform their review. Even if the contract stipulates a required response time, the submittal form should still indicate the due date for a response and identify if it is a priority item for the construction schedule. For example, some RFIs may need a quick turn-around time because the area is presently under construction. By indicating on the submittal form that a response time is needed no later than a specific date, it indicates that it is an issue of high priority and sets the groundwork for a follow-up notice of delay, if required.

Tracking formal submittals and responses has become simplified with the use of project management software, however there isn’t always consistency in the type of documents tracked or in the availability of the information databases to all parties. The onus remains on each party to maintain its own records and ensure that they meet their contractual responsibilities when it comes to timely submittals and responses.

In the absence of a project management software with built-in submittal databases, simple spreadsheets can facilitate the tracking of documents. Each category of submittal should have its own spreadsheet, with columns to identify the document number, description, date submitted, date response required, date response received, summary of response, further action required, affected schedule activity, etc.

Reviewing the list weekly and comparing the “date response required” to the “date response received” will give the project manager a quick overview of any late responses that may affect the schedule and the ability to prioritize such issues. It also provides the opportunity to issue written notice to the other party that its late response may result, or is resulting in delays. This is particularly important when it comes to fulfilling the delay notice provisions in the contract which stipulate that notice must be given within a certain number of days.

Late submissions and late responses to submittals can have a significant impact on the construction schedule, particularly when it comes to RFIs and changes that arise while the affected area is under construction, or long lead supply items. In order to support a claim for impacts due to either late submissions by a contractor or late responses from the other party, it is important to demonstrate that written notice was provided and that the late resolution of the issue(s) affected not just the individual schedule activity but the critical path as well. The information compiled in a tracking database or spreadsheet is extremely useful in performing a schedule delay analysis to prove impact.

Keeping accurate and up-to-date records and prioritizing submittals assists with project management as well as with the substantiation of claims. As discussed in the other parts of this series (links are provided below), being proactive in keeping detailed project records is good practice, whether you anticipate claims on the project or not.  If you do find yourself on a project that ends up with disputes, successful resolution often depends on the quality of information captured during the work.

This blog was authored by ICCP Fellow, Adele Wojtowicz, Construction Claims & Risk Management Consultant, ProEdge Construction Services Inc

Previous articles written in this series on Proactive Tips To Increase Your Success Rate of Claims can be found here:

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