Construction Submittals: A Simple Guide for Busy Project Managers
Construction submittals are an essential element of every construction project.
And yet the submittal process can take a lot of time. And that makes the submittal process worthy of investigation.
Are there areas of your submittal process you could improve?
What are construction submittals?
Submittals are narratives, technical documentation, shop drawings, blueprints, digital files, or other materials that detail how contractors will safely deliver a construction project while adhering to the project’s design and intent.
Construction submittals assure the owner and design team that contractors have the means and methods to provide and install the products, materials, and design elements as designed and required in the contract documents.
The submittal process begins long before construction begins and often continues while the project is underway.
How does the submittal process work?
In the best-case scenario,
- The design team specifies the types of products and materials that meet the project’s requirements.
- General contractors respond by submitting the documentation they’ve produced or solicited from their vendors and subcontractors that they believe meets those requirements.
- The design team reviews the submittals, agrees with the contractors, and approves the products and materials for use on the project.
But that’s rarely how it goes.
The submittal process is complex and requires a lot of communication, collaboration, organization, follow-up, and more follow-up to be effective.
How the submittal process really works…
The project manager solicits submittal packages from their subcontractors based on their scope of work.
Each subcontractor replies with documentation from their scope of work for the project manager’s review and approval.
The project manager, in turn, reviews the documentation, and if it complies with the contract, the project manager then compiles the submittals from multiple vendors and subcontractors into submittal packages.
The project manager transfers the submittal packages to the architect and engineering teams to review for compliance.
The design team reviews the documentation for accuracy and completion. If the products and materials don’t meet the project’s specifications to the letter, the design team will reject them.
And when the general contractor or the design team rejects a submittal at any point in the process, the entire process begins again.
And holdups like that can prevent you from starting your project on schedule or interrupt a schedule that’s already in progress.
Why is the construction submittal process so critical?
Contractors cannot install any products or materials on the project without approval. And the submittal process is the first step.
And given that each project subcontractor and supplier submit multiple documents, the submittal process generates mounds of documents and data that can quickly get lost, jumbled and confused.
In many cases, submittals are just a formality. But it only takes one hiccup, one lost or rejected submittal in the process, to hold up your entire timeline and stall your construction schedule.
Types of submittals
Modern construction projects require an enormous volume and variety of submittals.
Therefore, the Construction Specification Institute (CSI) recommends categorizing submittals into five basic types.
The design team must approve all design elements the contractors plan to purchase, fabricate, or deliver to the job site.
Here are just some of the many varieties of action submittals.
- Design drawings
- Shop drawings
- Product samples
- Material samples
Information submittals demonstrate that all materials and products scheduled for installation comply with the contract documents and specifications.
These submittals include:
- Technical specifications
- Product data sheets
- Material data sheets
- Quality assurance test results
- Manufacturer’s instructions
- Supplemental information sheets
Closeout Submittals demonstrate that all design elements have been installed properly, pass inspection, and correctly operate.
- Test reports
- Inspection results
- Startup logs
- Operational test results
Maintenance Submittals include
- Manufacturer warranties
- Service requirements
- Spare parts catalogs and
- Special tools required to maintain the constructed asset throughout its lifecycle.
Each type of submittal speaks to a different project requirement. And all submittals must be reviewed carefully by the project manager before being packaged and forwarded to the design team for final review and approval.
Construction submittal concepts you need to know
With the volume of submittal information flowing in, it’s imperative to organize the information and create a process to store, review and approve it for maximum efficiency.
Here are some of the key terms and concepts to help:
Maintaining a tight submittal schedule ensures that each subcontractor knows their submittals and when they’re required.
Holding vendors and subcontractors accountable to the submittal schedule is critical to keep the project on track and avoid costly delays.
The submittal log records all the submittals that have been accepted for review. And it provides an easy way for busy project managers to track which submittals have been approved and which are still pending review, revision, and resubmission.
Each work section requires submittals from many different trades.
These submittals include technical specifications, shop drawings, product data, product samples, mock-ups, material data sheets, warranties, cut sheets, blueprints, etc.
Packaging these submittals together helps the project team stay organized and streamlines the approval process.
The submittal review process has two stages.
- Preliminary approval: First, the general contractor’s project manager reviews the subcontractor’s submissions.
- Submissions must meet the project manager’s preliminary approval before moving to the second stage.
- The project manager organizes the approved submittals and submits the submittal packages to the design team.
- Final approval: The design and engineering teams are responsible for final review and approval.
- It’s important to note if a submittal is rejected during the preliminary or final review, it must be revised and resubmitted.
Submittals sometimes require changes before the design team will approve them for construction.
Revisions can cause delays if they’re not responded to promptly. It’s important to document all revision history clearly to avoid confusion and delays and to answer questions that may arise later in the asset’s lifecycle.
Sometimes, a submittal does not explicitly meet the contract requirements. It meets most requirements but deviates from the contract specification in some way.
Project managers must be aware of these deviations because they can often affect other project elements.
Before a deviation can be approved for construction, the design team and the general contractor must carefully investigate, document, and review the issue.
How to speed up the construction submittal process
Can you imagine collecting, organizing, and processing all these submittal documents and all this data with manual systems?
Fortunately, Linarc’s cloud-based project management system simplifies the entire submittal process.
- Digital document storage and processing
- Pre-built, automated workflows
- Automatically categorize, log, monitor, and manage multiple submissions.
- Review submittals within a searchable database with access to relevant contract documents
- Chat and collaborate with stakeholders to expedite the processing
- Review, revise, resubmit and approve all within a central repository
Cloud-based document storage means stakeholders can easily access critical contract documents, plan sheets, and specifications.
Automated alerts keep project managers on top of deadlines and due dates so that projects stay on track and within budget.
No more contacting multiple people for updates.
Prebuilt, automated workflows keep the submittal process moving. And the built-in chat feature allows teams to collaborate easily without manually coordinating each task and waiting for feedback.
Improve your submittal process
The construction submittal process can be time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be.
Linarc’s integrated project management system helps busy project managers keep their projects stay on track from start to finish while still meeting the highest industry standards in quality and safety.
Contact a Linarc customer success manager today for a free custom demonstration.