When you’re involved in any construction project, you need to know about the construction submittal process. What a submittal is, its purpose in the construction industry, and how to efficiently improve the entire process. So whether you’re just starting or brushing up on your knowledge, we’ve got you covered.
Construction submittals are essential documentation, allowing the project stakeholders to confirm that the right components are approved for installation where they are supposed to go.
Either the contractor or subcontractor prepares the submittals. Construction submittals can include multiple elements, and they often contain data, samples, shop drawings, production specifications, and other written and physical information that will help engineers, designers, and architects to ensure that appropriate materials are used for new constructions.
It is critical to manage construction submittals properly because it determines how well your proposed timeline will run, the details of your budget, and the accuracy of the final product. This is where the review process comes in.
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A construction submittal process involves the sequence of steps and activities involved in submitting and reviewing construction-related documents, materials, and plans from contractors or suppliers to the project owner, architect, or general contractor for approval. This process ensures that the submitted materials comply with project specifications, codes, and regulations before they are used in the construction project. Here’s how a standard submittal process looks like:
It’s worth noting that throughout the process, effective communication, collaboration, and documentation play crucial roles in ensuring that the construction project progresses smoothly, materials are of the required quality, and compliance with project specifications is maintained. The exact steps and participants can vary based on the project’s complexity, contractual relationships, and the specific roles of the parties involved.
It’s not always easy to classify submittals into set types. But to simplify the ordeal, we generally accept that there are four types of submittals.
The product & materials data include information about the products purchased to be used for the work. They can be further classified into three types.
Shop drawings are highly detailed drawings prepared to show verified, exact field dimensions, joinery, materials, thicknesses, etc.
Here, the architects and engineers need to make sure that the configurations are in alignment with the contract documents. These submittal documents are the bedrock for most construction projects.
In most cases, samples are needed for surfaces – masonry, carpet, countertops, fixtures – so they can be examined for their finish, density, and color.
Marble, for instance, varies from one quarry to another. All of these details are taken into care in this submittal document.
Mock-ups show how a larger assembly will be built by building a small portion of it on-site. Compared to other types of submittals, mock-ups are far less common, yet they have saved many a project from failure. These work as a prototype for the upcoming construction.
The submittal review process is a specific phase within the broader submittal process. It involves evaluating the submittals for compliance with project specifications, codes, regulations, and design intent before they are implemented in a construction project.
Once the contractor submits the construction submittals, the engineers and architects must approve the materials for compliance with the owner’s contract. They must also sign off for appearance, safety, and quality. This gives the go-ahead for the project.
In large projects, the submittal review process is usually formalized and clearly outlined. However, it’s always a best practice to establish the review process beforehand to avoid any friction later on. You can save enormous potential trouble, but the process can be tedious without a construction submittal review tool.
Note: The construction submittal process requires effective collaboration, attention to detail, and a thorough understanding of the project’s specifications and requirements to ensure consistency, project quality, and compliance to regulatory standards.
Setting up an effective submittal review process involves establishing clear procedures, communication channels, and tracking mechanisms to ensure that submitted materials are thoroughly reviewed, approved, and integrated into the construction project. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you set up and manage a successful submittal review process:
Note: A manual review process is prone to errors and will delay the submittal review process. However, using visual review and approval tools for AEC documents like submittals will ensure clarity of feedback, prevent comments in long email threads or in spreadsheets, and save about 50%+ time on reviews to move the project to production faster.
Note: A construction submittal management tool like zipBoard can help remove the friction in using spreadsheets to track and review progress.
Generally, every stakeholder in the construction submittal review process needs to look out for items like the submittal transmittal, contractor’s approval stamp, timelines, project information, and number of copies of submittals before reviewing any submittal:
However, project/construction managers, architects, engineers, contractors, clients, and all other stakeholders would need to review different aspects of the submittals. So what do you have to look for based on your role in the project? Find out here:
As the central coordinator, focus on the overall alignment of submittals with the project’s timeline, budget, and scope. Keep an eye on:
Architects and engineers ensure that submittals align with the project’s design intent, technical requirements, and regulations. As an architect or engineer, look out for:
General contractors focus on the feasibility of implementing the submitted materials within the construction process. As a general contractor, consider:
Subcontractors and suppliers ensure the feasibility and quality of the materials they will provide. As a subcontractor or supplier, pay attention to:
Owners or clients ensure that the submittals align with their vision and expectations for the final project outcome. Are you the owner or client? Focus on:
Overall, it’s important to assess submittals from your unique perspective to ensure a comprehensive review that considers design, technical compliance, feasibility, budget, and the overall project vision.
Most contractors, project managers, engineers, and architects struggle with reviewing submittal documents. Let’s look at how to ease this process with the 11 proven strategies we’ve compiled while working with major construction clients.
When there are strict deadlines to meet, people often panic, and rush through things, trying to pass through submittals quickly, to stay on schedule. This becomes an even bigger challenge for distributed teams working with documents all over the place. This is why a streamlined submittal review and approval cycle is paramount to meeting the deadlines.
Just think about this, when was the last time you revamped your construction review & approval process?
As every team has its process, there’s no one-size-fits-all.
But a general trend we’ve noticed with the highest-performing construction companies is:
Let’s take an in-depth look at it, which is also our next strategy to improve the construction submittal process.
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Earlier we touched on the steps high-performing construction companies take to streamline their review cycle. Now let’s see why the three steps work.
We have a saying about documentation: If it wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen. To put it another way, if you can’t prove that something happened on paper, then you cannot prove that it ever happened. No one wants to be faced with having to prove that a revision was made at the client’s request. So it’s important to understand the pros of documentation and why they’re so necessary.
Contextual feedback also allows for the contractors to easily understand the issue without having to hop onto a zoom call for every issue. This requires you to pinpoint the issue with precision.
As mentioned earlier, annotation tools play a vital role in streamlining your review cycle. However, there are certain features that general annotation tools would not be able to accommodate.
Such as authenticating the document. Project managers often provide their stamp of approval on documents. For this, the tools would need to accommodate your stamps, signatures and timestamps at the very least. Like zipBoard doesn’t allow other users to move or delete these marks of authentication on a document. Ensuring the sanctity of the review.
There are different formats when it comes to construction. And MasterFormat is the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry’s gold standard for organizing and communicating specifications and work results for construction projects.
The standard unifies your project. There are different subgroups in it, each having its standard specified. They’re especially important if you’re working in North America.
If you’re working in defense and aerospace construction, then UFGS is the standard for you. Unified Facilities Guide Specifications (UFGS) were mandated by the Department of Defense (USA) to integrate their specifications into one database. UFGS took effect in March 2001.
Knowing these formats will help you understand the various terms written in the construction submittal. At the same time, they’ll enable you to verify whether the right specifications have been met. Remember, having a good understanding of the standard is pivotal to speedy and error-free submittal reviews. So it’s a must to keep up with the specifications/standards of construction formats according to your geography.
GCs as we know is the general contractors who are primarily tasked with taking up the construction and the submittals. Subs on the other hand are sub-contractors who take on parts of the overall job usually hired by the general contractors themselves.
Proper access and use of the submittal is a major pain point between the two. So, to increase collaboration and establish a unified approach to the project, a centralized database such as an SAP system goes a long way.
However, make sure that you provide them with just the right amount of access to it. Say, you have a bunch of reviews on a document, and you do not want them to mess with any of it. You need the ability to share the file as a view only. This means they can only view the file without the ability to edit or add any comments.
Operations and maintenance data/manual are conditions that may lead to operation and maintenance issues. It requires facility operations and maintenance personnel, monitoring and control requirements, communication requirements, and requirements for preparing the designers’ report.
This section covers the activities, processes, and workflows that you implement to ensure the smooth running of your operation, including:
For instance, if you’re working for the telecommunications industry, cabling can also come under the operations and maintenance teams.
Apart from preventing deterioration of your buildings and equipment, improving your safety at work, lowering capital repair costs, increasing uptime, and decreasing your building ownership costs are just some of the benefits of preventative maintenance.
Operationally, you want to run equipment at full capacity at all times to produce the maximum amount of goods. In maintenance, you recognize the importance of inspecting, maintaining, repairing, and replacing equipment to maintain its performance and useful life, even if this reduces production temporarily.
And this is where proper documentation and review comes in. Make sure that there’s proper review and approval of the same beforehand.
Pre-construction conferences or “pre-job meetings” should be scheduled and conducted before beginning fieldwork on the project.
The following tasks will probably begin or be finished before the pre-construction conference: getting permissions, notifying utilities and/or railroads, or reviewing construction submittals.
However, it’s more probable than not that a few things from the submittal review process will need to be included here.
These consist of:
None of us wants a spiraling review loop that requires a phone call or a video chat every time new feedback is added. The only way to avoid this is to make sure the feedback you provide is in context. Say, engineer A asks to decrease the cantilever size of the first floor, room B. The only way to avoid the extra step of making a call or messaging them is to pinpoint the issue in a construction submittal review tool. This way you’re not only saving time but also ensuring that the next revision arrives at the earliest.
Steps to provide contextual feedback in the construction submittal process:
Now that you’re aware of the 9 actionable strategies to improve your construction submittal process, it’s time to put them into use9/.
When you have thousands of documents piling up on your system, and you’re pulling your hair over how to start reviewing, that’s where zipBoard comes in.
zipBoard is a submittal review tool that streamlines your construction submittal process with its multitude of annotation features.
There are five major reasons to use zipBoard for construction submittal process review:
There’s no rush though. Implement these actionable strategies today and if you require any help with your construction submittal process, zipBoard is always here for you.
Gaurav is a SaaS Marketer at zipBoard. While earning his degree in CSE at KIIT, Bhubaneswar, he rediscovered his inner love for creativity as he got into his first social internship. If he isn’t busy working, you can find him around his friends/family or enjoying a good football match or a passionate discussion over it, whichever works.
Last update: August 29, 2023 with new sections
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