Understanding the Purpose of a Construction Submittal

When it comes to time-consuming tasks in construction, you might be hard-pressed to find one as involved as assembling the submittal. A single project can generate many dozens of submittals. For capital projects, they can number in the hundreds and thousands. As one of the most critical pieces of documentation for any project, each submittal has a real purpose: to demonstrate the general contractor’s approach to completing the project — including the specific materials and products they’ve chosen — that adheres to the specifications outlined by the design team in the Project Manual.

Within this main purpose, there are several benefits that submittals deliver:

  • They begin the establishment of collaboration among all teams. The architects, engineers and design professionals, together with the project owner, start working on how the structure will look, deciding on the specifications that will go into the request for submittals. Subsequently, the contractor will team up with subcontractors and suppliers to gather the information and recommended materials that will compose the submittal. Dialogue channels open up between these two teams as submittal packages go through the necessary rounds of in-depth reviews, clarifications and approvals. This ensures communication is in full swing before the first boot ever hits the ground.
  • They flush out any discrepancies, concerns and questions before the build begins. This submittal stage can function much like a checks-and-balances system for both sides. If submittals are meant to show how the general contractor’s plans align with the project requirements, then this is when any misunderstandings and design issues should bubble to the surface. It could be a lack of clarity or inconsistency in some of the details provided; or a misinterpretation of a particular requirement. Or it could be something more impactful, like a critical design issue that has to be resolved before the contractor can adequately prepare the corresponding submittal documentation. It’s natural to engage in a bit of back-and-forth. Finding discrepancies and hashing things out at this early stage is meant to prevent issues from occurring in the first place and becoming expensive messes to fix on site later on.

With projects that are larger and more complex, things tend to fluctuate. Over the course of such a build — which can span many months or several years — material suppliers may upgrade, alter or suspend certain products that the contractor initially specified in the original submittal. While not truly a pre-build discrepancy, it’s nonetheless an issue to address as it impacts the accuracy of the information provided in the respective portion of the initial submittal. In this instance, the contractor could consult with any impacted subcontractors to procure replacements that comply with the original design intent.

  • They promote quality control through product selections and specifications. The submittal process is the first step in ensuring quality control. That’s because the rigor involved is designed to head off construction errors that could compromise the integrity of the structure, which would ultimately lead to time- and budget-consuming rework. Contractors play a pivotal role in this process. Choices are made by their team about which materials to use that will satisfy the design intent of the project. Those choices may take into account how the products or materials are made, maintenance requirements, the ability to withstand things like constant use or environmental elements, and their lifespan.
  • They help ensure the structure will meet the owner’s project requirements. An owner expects attention to detail. After all, they’re assuming a substantial amount of risk in investing in a structure built to their specifications to fulfill an intended use. Submittals delve into the finer points of how the design, products, materials, schedules, shop drawings, etc., all work together to meet the owner’s expectation that their project will be well-constructed using the highest standards in workmanship and product quality, as well as operational efficiency after the build is complete.
  • They serve as a reference for future facility management teams to maintain the structure after project handoff. Submittals are just as valuable when construction has finished as when the project started. After the project has wrapped up and has been handed over to the owner, they serve as invaluable guides for the facility and operations team. Everything they need will be at the ready — part numbers, installation instructions, warranties — for when future updates, repairs and maintenance are necessary.

Common among these is the need for accurate documentation — from shop drawings, product selections and manufacturer information, to schedules, payment procedures and meeting notes. Having the most up-to-date data from these documents establishes project parameters that help keep the project moving along within set timelines and budget.

Today’s advanced construction document management software, such as InEight Document, can streamline the assembly and transmission of these submittal records. Document lessens the stress of submittal records by reducing preparation time and effort, and letting you store, organize, manage and track them from one place. Schedule a demo to see how you can leverage this software solution’s capabilities for your future projects.

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