Shop drawings and material submittals (submittals) are a critical element of every construction project. They serve to provide the architect, contractor and subcontractors with detailed information on the materials to be incorporated into the project. They are essential to assure compatibility, to allow the general contractor and architect to coordinate the installation of materials furnished by various trades and to identify materials which may have a long lead time that could impact the proposed schedule for the project.
Every contractor and subcontractor must identify the specific contract requirements relating to submittals and approvals and should keep a log which concisely summarizes the progress and status of each submittal. The log provides a central record of the date each submittal was sent and the action taken on each submittal. It eliminates the need to review the many stamps and notations that may appear on each submittal every time a question arises about the status of any submittal.
Submittals are also the vehicle to alert the architect to details or materials which either are not covered by or differ from the plans and specifications. Typically the general conditions require a contractor or subcontractor to specifically inform the architect of any deviation from contract documents at the time of making the submittal. The architect is required to give written approval of any specific deviation in order to be bound by that deviation. If a deviation is not brought to the architect’s attention, his general approval of the submittal may not excuse compliance with contract requirements.
Submittals are critical in obtaining approval for use of “equal” material on private construction projects. Private work is not subject to Mass. General Laws c. 30, §39M which creates a statutory right to use equal material so long as certain standards are met. On private work, a specification may limit material to a named manufacturer. The contractor (or subcontractor) who bid on that specification must use the specified material unless it is able to convince the owner’s architect through submittals that the proposed substitute is either better, or just as good but cheaper. Even then the owner is under no legal obligation to permit substitution. He is unlikely to do so unless the submittals make a compelling case for use of the proposed substitute material.
A general contractor (or subcontractor) who proceeds without approval to perform work that requires submittals, including shop drawings, does so at its own risk. Approval by the architect is the usual prerequisite to the performance of such work or use of any material.
A contractor (or subcontractor) who does not receive approval of submittals within a reasonable time must notify the architect of the potential impact on the schedule due to either the delay in ordering material or the impact of having to perform work out of sequence. Such notice may be essential to obtaining a time extension or laying the foundation for a delay claim
Prompt approval of submittals is critical to every job. That result is achieved by (1) closely following the specified submittal procedure, (2) maintaining a log of submittals and approvals, and (3) promptly notifying the architect of the impact of delayed approval.