The Ultimate Guide for Construction Submittals

No matter the size of a construction project, it’s essential for construction submittals to be officially submitted by a general contractor to any architects and engineers who are working on the design of the project at hand. A construction submittal can include a wide variety of information that extends to everything from product samples to technical data. Submittals must be made to ensure that the general contractor’s view of the constructed documents or building permit plans is correct.

Once the engineer and architect receive the appropriate submittals, they will either approve or reject the submittal. All submittals will need to be approved by the design team before a construction project can officially get started. Approval of these submittals ensures that the equipment and materials can be fabricated and eventually delivered to the worksite. The common types of construction submittals that can be sent to the design team include:

  • Product cut sheets
  • Shop drawings
  • Color charts
  • Material data
  • Product samples

Keep in mind that construction submittals are first created by any subcontractors that have been hired for the construction project at hand. Once these submittals have been made, they will be sent to the general contractor for review. If you are about to start a construction project, the creation of construction submittals is essential towards making sure that the project timeline is adhered to.

This article offers a comprehensive look at construction submittals and their importance for any construction project.

What is Included in a Construction Submittal and Why?

Before you’re able to begin construction, a large number of construction submittals will need to be sent to the design team for the project. Everything from the types of materials to the colors of paint that are being used in the project must be reviewed by the design team to ensure that everything is in order. The reason that construction submittals are important is because they are able to show every single detail of the project in separate submittals, which allows the design team to look over each project component to determine if changes need to be made.

Approval of construction submittals occurs before the materials and equipment are officially delivered to the construction site. If you decide to forego this step, it’s possible that you would go over budget or that the timeline of the project would be delayed. You could use the wrong paint or an incorrect type of roofing if submittals aren’t first reviewed by the general contractor and design team. The types of items that can be included with construction submittals include:

  • Product cut sheet – These sheets include model numbers, the identities of each manufacturer, and complete specifications
  • Shop drawings – These drawings display the dimensions of prefabricated products like windows, millwork, trusses, cast concrete, and appliances
  • Samples – These are products samples that show examples of many of the core components for the building in question
  • Color and finish selections – These selections represent the final choices for the color and finish of each material that’s being used in the construction of the building, which includes the paint that will be added
  • Color charts – These are charts that display quick and easy-to-consume information about the colors that will be used throughout each room of the building
  • Product components – Smaller components that will be used in the equipment and products that are needed for the construction process
  • Material data – Extensive information pertaining to every material that will be used throughout the construction process, which can involve hundreds of different materials

Construction Submittals Review Process

The review process for construction submittals is typically a lengthy one. Among the most arduous aspects of this process involves the creation of the submittals, which must be done by the subcontractors who have been hired for the project at hand. These submittals will include detailed specifications and data of each component of the project. Up until the past five years or so, these submittal documents were created through manual entries via Excel spreadsheets, which allowed for many costly mistakes and errors to be made. Such manual processes were also very time consuming. Currently, it’s possible to automate this process with project management software, which also reduces the amount of errors that are made when creating the submittal documents.

Once these documents are collected, the general contractor will review them before passing the documents to the design team and architect. The general contractor reviews the submittals for the purpose of ensuring that all of the right specifications and products are listed. On the other hand, the design team and architect review the submittals to make sure that they comply with previously created building plans. The length of time it takes for this process to be completed depends on the size of the project. While some reviews can be completed in as little as two weeks, it’s also possible that the review process won’t be completed for 10-12 weeks if the project is larger in scope.

The submittal workflow can vary depending on the number of individuals who are involved in the process. In most cases, the workflow will involve three separate people. The subcontractor will send the submittals to the general contractor for review, after which these documents will be sent to the architect and design team for final review and verification. If all submittals are approved, they will be sent back to the general contractor for distribution to the subcontractors.

It’s at this time that the subcontractors will be able to finally get to work. In some workflows, it’s possible for an engineer to review the submittals before they are sent to the architect. Construction management could be involved in the review process as well. If you’re able to limit this process to only a few separate individuals, it could be completed sooner than you anticipate.

Likely the most important aspect of the submittal review process is the submittal log that’s created. This log is designed to help project managers and general contractors organize the thousands of separate documents that must be gathered when creating submittals. A submittal log is able to keep track of every document that’s used with the project. Once the architect and design team approve a submittal, this approval can be recorded in the submittal log. Comprehensive submittal logs should include:

  • Specification section name or number – This designates where the overall requirement came from
  • Submittal type – Lists the kind of information that’s being requested, which could include anything from product samples to shop drawings
  • Title or description – The name of the submittal and a brief description of the exact request
  • Priority – Designates the overall priority for approval of each submittal
  • Responsible contractor – This identifies the subcontractor who is responsible for providing the information
  • Submittal manager – The individual who is responsible for sending in the submittal for review
  • Submittal reviewer – The individual who will review and approve the information
  • Required date – When the submittal must be sent in
  • Required approval date – When the submittal should be approved by

How to Manage Your Construction Submittal

While the submittal review process can be lengthy, good management of the process may allow you to get these submittals approved in a shorter period of time than you currently expect. In fact, there are three key pillars of the review process that should be focused on when managing this process. These pillars include:

  • Streamline any administrative work – Helps to reduce manual errors and enhance organization through automated workflows
  • Advanced tracking – This tracking allows the progress of submittal items to be viewed at any time and by anyone
  • Provide total visibility – Every member of the team has instant access to the information and documents pertaining to the submittals

Technologies Role During the Review Process

Technology plays a significant role in this process and can help you reduce the amount of time that it takes to complete the submittal review process. To effectively manage and streamline this process, you can use technology to:

  • Automate the creation of submittal logs with the right software
  • Keep submittal information secure
  • Add some filters directly to the submittals for easier access to specific information
  • Use email notifications to achieve an advanced tracking system
  • Use several different reviewers at the same time
  • Implement clear statuses for each submittal, which will allow you to update them whenever they are approved or rejected

Construction submittals are among the more important documents for any construction project. In order for a construction project to go forward as planned, submittals must be made and eventually approved for every component of the project. If the submittal is denied, alterations will need to be made before work can begin on the project. To avoid delays with your construction project, it’s important that you understand how to manage construction submittals as well as the review process. If every submittal is approved, fabrication and final delivery can begin.

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