Fads, fashions, and trends on planet commercial construction

 Some planets are static for long periods of time. Some not. One nice thing about Planet Commercial Construction is that it demands attention, so little is routine. Change is rampant.  When the a new or oddball situation repeats, I quickly wonder: is this randomness or a trend?

Three times this year I have been told to ignore the contract drawings.  On a small plaza renovation, my instructions came from the field.  On a decent sized downtown commercial addition, the GC was unable to ever give us a coordinated set of architectural and structural drawings; we were promoted so our shop drawings became the coordination focus. Today on a tiny job (but jam packed with confusion and complexity) where we flagged an A-S elevation conflict for the top of a beam we sat on, the GC said “ignore the contract set, just follow the steel shop drawings.”  Those drawings had followed the unconstructible contract details for supporting our piece and so they showed all sorts of extra plates and angles we did not need. Good bet that it’s a trend. 

What’s going on here? I will speculate.  All were private, CRE-driven work. Overall we (contractors and designers) remain in a depressed industry with low margins. Developers are much better at squeezing and wringing cost out of a project than are public owners and so the architects are working cheap. In turn the fees of they pay engineers are rock bottom. So what were once 80% plans are now “for construction”.  Subs who have to submit shop drawings encounter all sorts of issues but the EOR and maybe even the AOR is not eager to put more effort in.  Sort of implicit design build but under a design-bid-build contract. We keep hoping and expecting that the GC will play a serious coordinating role, but in my experience at best they dabble at it.

This process increases the chance or errors and problems. And despite direction to subs about ignoring the contract drawings, in the event of a serious dispute the GC has a huge ammo chest, since the sub is not likely to be in compliance with the contract drawings.  I find it nerve-wracking.  Am I the only one on the planet witnessing this? 


About Leo Schlosberg

Graybeard with experience in commercial construction and IT, and an interest in information flow and process. Aware and respectful of the enormous complexity, technical, legal, and other, embedded in every structure that is part of the built environment.
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