The Tony Soprano Definition Of A Construction Project Submittal

Tony, the Architect on your Project, tells you, after you complain about his 9th rejection of your submittal, that:

“I ain’t going to tell you what to do. Just don’t do it unless I approve it.”

Sound familiar?

To many contractors, the whole process of submittals and shop drawings is mired in voodoo, make work, arbitrary lines in the sand bearing no engineering reasoning, and frustration. The designer, whether an engineer or architect, declines to tell you what they want — schooled by their risk management team that to do so would be interfering in the contractor’s “means and methods.” At the same time, as a contractor you suspect that there is a “right answer” lurking in all these submittal rejections. Like a game of blind man’s bluff, you continue to try to pin the tail on the donkey — you try to get the shop drawing to match the unstated criteria. By process of elimination, you eliminate all your intended means and methods, all your backups considered at bid, and do it “their way”. You are no longer Sinatra — “my way” failed. Cost, time, and early project progress all compromised, and you wonder what the job is going to be like.

I have seen in the last several years a significant increase in demands on pile contractors in terms of pile submittals, from requiring engineer stamps, drivability analyses, and considerable “design-assist” like detail. Pile driving contractors do not always have an engineer with a stamp on staff, and often have liability insurance that does not include design. But, inch by inch, these lines are getting blurred, or effort is being made to blur the lines of who is the designer and whether or not the contractor is being asked to take on design-assist or near “design build” responsibilities. And this is not just in wall thickness co-efficients, where the contractor can show a thinner but wider steel can provides the same structural value as the steel pipe pile on the plans.