May 16, 2019
by Keith Robinson, RSW, FCSC, FCSI, Cameron Franchuk, PE, and Gerald Murnane
Recent pressures have caused responsibility for many design solutions to be transferred to the constructor, as noted in Parts 1 and 2 of this series. To properly complete deferred design, a solid understanding of regulations surrounding shop drawings, specifications, submittals, and other documentation is necessary.
The National Building Code of Canada (NBC) does not require supporting registered professionals to submit documentation detailing their commitment to design and compliance following site reviews. However, this is required of the registered professional of record (RPR) so there is a record of assurances to address building permit and occupancy obligations to the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs). The following are some Canadian examples of documentation regulations set by architectural and engineering associations.
Engineers and Geoscientists BC (EGBC) and the Architectural Institute of British Columbia (AIBC) established guidelines for documentation mirroring each other’s responsibilities, which are intended to be completed by the supporting registered professional and are retained by the RPR as a part of the permanent project file.
The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) requires specialty professionals (i.e. supporting registered professionals) to complete letters of commitment and compliance to provide closure to the responsibility of the applicable component of deferred or collaborative design, confirm whether site review is required to certify component completion, and offer assurance the specialty professional is competent in the work being performed. These are retained by the RPR as part of the permanent project file.
Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) requires specialty engineers (i.e. supporting registered professionals) to complete the standard form for commitment to general review and letter of general conformance when site visits form a part of the work for assurance of installed components. These documents prove specialty engineers are qualified to perform the work being provided to the project and are retained by the RPR as a part of the permanent project file.
Other jurisdictions have similar requirements for the supporting registered professional. Although not identified as well as in the three previous references, some form of documentation indicating responsibility for the completed work is required from the supporting registered professional in these areas and is retained by the RPR as a part of the permanent project file.
Submittal of the various commitment and compliance documents identified by professional engineering associations establishes a similar relationship with the constructor’s engineer as with subconsultants. They are responsible for their portion of design in a similar way as the co-ordinating professional of record (CPR), except liability associated with that risk is administered by the RPR.
Document submittal and shop drawing expectations
Guidance governing best practice expectations for treatment of various types of submittals and shop drawings provided by the constructor during the construction period is similarly fractured between the various engineering and architectural associations across Canada. The following is a compilation from several such associations.
Purpose of submittals
Submittals consist of product data, shop drawings, samples, certifications, design calculations, and other documents requested under terms of the contract.
The intent of submittals is to provide information assisting the design professional in confirming the contractor’s design solutions meet expectations communicated within the construction documents. They also provide suppliers, fabricators, and manufacturers with information allowing them to make the required components of the project.
The RPR must clearly identify required submittals within the construction documents and limit the number of requests to those submittals required to adequately describe the extent of the contractor’s involvement by providing explicit communications associated with design solutions. Most forms of construction contracts allow the RPR to request additional submittals where reasonable interpretation of the contractor’s approach to construction is required.
Design solutions can be deferred to the constructor as a component of the submittal review process, provided there is clear indication of the extent of responsibility associated with providing them. The process of deferring design, whether or not there is contribution by a supporting registered professional, cannot absolve the RPR of overall responsibility for design contained within submittals presented by the constructor during the progress of the work.
Third-party responsibility (delegated design)
Deferred design requiring a design solution that necessitates engineering will need the seal and signature of a professional engineer for submittals associated with the following.
These include submittals associated with structural elements and individual components, special connections, or equipment designed specifically for a particular application by the professional engineer acting for the fabricator, supplier, or manufacturer. This does not include submittals associated with pre-engineered components (described later in this article for assigned design submittals).
These include submittals associated with proprietary solutions (such as open-web steel joists and steel decking) confirming the professional engineer takes responsibility for the selection of components forming a part of the engineering solutions for the project.
Contractors’ solutions not comprising part of the RPR’s engineering responsibilities (such as temporary facilities, cribbing or soldier pile foundation supports, crane foundations, or loading sequencing and concrete forming drawings), where they may have an effect on the engineering required by the registered professional, may require some form of reliance statement in addition to signed and sealed erection drawings.
A similar statement may be required from the constructor to provide design assurance to the RPR the work is being performed by qualified individuals.
Third-party responsibility (assigned design)
This refers to deferred design requiring a design solution that does not involve engineering acumen and resulting seal and signature of a professional engineer for any submittals associated with the following.
These are reproducible copies of drawings and specifications provided by the RPR for the express intent of use by the constructor for annotating general arrangement of construction and products. General arrangement drawings are not design related. Therefore, they do not need to be sealed and signed by the fabricator’s, supplier’s, or manufacturer’s professional engineer.
Fabrication or detail drawings do not require the seal and signature of a supporting registered professional because they normally do not contain design information. However, this is required when they contain design information requiring engineering.
These components typically do not involve engineering design because they are comprised of elements that are selected from manufacturers’ standard catalogue offerings or industry handbooks. However, standard component and equipment submittals require the seal and signature of a supporting registered professional that is specific to the elements needing engineering input by the RPR (such as connection loads between curtain wall or cladding applied to primary structure of the building or reaction loads applied by elevator installation to structure) or completion of design responsibility by the RPR.
An alternative to waiting for connection and reaction loading during the construction phase is initiating a design-assist arrangement with the affected construction types and equipment to obtain critical information required by the RPR in order to complete the design before issuing documents for bid or tender.
MasterFormat includes classifications covering the need for submittals during construction and provides a location for describing deferred design procedures within Division 01–General Requirements. These sections must include definitions and identify content appropriate to local practices associated with deferred, delegated, and assigned design and design-assist. They are applicable to all divisions within MasterFormat and to all RPRs, regardless of discipline, following the principle of, “Say it right in one location, and reference from all other locations within the document structure.”
A complete listing of deferred design components necessary for the project must be included in the specification, describing deferred design procedures, making project requirements explicit to the constructor, and clearly identifying and incorporating costs associated with the design solutions in bids for the project.
The authors note their own firm is not consistent in the way it currently describes deferred design. The firm has occasionally used implicit language describing requirements surrounding deferred design components, which does not state in complete, reliable, and identifiable terms the degree of responsibility being attributed to the constructor’s design solutions.
Specification sections can make identification of the different types of submittals required to administer the deferred design process more explicit to the constructor by referencing the document preparation guidelines publication, CSC/CSI SectionFormat/PageFormat. This includes the following types of submittals, which must be provided before any onsite work starts.
Submittals indicating the constructor’s design solutions for constructability and conformity with the RPR’s engineering, which can include submissions such as letters of commitment and compliance, shop drawings, product data, samples, and other information requiring review and acceptance by the RPR.
Submittals necessary for co-ordination of the work associated with assigned design or for proof of performance where review from the consultant is limited to assessing items are in general conformance with stated performance requirements. This can include shop drawings (with limitations), certificates, testing reports, source and site quality control submittals, and qualification statements.
A third potential submittal type forming a part of the deferred design process can be associated with special project procedures, such as documentation providing confirmation of sustainable design-related components. Part of project recordkeeping, these documents are usually submitted concurrently with informational submittals.
Individual technical specification sections must contain clear submittal requirements indicating which submittal type or combination of submittal types is required during the contract administration phase of the project. The specification must also contain accurate descriptions of the engineering, esthetic, and performance criteria on which the constructor will base the design solution, including co-ordination of related requirements and cross-discipline communication.
Drawings are the best place to identify and co-ordinate deferred design content. This content must be explicit and should be located on the drawing set with the most impact on the design deliverables. For example, architecturally exposed structural concrete or structural steel is best identified on the structural drawing set, while the exposed layout of mechanical ductwork is best identified and fully illustrated on the mechanical drawing set. In these examples, the architect is usually the CPR, meaning content for deferred design components is fully identified on the architectural drawing set with references to the appropriate sheet locations and detail numbers.
Simply stating ‘see structural’ (or mechanical, electrical, etc.) is not acceptable, since this misses the requirement for providing explicit direction to the constructor for design responsibility. Under no circumstances should a deferred design component be identified on the drawing sets that has not been directed by the RPR, to prevent inadvertently transferring engineering responsibility to the constructor.
Deferred design content must be directed and reviewed by each contributing RPR and harmonized between each discipline so complete content is available in one fully co-ordinated drawing location with clear indication to the constructor of loads, restrictions, geometry, and other design-dependent information the supporting registered professional or supporting certified/qualified contributor will need to complete design solutions.
Contract administration processes
Contract administration requires corresponding review stamps for each action, informational, and sustainable submittal associated with deferred design components. Each discipline involved in review of deferred design components may have different responsibilities when it comes to applying review stamps, meaning action and information stamps are applied by different disciplines.
Assigned design submissions
All assigned design submissions are action submittals within the contract administration document review process.
Sustainable design submissions
All sustainable design submissions are informational submittals within the contract administration document review process.
Delegated design submissions
There are three components to reviewing content associated with delegated design elements, as follows.
The constructor submits the supporting registered professional’s indication of commitment to the project, describing the extent of its design responsibilities using recommended best practice from the local engineering association.
The constructor submits signed and sealed design solutions prepared by the supporting registered professional, consisting of shop drawings and supporting information. This could include review of design calculations where the RPR requires additional assurance and only when requested. This submission must be completed before any work associated with the design solution begins and must contain the responsible supporting registered professional’s seals and signatures.
There are exceptions to this process when other RPRs contributing to the original deferred design component are required to review the shop drawings. For example, the structural engineer reviews the design solution for general conformance to the project requirements where architecturally exposed structural steel is required. The architect reviews this same shop drawing as an action submittal. The indications of commitment and conformance do not affect the architect’s review, meaning two review stamps are applied to the project: the informational submittal stamp by the structural engineer and the action submittal stamp by the architect.
The constructor submits the supporting registered professional’s statement of compliance upon site review to confirm the design solution is required by the work being undertaken or when site modifications alter the solution using the recommended best practice form from the local engineering association.
This submittal may not be necessary where the supporting registered professional is not required to conduct site reviews as a component of commitment to the project.
Subrogation of design responsibility
There is a tendency for supporting registered professionals to include language in the commitment and conformance documents to limit their responsibility and even make the CPR and RPR responsible for shop drawing content, which is inappropriate since NBC makes it clear the CPR/RPR cannot assign their responsibilities for engineering or code compliance.
This is not to say the supporting registered professionals are not responsible. They will always be responsible for the deferred design solutions assigned to them because of the contribution being prepared by a RPR. This responsibility is limited only to what they provide to complete the design based on the complete engineering requirements provided by the RPR.
This relationship is clearly indicated within NBC and should require no further clarification by any of the contributing supporting registered professionals, provided the roles of the RPR and supporting registered professional are clearly delineated and the deferred design process is applied correctly.
Delayed submittals from supporting registered professionals
Supporting registered professionals sometimes supply ‘preliminary documents’ describing their design solutions as a component of the informational submittal and provide the signed and sealed documents at completion of the work as an indication of compliance. This is inappropriate. Delaying submittal of fully executed design solutions is akin to the RPR submitting building permit documents without a seal and signature, with a promise to the AHJs work will only be certified on completion.
The relationship and requirements for design solutions provided by registered professionals are clearly indicated in NBC. Although submittals from the supporting registered professionals are not submitted to the AHJs, they must be treated the same as the RPR’s commitment for complete documentation. Any submittal received that is incomplete, or that contains limitation clauses or disclaimers, should be returned to the constructor and marked ‘revise and resubmit.’
Keith Robinson, RSW, FCSC, FCSI, has worked as a specifier since 1981 and is currently an associate at Dialog in Edmonton, Alberta, responsible for research and development of technical specification content. His range of experience includes contract administration, building envelope detailing, and writing construction specifications. In addition to working on projects across Canada and in Egypt, Japan, and Costa Rica, Robinson also instructs courses for the University of Alberta, acts as an advisor to several construction associations and building trades committees, sits on several standards review committees for ASTM and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and is the Registrar for CSC’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Cameron Franchuk, PE, is a structural engineer at Dialog, where he creates impactful spaces that build communities, but in reality he wears many hats: engineer, educator, and mentor. Franchuk has a deep understanding of architectural concepts and building science. Integration of all disciplines is at the forefront of his thinking throughout a project, from conception to completion. His work on low-, medium-, and high-rise buildings, parkades, and pedways throughout Western Canada has helped shape communities. Franchuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gerald Murnane is an associate, contract administration, with Dialog. He has been in the industry for 44 years in both Ireland and Canada. He joined Dialog in 1988. Murnane has an in-depth background in the design, specification, and management of complex construction projects. He is well respected in the industry for his senior construction administration expertise. Over the years, he has built strong owner/contractor/designer team-based relationships and has a passion for resolving complicated issues as they arise. Murnane can be reached at email@example.com.
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