We are all aware of today’s challenging economic times. Projects are suffering and companies that design and engineer projects are finding that clients want more for less. Contractors are similarly squeezed and taking on projects with slimmer and sometimes nonexistent profit margins. These factors, in combination with the increasingly aggressive construction claims environment, make it more important than ever for engineers and design teams to manage potential risk in every aspect of a project’s development. Two notable areas where such enhanced management is warranted are Shop Drawings and Requests for Information (RFIs). These components of a project are already a frequent source of tension between contractors and those on the design and engineering side of projects. There is every reason to believe that this tension will increase as Projects showing signs of difficulty cause parties to manufacture a document trail in a thinly veiled effort to shift blame. It is thus important to remember exactly what RFI’s and Shop Drawings are, and for what exactly each participant in the building process is responsible.
Shop Drawings Shop Drawings are defined by the Engineers’ Joint Contract Documents Committee (EJCDC) in its Form No. 1910-8, Standard General Conditions, for the construction contract as: All drawings, diagrams, illustrations, schedules, and other data or information, which are specifically prepared or assembled by or for contractor and submitted by contractor to illustrate some portion of the work.The AIA view is similar with AIA Document General Conditions of the contract for construction, which refers to Shop Drawings as “graphic or written descriptions of the work which the contractor intends to perform to meet its contractual obligations for the project, subject to the architect’s or engineer’s approval.”The major risk management issue regarding shop drawings is not how they are defined, but rather who actually produces them, who is responsible for the content, and what is the scope and significance of review comments. While design professionals and engineers know that shop drawing production is the contractor’s responsibility, design professionals often windup generating some portion of the shop drawings. Unless this task is specifically delineated in a governing agreement, design professionals and engineers should not generate shop drawings, especially in areas relating to the means and methods of construction. Doing so creates additional liability, as the contractor and subs then have even more reason to say, “We did it this way because the design team or engineer told us to.” A more simple reason to avoid doing shop drawings is to avoid doing the contractor’s work for free. Members of a project’s design team and its engineers sometimes permit their commitment and their exuberance for a project to blur the lines of those items for which they are responsible. A better way to be helpful is to set a schedule for the submission of shop drawings and making certain that it is adhered to.