Shop Drawings and Other Construction Submittals

Association of Construction and Development
March 15, 2013 — 23,547 views  

Shop drawings represent an elementary form of delegated design. The process involves contractors and suppliers who design the components for which they are responsible. If the project architect of a building had to design every single connection and interaction between systems and components, it would be an arduous process. Most architects do not have the skills to design to that level of detail and that would cause delays and frequent defects in design. Using shop drawings provide the contractor and the architect with an opportunity to review what the subcontractor or supplier intends to supply or construct before approving the fabrication or construction.

Definition of Shop Drawings in Standard Form Contracts

The American Institute of Architects has defined shop drawings as diagrams, schedules, drawings, and other types of data prepared specifically by a distributor, supplier, manufacturer, subcontractor, or contractor to show some part of the work. That is, shop drawings show how the architect's design is intended to be implemented by the contractor. Although AIA gives separate definitions, 'Shop drawings' can be interpreted to subsume 'Samples' and 'Product Data'.

However, AIA suggests that reprinted manufacturer diagrams should not be included in shop drawings. Such diagrams come under the product data definition, which in turn comes under the definition of shop drawings. These ambiguities provide enough reason for contractors to be alert about the liability of manufacturer diagrams under shop drawings. Therefore, AIA provides the owner with the right to pursue manufacturers or contractors for defects.

The general conditions of construction of Engineers' Joint Contract Documents Committee (EJCDC) defines shop drawings as 'All illustrations, drawings, schedule, diagrams, and other information or data which are prepared or assembled specifically by or for a Contractor and submitted by a Contractor to illustrate some part of the work'. They are also defined by the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) as 'drawings, submitted by the subcontractor, contractor, or a lower tier subcontractor consistent to a construction contract, to the Government, showing in detail (1.) the proposed assembly and fabrication of structural elements and (2.) the installation of materials or equipment. It includes layouts, schematics, drawings, diagrams, illustrations, descriptive literature, performance and test data, schedules, and similar materials provided by the contractor to detail specific parts of the work as required by the contract'.

Shop Drawing Liability

Liability for the shop drawings can come from the traditional preparation methods, particularly from review and coordination by the design professional or contractor, or by failure to review the shop drawings timely. It normally flows from a failure of the contractor or supplier to design its work adequately or failure to supply requirements as per the contract documents. In addition, design professionals and contractors may incur liability due to failure in reviewing the drawings adequately to conform to the contract documents or delay in the reviewing the shop drawing.

As the contractor is responsible for the methods and means of construction, and field dimension verification, he is required to also review the shop drawings to coordinate the subcontractors' work, and to verify that the design can be implemented. A Contractor's construction submittals of shop drawings to the design professional comprises a representation to the architect and the owner, that the contractor has reviewed and approved the drawings, determined and verified field measurements, materials and field construction criteria, and coordinated and checked the information within the construction submittals with the requirements of Contract and Work documents.

The Liability of the Designer

Compared to the contractor the architect bears a smaller burden, and therefore, less liability to the review of the shop drawings and approval process. AIA Standard Form of Agreement between Architect and Owner necessitates the design professional to review, approve, or take action on the contractor's construction submittals, but for the purpose of checking conformance with information provided, and design concepts elaborated in the documents of the contract.

It provides that the approval of the architect does not constitute approval or acceptance of changes in design set forth unless the contractor has explicitly informed the architect in writing. Design professionals' current efforts to limit their responsibility contractually to review the drawings are a response to the liability, which they have traditionally borne for failure in verifying the conformance of drawings to contract documents. Design professionals will not, generally, be held responsible for drawings that do not detail adequately the aspects of a project as long as it is contractually limited to ensuring design conformance.

Association of Construction and Development