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What is a construction submittal and how to utilize them for project success

Picture of a construction site with box culverts | Construction Submittal | Knowify

What is a submittal in construction?

A construction submittal is a form of written or physical information sent to architects, engineers, or general contractors for approval of specific materials, equipment, drawings, or data in construction. These submittals set the expectations for all parties involved and when sent in detail, can help to keep a project running on time and on budget.

Delays or errors in the submittals process can lead to cost overrun, postponed project delivery, incorrect quantities, or rework to get back on track. And considering that 52% of construction rework is caused by poor project data and miscommunication, providing strong submittals can translate into job profitability. This article will provide insights as to how you can successfully provide submittals that get approved and maintain project momentum.

Type of construction submittal documents

There are three common forms or types of submittal documents in construction:

  1. Product Data: These documents will include detailed technical information about the materials to be used, such as dimensions and characteristics. This type of information can usually be accessed by the manufacturer of the materials you are using; however, it’s wise to expand on essential details and include as much information as possible. Look to include product manuals, blueprints, warranty information, and any additional relevant information regarding use and performance. This section ensures that the correct materials will be used to get the job done right; the more detail you can provide, the more you can guarantee a quality outcome. 
  2. Drawings: Drawings can include shop drawings, blueprints, diagrams, or schedules. In this case, schedules refer to any project-specific summary of the systems or components that will go into completing a job. The purpose of drawings is to provide contractors with essential details for the fabrication, installation, or process of work that needs to get done. These details can be architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, etc. 
  3. Samples: Samples will include physical materials, finishes, and examples of the materials to be used. For example, a contractor may want to provide a sample of the flooring or tile that will be installed. This helps project owners, engineers, and architects further conceptualize a project’s desired outcome. Some projects may require a more complex conceptualization; in this case, a mockup can be created. Mockups will provide a more complete physical example of a section of the project.

While product data, drawings, and samples should always be included, look to include other types of submittal documents, such as calculation reports, quality control documents, or close-out documents. Again, if any information is relevant to the project and will help the overall outcome, include it.  

What is the purpose of a submittal in construction?

  • Avoid unnecessary obstacles: About 35% of construction projects will have a major change during its lifetime. Submittals help you to stay ahead of the curve.
  • Refine timelines and processes: 72% of companies state that projects took longer than anticipated. Having a strong pre-construction procedure can help encourage efficiency and timeliness.
  • Generate accurate budgets: On average, construction rework ends up costing nearly 9% of a project’s total cost. Submittals ensure that proposed budgets remain accurate and costs are approved as you move forward.
  • Encourage communication: Submittals offer a way for construction company owners, contractors, and clients to collaborate – an area in which 82% of owners feel they need improvement.

Construction submittals set the tone and expectations for the entire project. They take a concept and bring them to life, providing mutual understanding and direction for all parties involved. Because every construction project relies on blueprints, plans, and specs, it’s critical for subcontractors to have approvals in writing. There are countless details that must be reviewed and understood by various people throughout a construction project.

These details culminate into what is often referred to as a project spec book. These long-form documents outline the scope of work, material selection, installation methods, and workmanship contracted. So whether a submittal is simply getting a color choice approved or more complex, like providing a full mock-up, maintaining organization and up-to-date records is vital.

What information goes into a construction submittal?

Abstraction of a construction submittal document and the required information| Submittals | Knowify

Although the process can feel tedious and time consuming at times, having written approval for each decision made ensures client satisfaction, project success, and a source of truth regarding final decisions and budgetary needs. In order to ensure your submittals provide all of the necessary information and get approved, here’s a comprehensive list of information frequently provided in a construction submittal log.

  1. Submittal number or name: This can indicate what type of submittal it is, a specific category, or where the request originated. Bonus points if you use a tag or naming system that makes each type of submittal easier to locate.
  2. Revision number: This can be particularly useful for anyone reviewing the submittal log to see the most recent version. 
  3. Priority level: If a decision is time sensitive or critical for project pacing, be sure to note this in your submittal to avoid delays. This also helps the recipient to prioritize their resources and time to provide the most critical information first.
  4. Deadline for decision: Similarly, if a decision needs to be made on or before a specific date, provide this information clearly at or near the top of the submittal.
  5. Person responsible for approval: Clearly define who is responsible for providing feedback to ensure all decision makers have weighed in on respective decisions.
  6. Point of contact for submittal: Keep confusion to a minimum by providing the submittal requester or manager’s direct contact information, as well as the individual(s) responsible for compiling the submittal information.
  7. Any additional information or supporting documentation: Whether it’s physical or digital, be sure to include any and all supporting documents or materials. This can eliminate back and forth communication while also helping to reduce confusion by keeping all necessary information in one centralized location.

How to write a construction submittal

When in doubt, write it out. Construction submittals are more likely to get approved if they include high levels of detail or specific samples where appropriate. The specifications outlined in a construction submittal can range from prescriptive, to performance, or even include proprietary information regarding details of the project. 

  • Prescriptive specs: Provide the type or quality of material being implemented in a construction project. 
  • Performance specs: Provide workflow, workmanship, and schedule requirements to complete a construction project. 
  • Proprietary specs: Provide any unique or custom products being utilized in your project. 

How to improve your construction submittal process

The construction submittal process will typically have four major steps. After meeting to discuss the project’s requirements, the contractor will assemble all relevant documents (drawings, samples, and product data), which will then be sent to the general contractor for review to ensure accuracy and completeness. Once reviewed and accepted by the architect or project owner, it will get a final stamp of approval and work can begin.  

Construction Submittal Process Chart

Simplified diagram for the construction submittal process | Submittals | Knowify

Have a documented submittal process

Projects run smoother when everyone is on the same page. It’s not uncommon for individual contractors, subcontractors, and project managers to all have their own system to keep information organized. But what happens when the owner of that organizational system is out on vacation, has to visit a different site, or leaves the company? Having a unified approach to project data and information paves the way for long-term company resilience and mitigates communication errors. 

By developing and documenting company-wide protocols for pre-construction and submittal processes, you create consistency. This consistency then opens the door to identifying trending problems that can be addressed moving forward and improving your profitability.

Create a construction submittal log

Submittal logs are an important tool used by GCs, subcontractors, construction project managers, and the design team to stay on top of the submittals required as a part of the construction process. In a large construction project, there will likely be thousands of submittal items that responsible parties will need to submit, review, and approve. A responsible contractor will use a submittal log to track each document and its approval status, along with key dates, names of approvers, and so forth.

Automate your submittal log

You can take the concept of a basic submittal log and take it a step further by automating your submittal log. With each construction project having dozens, if not thousands of submittals that may be required, it’s easy for information to get lost or have wires crossed down the line. By having an auto-generated construction submittal log made, you can enjoy ease of information access and maintain a grip on your submittal approval processes. 

Construction project management software offers a great solution to maintaining and automating processes, like submittals logs, to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Set reminders and email alerts

Keeping track of every project’s details and progress can feel daunting without a little help. And if a pending approval slips through the cracks, it can lead to costly delays and budget constraints. Reminders, notifications, and email alerts allow you to stay organized and to see where your time can be spent most effectively in between the other demands of your job.

Centralize all submittal revisions and approvals

Email threads, phone calls, in-person meetings, text messages, and multiple software solutions that don’t integrate with one another can create chaos quickly. Having one, streamlined location for your business communication ensures that all parties involved know how to find project information easily. Additionally, it allows you to see which projects need your attention to stay on track, or whether a submittal needs additional information or approval.

How Knowify helps create construction submittal documents

Knowify offers a clean, easy-to-use submittal tool. Contractors can effortlessly create submittals, attach files, and then quickly send them electronically for review; all in a single platform. Track and review the progress of each submittal through convenient notifications that you and your counterparty will receive every step of the way.

Ensure a smooth and efficient process by booking a 30-minute demo today!