Construction Documents: Do It Together

Sep 25, 2020 | Construction

On any given construction project, one of the first, and largest, hurdles to overcome are your construction documents. 

Construction documents are required very early in the process because in order to garner the planning board approvals, you need to have renderings of what the future project is going to look like, you need to have a site plan laid out, and you typically need to have a schematic layout, which just shows the configuration of the interior rooms without getting into specifics.

Once you obtain your planning board approvals, you can move on to full construction documentation, where the design team will develop the complete set of construction drawings and specifications for the project.

Once you have all of those, you can begin construction. 

In compiling these documents, abiding by the four tenets of Do-it-Together Development, can be immeasurably helpful: 

  1. Build your team early
  2. Leverage your team’s talents
  3. Protect your time
  4. Manage your project proactively

Perhaps the biggest obstacle we encounter with construction documents is that they are not fully coordinated, and not early enough in the process. 

A typical design team consists of:

  • Civil Engineer
  • Architect
  • Mechanical Engineer (handles electrical, plumbing, HVAC, sprinkler design)
  • Structural Engineer
  • Interior Designer

If each of these people are working on their own, in a vacuum, it can be problematic because different facets of the project might not fit together properly. 

For example, the structural engineer’s plans may want to put a column in a certain place, while an architect, working separately, may plan to put a wall in an area that conflicts with that. The end result? A column outside of the wall. I have seen it happen.

I have also seen similar conflicts happen with mechanicals. You need piping that goes in a certain place, but there is no wall or soffit there to cover it. Again, issues of coordination. 

What’s worse is that these coordination issues happen as the building is being built, which leads to RFI’s, short for Requests for Information. An RFI is submitted when a deficiency or error is observed. Photos of the error are taken, drawings are referenced, and that information is sent to the design team, who then coordinates to develop a solution. 

Or, the issue is handled through a coordination meeting on the job site, where all of the people who are responsible for the work literally stand around and look at it, and together try to determine who can concede on what, and what parts and pieces can move around so that they can make everything go back together as the owner/design team intended.

The way we mitigate this is through applying the tenets of the DIT Development philosophy. Building the team early, and leveraging their talents through coordination meetings along the way to make sure that things like columns, sinks, etc. all fit where they’re supposed to fit.

Doing it early gives your team the proper time to analyze the product, the output that has come through the process, and determine if it fits your needs and, more importantly, if it marries up with the owner’s intent. If not, you afford them the time to make revisions before these issues can negatively impact your construction schedule. 

When it comes to selecting your design team, a very important part of the process has experience in a given market sector. If you’re building a hotel, you want to assemble a design team that has built similar hotels, and many of them. Hotels, specifically, are a niche product. So, having a design team and a construction team that is in tune with hotel construction is invaluable. They will have a thorough understanding of operational requirements, municipal requirements, unique franchise requirements, etc. that come with building a hotel. 

It also makes good sense to hire a civil engineer that lives in close proximity to the physical project site. The reason for this, again, goes back to experience. Civil engineers in a particular region understand the physical conditions of the soils, rocks, etc. of that region. That can be a big advantage when designing the civil aspects of the projects. 

With regard to the remaining members of the design team, the only consideration is to make sure that design team is, again, experienced with the type of project that you’re building. But, also licensed to work in the physical area where you’re building is going to be built.

Hiring a construction manager (like my company Peak Development Partners) to be part of the design process/development of your construction documents gives you an advantage. The designers can liaise with the construction team, and we can all work together to come up with solutions that are not only effective in terms of constructability, but can also benefit the project in terms of schedule and/or cost

Having a construction manager performing drawing reviews throughout the design/development process is hugely beneficial because you tend to find problems along the way, as opposed to finding them while the project is being built. Now you’re handling issues well before they negatively impact your construction schedule. This is key if your goal is to open on time, on budget, or better.

The more items that are coordinated in the pre-construction process, the smoother the construction process will be. 

A construction management team that embraces the Do-it-Together philosophy (like we’ve assembled here at Peak) is built to do that. 

Pun intended.

About the author

Lee Crewson

Lee Crewson

Founder & President

Lee has made commercial construction management his life’s work, focusing on building places where people live like multi-family, hospitality, student housing, and senior living for successful developers. He’s also committed to the values of this country and has over twenty five years of service in both the active and reserve forces as a Commissioned Officer in the US military. Lee embraces the power of a committed team that collaborates early and often and is happy to guide any developer who shares the same philosophy for success.