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Construction Submittals

The Importance of Construction Submittals

Construction submittals are documents used to request approval for a specific construction step or detail. Discover the 3 main types and the process they follow

Construction projects, regardless of their size, require detailed planning and accurate document management. Among the various tools used in the document management process, construction submittals play a fundamental role.

For submittals, we mean all those documents that approve phases, activities, and project details and without which it is not possible to proceed with construction execution.

Let’s delve into what submittals are and why they are so crucial in the construction industry.

What is a Submittal and How is it Used in Construction?

In the AECO industry, a submittal is a specific type of document presented to designers, generally by the contractor, to outline the details of the resources they intend to use in a particular job and request approval or review of that specific step or project detail.
As submittals are documents used to request approval, it will be necessary to accompany these requests with as much detail as possible. These details, useful for the evaluation by designers of the approval requested by the contractor, may include:

  • calculations;
  • construction details;
  • technical details;
  • cost and time details;
  • material and equipment specifications;
  • execution details.

The contractor, therefore, prepares a submittal and submits it for review to ensure that the project’s purpose is in compliance with contracts, documents, and project specifications.
Depending on the specific case, submittals may be required:

  • before starting a project, if it is an approval request;
  • while the project is ongoing, if it is a review request.

Submittals are often confused with transmittals, and the two terms are used interchangeably. In reality, the two documents differ in their purposes and consequently in their content:

  • the submittal, as we have seen, is a detailed document used to request approval from designers;
  • the transmittal is a document that accompanies another document, and its purpose is to witness information sending.

In an AECO industry increasingly oriented towards digitalization, document management is also moving towards paperless processes and the use of specific software for AECO sector document management to easily create, organize, and share all project documents.

Digital management of submittals

Digital management of submittals

The Three Main Types of Submittals

Depending on the project type, there are many types of submittals, but three of these are the most common and frequently used:

  1. Product Data: Product data includes technical specifications, manufacturer information, and all materials to be used in the construction project. Product data submittals may include manuals, data sheets, quality standards, or warranty information;
  2. Drawings: Technical drawings are a fundamental detail to present to the designer through the submittal document. The purpose is to communicate useful details for the evaluation of the proposal, so drawings may include dimensional details, sections with related material layers, material information, and informative details for correct installation;
  3. Samples: Samples refer to physical samples of the actual materials used in the project. Examples could include flooring, tiles, paints, plasters, etc. These samples are vital for the quality review process, performance, and project standard.

The above are the three most common submittal types. Among the many other types of submittals that can be developed, it is worth mentioning:

  • Models and Prototypes: Full-scale replicas or prototypes of a part of a construction project with the aim of reproducing the functionality and appearance of the final product;
  • Test Reports: Reports received from third parties regarding tests and trials carried out on materials and equipment;
  • Calculations: Calculations are useful for demonstrating how materials and equipment meet project requirements. For example, a contractor can prepare calculations to verify and demonstrate the load capacity of a material or the energy efficiency of equipment.
The 3 main submittals

The 3 main submittals

What Process do Submittals Follow?

The approval process following this particular type of document depends on the project’s size, what the specific submittal concerns, and how many people need to review and approve it. However, the steps that all submittals go through generally are:

  1. Review of project documents: This step, preceding the preparation of the document itself, is fundamental to have clear project requirements, client requests, and quality standards to be met;
  2. Submittal preparation: Based on what was deduced from step 1 and based on the details available (drawings, tests, calculations, etc.), proceed to prepare the document;
  3. Submission of the submittal: This phase follows specific procedures regarding timing, delivery methods, and the number of copies;
  4. Awaiting review/approval: During this step, we only have to wait for the evaluation by designers who may possibly request an integration of the document;
  5. Integration/review and submittal resubmission: If, in the first instance, we do not receive the required approval, there would be time and opportunity to analyze the reasons for rejection and make the necessary changes;
  6. Identification of necessary resources: Once the submittal is approved, it is possible to start the process of procuring materials and equipment necessary for the project and thus begin the execution phase.

Managing Construction Submittals Digitally

We have seen how the presentation/approval process of submittals is a procedure through which documents related to materials, equipment, or other elements necessary for a construction project are presented and submitted for approval by stakeholders such as architects, designers, and clients. This process is essential to ensure that all elements used in the project’s implementation meet specified quality, safety, and conformity requirements, and comply with client requests and industry standards.

To best manage this important process, it is essential to use software for construction project management that allows for digitalization and optimization of processes, improving communication, and ensuring compliance with project requirements efficiently and effectively.

This tool offers a series of advantages and improves the efficiency and transparency of the process:

  • Clear workflow visualization: using the “board” mode, it is possible to clearly visualize the workflow of the submittal review/approval process. Each phase of the process, from submittal preparation to submission, review, integration, and approval, can be represented as a column on the board. This allows all team members to have an overview of the process and monitor the progress of individual submittals in real-time;
  • Activity tracking: it is easy to track activities associated with each submittal and take into account any changes, integrations, or review requests. Each submittal can be integrated with all relevant information and comments related to the review/approval process;
  • Deadline management: specific deadlines can be set for each submittal and monitored for compliance in real-time. Automatic notifications can be sent to team members, ensuring that no submittal is overlooked or delayed;
  • Effective collaboration and communication: team members can efficiently collaborate by adding comments, attachments, and notes to individual submittals directly in the attached task chat. This facilitates communication among team members and reduces the risk of misunderstandings or errors during the review/approval process.
Management of the submission/review process of submittals | usBIM.resolver

Management of the submission/review process of submittals | usBIM.resolver

How to Enhance the Submittal Process?

As we have mentioned before, the digitalization process remains one of the fundamental steps for simplification and support to construction. Specifically, document management can be complex and chaotic if approached in a traditional way, and the same goes for the submittal process. Becoming aware of the need to manage project documents digitally and with the support of software will contribute to bringing evident advantages.
Here are some tips to make the submittal process more efficient and effective:

  • Store and organize documents in the cloud: thanks to collaborative platforms specific to the construction industry, you can reduce time and avoid delays, improving the organization, management, and archiving of all documents. In this way, documents can be easily accessed, searched, and shared with an open and transparent perspective of construction processes;
Archiving and management of AECO |usBIM documents

Archiving and management of AECO documents |usBIM

  • Digitalize and monitor the submission/review process of submittals: through software for construction management, stakeholders involved in the process can automate the submission/review process of submittals and see in which stage of approval request the specific submittal is and the next steps to be taken.

The tips we have suggested can  be completed by specific solutions to adopt within your work team to enable you to easily store all documents in a single centralized repository and automate the submittal management process. You just need to try them for free!