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Avoiding Common Issues with Deferred Submittals

Building design is becoming more integrated in the modern age.  More and more structural designs include proprietary products and delegated design professionals in order to speed up construction schedules. How does this affect the Engineer of Record?

During the January 2020 SE University session Delegated Design: Addressing Potential Risks with Proper Project Management, Doug Allen, PE, from Simpson Strong-Tie, reviewed the complications that arise with delegated design and deferred submittals.  He also covered potential ethical, monetary, and legal consequences of poor project management.

Doug offered a helpful outline, as shown below, of common issues that have been found on projects with prefabricated wood trusses.  Although the list is specifically addressed for projects with prefabricated wood trusses, many of the communication issues displayed can be extrapolated to other delegated design jobs as well.

On projects where part of the design is delegated, it is critically important for the EOR to clearly outline the extent of the design and complete design and performance criteria for the delegated designer.  While the EOR retains responsibility for the structural system as a whole, the delegated designer must comply with the requirements within the structural documents, including required submittals. Many times, these deferred submittals create opportunities for miscommunication.  

Typically, the most common pitfalls with deferred submittals include omissions or non-compliance with the structural documents, failure to provide submittals to the EOR for review, or failure of the EOR to properly review the submittals for compliance.  When discrepancies are noted, some re-design may be necessary to ensure code compliance. Then, revised structural documents should be resubmitted to all involved parties. Each layer of back and forth communication leaves room for error during this time-critical design process, and any lack of oversight could prove costly, or even deadly.  Doug reviewed several instances of structural collapse due to improper communications during the submittal process.

When embarking on a project involving delegated design, project specific communication checklists can be helpful to ensure required submittals are received, reviewed, and properly responded to in a timely manner.  Any final sign off from the EOR should be withheld until all required documents have been received and reviewed. As with any project, communication is key; However, with delegated design, it can be critical for the structural integrity of the project.