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You’ve produced a sound set of engineering drawings and obtained all your permits. Now, the project is off your plate in construction, and you won’t hear anything further until you see the owner at the ground-breaking ceremony. As we know, that rarely happens! The construction phase of the project is just as critical as the plans you produced to deliver your client a development that opens on time and is constructed per plans. This is why establishing a solid relationship with your contractor is key element of the project’s (and therefore your) success.

As the construction progresses, there are many items that will involve direct coordination between the engineer and the contractor. Identifying and anticipating these coordination items early is a great way to keep your project on schedule and reinforce the contractor/engineer relationship. Documenting all coordination items via email is also critical in the case that there are delays brought forward by the contractor. The following are some examples of the contractor/engineer coordination items:

  • Pre-Construction Meeting: The local municipality may require a pre-construction meeting before the contractor breaks ground or begins installation of utilities, storm drainage, etc. Attending the pre-construction is a great opportunity to introduce yourself to the project superintendent and other team members, confirm schedule, discuss critical path items, and identify inspection close out procedures.

  • Stake out file: The contractor will require an AutoCAD drawing of the improvements for the surveyor to begin construction stakeout. Anticipating the mobilization date and preparing this drawing prior to construction is a great practice. You don’t want to receive a call from the contractor late on a Friday afternoon stating he is starting construction on Monday and needs the file ASAP.

  • Shop Drawings: The contractor submits material shop drawings to the engineer for review with the permitted set of contract documents. Review of the shop drawings can be a time-consuming process. However, the process is critical, as the contractor will require the approved shop drawings returned before proceeding with ordering materials. Requesting these documents in advance and reviewing in a timely manner will allow the contractor to purchase the needed materials and begin installation sooner.

  • RFIs and Change Orders: If a field condition varies from the approved plans, the contractor will submit a formal request for information (RFI) or possibly a change order. Reviewing and addressing these requests as soon as possible is key, as the contractor will require direction to proceed and could be delayed in the installation. A site visit may also be required to observe the varied condition in the field before providing an official response.

  • Critical Path Items: Identifying and coordinating these items with the contractor early strengthens the contractor/engineer relationship and will keep your project moving toward substantial completion. A few examples are as follows:

    • Erosion Control Measures: Does the local municipality require erosion and sediment control measures to be installed and inspected before grading and earthwork disturbance can occur?

    • Utility Relocations: Do the plans call for the contractor to coordinate a relocation of a utility that will conflict with the building, driveway, etc.? The utility provider may require a relocation fee, design, and potentially easement release/new easement exhibits to be submitted prior to the relocation work commencing.

    • Building Construction: Is a fire hydrant readily available on site for adequate fire protection? If your site requires extending fire service to your site, this work needs to be coordinated early in construction so there are no delays in the building construction. Is the paved fire lane access required prior to going vertical with the building?

    • Closeout Documents: The local municipality will typically require a formal inspection process with punch walks, as-built documents, etc. that are required to be submitted and signed off prior to the CO being released. Understanding these procedures and timing involved is critical, and it is highly recommended to begin coordinating these items with the contractor approximately 6 - 8 weeks prior to substantial completion.

At Foresite Group, we strive to exceed our clients’ expectations through all phases of the project, especially construction. Anticipating the construction coordination items and effectively communicating with the contractor is critical to stay ahead of schedule during the construction phase and ensure your project opens on time.

About Brian Morris, PE

Brian F. Morris, PE, is a Senior Project Manager for the Land Development – West Division in Dallas, Texas. Brian graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering in 2004 and has over 16 years of experience in commercial land development with a special interest in ADA compliance. Brian enjoys working closely with clients from initial design through the final stages of construction.


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