Notice to Proceed: The Submittal Review

Submittals keep your project on schedule, so how can you best utilize this QA/QC tool to mitigate risk and improve quality?

Once you’ve established the submittal workflow on your project, created your submittal log, and informed your trades of their submittal requirements, it comes time to start collecting and reviewing those submittals and kicking them up to the design team for final approval.

One of the key takeaways of this series of blog posts is the importance of maintaining a strong partnership with the design team during precon. However, the real challenge to this partnership occurs throughout the rest of the project lifecycle—everyone likes each other before things go wrong. The quickest way to irritate an architect after precon? Dump a bunch of submittals on them all at once.

If you followed the first part of this guide, you asked the design team about turnaround time on submittal reviews. Industry standard is 14 days, but contracts can stipulate longer or shorter time frames (or none at all, which would hopefully be resolved during the precon meeting). This wasn’t just to establish yourself as knowledgeable, but to give you an idea of how much is too much. An all-too-common practice by GCs is to hold on to unreviewed submittals, and then suddenly dump hundreds of them on the architect to review all at once. However, if the design team only has 14 days to review them, that submittal dump takes up the entire two weeks including the weekends. 

That architect will also find themselves reviewing doorknobs and paint samples before the foundation is even poured, begging the question “couldn’t this have waited?” The simple answer is “yes,” and the complicated answer is that it shouldn’t need to if you follow these tips:

  • Start early. There’s no need to wait until all of your trade partners are bought out, nor until one is about to start their work. As soon as you start getting submittals, start turning them over to the design team.
  • Prioritize. Pass on the earlier submittals first, even if you have submittals from later scopes of work. The only exception to this would be submittals pertaining to sole-source or long-lead items. Those are going to worry the designers most, so having those approved early would ease their mind (and your teams’).
  • Continuous. Submittals flagged as high priority should be passed on immediately, but try to keep a consistent workload for the design team throughout the project. That way, they know what to expect and aren’t switching between weeks of little submittal review and weeks of overwhelming submittal review.

  • Conduct your own review. There’s a reason the trades pass submittals onto you instead of directly to the design team. Is it flagrantly not what the specs called for? Kick it back yourself. If you’re fairly confident a submittal will pass, or if you aren’t really sure, pass that up to the architect—but if you know it’ll fail, don’t waste the architect’s time.

The goal is to finish the submittal review at a reasonable pace and early in the build phase. This will improve confidence across the board that nothing is missed and any design mistakes have been taken care of, allowing not only the trade partners to work more efficiently, but your team as well. 

However, your job isn’t finished after the submittals are approved—then you need to shift gears to closeout, where your profit is really made. Closing out trades as they go will not only help you stay in their good graces along with the design team, but will help your team after the build phase by having the bulk of the work finished up front.

Satyam Verma

Satyam Verma is a sales veteran with a penchant for startups who received his economics degree from George Mason University. He serves as Pype’s Partnership Development Manager by building valuable business collaborations and also serves as the product expert for the sales department at Pype.

Connect with Satyam on LinkedIn.

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