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Economy in Steel - Comments

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In a recent posting Charles Carter pointed us to an article titled "Economy
in Steel - A Practical guide" which can be found at 
http://www.engr.psu.edu/ae/steelstuff/economy.htm.

In this article it is recommended that the structural engineer:

"Clearly define responsibilities for non-structural and miscellaneous steel
items.
Structural and non-structural steel items are identified in AISC Code of
Standard Practice Section 2. Many items, such as loose lintels, masonry
anchors, elevator framing, and precast panel supports, could be provided by
more than one subcontractor. Avoid the inclusion of such items in two bids
by clearly defining who is to provide them."

This recommendation which is commonly made by the steel industry is at odds
with the common project General Conditions and exposes the Owner and the
Engineer to significant potential liability.  The problem is that the
Construction Documents should NEVER attempt to tell the General Contractor
that certain work is the responsibility of a specific sub-contractor.

It needs to be recognized that the Construction Documents are a part of a
contract between the General Contractor and the projects Owner and as such
neither the structural engineer nor the steel fabricator are parties to the
contract.  As a result the CD's need to reflect this relationship and only
address the responsibilities of the Owner and the Contractor and not those
of the Engineer or the sub-contractors.  The Architect is mentioned in the
Contract only as the represenative of the Owner and the administer of the
Contract.

Reasons for not specifying which sub-contractor does what work include:

1)  If the Engineer attempted to divide the work among the various subs and
was less than perfect, the Owner could potentially be responsible for an
extra if no sub included the necessary work in his scope.

2)  By specifying which sub was responsible for what work the engineer
could find himself in the middle of a union jurisdictional dispute and the
Owner could find himself responsible for costs associated with resolving
it.

3)  When the engineer specifies that certain work was to be performed by a
specific sub-contractor it can be argued that this is evidence that the
Engineer was involved in controlling the means and methods of construction
and as a result the Contractor should not be held responsible for the
quality of the completed work.

4)  By specifying that certain work could be done by specific
sub-contractors it can be argued by OSHA that the Architect and engineers
were active in controlling the means and methods of construction and as
such they should be responsible for site safety.  This exposes both the
Owner and his consultants to significant liability.

5)  If the Drawings or Specifications are in conflict with the General
Conditions to the Contract, it is likely that the Engineer could be held
responsible for any costs associated with this conflict.

Clearly it is not in the interest of the Owner or the Engineer to divide
the work of the project among the sub-contractors. (Yes, I am aware of
certain state laws that apply to certain public projects where the work
needs to be divided among several sub-contracts but those projects are the
exception and are not addressed here)

What the Engineer and the Architect need to do is to clearly define what
work is addressed in which specification section and to make sure that the
project specifications address all of the work shown on the drawings.  It
is important to remember that just because some work is specified in a
specific specification section it does not mean that any of the work in
that section has to be performed by a specific sub-contractor.  This is an
area where most Engineers and Architects need to work on and is the sort of
advice that should be included in the posted article.

It has been my experience that contractors are perfectly capable of
dividing the work among the sub-contractors in ways that were not
envisioned by the Contract Documents so it is not as if the Contractor does
not know what to do if the engineer does not assign responsibility for the
work to specific subs.  If the steel fabrictors find that problems result
when the general contractor divides the work then I would suggest that they
work with the general contractors and not try to draw the architects and
engineers into this problem.

I believe  that the interests of the Owner and the Contractor are best
served by specifying the desired resultant and leaving the means and
methods of construction up to the Contractor where ever possible.  The only
exception to this would be those rare situations where the performance of
the completed structure is dependent on the contractor following specific
procedures.  Even in these situations the specific procedures should focus
on what needs to be done and not on who does it.  This approach clearly
gives the Contractor more flexibility in how to organize the work which
should result in lower costs.  This approach should also result in fewer
disagreements between the Contractor and the Owner.

It is not clear whether the Steel industry is unaware of what is stated in
the industry standard General Conditions or whether they disagree with
these documents.  If it is the later then I would request that the Steel
industry try to change AIA A201 and other similar documents, and not
continue to make recommendations which if followed would expose the
engineer to significant liability.


Mark Gilligan