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RE: General Structural Notes

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My practice is to place the minimum amount in the notes that I have to and
still comply with the provisions in the building code.  In reality this is
very little. 

Contrary to what others imply, when you minimize the notes you do not have
a lot of problems with the contractor.  With a good contractor you will
have few problems but with a bad contractor all of the notes in the world
will not help.  In these instances you want your documents to be as tight
and as clear as possible so that there is no ambiguity.  Remember we
prepare the documents but the law requires that any ambiguity is
interpreted in the contractors favor.  Duplicating information encourages
ambiguity since you seldon say it exactly the same way in both locations.

Again the competent contractors read the specifications.  They learn this
lesson early when they get caught by a provision in the specs.

Duplicating information on the drawings that is in the specifications is a
great way to create conflicts and to provide the Contractor with an
opportunity for an extra.  There is at least one book advising contractors
on how to get extras that advises the contractor to look for duplicate
information and to use any ambiguity or conflict as a basis for a claim.  

With regards to the idea of preparing documents to make it easy to remodel
in the  future, we are paid to prepare the documents to help the Owner
build the building and to minimize his risk during construction.  If by
duplicating information we increase the likelyhood of claims, we should not
do it.

From another perspective the idea of puting information on the drawings to
help somebody else renovate our project dosen't make sense.  If they can't
find the specifications maybe they will be encouraged to come back to us to
help them with the renovations resulting in additional income for us.

The Construction Specification Institute's Manual of Practice provides a
good discussion of good practices and of the relationship between drawings
and specifications.  Part of the problem is that few engineers have
training in writing specificaitons and as a result they are unfamiliar and
hence uncomfortable with them.

Mark Gilligan SE

I am reviewing and marking up the general structural notes that are
with our plans. Besides the usual minimum summary of loading assumptions
materials strengths, there is a lot of stuff in there that is really more
like specifications--concrete cover and lap lengths, bar support
requirements, foundation preparation, etc. I think all these notes have
accumulated over the years because it was assumed the workers in the field
rarely if ever read the specifications, and it was more likely that people
would pay attention if this information was on the plans. But the notes
duplicate much of what is in the specs and can be the source of errors and
inconsistencies and my inclination is to get rid of most of it. I think it
is generally a mistake to try and say the same thing in more than one place
in the contract package.

I am curious to what the practice of others is in this regard. Lots of
general notes on the plans, or minimalism?

Jim Lutz, P.E., S.E.
Earth Tech, Inc.

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