Wednesday, August 29, 2012

All this discussion of Construction Documents is making me sick...

All of this discussion of Construction Documents leads us to the next stage in every projects life.  One that many 'drafters' or 'Revit Monkeys' don't really have to deal with much, but which Engineers and actual Designers have to not only plan for - but actively get involved with if they don't want to get thrown under the bus for 'delaying' a project.

It is that truly magical time when drawings finally get issued - knowing that you have put your best effort into making sure that you crossed every i, dotted every t, and that nobody else managed to fail to mention items of major importance, even despite repeated questioning (or worse - told you incorrectly).

Tossing it up there, and seeing if it soars, or comes crashing to the ground.  It depends on a lot of people, not just 'cogs in a wheel', but actual thinking, intelligent, individuals working together towards a common goal.

Then it gets handed to the contractor.

Now, there are all kinds of contractors - big contractors, little contractors, smart contractors, stupid contractors, honest contractors, less-than-honest contractors, hard working contractors, lazy contractors, contractors who show up in suits and ties, and contractors who look like they just drug themselves out of the ditch near the bar where they passed out last night.

Some bid on jobs, some of these bids are public (usually depending on where the money comes from), some are sealed, some are selected by the client, some... well - some I have no idea how in the fuck they get the job, but you generally have to work under the 'lowest-common-denominator' assumption.  Someone once told me that you have to make CD's that can be comprehended by a four year old, because that might very well be the mental ability of the contractor who gets it.

With the economy tanked, they are much less likely to work with you on items (despite the fact that they are supposed to have contingency money for little items in their bids).  They used to be a little bit easier to work with - but even then they would bid a job low to undercut their competition, get the job, and then try to make up the difference with change orders.  You have to watch these guys, especially because they are going to be going through the architect for most of them, and since a lot of architects (or their lackeys) don't have any clue what is actually involved to change something electrically any more than I would know how much it would be to make a change to something architectural (although again, I do know quite a bit).

I've had a girl walk up to my bosses desk and say 'they are moving two outlets from 18" up to 48" where we added a countertop - does $3,000 sound about right?'  These attempts to slip things past us aren't necessarily always due to dishonesty - they are often getting it in the neck for other things, and simply trying to make up the difference.  Some things can dick over a contractor - breakers for example.  They are cheap as hell if you order a panel loaded with them, but to buy one by itself, the manufacturer will rape you for it.

Another quick story - we had a bank that was designed by one of the guys who got laid off.  It was under construction, and we had run into a handful of minor mistakes on his drwaings that we easy to correct, and then they noticed that he had shown an electrical panel in the elevator equipment room (which is typically sacred space - reserved only for elevator equipment).  The solution was easy enough - the architect created a small closet on the floor above it, and I moved it there.

The contractor came back with a price of $10K.

Now - keep in mind, the panel hadn't been installed yet (I don't think it was even on-site), but they were trying to claim that 'all of the conduits/wires (which hadn't been installed yet either) are going to have to be longer'.  We requested a line item breakdown of the $10K, and then went to work seeing what all was actually involved.

Okay - the conduit/wire feeding the panel did have to longer by about 10', and there were one or two HVAC on the lower levels that were going to have to extend the same distance, but the rest of the circuits (and the most massive) it was feeding were all on the roof - and the panel had just gotten 10' closer to them, basically making it a wash (or based on my calculations, that they needed to give the customer a refund - although we didn't push that issue since it was our designer who fucked it up in the first place).

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