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ken hercenberg
Senior Member
Username: khercenberg

Post Number: 1405
Registered: 12-2006


Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2021 - 07:28 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I haven't thought of this for awhile but was just reminded of a construction administrator that I worked with 30+ years ago.

He would ask me to specify heavy-duty acoustical ceiling grid instead of intermediate-duty for two reasons.
1. He could see if the Contractor read the spec
2. He would then horse-trade the credit to change to intermediate-duty in exchange for having the GC "forgive" items that we "overlooked".

I haven't done that since leaving the firm but am curious if anyone has similar historic anecdotes.
Liz O'Sullivan
Senior Member
Username: liz_osullivan

Post Number: 261
Registered: 10-2011


Posted on Thursday, September 09, 2021 - 08:59 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I'm not a fan of this sort of thing, but I do have a story that I heard from someone else. A local electrical engineer apparently used to regularly require in his specifications that the slot in the head of each screw used to fasten electrical items (not just visible things, such as wallplates for outlets and switches, but all things, even those to be covered by finishes) was to be perfectly parallel to the long edges of the item at final installation. If errors or omissions were found in his documents, he'd point to that silly requirement in the spec, and would engage in the sort of bargaining described in Ken's post.

I don't know if the story is true or not, but it's kind of funny. (I'm not a fan of this sort of thing because if someone does read it in the spec and actually includes it in the price, it's costing the owner too much. This is unlikely, but of course, it's just a much better practice for us to say what we mean, and mean what we say, in the specs.)
anon (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Friday, September 10, 2021 - 10:03 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

This strategy is a slippery slope, in my opinion, because a really astute contractor could find MANY problems elsewhere in the specifications, which would ultimately be a great embarrassment to the architect (and specifier).

In most projects that i have worked on, the contractor generally turns a blind eye to minor errors and inconsistencies in the contract documents, and i would really be loathe to have to get into a battle with the contractor after cheesing her off because i dropped in some weird, random requirement to use as horse trading fodder at some point along the way.
Davemetzger (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Friday, September 10, 2021 - 12:06 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

And what would the owner have to say about this horse trading? Seems as if the architect/specifier is assuming the owner wonít read the specifications. Itís the ownerís money thatís being played with.
John Bunzick
Senior Member
Username: bunzick

Post Number: 1861
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Friday, September 10, 2021 - 12:58 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I used to see horse-trading on public projects, where it was perceived (incorrectly, I think) that accepting change orders was going to be a serious problem with the public agency. However, with the cases I saw, there were not any gotcha requirements in the documents with which to trade - it was whatever things came up. One of the real objections I had to this was there was never a real evaluation of the costs or credits involved, it was just a nudge nudge wink wink proposition. I think contractors were able to take advantage of this because they are the ones who really know the cost of things. Also, I felt it fostered a degree of unprofessionalism that didn't really help anything in the end, especially if issues came up that were too big for the big wink.
ken hercenberg
Senior Member
Username: khercenberg

Post Number: 1406
Registered: 12-2006


Posted on Friday, September 10, 2021 - 01:12 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Keep in mind that this was back in the 1980's when dynamics were very different than today. I didn't advocate it then and certainly would not suggest it today. This was happening on projects where the A/E and GCs (and Owners) all had good relationships.

In all of the projects where this was requested I never once saw any kind of escalation. The owners on these projects wanted the work done on time and on budget. They understood that the documents weren't perfect (believe me, they were far from perfect) and that the Contractor was going to do what was expedient. Contracts were negotiated, not hard bid, and the entities knew each other.

There were several projects where I had to include specs that started with "In lieu of what is shown in the Drawings provide the following:" I didn't feel good about it but the CA folks appreciated it. Always left me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
RH (Hank) Sweers II RA CSI CCS
Senior Member
Username: rhsweers2

Post Number: 30
Registered: 08-2005
Posted on Friday, September 10, 2021 - 03:05 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

True story (I was told anyway) from way back in the '60's or so, but an Architect friend of mine said his former boss used to specify a 1- by 1- by 12-inch 24 carat gold bar in the Miscellaneous Metal Spec. Then when the GC came in to discuss extra costs, he would get out his slide-rule, and say "OK, you can cut 7.5-inches off of the gold bar then, and we will call it even!"
David G. Axt, CCS, CSI ,SCIP
Senior Member
Username: david_axt

Post Number: 1886
Registered: 03-2002


Posted on Friday, September 10, 2021 - 04:45 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

The problem with "overspecifying" is that one bidder will submit a price on the "Heavy Duty" item while the other bidder will submit a price for the "Intermediate Duty" item figuring that it was an error.

I too have heard of instances where the specifications require a case of beer or bottles of whiskey be deliver to the Architect. It is hard for our profession to be taken seriously if we include that type of nonsense.
David G. Axt, CCS, CSI, SCIP
Specifications Consultant
Axt Consulting LLC
RH (Hank) Sweers II RA CSI CCS
Senior Member
Username: rhsweers2

Post Number: 31
Registered: 08-2005
Posted on Saturday, September 11, 2021 - 01:59 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

And how bout the old "Perforated Pastry" spec? I had to update it from Winchell's to Krispy Kreme as the BOD several years ago . . . but never actually stuck it in a Project Manual for real. Not sure there was much really to horse trade with that though.
Michael Chusid, RA FCSI CCS
Senior Member
Username: michael_chusid

Post Number: 625
Registered: 10-2003


Posted on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 - 09:25 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I heard of a pop music star that toured with a large entourage. They had a long spec for things the tour hotels would have to provide to meet the tour's needs and the ego of the performer. One requirement was that each room have a bowl of M&Ms without any green pieces. If the tour wrangler got to the hotel and found green pieces, it was a sign that the hotel had not followed the spec.

The other story I have heard was of an architect that always invited the general and subs to a party. But the invite to the party was located in some inconspicuous location in the project manual. The legend is that bidders in the town started reading the project manual more closely.

The worse horse trading I have seen, was when I worked for an architectural firm that had two schools under construction for separate school districts, but with the same GC.

When the GC pointed out an error in one project, the architect agreed to allow the GC to take something out of the other project -- without either clients being informed. I left that firm once I understood the way they worked. A few years later, the firm principals were convicted of racketeering or some such fraud on public projects, and the firm folded.
Michael Chusid, RA FCSI CCS 1-818-219-4937
www.chusid.com www.buildingproduct.guru
David G. Axt, CCS, CSI ,SCIP
Senior Member
Username: david_axt

Post Number: 1888
Registered: 03-2002


Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 - 02:05 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Michael,

That pop music star was VanHalen. Yes they did put in their contract rider that a bowl full of M&Ms (without brown ones) be in their dressing room. The musicians personally did not care what color the M&Ms. If they showed up to their dressing rooms and there was a bowl full of M&Ms including brown ones then the got suspicious that the venue had not read/honored the contract and there may be other things/equipment the venue had not supplied.
David G. Axt, CCS, CSI, SCIP
Specifications Consultant
Axt Consulting LLC
James Sandoz, AIA, CSI, CCS
Senior Member
Username: jsandoz

Post Number: 331
Registered: 06-2005
Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 - 03:05 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Now we know. Thanks, David.

"Shot through the heart and your to blame. You give contracts a bad name."
David G. Axt, CCS, CSI ,SCIP
Senior Member
Username: david_axt

Post Number: 1890
Registered: 03-2002


Posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 - 04:05 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

"Shot Through the Heart" is actually a Bon Jovi song.

So if you are really curious about the brown M&Ms and VanHalen you can hear the story directly from the former lead singer, David Lee Roth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IxqdAgNJck
David G. Axt, CCS, CSI, SCIP
Specifications Consultant
Axt Consulting LLC
James Sandoz, AIA, CSI, CCS
Senior Member
Username: jsandoz

Post Number: 332
Registered: 06-2005
Posted on Thursday, September 16, 2021 - 09:41 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Damn, you are correct, David. Old age induced memory loss strikes again. :-(

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