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4specs Discussion Forum » Ralph W. Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT » When Omnipotence Fails « Previous Next »

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Posted on Wednesday, September 08, 2010 - 11:11 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Cincinnati, OH

A project is designed using pre-cast concrete panels as the exterior shell of the building. The panels are correctly designed, properly detailed, and incorporated into the overall design scheme.

The specification for the panels calls for a specific finish, and requires that the producer carry a certificate for the work from the Precast Concrete Institute. These certifications pertain to certain classes of precast work and to the associated finishes. Not all producers carry the same certification, and not all carry all of the available certifications.

The project is researched and it is found that on another portion of the Owner’s complex a certain precast producer provided the panels. Further research indicated that the producer of those panels was bought out by another organization. Contact with that company indicated that they could do everything required on the project. Their estimated cost was accepted and utilized.

In trying to secure other bidders, when the actual bidding occurred, it was found that several other precast providers declined to bid, and some indicated it was because they knew the company noted above was bidding. Bidding continued and was finalized, with the company initially contacted as the low precast bidder.

When submittals were to be provided, the producer responded with information that they could not provide panels of the length required, and they could not produce the finish required [and they do not carry the requisite PCI certification]. In a series of meetings, it is shown to the producer that indeed their own literature stated that they could do the things they now claim they cannot do! Some company officials express surprise.

So from a position of omnipotence [i.e., “we can do anything you want!”] the company is relegated to being a fringe player complaining about the schedule, and everything else, but the fact that they portrayed themselves falsely and were unable to perform as they professed. The Owner looks at this quizzically seeing schedule intrusions, and substandard construction for their dollar value. They look to the design professionals who, at the moment appear to be the errant party. [of course they are not, but we're the only ones who will see it that way!]

In the realm of specifications, this situation is all too common. Too often the requirements of the specifications are taken with disdain, ignored or otherwise “pooh-poohed”! Many contractors choose not to abide by their limitations, and adopt the “cloak of omnipotence”, rigorously claiming they can produce everything required-- but the catch phrase never mentioned is, “in one way or another”. This isn't really what's happening here; they claimed to be able to produce what was specified without reviewing what was required to do so. The producer isn't claiming that they can provide the product in another way, but that they didn't realize their limitations, nor indeed, what their own literature stated.

The specifications carry the strength of conviction for the work, and set the correct and reasonable limits for the work, acceptable to the Owner-- giving the Owner proper value for dollar spent. But too often now, any glitch that arises will be used by the Contractor to create a “hit” on the project schedule. It seems that the true bottom line, more and more now, is the schedule, not the money. Many Owners are profitable and prosperous, but to remain so, they do need their projects on time, to take up new production volume or product lines.

It is quite odd that many Owners do not see that their money is not returning due value. In a sense they are blindly overpaying for projects, just to have them completed on schedule and on time! But then, I guess, they figure that getting product on the market or their business up and going overcomes or replaces the “extra” money spent. Also, quite often we see Owner money being spent in non-productive ways through inconclusive meetings, changes due to outside forces, decisions, added studies, last-minute changes and indecisive decision making, so it is a wonder more is not made of project costs.
David Axt, AIA, CCS, CSI
Senior Member
Username: david_axt

Post Number: 1113
Registered: 03-2002

Posted on Wednesday, September 08, 2010 - 02:05 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Isn't that fraud?

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