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Ann G. Baker (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Friday, December 03, 2010 - 04:56 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I'm feeling particularly incompetent this week because we have a project under construction where the client now tells me that there is something called a Greenbook Standard Specifications for Publik Works Construction that governs all publicly funded projects in the US. This wouldn't be an issue except that there is a conflict between the drawings and my very imperfect spec where the drawings are correct and the spec is wrong. The owner's rep is saying that the Greenbook says that specs take precedence (thus a change order). I can find very little online about the Greenbook, except how to buy it - not where it applies, what it governs, etc. If any of you very smart people can enlighten me, since I've spent 30 years practicing architecture and ten of those writing specs and don't know what the Greenbook is or what it says, please do so.
Kathy Alberding (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Friday, December 03, 2010 - 06:35 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Anne, a quick google seems to indicate that it is a Southern California Standard, adopted by LA and other cities. Check this link out to their website.

Ronald L. Geren, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA, SCIP
Senior Member
Username: specman

Post Number: 903
Registered: 03-2003

Posted on Friday, December 03, 2010 - 07:03 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Ann, did they inform you at the beginning of design that they use the Greenbook? Was it referenced by the owner-contractor agreement as a contract document?

If the Greenbook is not part of the contract documents, then precedence (if any) is set by the contract documents. If there is no precedence in the contract documents, then the drawings and specifications should be considered complementary.

This sounds very fishy to me.
Mark Gilligan SE,
Senior Member
Username: mark_gilligan

Post Number: 343
Registered: 10-2007
Posted on Friday, December 03, 2010 - 07:20 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I believe that you are talking about the CalTrans standard specifications. They apply to roads and bridge projects. They were not intended for buildings.

Ron is right. If you contract does not invoke them they have no standing on your project.
Sheryl Dodd-Hansen (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Friday, December 03, 2010 - 07:14 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Ann, the Greenbook is used as standard specifications in Southern California, largely for civil projects. I confess my copy is kind of old, so I can't swear what the latest version says. But Section 2 of my version sets precedence of contract documents, in the case of conflict between Contract Documents (Plans, Specifications, and other) as 1) Permits from other agencies as may be required by law; 2) Special Provisions; 3) Plans; 4) Standard Plans; 5) Standard Specifications; 6) Reference Specifications.

Ron's questions and comments above are totally valid.
(Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Friday, December 03, 2010 - 07:27 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

It seems a little strange to me that the Federal Government has any say over the project at all unless the federal government is the owner. If they are not the owner, I would expect that you would have to comply with the rules of the entity that is providing the public funds. Even then, the Owner has the responsability of directing the architect to the standards with which the owner is required to comply.
J. Peter Jordan (Unregistered Guest)
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Posted on Friday, December 03, 2010 - 07:46 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

This is, as others have indicated, a California standard which I have never seen implemented on projects outside California (even in Hawaii which always seems to adopt California stuff). Your owners rep has probably worked in California and assumes that this governs all work.
Ann G. Baker (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Friday, December 03, 2010 - 08:18 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Ron - no, they didn't mention it until we had an issue with a subcontractor who bid one thing when we wanted another. The owner-contractor agreement? Haven't seen it. The CA is being done in our LA office. And, the owner's general conditions established that there is no precedence.

Sheryl and others, in the beginning of this discussion with the owner's rep we all looked at each other and said this must be a California thing. And, I did understand from reading what I could find that it applies mainly for civil projects.

The Greenbook was never mentioned until we had an issue with a sub who bid from one paragraph in the spec (which was contradicted in another paragraph in the same section - dunno what I was thinking) instead of looking at the drawings or asking about the conflict. I thought it was very odd that other publicly-funded projects, even those in southern California, never mentioned the Greenbook.

Thanks for weighing in, all of you. I think I just need to retire. Yeah, right.
John Regener, AIA, CCS, CCCA, CSI, SCIP
Senior Member
Username: john_regener

Post Number: 494
Registered: 04-2002

Posted on Saturday, December 04, 2010 - 07:14 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

The Standard Specifications for Public Works Construction, popularly known as the "Greenbook", was originally published in 1967. The 2009 edition is the fifteenth edition, which is updated and republished every three years.

See http://www.greenbookspecs.org/

It's amazing how a search lasting only a second or two using Google can yield substantial and correct information.

The Standard Specifications for Public Works Construction (Greenbook), along with the companion Standard Details, is adopted by about 200 cities, counties and agencies primarily in Southern California.

I use the Greenbook for specifying utilitarian portland cement concrete paving and asphaltic concrete paving, writing using references to the Greenbook. My thinking is that those who construct these paving types are very familiar with the Greenbook and the project can be more economical and expedient when based on the Greenbook. The specs could also be based on the CalTrans Manual, using those State standard specifications.

There is MUCH more to the Greenbook than the technical requirements for site construction. There is a whole set of requirements that we would call "Division 01 - General Requirements", only they are in "Part 1 - General Provisions" in the Greenbook. In addition, each City/County/Agency has its own General Provisions. Therein lie the greatest problems for architects and engineers designing building projects for Southern California public agencies, in my opinion.

The Greenbook is not administratively set up for conventional design-bid-build construction as is typical for buildings. That is, buildings are based typically on lump sum contracts and general engineering construction is based on unit price construction.

Under the Greenbook procedures, each element of work is performed and then measured for payment. Actual work performed becomes the basis for payment, not a Schedule of Values with lump sums for building elements such as "structural steel" or "roofing."

That is, using an underground water line for example under the Greenbook, the trench is dug, inspected and measured for quantity of excavation performed. The measured quantity is applied against the contract unit price and recorded. Similarly, the bedding for the pipe is placed, inspected and measured. The pipe itself is assembled and placed in the trench, and inspected and measured for payment. Backfilling is similar. For each element, an inspector must inspect and approve the work and its quantity before the next element of work may proceed.

For simple work such as an underground water line, this may not be a problem. Applied to the complex task of constructing a building with its many structural, architectural and building service systems, the unit price approach doesn't work in practice. Well, maybe for a nuclear powerplant but not for a community center building in a public park.

For municipal buildings such as a community center or a fire station, where a City owns the project and the Public Works Department runs the construction, there have been big conflicts in my experience when trying to apply the Greenbook and its unit price approach. The Public Works Department often cannot comprehend doing construction other than on a unit price basis, with the "Engineer" birddogging every construction activity.

So, it's not so much the content of the Standard Specifications (the specs are very non-proprietary and generic to the materials and practices of Southern California) but it is the contractual processes where I see conflicts with conventional building construction practices.
Anne Whitacre, FCSI CCS
Senior Member
Username: awhitacre

Post Number: 1069
Registered: 07-2002

Posted on Saturday, December 04, 2010 - 10:43 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

obviously this is one instance where the owner is incorrect and you will need to point this out to them quietly. It sounds like the Greenbook in California is the same as the WashDOT book in Washington and the ODOT book used in Oregon; public works standards.

But back to your original question about the bidding discrepancy. If you get to the point of trying to find the wording in the contract language to prove that the contractor has to pay for their mistake, I think you've already lost the battle. In every instance where I've cried "but the documents are complementary!" it comes down to "but I didn't bid it that way, and you're going to have to pay more. " The owner will back down to save a lawsuit or just to keep the job going, and it will go on the list of the many things to be "worked out later". Along with the typical language that says that the documents are complementary, there is also substantial case law that says that since the architect had the documents in their possession longest, they have to take responsibility for any conflicts. in other words: you lose.

Not saying I agree; just saying that this is how it will work out. "I didn't bid it that way" always wins over "yeah, but he's an idiot and a fool".

Best illustration of this: I screwed up years ago and specified an escalator for an exterior (but partially enclosed in a bubble thing) installation. I didn't know that exterior escalators had completely different works (mostly stainless steel) and different lubrication. The drawings, of course, clearly showed the escalator as being outside. The contractor bid only from the specs and then had an upcharge for the change to exterior escalator. in mediation: we (the architect ) lost. Since we drew the documents, we had the duty to make them conform. Contractor, even though he was clearly not bidding off of all the documents and was an idiot, won. yes, really.
(Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Monday, December 06, 2010 - 01:38 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

In northern California I am used to seeing reference to "CalTrans Standards" throughout civil engineer's drawings and specifications and have even made use of them myself.

If you google "CalTrans Standards" you will quickly find an on-line source for standard details similar (if not identical)to the Greenbook discussed here.

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