Plan Reviews: Small Investment, Big Gains

Plan ReviewPlan reviews are an important quality assurance and quality control initiative.  They offer significant benefits for building owners, designers, and contractors.  They minimize errors and omissions, reduce risks for the designer and contractor, and minimize change orders assisting in controlled project costs.  Other not-so-obvious benefits include:

  • Minimizing requests for information (RFI) thereby improving project workflow
  • Improved project scheduling
  • Material and product selections are verified for performance and compatibility
  • Are foundational in the building commissioning process (BCx)
  • An external plan reviews provides a fresh perspective

All designers and contractors understand the need for complete and accurate construction plans and specifications for a successful project. Yet, in today’s post 2008 economy, Owners are pushing for more and more compressed design schedules, construction schedules, and fee structures.  A consequence of this is that the time to prepare the plans and specifications may be unrealistically reduced. This invariably leads to shortcomings in the documents. These are the dreaded errors and omissions. They can create problems in construction as well as post occupancy. Often, they can lead to construction delays, excessive change orders, cost overruns, and even tear-off or rework.

The scope of a plan review can vary dramatically. Those seeking a review will often prioritize the type and scope based on their perceived risk. Typical reviews may include:

  • Architectural: building envelope oriented – focusing on Division 7
  • Architectural : All components
  • Mechanical + Electrical
  • Other consultant documents (i.e. Civil, Structural, Equipment, Acoustical)
  • Various combinations of the above
  • Full review of all disciplines and documents

The review can flush out three important issues:

  • Have all facets of the plans (i.e. plans, elevations sections, details etc.) been coordinated to eliminate inconsistencies, errors, and omissions? This includes the documents prepared by the consultants.
  • Have all inconsistencies between the plans and specifications been eliminated?
  • How complete are they? That is to say, can that which is not shown, be reasonably and correctly inferred from other documentation?

Concealed or unforeseen site conditions will sometimes require the contractor to submit a Request for Information (RFI). More often than not, it will be triggered by a plan inconsistency or lack of information.  Excessive RFI’s may slow the project down at critical junctures and create delays. They may also encumber necessary and robust coordination of product installation.  When performed in a pre-bid scenario, the plan review will reduce the occurrence of RFI’s and assist in the overall project workflow.  They can also be performed in a post-bid (i.e. early construction) scenario and still yield similar benefit. By outlining issues comprehensively up front, they can streamline the RFI process. This will bring critical information forward early on and reduce the potential for delay. Overall workflow and productivity can be optimized.

The design and intended performance of building enclosure assemblies is verified. Potential problems are flushed out in the review. Material and product selections specified are evaluated to determine if they are compatible, appropriate, and will provide optimal performance for the assembly.  Assemblies are reviewed holistically and at the detail level.  Material and product installation details shown or specified are verified to be compliant with manufacturer’s recommendations and industry standards.

The building commissioning process provides verification if new construction has met the owners stated objectives. It identifies issues/discrepancies and verifies if the building systems are designed and constructed properly. Review of the original documents is integral to this process and ultimately enhances total quality.

An external third party plan review provides a critical fresh perspective on the plans and specifications.  It provides an opportunity for a different experience and knowledge base to be brought forward. An improved set of documents will emerge. Ultimately, resulting in a more successful project benefitting and reducing risk for all team members.

Costs associated with plan reviews are minimal relative to total project costs. The real question to be asked is how much money is saved with optimized quality and efficient construction workflow? Costs of even minor conflicts or scheduling problems can grossly outweigh the costs of the plan review.