Transmittals in Construction: How it Impacts Your Project

by Alexander Fraser

The construction industry is all about documentation, it’s a must to have good organizational skills in order to succeed. One of the project documents most regularly used in construction is a submittal, paired with this is often a transmittal. With the flow of information throughout a construction project, using a transmittal helps to keep track of pertinent info.

Transmittals will act as your cover sheet to a new submittal. This tells the reader a few things, project name, any review comments, when the file was submitted, and more. Transmittals can be important to use for future reference.

What Is a Transmittal and How Is It Used In Construction?

As mentioned above, the transmittal is most commonly paired with your submittal document. This provides valuable information to the reader but also keeps a record of the progress of the document. Project managers should refer to the transmittal page to determine if your submittal was rejected or approved for the job.

In any construction project, it is a best practice to include the transmittal documents with your submittals. Regardless of what construction company you’re with, get into the habit of including this form on commercial projects.

The transmittal lets the person viewing the document know exactly what they’re looking at. Other than the project name, it should also display applicable specification section, reference sheet, submittal description, etc.. Many of the items that I listed are required information on most transmittal forms.

Even if you’re working as a subcontractor. You should include a transmittal sheet when sending your submittal to the general contractor. Not only does this look more professional, but it lets the general contractor know the contract documents to reference for review.

Transmittals are also valuable when it comes to project delays. I say this because the transmittal sheet will include the date which the submittal was sent for review. The typical review period for a submittal is 14 to 21 days.

If the engineer goes beyond this standard review period, this is grounds for a time extension on the project. This would apply if you’re at risk of going over the project deadline and know that a response in a timely manner would’ve prevented this. You would then submit for time extension, stating that you need x amount of days that the review period went over.

Use of templates

It’s best to use a template for your transmittal forms to save time when you’re producing new submittals. Different construction companies will have their own transmittal templates, but if you’re working a federal job expect to use their template. Later in this article we will look at their template and I’ll show you how to fill this out.

If you don’t have a template to use, click here for a transmittal template. I suggest finding one that works best for you and your projects. Most project teams will use some sort of cover sheet that provides some information regarding the document being submitted.

There are also some software solutions that can generate transmittal sheets for you, but this can also be very limited. The software that my company uses has the ability to generate a transmittal for me, but I have no control over the format. Also, if there’s any information that I feel is missing, I need to add it separately by modifying the PDF.

This is not ideal, so in most instances, it’s easiest to use a single page transmittal cover sheet.

What is a submittal?

Before we move forward, I think it’s best that we cover construction submittals. Submittals can contain valuable information for a project. Some examples are shop drawings, cut sheets, installation and operation manuals, and warranty information to name a few.

You might be wondering, “what is the importance of a submittal?” Well, with many construction projects, the specifications will require that you submit specific documents.These documents need to be sent to the construction manager to distribute to the appropriate parties.

For example a product data sheet will go to the engineers or design team of the project. From there they’ll conduct a thorough review to make sure the submittal meets the specifications or design intent. They will either give you an approval of equipment so you can proceed to ordering, or require a submittal revision.

The review makes it so the contractor is not fully liable if the equipment does not satisfy new building conditions. Know that this does not take the entire responsibility off of the contractor, they should still do their due diligence. The last thing you want is to install some new equipment that does not work.

Not only are submittals used to let the engineers know you’re meeting their design, but it also holds key information for the field. Information like dimensions of new equipment, which will allow the team to lay out where to mount it. Also, some of the project team members can use the submittal data to identify potential design flaws.

There’s a plethora of information that can be gathered from submittals and it plays a huge role in the construction industry. Submittals are important documents, that’s why it’s good you also understand how the transmittal comes into play. They help you keep track of all Communications between engineers and contractors on the document.

How to Fill Out a Transmittal (Federal Jobs)

The following information will cover how to fill out a transmittal sheet if you’re working on a federal government job. The general contractor will be responsible for managing the document flow and also including the document transmittal on each submittal. The document controller will either be the project manager or project engineer assigned to the job.

Click here for the transmittal form used by the federal government.

This form is pretty straightforward to fill out, so I will cover some of the items that may be a little confusing. The first portion of the form is meant to be filled out by the contractor. First step, we start with activity ID, this is a code the general contractor assigns for a construction task.

Transmittal Form Contractor Portion, transmittals, transmittals in construction

Next thing you’ll notice is all the checkboxes on the right hand side. Regarding “Submittal Priority”  you should only check the “high” box if you have a submittal that needs to be expedited. For example this couldn’t be selected for any long lead items which could be impacted based on review duration.

As you might be able to notice, this form makes multiple references to a QC manager.

On federal projects there will typically be a requirement for a QC manager in the project specifications. This will need to be a qualified individual with experience working in this position. Their responsibility is to ensure the submittals and construction work is completed to meet the contract specs.

You can use the QC manager remarks section to write down the type of the submittal along with any specific information regarding the document. It’s okay for the project engineer to fill out this section, as long as the QC reviews and places their signature. The remarks section is also good for including any variance that you might have against the original design.

What is a Variance?

A variance is something (like equipment) that deviates from what the engineer spec’d out for a project. There are times where you will submit an equipment variance because the part spec’d out by the engineer does not meet the design intent. You might be wondering how this happens, but occasionally these issues don’t come about until a contractor begins the job.

Schedule Reference

Next we have the item “Schedule Reference”, this ties back to the “Activity ID”. As I mentioned earlier, the activity ID is a code that is assigned to a certain construction task. Well this is created as the general contractor is developing their construction schedule.

Every item that is created on the schedule will require an ID. If you include this in the top section of the transmittal form then you’re technically referencing the construction schedule.

What is a Critical Path?

The last item I want to touch on is the “Critical Path”. Most software that you will use for developing your construction schedule will generate the critical path for you. The program will select the activities that will have the greatest impact on the schedule.

Meaning, if you have any activities that can push out the schedule, this will likely end up on the critical path. Since it has the capability of impacting the project completion date, it needs greater focus to prevent schedule slip.

An easy way to determine if an activity is on the critical path is by looking at the Gantt chart for the schedule. Any item that is considered “critical” will appear in red typically to serve as a visual indication.

So, now that you have some information on the Critical Path, it should help you in answering this section. Check against your construction schedule, if you’re creating a submittal for an activity on the critical path, you check “Yes”.

Now that the top portion is filled out, you’re ready to attach this as your cover page of the submittal. Since we’re looking at a federal transmittal form, I will discuss the construction formal process for submittals on these jobs.

A standard software used for creating construction schedules is Primavera P6. To learn more about creating schedules using P6, click here.

Sending the Submittal for Review

Once your submittal has been prepared, the next steps are sending it in for review and approval. This will need to be sent in to the construction manager (CM) on the government’s side.

One of the responsibilities in construction management is to organize and allocate the submittals to the appropriate parties. This could be your design team, engineers, owners, etc..

This is where the next sections of the form come into play, the first step is to have the engineers review. Following their review, they can opt to pass the document for secondary review or it would go back to the CM. The CM shall review the comments that were made on the submittal to update the last section of the form.

After these boxes have been filled, the submittal will be sent back to the general contractor with a response. Typically, you will see a response of “approved”, “approved as noted”, or “revise and resubmit”. Make sure to spend some time reviewing and understanding any comments that were provided.

Key Takeaway

I hope that now you can kind of see how a transmittal comes into play. The key takeaway here is that the transmittal helps with documenting the response on a submittal. As the submittal goes through multiple hands, anyone viewing it will know the current status of the document.

Working in the construction industry you need to get familiar with how to fill out this form. Throughout your career you will be filling out this form numerous times, so get used to it.

Thank you for reading.

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