Coordination is the key to making projects work

The big question on some difficult projects is: Who is responsible for the final coordination during installation? The answer is not always an easy one, especially if we are dealing with a job that involves an unusual amount of restraints and multiple prime contracts. Recently I started on a hospital renovation project, which will serve as a good example. Thankfully, this project will have a single

The big question on some difficult projects is: Who is responsible for the final coordination during installation?

The answer is not always an easy one, especially if we are dealing with a job that involves an unusual amount of restraints and multiple prime contracts. Recently I started on a hospital renovation project, which will serve as a good example. Thankfully, this project will have a single prime contractor with subcontractors, but that only helps a little.

The floor-to-floor height on both the floor we are working on and the floor below are 10 ft., 8 in. That may be normal under certain circumstances but this building is constructed with concrete 18 in. deep and has beams in both directions.

That leaves about 9 ft. of clear space below the structure to run all of the utilities for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, medical gas and fire protection.

When dealing with a hospital and all of the various services commonly found on a nursing floor, 12 in. is not much space.

Engineers such as myself try to coordinate the drawings between the trades as best we can so that the contractor has an accurate idea of the scope of work during bidding and few surprises arise during construction. However, conditions will always be concealed above existing ceilings and in walls, and we have no way of knowing about them until demolition begins.

I know that as we start construction on this job, there are going to be items which have been changed over the years or which are not installed as shown on the existing drawings. These are normal coordination issues that we deal with on a regular basis.

But with all the efforts we are putting into the design of the project, it will still require a team effort to transform the design shown on the drawings into an installation that will function properly and meet the needs of the building owner.

With only 12 in. of “normal” ceiling space (there are soffits strategically placed), the piping cannot cross the major runs of ductwork. We are not only talking about the plumbing but all of the piping serving this floor.

In addition, on the floor below (which, if you remember, has the same height limitations) the plumbing serving the floor above has to be coordinated with the existing ductwork. The ductwork adds to the cost of the project because it has to be taken down and reinstalled after the plumbing is installed. So, who is responsible for the coordination?

The answer seems too simple in the times in which we live. We are all responsible for coordination. The only chance this project has for staying within budget and on schedule is through everyone working together. Each person involved, whether it is the architect, engineer, owner, general or any of the subcontractors, is responsible for coordination of its work.

Can it be done given the constraints listed above? I hope so, but we will have to wait and see since by the time you read this the project will be just going out for bid. I know the efforts we have put into the design. I am confident we can work out all of the coordination issues without having to go to extremes. What can you do as a contractor to provide input to the coordination process? Too many times I have been involved in coordination meetings when, for some reason or another, one of the contractors has not been able to attend. These meetings are important for some buildings and absolutely crucial to others. Have the right person attend the meetings. Send someone who understands the systems being installed and what space is required. Send someone with the authority to agree to any modifications when they are necessary.

Being flexible about the systems is also important. I know we like to protect our little part of the world and sometimes we are not as flexible as we need to be to get the job done. I am as guilty of this as anyone.

Watch your shop drawings and the dimensional characteristics of the equipment being submitted. Dimensions change from manufacturer to manufacturer. Sometimes the only equipment that will fit is the one that was used in the design, and it may not have the lowest cost. Think about this during bidding. Materials can have an impact. Piping especially can change dimensionally depending on what is being installed.

Do what you can to help the process. If you happen to be the successful bidder on the job I am designing now, I look forward to an interesting process.