By: Edward Seglias, Jason A. Copley, and Matthew R. Skaroff
Structural steel fabricators occupy a unique place on construction projects. Their steelwork has substantial cost and is fundamental to the construction, and they often share design responsibilities with several other parties.
As construction attorneys, we generally become involved in projects long after the parties have signed the contracts and encountered problems on the job. We have seen issues ranging from changes resulting from design errors or omissions, missed scope, and poor coordination of the design and work to poorly drafted contracts that lead to conflicts around who’s responsible for what.
Because of the crucial role of steel, a small change, error, or omission in any project contract can lead to more time, cost, and stress. Though steel is perhaps one of the most well-understood construction materials in science, the industry is still trailing when it comes to contracting in ways that properly limit a fabricator’s responsibilities for steel construction.
Design Intent and Constructibility
For a structural fabricator, it all starts with two simple questions: Can this be built? and Do I have the ability to build it? A smooth project requires a constructible design. That seems obvious. Yes, you’ll always have minor issues with the plans. Regardless, there lies a certain point at which the project becomes unworkable, and in terms of time and money, the project ends very differently from what was projected with the original bid.