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The Construction Submittal Process

In the current atmosphere of the construction industry, it is now more important than ever to stay ahead of your competition. One of the essential aspects of a contractor’s job is the management of construction submittals. Construction submittals determine the success of a project by overseeing accuracy in project completion, budget, and project timeline. 

There are various types of submittals necessary in the construction process. Suppose you want to differentiate your construction company from others. In that case, it is required to grasp the concept of submittals and why they matter to your projects. This article will take a closer look at construction submittals and how best to improve submittal processes.

What is a construction submittal?

A construction submittal refers to physical information or written documents with relevant information submitted by a contractor to the architect or project manager for approval. These submittals are in different formats, such as shop drawings, product samples, and material data. Project managers use the submittals to ensure the contractors use the correct quantities in a project in compliance with project and design documents.

What are the benefits of submittals?

Construction submittals are vital because they allow the project team to pass approvals on equipment and materials. It is essential to do submittals before delivery. If contractors do submittals on time, it might be easier to rectify the unnecessary setbacks.

Submittals are also crucial as they determine the project’s budget and timeline accuracy. A detailed submittal gives a better chance for overall success. Construction submittals involve many documents, and this makes it necessary for accurate input. The whole project can be compromised if errors occur.

Submittals also make it possible to complete a project that matches the design specifications making a project safe for occupancy and its intended use. Failure to follow the submittal process can have dire consequences on a project.

What are common types of submittals?

There are many types of construction submittals. As mentioned earlier, the most common are shop drawings, material data, and product samples. Various kinds of submittals carry different information, and the type of submittal depends on your project.

Shop drawings

These are the most common types of submittals. We identify shop drawings as drawings or schedules prepared by the contractor to illustrate a portion of the work. Shop drawings differ from the drawings in the design phase as they show how building components will look during construction

Shop drawings are not counted as a part of contract documents. They, therefore, do not create the need to alter original design drawings to match the shop drawings. The shop drawings include dimensions, quantities, and design characteristics.

Product samples

These are samples of the materials that the builders will use in construction. They include specimens such as soil, concrete, bricks, etc. Providing samples helps the project team assess their aesthetic choices. Other models are mockups where a contractor can make a building component such as a small wall to show how windows, doors, and cladding will come together. 

These mockups are essential when discussing the feasibility of a design concept. Product samples make judging a contractor’s artistry easy and establish the baseline for evaluating the completed works. When the project designers approve material sample submittals, the samples are stored on-site and used for comparison to ensure the materials brought in to match the samples.

Material data

This refers to information on materials such as dimensions, models, quantities, finishes, warranty details, and so on. This data is essential when checking compliance standards. Submittals on material data are most common on government projects.

what do submittals include

What do submittals include?

The key to running a construction project well is organization. Many documents are involved in the submittal process, making it necessary for one to have a submittal log. The submittal log is a record that confirms the design team approved for every item in the log. A good submittal includes the following items.

  • Specifications of where a particular requirement came from
  • Title with a short description of the request
  • Type of submittal
  • Level of priority
  • Contractor responsible
  • Approving party
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The construction submittals process

Submittals are a helpful tool to ensure the accountability of project stakeholders and that a project stays on track. The submittal process follows some steps, as we will outline below.

Preconstruction meeting

The preconstruction meeting is where the architect, general contractor, and engineer discuss the submission process. They discuss deadlines for the delivery and review of submittals. They also discuss the format of the submittals and the procedure for handing in a submittal. The purpose of the meeting is to stipulate how the parties will work together and see which role each individual plays. The parties also discuss how they can avoid submittal delays that increase construction costs.

Submittal schedule development

Here, the contractor collaborates with engineers and architects and works with the project team to develop a project schedule for the submittals. The design team assesses the types of submittals necessary for the project and the required technical specifications. When the contractor receives design drawings, they can then make their submittal timeline. This timeline should not clash with the overall project timeline.

Submittal preparation

The contractor starts preparing for the submittal or delegates it to a relevant subcontractor. If there are any deviations from the construction documents, the contractor should explain them on the submittal. The contractor then reviews the submittal to ensure it accurately reflects the field conditions and meets all the contractual requirements. After reviewing the submittal, they stamp it to represent acceptance.

Submittal review:

This is the final stage, where the architect reviews the submittal and can approve or reject it. Each submittal should identify the building part it pertains to and should comply with the construction documents.

How to write a submittal

The construction submittal process is a check and balance system to ensure everyone is on the same page. It is meant to ensure that the information in the contract documents is accurately communicated to the relevant stakeholders. Submittals can either be approved, rejected, or approved with revisions at each stage.

At various times before the groundbreaking, the design teams prepare the technical specifications of the equipment and materials necessary for the project. The architect, engineer, and contractor must meet and establish rules when writing submittals. These include:

  • Items that require submittals
  • Deadlines for submittal delivery
  • Methods of delivering submittals
  • The review process and deadlines for review
  • Communication channels

Setting proper protocols ensures all parties understand their obligations and have clear expectations to keep them on track.

When writing the submittal, you should thoroughly double-check it to avoid possible delays. Adhere to timelines to ensure the project is on track. It is best to include all the documents as a complete package since the submittals entail many documents. When creating a submittal, you need a submittal log to track items you need to include. A good submittal should have the following:

  • Title: This should be the submittal name. It should also include a short description of the submittal request.
  • Submittal type: This refers to the kind of information being requested.
  • The contractor responsible: When writing a submittal, the person responsible for providing information should clearly state it.
  • Submittal manager: The submittal should state the person responsible for submitting the item and approving the information.
  • Submittal reviewer: The submittal also needs to state the party responsible for reviewing the information.
  • Required dates: There should be precise dates, such as when the submittal is due and when the reviewer needs to approve it.

It would only be possible to properly manage a submittal with such a comprehensive log. You can use software or submittal templates.

tips to improve submittals

Tips to improve submittals

Since you now know the submittal process, what can you do to improve and streamline it? The workflow in the submittal process sometimes seems frustrating. Still, you can improve it by reducing submission errors, providing access to the necessary information and documents, and using advanced tracking. Below are some of the tips you can use to improve your submittals.

Using automated submittal logs

In construction projects, the specification requirements might contain thousands of items that must be fed in the submittal log. By manually entering the submittal logs, you increase the chances of errors. You can eliminate errors by using automated submittal logs to create downloadable records in spreadsheet format with all the necessary items for the register. This dramatically reduces errors and saves time.

Information access

You should keep the submittal information private and secure. There are many people involved in the submittal process for approvals, producing data, and reviews. As much as it is essential to involve many external parties, private information should be kept confidential. You should therefore employ technology that allows for both access and control of submittals to members and non-members. External members need not be added to the project as they can review submittals through email. Information such as private sheets and annotations should be therefore kept confidential.

Add filters to submittals

It is easy for some information in submittals to slip through since there is much information one needs to filter. However, technology has made it possible to filter your list and narrow it down to the items you need. You can have different categories for filters, such as due dates, reviewers, types of submittals, specs, and the priority of the submittal.

Use Email notifications

The submittal process is lengthy, from the application to the approval process. There are many stakeholders involved, and you should, therefore, save time setting up a proper tracking system for your project team. You can use solutions such as project management software that sends approval alerts through email. Having timely notifications of such alerts improves transparency and accountability and helps people act faster.

Centralize your submittal markups

As submittal documents move through different parties during the review, they get renamed, reordered, and marked up according to the project’s specifications. However, suppose the project team does not have the right tools. In that case, They can jump through different platforms and inevitably find themselves reverting to manual systems. Centralized markup systems allow users to annotate submittals without downloading them, editing, and re-uploading them back to the system.

Allow for multiple reviewers at a time

It is infrequent for submittals to need approval from only one party. Since many parties are involved, it is unproductive to wait for independent approval from each party before proceeding. Allowing multiple reviewers to evaluate a submittal improves efficiency and reduces the risk of delays. Project management software allows for different parties to add multiple reviewers as co-reviewers. This enhances transparency and promotes accountability across the project team. It is easier for the team to identify mistakes and know when to take action.

Keep the team updated 

Apart from the members who submit and review a submittal, other members in the project team need to be aware of the statuses of submittal items. They need to be notified when a submittal is created, reviewed, or published to ensure that all the information given is correct. These other parties include vendors, subcontractors, designers, and other client representatives.

Getting timely approvals on submittals is critical to ensure projects run on schedule. 

Create custom submittal reports.

To ensure projects are on track, project managers frequently request submittal reports. These reports need to look professional. You can implement project management solutions that can help you create detailed custom reports that are easily shared with interested parties.

Key Takeaways

Construction submittals differ from one company to another. Some of the key takeaways include;


People involved in construction submittals include; the general constructor, subcontractors, architects, engineers, and the entire design team. 


Shop drawings illustrate a construction segment in terms of dimension, quantities, and design features.  

Product samples illustrate what the builders use in the construction, like; mockups for the building, rock, soil, and brick specimens.  

Material data is information regarding the construction project, like models, warranty details, quantities, etc.

The Process 

Preconstruction is the first step, where all stakeholders agree on the deadlines, type of submittals, and the entire process to enable them to work as a team.

The submittal schedule is the second stage, where participants of the construction submittal discuss the requirements and timelines of the submittals.

The third step is submittal preparation, where the submittals are counter-checked by a contractor or subcontractor before sending it to be reviewed.

Submittal review is the final stage, where the design team carefully cross-checks construction submittals in correspondence to construction documents before approving or rejecting them.

Properties of a Great Construction Submittal

A great submittal should include the required dates indicating the level of priority, the name of the project and a short description. 

A construction submittal should indicate the type of submittal and the contractor.

Finally, a great construction submittal should mention the submittal manager and the submittal reviewer. 

The submittal manager is responsible for approving information in the submittal, while the submittal reviewer is the party that performs the review.

Ways To Improve Submittals 

 Use updated submittal logs 

  • Keep submittal information private and secure 
  • Prioritize your submittal markups
  • Organize your submittals in filters
  • Keep members updated on the progress of the review
  • Write submittal reports 

Benefits of a Construction Submittal

A construction good submittal helps to determine the success of a project by providing its budget and scheduled completion. 

A submittal offers accuracy on the roles of all stakeholders as collaborators to provide correct submittals. 

Properly Reviewing a submittal ensures that it complies with all the documents, increasing the project’s success rate.

Construction submittals ensure projects match their design improving the practicability of any construction.

As discussed above, submittals are meant to prove agreement and keep everyone on the construction site accountable and informed. Each party must give a stamp of approval showing that they have reviewed, understood, and agreed to commencement a specific portion of work. They previously adopted manual systems for creating and tracking submittals proved inefficient, but there are currently many solutions that streamline the process and save on time and resources. When everyone in the project team understands the process, everyone involved takes the work seriously and keeps the project moving.