Shop Drawing Approval Procedures

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Welcome to the On Site channel’s first Construction Administration Column. David A. Todd, P.E., CPESC, gives his opinion on a common issue with shop drawing approval.

Columnist David A. Todd, P.E., CPESC, has 37 years of experience in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry and has performed much construction administration during that time. He will answer questions from our readers or from his own practice and will provide answers based on his understanding of the construction process and administration of the construction contract. The focus will be on the customary duties of the owner, contractor, and design professional as typically described in the contract documents.

Shop Drawing Approval Procedures
Question [from a site superintendent]:

It seems that the shop drawing approval is very slow on my project. What should I do about it?


The first project for which I handled construction observation, the rehabilitation of a 100 year-old concrete ground storage water reservoir, had only a few shop drawings. Two weeks into the job, all but one had been approved; the remaining drawing was of some fabricated steel brackets on which to relocate electrical and telemetry lines. The site superintendent, as soon as he realized that one shop drawing was not yet approved, wrote on his daily report: "No approved bracket shop drawing." He wrote that every day for a week; then the approved shop drawing was delivered to the site, and the daily notation ended.

Were the shop drawings approved late, and how was the schedule affected? No, the shop drawings were not approved late, and the schedule was not affected. The contractor's office staff was a little late sending the shop drawing to the engineer, knowing the brackets were not needed for several weeks.

In this case, the contract documents had a provision that the engineer had a maximum of 10 days to review the shop drawings, approve or reject them, and send them to the contractor. In this project, the engineer turned them around in five days, meeting the contract requirements.

However, I like that the superintendent noted on his daily report that a shop drawing had not been received. This produced a well documented record of the situation. If the shop drawings had been six days later, the daily reports would have shown that the engineer had not followed the contract documents. If this could then be shown to have adversely affected the contractor's schedule, a claim for more time would have been appropriate.

In general, the contract documents should have some provisions about shop drawings. These are sometimes found in the general conditions and sometimes modified in the supplementary conditions. In addition, a section of the specifications in the general requirements will typically include administrative procedures for shop drawings. Responsibilities of the contractor and owner (typically through the design professional, be it the engineer or architect) will be defined there. Typically this will include the following:

  • The contractor should prepare a schedule of submittals, to be submitted to the design professional early in the project, perhaps at the pre-construction conference. This schedule will allow the design professional to plan the staffing needed to review these. Clearly this schedule is of greater importance as the size of the project increases and the complexity of the installation requires a greater number of submittals.

  • The contractor must, on any shop drawing that deviates from the contract documents, make a special notation on the submittal, alerting the design professional to the deviation.

  • On resubmittal of any shop drawing, reference to the prior submittal must be made.

  • The design professional must meet the turn-around schedule provided in the contract documents.

Attention to the provisions of the contract documents and documentation of all relevant events is the correct response to shop drawings. Provide the design professional with a schedule of submittals and document whether the design professional follows the procedure listed in the contract documents.

Readers are invited and encouraged to submit their construction administration questions for this column at

Disclaimer: this column is not intended to provide legal advice.

David A. Todd

A senior engineer and corporate trainer of engineering for CEI Engineering Associates, Inc. David has 36 years of experience as a consulting civil engineer. His experience includes water, wastewater, stormwater, roads, and solid waste infrastructure. For much of the last 20 years he has been involved with stormwater issues. Specifications and construction administration have been a specialty of his within civil consulting engineering . He has BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering, is a registered engineer in four states, and a Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control.

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