Tuesday, April 5, 2005
As-builts – Problems & Proposed Solutions
Most, if not all, construction contracts require the contractor to produce as-built drawings.
However, little information is found in industry literature about construction as-builts and the asbuilting
process. How are they properly executed and to what standards? Who is responsible
for the content? How will they be used? The answers to these questions may not be obvious.
The construction management (CM) industry should attack the subject in detail. This paper
begins the attack by discussing some of the inherent problems in obtaining quality work. It offers
some solutions, including the need to develop standards and sharing part of the contractor’s
responsibilities in providing them. Specifically, this paper presents three proposals. First, it makes
a case for the CM industry to develop general as-built standards that could be used for most
construction contracts. Second, it offers a payment vehicle to the contractor for producing
them. Finally, it proposes that the construction manager take an active role in the as-builting
Over the course of any construction project, the work scope changes. Change is a
normal and expected part of the construction process. Changes can be the result of
necessary design modifications, differing site conditions, material availability,
contractor-requested changes, value engineering and impacts from third parties, to
name a few. Beyond executing the change in the field, the change normally needs to
be documented to show what was actually constructed. Hence, the owner usually
requires a final record to show all changes or, more specifically, any change that
modifies the tangible portions of the finished work. The record is made on the contract
documents – usually, but not necessarily limited to, the design drawings. The end
product of this effort is what the industry terms as-built1 drawings, or more simply, “asbuilts.”
The requirement for providing them is a norm in construction contracts.
As-builts (AB) are an important part of a contractor’s work scope. Unfortunately, they
are often overlooked by both the CM and contractor until the end of the project, when
they are needed. They are important for those who use the finished product, as they
provide a legacy of what was actually built. This legacy becomes more important, as
we continue to build on top of old work, land ownership changes, or for public works, as
employees familiar with what was built are replaced over time by attrition. ABs are
overlooked during construction because there are too many other activities occurring
during the building process and, simply put, documenting changes is not a glamorous
1 Merriam-Webster has tracked citations of the word as an adjective only, but has not
considered inclusion into the dictionary because they consider it an industry term. The term
does exist in construction dictionaries. The term always appears hyphenated and its usage can
be as a verb, noun or adjective.
part of the project. Certainly project schedule reviews, pay request deadlines and
claims resolution appear to be worthier of a CM’s attention. ABs are sometimes treated
as an administrative obstacle, among many others, needed to close out the project.
They are generally the last submittal to be processed. Grappling with them usually
languishes beyond substantial completion. It is indeed unfortunate that a CM who
does an excellent job for an impressed client can fail at the job of assuring an
acceptable as-constructed record. It does not need to be this way.
Construction ABs are not to be confused with other types of as-constructed documents.
Other as-constructed documents include Record Drawings (RD), AB schedules, ABs
created by redrafting old drawings that depict existing work and AB surveys. The latter
is where an existing structure or work site is surveyed to produce drawings from scratch.
In this process, technicians take field measurements of building floor plans, site
improvements or topography, then electronically draft the information to CAD
standards. Construction ABs discussed here are contract documents revised during
construction and submitted by the contractor for review and approval by the CM
either monthly or after final completion of newly constructed work2.
Before considering some changes to the way ABs are done, one should first define
exactly what purposes they serve and explain some of the problems associated with
Construction ABs are used to show the finished condition of the work as it was actually
constructed and accepted. The as-builting task is a usual and important requirement
of construction contracts and contract language puts this work upon the contractor.
The process requires that any change that modifies the original design be incorporated
by drafting the change upon one set of contract documents earmarked just for that
purpose. Generally, changes are recognized or authorized within contract-related
documents that are prepared during the course of work. Change documentation may
include incorporation of a contractor’s Notices of Change that are acknowledged as
having merit by the CM, change orders, field orders and non-conforming work that was
accepted “as-is” or mitigated by other means. It would also include value engineering
agreements, certain T&M authorizations and, sometimes, responses to RFIs.
Documentation may also include the incorporation of addenda that were issued
during the bid cycle, when conformed drawings were not issued by the owner. To be
complete, ABs would also require that the contractor record a change for which no
authorizing document exists. Obviously, that is more theoretical than actually
practiced, as no contractor would necessarily want to show a change he was not
allowed to make in the first place – especially as he might be penalized for it. ABs serve
four important roles. Each role is discussed in the order of its use.
2 Various definitions exist. BNi Building News Construction Dictionary defines the word better than
most, as “A set of drawings prepared by the general contractor, which include any revision in
the working drawings and specification during construction, indicating how the project was
The first role of ABs is to serve as a one-stop repository of all directed changes. Hence,
the general contractor and all his subcontractors are, theoretically at least, working
from the same up-to-date documents as the work progresses. This assumes that the
documents are updated as soon as information becomes available. In this case, the
role of AB drawings is an information resource available during the course of work that
depicts all current, authorized changes. The contractor is expected to update the AB
records as the work progresses and to do so in a timely fashion in order to make them
useable for all construction parties, including the inspector. In this sense, ABs are not
only a record of what was done, but also a plan of what the contractor was directed to
do. The logic is that no required work will be missed.
The second role is, post construction, as a contractor’s certified record attesting to what
was built. Thereafter the drawings can be used by the owner or operator as a
reference over the working life of the improvement. This enables the user to locate
hidden features and troubleshoot problems, and provides a tool to plan for changes or
expansion. The owner may have secondary uses for them, such as safety training,
failure analysis, inclusion in various manuals, tenant information, lease/sales literature
and information required by regulators. If a facility is sold, ABs usually are listed in the
sales agreement as “other property” transferred to the buyer. The owner can also use
them as documents upon which to record subsequent minor modifications made by or
for the owner. With all these ongoing uses, the owner considers AB drawings to be a
For their third role, ABs eventually become demolition drawings when improvements are
no longer needed. They can be modified, repackaged, reproduced and included in a
new contract, saving the owner the cost of developing new drawings. As demolition
drawings, ABs will have been used over the complete life cycle of the facility. The
repackaged demolition drawings can then be AB yet again to record what was not
demolished, and those drawings live as part of the next contract.
The fourth and last role of ABs is for land-use history. ABs serve as a record of what was.
The information they provide can pay dividends during subsequent land uses. For
example, during construction, if an unforeseen object is encountered, AB research
might show that the object could be a structure left over from three previous land uses
that erroneously was thought to have been removed. Another example would be to
provide land-use history needed in a Phase I environmental audit. AB drawings usually
outlive the submittal files and other job records, including sometimes the construction
contract itself. ABs become the last testament to what once existed.
ABs have hidden benefits for both parties of a construction contract. If changes are
properly drafted and referenced to the document that initiated the change, ABs can
allow for checks and balances against work not billed or deletions not credited. For an
example benefiting the owner, consider a case in which the engineer deletes part of
the work, but based upon the way the contractor documents it, the CM finds that the
deletion was interpreted differently. The contractor assumed the change to be more
far-reaching than allowed. In this case, the contractor did much less work than what
payment was agreed for. The CM may want to revisit the agreed-upon credit. An
example benefiting the contractor, say the contractor incorporated a change that was
to be paid as T&M, but shows no referenced T&M billing authorization on his drawings.
He would want to double-check the paper trail to make sure the owner was billed for
the work. Specifically for the benefit of the CM, ABs may reveal non-conforming work,
thus prompting an investigation and even some rework. It is entirely possible for ABs to
be used in claims and litigation by either party or even a third party (the latter is not an
Some contractors do an excellent job of providing quality as-constructed records.
These contractors are the minority. The remainder do fair to mediocre work at best –
their work is sloppy, incomplete, or illegible, with documents stapled to drawings and
other related shortcomings. A few contractors have been known to submit contract
drawings as ABs without a making any notations on them. When contractors do not
provide an acceptable set of documents, one must ask why. The causes are varied,
but most reasons can be attributed to either a lack of motivation, not fully
understanding what is ultimately expected of them, or both. There are two lesser
causes behind unacceptable ABs. One is that a general contractor who can not
coordinate all the parties responsible for providing their portions of the AB record. The
other is the perception of not being paid for the effort. Let us look into each.
Lack of Motivation
Some contractors are unwilling to do quality AB work or even incapable of it, as they
are not motivated to do the work that is required. This can be due to a variety of
reasons – lack of staff, time, budget, commitment, or simply not valuing the need
despite the contract requirement to provide them. If done, the as-builting task usually
falls upon the least experienced engineer, summer intern or lowest ranking staff
member. These are people who are usually too “green” to understand the contracting
process, contract divisions, materials and all construction-speak – individuals who are
lowest on the pay scale. These individuals may receive no instructions other than,
“Here’s the specifications and drawings” and “Just do it.” Unfortunately, the same can
be said for the owner’s representative responsible for reviewing them, further justifying
the contractor’s perception that ABs are not valued. Worded differently, the
perception is that if the owner provides a mediocre review, then the owner is not very
concerned about them. Both the contractor and CM can be guilty of lacking
motivation, and if one or both are, the process suffers and the result proves it.
There is little motivation on the part of the contractor to transpose line work that is
clearly shown in responses to RFIs, change orders or other documents that he widely
distributes to his superintendents, foremen, subcontractors, manufacturers and suppliers.
His perception is that there is no need to maintain a drawing set that nobody uses
because these other documents provide all the information that is needed.
Transposing information appears redundant to the contractor. Furthermore, in the case
of an unauthorized change, there is no good reason for the contractor to document a
deviation for which he might be penalized. The contractor would not want to show
that a hose bib installation on the north wall was missed, and risk having to dig up
pavement to put one in.
Other clues pointing to contractors’ lack of motivation are revealed by statements they
make. We have all heard the contractor’s argument that ABs are not required
because “We built it exactly the way it is shown!” That statement is often used in an
attempt to end further discussion and get the CM to forego the requirement. The CM
and his inspectors know otherwise; in fact, it was not built exactly the way it was
designed. Another argument might be, “I showed it in one spot and that’s good
enough!” This attitude can affect multiple drawings, such as the case in which a
structural change is shown properly on the structural drawings but not carried over onto
the mechanical drawings where it is also needed. “How do you expect us to record
everything with all the changes you made?” This question and similar statements are
made to get the CM “off the back” of a contractor. From that point forward, it may
simply be a test of wills to get marks on the drawings. One last contractor’s argument:
“Our as-builts have never been questioned before!” In other words, no matter how bad
they are, the CM is being too picky.
Time will eventually cure the motivation problem. As the job comes to a close and
retention is demanded, some level of ABs are submitted if for no other reason than to
close-out the job and move on.
It costs a contractor staff time to collect and analyze information, produce marked-up
drawings and participate in the monthly review. He receives no direct reimbursement
for his time and effort, as the task is considered ancillary to the work and therefore must
be absorbed by his project overhead. As there is no contract allowance or bid item,
there is no financial incentive to put forth a great effort. Less effort is more profit. The
requirement is disregarded as boilerplate contract language that seems to apply to
other contractors on other jobs. The only way the CM can ensure ABs are being
properly kept and updated is to periodically review the contractor’s markups and, if
necessary, withhold a progress payment. Withholding a full monthly progress payment
is not done. Why? As a punitive measure, it is not realistic or commensurate with the
damage done. Most owners would be reluctant to follow the advice of a CM to hold a
payment because as-constructed records are incomplete. Instead, the client would
tell the CM to make sure they are corrected by the following month and then ask how
the CM is going to make sure that next time they are up to par. CMs likewise can be
reluctant to make the contractor “toe the line” as surely the needed corrections can
be postponed until next month. Certainly there are more pressing issues overshadowing
the status of ABs and the CM has to continue “to get along” with the contractor for the
good of the project. When enforcement is pushed off for one month, that one month
turns in to two, then three, until reaching the end of the job – too late to do an
adequate and accurate job of documenting all changes.
It is not unusual that a general contractor performs less than fifty percent of the work
with his own forces. He needs to broker the rest. Brokering the work scope has been by
necessity. Why? Construction work scopes can require many specialized activities for
which a general contractor needs to rely on specialty subcontractors and of many tiers.
Consider the evolving security system technologies, expertise needed in geotechnical
foundation work, code-driven fire protection installations, and the specialty coating
and concrete repair fields. Consider the number of specification divisions in a $5 million
contract and the number of specialties required to meet them. Delving deeper, some
work is paid not under a subcontract, but under a purchase order (e.g., precast plant
work, owner-operated equipment and electrical testing by certified companies).
Purchase orders are used not just to supply materials, but to perform contract work on
or off the site. An example would be assembling an electrical switchgear. It is clear
many parties are responsible to perform the work and consequently responsible to
supply AB information for their portions of the work. The general contractor must
coordinate a massive amount of as-constructed information – a daunting task.
Specialty subcontracting and off-site fabrication conflicts with the assumption that the
general contractor and the rest of his team are working from the same master
documents held by the general contractor as the work progresses. It just does not
happen. There may be too many subcontracting organizations involved and, although
each may be working on the same site, they are working from different site offices. A
few may be working from pick-up trucks. Subcontractor site offices can be adjacent to
the general contractor or on opposite sides of the site; it doesn’t matter as each, by
necessity, keeps its own sets of contract documents. It is unrealistic and naive to
believe other parties go the general for the latest information on his drawing stick files.
Compounding the impacts of working from different site offices, subcontractors
undertake their portions of the work at different times over the course of the project.
The electrical subcontractor, as an example, might be the last to arrive and may be
unaware that the equipment foundations they need to work from were moved. For
these logistical reasons, subcontractors work independently. One would hope that
subcontractors are made aware of changes when they begin work and that they
transfer those changes to their own master drawing sets. This requires the general
contractor to collect and combine information from all subcontractors and off-site
fabricators for inclusion in his ABs.
For AB work, the only written direction a contractor has as to what is required of him is
that which is provided in the contract specifications – if there are specifications. AB
specifications tend to be short, sometimes one or two paragraphs. This is hardly a
comprehensive recipe for what to do and how to do it. Even specifications that consist
of an entire technical division can not possibly be expected to cover the
documentation needs of every changed condition.
ABs can, and usually do, have different meanings to different stakeholders. Each party
to a contract and the individuals within each party have their own ideas about what
should be recorded and how. Each party has different ideas as to clarity and
completeness. Each party has different perceptions about timeliness for entries and
presentation. This is a result of different assumptions and experiences. With differences
in expectations, misunderstandings often surface. Disagreements can occur between
the CM and contractor as to what constitutes a change and, if it is agreed that a
change was made, whether that change should be documented and what form that
change should take. For example, the owner may want to know exactly where each
buried utility lies, but the design drawings are schematics and therefore the contractor
excuses himself from providing useful dimensions, survey coordinates and top-of-pipe
elevations. Another example is where the engineer wants the contractor to show rebar
hooks in a wall that were later added to meet code. The contractor argues they will
never be seen and refuses to make the proper notations. The last example is the CM
who wants each individual contract drawing to show the complete AB condition.
However, the contractor provides three separate marked-up sheets of the same
drawing because even though structural, electrical and instrumentation are shown on
the same sheet, they are AB by different subcontractors. One sheet is provided by the
general contractor to show structural changes, one by the electrical and one by the
instrumentation subcontractors. Different expectations usually ends with the CM or
owner being dissatisfied with what is delivered versus what he envisioned receiving.
Lack of motivation, the perception of not being reimbursed, the fact that too many
contracting parties are responsible for providing AB information and differing
expectations are reasons why ABs rarely meet the mark. The remainder of this paper
addresses some new approaches to combat these problems.
The preceding problems are common and familiar to construction managers. They
span all project delivery methods and all types of projects. To help rectify two of the
problems, those of differing expectations and brokered work, the CM industry needs an
AB standard. AB guidelines of various complexities do exist for some government
entities, but not for the construction industry as a whole. Generally, what is known
about as-builting in most organizations is what is learned by word of mouth, example
and by trial and error. A properly written standard can be the basis for education, a
standardization of methods and minimum acceptable results, and an aid to contract
enforcement. Otherwise, each job will continue to be based only on the typically brief
project specification and the CM will continue to struggle with contractors over ABs.
The industry is overdue for a standard. The CMAA, as a national leader, may be in the
best position to take the lead in developing an AB standard. The following lists topics
that could be included and issues that should be addressed in an industry standard:
• General considerations – Explain the need for, and objectives and benefits of,
construction ABs. Explain their expected form. Explain their uses as living documents
and final records. Suggest what types of contracts should be exempt from AB
requirements. The standard should address needed discussions with the client and
engineer during the design phase to ascertain what their requirements are in an asconstructed
record. Does private work require different AB standards than public
work? Discuss the need to keep the record current as memories fade and
personnel change over the duration of the job.
• Case law – Explain how courts and arbiters have ruled. Present important legal
decisions relating to ABs and apply lessons learned3.
• Discuss what designers need to know to facilitate the AB process. Some examples
-- Drawing sheets should not be crowded. Drawings loaded with notes and
linework do not allow room to make changes.
-- Conformed drawings should be issued where extensive changes are made by
-- The owner/engineer is obligated to reissue drawings that have undergone
numerous design changes during the course of work.
-- Schematic designs should not be provided if accurate ABs are desired. It is
difficult to change a detail that was Not-To-Scale in the first place.
• Address the CM’s obligation to discuss the AB requirement and its importance at
pre-bid, partnering and preconstruction meetings.
• Provide a clear definition of what constitutes an AB condition versus what does not4.
Provide test cases or examples and explain why one change is considered
documentable versus another that is not.
• Provide direction as to which contract documents should be used to record AB
information. These may be (full-sized) plans, specifications and, depending on the
type of contract and the needs of the owner, fabrication drawings, concrete lift
drawings, pipe spool drawings and contractor-provided designs. Address whether
the surveyor’s electronic files and his certified survey are part of the effort, thereby
superceding coordinate tables and utility profiles shown on contract drawings.
Explain what contract documents may be exempt from the process and why.
Examples may include above-grade demolition drawings, formwork drawings
showing embedded hardware, appendices, standard plans included in the
contract set, drawings incorporated by reference and electrical one-lines, if
corrected in the O&M manual.
• List all documents that could be the sources for AB information. Address how they
are collected. Address whether directives provided in meeting notes or unofficial
documentation can be used and incorporated. List documents that are to be
3 For example, Toombs v. United States, 4Cl.Ct535(1984), which required the government be
reimbursed for doing the as-built work the contractor did not do. Also, McAsey v. U.S. Dept of
Navy, 201 F.Supp. 2d 1081(2002) in which as-builts were placed in evidence for a wrongful death
suit, and Hess v. Murnane Building Constructors Inc., 306 A.D. 2d 824, 762 N.Y.S. 2d 212 in which
as-built drawings were not admissible as business records of a university.
4 One definition is that it must be a physical or measurable change, is permanent and betters
the understanding of what is now present.
purposely excluded as source information. These might include information found in
approved submittals, anything associated with a contractor’s approved work plans,
testing results and chosen “or equals.”
• Identify the required caliber of person responsible for ABs in each organization that
makes up the construction team (contractor/subcontractor/CM/engineer). Define
the role and authority of each in the process. Briefly, the contractor’s role could be
collecting information, drafting and assuring accuracy. The CM’s authority may be
ordering confirming surveys or excavating to confirm a condition. The engineer’s
authority may be to require a professional engineer’s stamp on a particular
contractor-made change that is deemed a design.
-- Further describe the expected level of effort.
-- Address whether it is it appropriate to separate the ABs set among specialty
contractors for their respective work scopes.
-- Explain the obligation of the general contractor to review and approve the ABs
of subcontractors and custom manufacturers before submitting them to the CM.
• Address how the ABs will be protected from loss or abuse (i.e., always kept bound,
never leaves the site office, not used as a scratch pad and properly identified as
ABs on the cover sheet).
• Drafting Standards.
-- Describe drafting standards (line weights, sectioning, leaders, etc.) to be used,
knowing that the majority of engineering schools now teach CAD instead of
mechanical drawing. Drafting clarity may be important as they might someday
be reduced to half-sized plans. It might be appropriate to follow the designer’s
drafting standard used in the plans. Alternatively, it may be appropriate to draw
freehand versus using straightedge and scale.
-- Provide examples to show proper replacement of text, dimensions, object lines,
leaders and acceptable clouding. Include examples of how to properly void an
entire detail or drawing. Address accuracy of field measurements before
documenting the measurements. Provide guidelines as to what should be more
appropriately documented in specifications versus shown on drawings.
-- Address the use of ink versus pencil, as marks will need to reproduce clearly
-- For traceability, show examples of proper referencing of source documents,
initialing and dating the change.
-- Revision blocks – are they used by the contractor or are they reserved only for
-- Propose how to handle situations where no room is available to properly show a
-- Address how to handle generic changes – i.e., one document requiring a
change that covers many drawings and situations.
-- List the practices to be avoided, such as stapling source documents to plan
sheets, use of White-Out, writing outside drawing’s borders or backside, and
explain why they should be avoided. Include acceptable practices, i.e., partial
clouding, taping and reducing added details to fit.
-- Discuss the timing of entries to make them usable during construction.
Documenting a required change two months after being directed to make the
change is not beneficial to a living document.
-- Address special situations and the recording of “watch points.” A watch point
might be an overstressed electrical cable that was allowed to remain, an added
medium-voltage underground splice or a soft pipe trench invert that was
bridged by aggregate.
-- Discuss special AB concerns or nuances particular to certain types of work or
major Construction Specification Institute divisions, such as mechanical. Explain
special AB considerations between different fields of construction; for example,
electrical work versus paving work, or a nuclear plant project versus a marine
-- Explain the value of adding explanatory notes for the benefit of the CAD
operator for when RDs are produced.
-- Explain how to document a change over an already recorded change or what
is called “as-builting an as-built.” This might be desired to maintain the historical
evolution on the job.
• Include appropriate ‘AS-BUILT’ rubber-stamping of each sheet and provide a stamp
design. Provide the minimum required text in the final cover transmittal by the
contractor when formally submitting them. Address similar declarations to be made
by the CM when submitting to the owner. Address the benefits of making
incremental AB submittals to the CM as work is completed. In the letter transmittal,
address the need to note items of change for which recordable data was lost or
never obtained as an alert to future users.
• Address how to incorporate a change made that was not appurtenant to the work
scope. This would be when the owner uses the current construction contract to do
other work that was not finished by a prior contract, or when the owner used the
current contract to get unrelated work done.
• For revised drawings that are issued during the course of the construction, should AB
information be carried forward to the revised drawing and the old revision
• Explain the monthly review process. Explain who reviews the ABs (just the CM?) and
whether a subcontractor’s ABs should be reviewed. Propose how many days before
the payment cut-off date the review should take place so the contractor can revise
them to ensure his payment is processed. Discuss causes for automatic AB rejection
by the CM, engineer or owner. Include strategies to quickly check for new and
proper entries. Merely turning sheets to make sure red marks appear does not
constitute a review. Explain when is it proper to submit final ABs – after beneficial
occupancy? – as a condition of Certificate of Occupancy? – after punch listing?
Address the final review before job closeout. Cover final routing among project staff
(i.e., does the inspector and surveyor agree with what is provided).
• Provide various flow charts of the process from documenting, reviews, approvals
and final submittal. Different flow charts might be appropriate among traditional,
design-build and CM-at-risk delivery methods.
• Prepare model specifications that CMs can propose depending on the project
delivery method, the nature of the work and client needs. The CM can then tailor
the specification based on the specific requirements of the project.
• A manual on ABs would not be complete unless it also covered Record Drawings
-- Clarify the difference between RDs and ABs5. Should the industry continue to let
them be used interchangeably?
-- Explain when RDs would be appropriate. Will RDs merely be the approved ABs or
will the wet-stamped original drawings be revised by the engineer? Perhaps the
original CAD files should be updated instead.
-- Discuss the responsibility and process for producing RDs from ABs including
outsourcing. Is the CAD operator the one who decides what is to be included
and what is excluded in the final record?
-- Pro and con liability discussions when sealed by a professional engineer.
Alternatively, who holds the liability if they are merely accepted by the
5 RS Means Illustrated Construction Dictionary does not differentiate between AB drawings and
RDs. This is not surprising, as both terms have been used for each other. The dictionary states
both ABs and RDs are made during construction. Perhaps usage of the terms has evolved. This
author’s experience is that RDs are as-constructed documents made by the Engineer (CAD or
hand-drafted) from information he derives from the contractor’s ABs and chooses to include.
-- Consider RD management, archiving and retrieval, including electronic and
hard copies to the CM, engineer and the client. Include contracting with data
storage companies for long term storage of electronic media. Explain the value
of the CM retaining copies of both the construction ABs and RDs for the benefit
of his firm or as an added service to the client.
The foregoing should provide a starting point for the proposed standard. Note how
many questions were posed. The foregoing should also reveal some of the many facets
of the AB process and the fact that all aspects of ABs could not possibly be addressed
in construction specifications.
A comprehensive standard is best presented in manual format. An optimistic goal
would be to produce a general, useable and a widely accepted manual for use across
the entire construction industry. All or part of the manual could apply to a particular
construction contract depending on the needs of the owner and CM – the portions
that do apply can be specified in the construction contract. AB requirements unique to
a project or its owner, and not addressed in the manual, could always be addressed in
For the sake of the contractor, the manual would need to be divided into sections
applying strictly to the contractor and to other stakeholders. That way the contractor
need only refer to what applies to him. Otherwise, if too complicated, a manual could
defeat its purpose. A complex standard may overwhelm a contractor who is
responsible for a $1 million job. Therefore the standard would need a lower threshold or
would need to be tiered by higher standards as job complexity and constructed value
increases. The manual should be generic to all types of construction, job tested,
updateable and have the backing of a large professional organization to promote its
use. It must be able to provide clear direction in basic areas and set appropriate
guidelines in all other areas.
A national AB standard would help to establish a common framework for the CM
industry. The manual could be offered to clients for incorporation by reference in
construction contracts, similar to the way that other national standards are
incorporated by reference. Likewise, the standard could be incorporated by reference
into agreements between the owner and CM. If ABs are considered part of project
delivery, the standard would be another tool the CM could use for successful delivery.
Penalize or Pay for the Work
An as-constructed record is of great importance to the owner. As previously discussed,
the importance of ABs are evident when the owner is able to use them 1) to refer to
where things are, 2) eventually as demolition drawings and 3) for land-use history.
Having such important and valuable uses, the owner expects the contractor to devote
resources, meaning labor costs, to providing an accurate and complete record. The
contractor, however, is compelled to minimize his costs and maximize his profits. The
contractor reduces costs by putting forth the least effort necessary. However, if the
owner paid directly for the labor needed to produce ABs, the contractor would spend
as much time as the CM believes is necessary. Owners, however, do not allow for
direct payment, as the effort is considered by contract as “appurtenant to the work”
and is thereby covered under other pay items. The bidder is expected to account for
the effort by spreading his costs (overhead) into other pay items.
The effort and its cost, although appurtenant to the work, conceivably confuses the
principle of work versus reward. Are not the ABs a deliverable just as an engineer’s
design drawings are a deliverable to his client. The engineer is paid for design drawings
under one of his task orders. The current system is based not on paying for ABs, but
rather on penalizing the contractor for not providing them. Because a contractor is
paid to deliver the project, perhaps he should also be paid to deliver the ABs. A
counter argument could be made that the contractor is not paid for producing the
baseline schedule or making material submittals but yet these are forthcoming. These,
however, are not fair comparisons because the baseline schedule is usually tied to
release of the first progress payment and the contractor needs cash flow. For a
submittal, it would be too risky for a contractor to start incorporating materials before his
proposed products are approved. Then how about submittals such as warranties and
O&M manuals that are submitted at the end of the job? Again, not fair comparisons,
as a one-year warranty requires little work; it does not take much effort to change a
boilerplate warranty to a form the CM likes. O&M manuals, although requiring effort,
are usually a collection of material already in print, and need only be properly
assembled, indexed and a cover added. Both the warranty and O&M manuals are, in
effect, self-policed submittals, as those who provide them want their subcontracts
closed by the general contractor. How can CMs penalize versus how can they pay for
Penalty Option 1
Take the traditional approach and recommend withholding the progress payment. This
is the current industry standard and will not be discussed here.
Penalty Option 2
Develop a dollar valuation for each drawing sheet deemed not AB, missing or found
substandard. A “deduction formula” could be established to determine the value of
each drawing. The formula could be as simple as one percent of contract award
value divided by the number of drawing sheets comprising the original contract. This
would put the value of each drawing in the range of $500 to $1,500 – an amount that
would get the attention of any contractor. One-tenth of one percent may be more
appropriate if obtaining quality ABs is viewed as less important. The owner’s recovery
would be under a unilateral deduct change order taken at the end of the job. Any
deduction formula would need to be written into the construction contract. Hopefully
the contractor would realize early in the job not to be in a position to invoke this
Penalty Option 3
For those contracts that allow for administrative deductions, a penalty could be taken
from the latest progress payment request. The magnitude of the penalty could be
roughly calculated by how many engineering hours the CM estimates it would take to
bring them into compliance (i.e., reviewing change documentation, coordinating with
inspectors and contractor’s field personnel and drafting). The contractor could recover
the penalty when the ABs were brought into compliance and he would be
encouraged to do so. If money was not offset by an administrative deduction, the
offset could be taken against money left in retention. A letter to that effect would
follow the monthly progress payment.
Penalty Option 4
Advise the contractor that it will be recommended that the owner refuse either to
accept or close out the contract. This assumes ABs have never been reviewed during
the course of work and do not appear to be forthcoming after the end of the project.
Refusing to close out the contract for missing ABs would be for the most important work
where ABs are critical. This would tie up retention. Eventually the surety would start
asking questions, if not already alerted by the CM.
Penalizing for deficient work is usually not the best approach. Contractors are
experienced at negotiating their way out of penalties. Better results are obtained when
the contractor works with incentives. Construction contracts should be written with
built-in incentives. Moreover, contracts should be written in positive prose to the
greatest extent possible. Here are two incentives.
Incentive Option 1
Contractually require the contractor to outsource the AB work to a consultant6.
Payment for acceptable work would be made via an allowance in the bid schedule. A
minimum dollar amount would need to be pre-assigned in the bid schedule; of course
the bidder could offer a larger value. The contractor’s proposed consultant would
need to be approved by the CM soon after NTP. Approval could be based on
resume/interview or work sample/approval approach, similar to other submittals. The
consultant would be expected to visit the work site, gather information and document
work on a part-time basis, or perhaps full-time on large and complicated projects. The
consultant could justify what was done each month and invoice under the bid
allowance. Work done must be commensurate with the invoice and the burn rate
would need to be monitored. Eventually the contractor’s consultant would need to
certify the AB work, with the general contractor counter-certifying the work of the
consultant as his agent. The gain is that the consultant would perform work under a
professional service contract with the general contractor. The consultant would have
only one role and, being task-focused, not be allowed to do other work on the job for
the contractor. The downside to this approach is that it would create a new industry
and would probably add to the cost of construction. Therefore, the benefit versus its
cost would be the driving force under this incentive.
Incentive Option 2
A better approach would be to have a lump sum bid item for ABs, with a minimum
dollar amount pre-assigned in the bid schedule. The minimum amount would need to
be decided between the owner and CM and be commensurate with the number of
drawings and the level of effort expected. Fifty percent of the bid item would be
6 Phair, Matthew. “Accurate ‘As-builts’ Worth Their Weight in Gold,” Building Design &
payable in monthly increments for acceptable AB work done. The final fifty-percent
would be paid after final submittal and approval. With this incentive, the contractor
would know and appreciate that every month there would be a direct reimbursement
from the owner on his progress payment application. If the contractor did not do his
work, or if it was substandard, no payment would be made under the AB bid item for
the month. For lackluster efforts, the CM must be prepared to explain the deficiencies
to the contractor. The contractor would be encouraged to recover payment the
following month by correcting the ABs.
The contractor is responsible for producing the as-constructed record. He is also
responsible for it being thorough and accurate. The requirement for providing the
record is stated in the specifications and the accuracy needed is either specified or
implied. Construction managers need to reconsider whether their clients are properly
served by placing this important responsibility solely upon the contractor. Clearly, the
CM understands more than the contractor the importance of maintaining the job
record during the work and receiving a complete and quality record at project
completion. Is it reasonable to insist that a general contractor submit an ironclad set of
as-constructed documents realizing that his motives points to profits, not paperwork?
Usually the contractor is the low bidder; he is trying to keep his overhead to a minimum
and trying to keep on schedule, yet at the same time make a profit and move onto the
next job as quickly as possible. He cares little about a contract drawing after he is done
using it. Is it proper to withhold an entire progress payment or even threaten to do so
for questionable ABs knowing most contractors survive on their monthly cash flow? With
no payment, the contractor may need a bridge loan just to make payroll; certainly
impacting his bottom line and his credit score. Is it professional to point out that the
contractor’s marks on the drawings are inadequate when the CM most likely knows
exactly how a particular detail was changed and can probably do a better job of
drafting the change? With these questions and considering the issues discussed earlier,
i.e., lack of motivation, perceived no payment, brokered work and differing
expectations; the CM can, and should, participate in AB process. How can this be
done without relieving the contractor of his responsibility (and liability) to provide them?
AB work can be changed from a one-sided process where the contractor documents
all as-constructed information to a shared process where both the contractor and CM
are responsible to document how the job was built. Sharing the responsibility could
work as follows. Two as-constructed records would be maintained. One set would be
maintained by the contractor for his traditional AB work and another set kept and
updated by the CM – site manager, project engineer, inspector or all three. The CM
would continue his monthly review of the contractor’s set and perform his final review at
project completion as usual. Concurrently, the CM would maintain and update
another set of documents, independent of the contractor. This set will be called
“CM/Inspector Markups.” The term as-builts is reserved for the contractor’s work. At the
end of the project, the contractor would be required, by contract, to review the
CM/Inspector’s Markups for agreement with noted changes. Disagreements, if not
resolved, would be clearly noted and made part of the CM/Inspectors markups. The
markups could be either forwarded to the contractor or the contractor could review
them in the CM’s office, depending on the working protocols between both parties.
The contractor would be required to provide written concurrence that he is in
agreement to what is recorded in the CM/Inspector’s record or specifically exclude
what notations for which he disagrees. For those few projects where this has been
done, one finds that the contractor takes little exception, if any, to what the CM
records and how it is recorded7. The reason is that the contractor finds no damaging
notes recorded that may compromise his work record.
Contractors will need to understand that they must aggressively maintain their sets and
not rely on the CM to do the ABs for them. They must also understand their liability to
maintain the work record remains unchanged. Contractors will need to understand
that the engineer responsible for drafting the RDs can commingle information from both
the contractor’s ABs and CM/Inspector’s Markups. Interestingly, this would be a partial
role reversal within a construction contract, in that the contractor reviews the work of
Why should this be done? There are four answers to this question. First, CMs are
generally more capable than the contractor in that they can document approved
changes more quickly (timeliness) and more accurately, which is what inspectors need
so they can assure field work is properly done. Inspectors would be reading information
drawn by the project engineers, on-site designers or other inspectors – not information
drawn by the contractor. Second, the CM and his inspectors would have one place to
find the latest approved changes, and therefore not have to rely on a contractor’s
promise of maintaining a current set. Third, it would show to the contractor that the CM
is an equal stakeholder in preserving the job record – and it being a joint effort, must be
very important to the owner. Finally, the owner’s project records (RDs) would be more
accurate and complete.
Listed below are some additional benefits of the CM maintaining a set of CM/Inspector
• The CM and his inspectors would be free to record anything they feel is important on
the CM/Inspector Markup set without insisting that the contractor do the same. The
CM could record more trivial details, add “watch points” and provide helpful notes
to benefit the Record Drawing CAD drafter. Inspectors observe things a contractor
might either miss or not believe are important. For example, it would be prudent for
an inspector to document features uncovered (e.g., unknown anodes, rock fields,
debris dumps, buried pipes, etc.) that would benefit future design work. The
inspector may want to document an approved larger horsepower pump than was
specified on a mechanical drawing. The CM may wish to record a test parameter
or test result that helps explain what was built. The onsite design representative may
wish to record structural observation report numbers required by the local building
authority so that there is traceability to the city records.
• During the work, the CM or designer may discover important documentation not
known at the time of design. He decides that it must be recorded on the current
7 Port of Long Beach, CA, Pier T Marine Terminal, contracts HD-S1983 and HD-S2110.
contract set for the sake of the land users (i.e., a buried tieback wall system that is
inside the work limits but was not known during design, or the head of a monitoring
well located below grade and below the work).
• Dual sets reduce conflicts between the CM and the contractor about what is
considered an AB condition versus what is not. If the contractor refuses to show a
change or believes a change is too minor, the CM can make his own notations.
• The contractor may view as-builting as less adversarial and more as a partnered
effort. Knowing that the CM maintains a markup set, the contractor might be more
conscientious in keeping ABs current and accurate.
After the CM approves the ABs, RDs are produced. The contractor and CM versions
could be combined at the end of project. Figure 1 shows a comparison between the
traditional chain-of-possession versus the proposed sharing-the-responsibility alternative.
The liability of the CM for providing a markup set as a part of the project record need
not be of concern. This is because, as previously discussed, the contractor would be
required to review, accept or provide exceptions to the CM version. If not accepted,
the contractor would provide a written explanation of which notation(s) he is in
disagreement with. The RD set would show both the AB and CM/Inspector Markup
versions, as either case possibly to exist unless the CM decides an investigation is
desired. Nevertheless, the contractor would still need to certify the accuracy of the asconstructed
record he produces.
This added role for the CM and its benefits would need to be explained to the owner.
Of course, it may not be appropriate for the very simplest contracts. If the owner
approves maintenance of dual sets, the task would need to be written into the CMowner
agreement, as there would be a cost for it. The benefits would outweigh the
ABs provide important information that is needed during construction and afterwards.
They serve as a foundation upon which to record all changes, directed or otherwise,
made during the work so that the contractor’s staff can quickly obtain information
about any design change. After construction, ABs serve the owner as ready reference
information about what was actually built. They can also serve as demolition drawings
and as records of land use. Unfortunately, there can be problems with the AB process
and the end results. Problems include:
-- Lackluster efforts on the part of contractors and the many
subcontractors/fabricators responsible for them
-- The contractor’s perception of not being paid for providing them
-- Coordination problems due to the many subcontractors and specialty fabricators
necessary to document changes
-- Differences in what the owner’s representatives expect versus what the contractor
To help mitigate these problems and obtain ABs that all stakeholders are satisfied with,
some changes are proposed. The first proposal is to create a set of industry-wide rules
or standards for AB documentation. There is a need for as-builting rules and guidelines
that would apply to all construction. The construction industry would benefit from a
unifying, written standard. A published standard, broad enough to serve all types of
construction, would fill this need. The standard could be incorporated by reference
into construction contracts for the contractor to adhere to.
The second proposal is that the CM provided incentives, rather than penalties, to
contractors responsible for ABs. Contractors perform better under incentives rather
than penalties. The quality of ABs and the timeliness of entries would improve if the
contractor knew there was a direct pay mechanism for providing them. Direct
payment could be made by adding a bid item with an assigned minimum value or by
providing a bid allowance that the contractor could bill against for acceptable work.
The third proposal is to change as-builting from the contractor’s sole responsibility to a
shared responsibility between the contractor and the CM. In addition to the traditional
process where the contractor provides the as-constructed record, the CM could
provide a parallel markup drawing set. At project end, the contractor would be
required to review those markups for his concurrence with any notations made by the
Keywords – as-builts, conformed drawings, Record Drawings
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As-builts – Problems & Proposed Solutions
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