Two terms in construction estimating often get entangled: general requirements and general conditions. Both represent assessments, activities, events and decisions that have to be in place before construction begins, and some have costs that are metered out across the entire project.
Because costs are spread out, they often are represented as a percentage of the entire project and become a source of suspicion from the owner’s perspective. But even from a project costing and planning perspective, more transparency is better, especially when it comes to general requirements.
In the Construction Specification Institute’s (CSI) MasterFormat 2004 number 00 72 00, “General Conditions” falls under contracting requirements and covers contract types such as stipulated sum, construction management, cost plus fee, unit price and design-build. “General Requirements,” however, falls under CSI MasterFormat number 01 00 00 and covers summaries, price/payments, administrative requirements, quality, temporary facilities, product requirements, execution/closeout requirements, performance requirements and life cycle activities.
Based on the MasterFormat breakout, general requirements are the ones needing special attention to tease out all the details of the project and get them estimated adequately. Particularly for contractors, there are key subdivisions to look at closely so all costs can be factored in.
Project Management & Coordination 01 31 00
One often overlooked area is meetings. Pre-construction meetings, site mobilization meetings, progress meetings and pre-installation meetings all demand someone’s time. If there is a transparent record of exact meeting costs, it can provide motivation to find efficiencies when scheduling and conducting them.
Another sleeper in this category is the “Project Web Site” section, where the contractor might incur the costs of hosting, setting up and managing a site. Even if the website belongs to the owner, employee time spent interfacing with it has a cost.
Construction Progress Documentation 01 32 00
This is the category that represents costs such as scheduling, tracking progress, acquiring survey and layout data, observing work in progress, documenting work with photos, and tracking purchase orders, among other things. These tasks often happen as part of other budgeted activities, so it is possible their costs will be absorbed elsewhere, but only a detailed analysis will reveal whether that is the case. It is especially important to account for tasks that are not part of a budgeted activity if site supervisors are going to spend dedicated time observing them.
Quality Control 01 40 00
A few items in this category can be easily overlooked. Mockups are often required when there has to be third-party approval of assemblies, and they can be quite time consuming to put together. There might also be material demands or specialized equipment. Quality control procedures in general should be looked at closely, as they not only enumerate the testing and analysis that has to be accomplished, but also spell out how the quality assurance process should be done.
Temporary Facilities and Controls 01 50 00
There are 42 items in the “Temporary Facilities and Controls” section, and they include some potentially big ticket items. All the temporary utilities fit here as well as any temporary construction administration facilities. Temporary structures such as decking are included, as are elevators, hoists and more. This subdivision also covers safety, security, and environmental requirements such as barriers and dust/noise barriers.
Product Requirements 01 60 00
With the growth of BIM and cloud-based management tools, more project owners are requiring participants to use particular software or cloud services. In many cases, these come with fees and license requirements for the participants.
Another item to consider is owner-furnished products, which might involve hidden costs such as shipping and handling or installation expenses. Similarly, product delivery requirements might require additional labor if the deliveries are not available during normal project operating hours.
Execution and Closeout Requirements 01 70 00
Of the 35 items included in this section, two might easily be overlooked. Protecting installed construction could be as simple as putting up a barrier tape to announce wet concrete, but it also could involve the erection of a tall fence. The amount of protection required depends on the risks the installed construction might face; the more sensitive the property, the quicker the costs can mount up.
For closeout procedures, the more review stages that are required, the more time they will take. Closeout submittals are inherently difficult because of their timing at the end of a project, when people are already moving on to the next job. If closeout details haven’t been collected throughout the project’s life cycle, then the process will be extra difficult. Punch lists, operation and maintenance data, spare parts, project records and extra stock materials are some of the categories of closeout that can be easily overlooked during estimating.
In addition to providing an account of what a project will cost to build, the estimate provides a great deal of transparency into the building process itself. Making general requirements costs as transparent as possible will instill more confidence in owners and will help highlight areas where they should scrutinize costs. From the contractor’s perspective, not having these costs wired into the total estimate, or simply using percentages of the entire contract to account for them, can translate into trying to make up the costs in other areas or ending up with a vague accounting of the project’s expenses. And when project records are vague, the opportunity to improve processes, or streamline operations in future projects, is minimized.