Construction Contracting Basics – Submittals

By Sara M. Bour, Esq., AIA Contract Documents, Manager and Counsel

August 26, 2022

Most construction professionals have likely heard the word “submittal.” This is a commonly used term that does not have a single definition. What constitutes a “submittal” can differ based on the relevant scope of work, type of project, and professional performing the work. Generally, submittals are documents or other information that a party is obligated to submit to another party in furtherance of work on a project. Specific information pertaining to a party’s submittal obligation is typically set forth in the contract documents.

If you’re using the A201®-2017, General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, the term “submittal” is addressed in numerous sections, but not necessarily defined. Section 3.12 addresses common construction submittals, such as shop drawings, product data, and illustrations, which are defined, as follows:

1.     Shop Drawings are “drawings, diagrams, schedules, and other data specially prepared for the Work by the Contractor … to illustrate some portion of the Work.” In other words, shop drawings depict the way the contractor intends to implement the requirements of the contract documents.

2.     Product Data are “illustrations, standard schedules, performance charts, instructions, brochures, diagrams, and other information furnished by the Contractor to illustrate materials or equipment for some portion of the Work.” Product data are typically collected from catalogs or other materials supplied by manufacturers, and are not specifically prepared for the project. Rather, they are marked up to show the model or style of a product to be incorporated therein.

3.     Samples are “physical examples that illustrate materials, equipment, or workmanship, and establish standards by which the Work will be judged.” In practice, samples can sometimes be thought of as “mockups.” The specifications will often require the contractor to provide “mockups” to illustrate the contractor’s understanding of the contract documents. After submission of the samples or “mockups,” this information can be evaluated to determine whether there is a difference between the contractor’s understanding of the work and the architect’s design intent.

If you’re performing work on a federally funded project, the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), which govern over these types of projects, define the terms “submittals” and “shop drawings” in similar, but not precisely the same, manners as the A201. Under the FAR, submittals may include “safety plans, schedules, shop drawings, coordination drawings, samples, calculations, product information, or mockups.” Additionally, shop drawings may include “fabrication, erection and setting drawings, manufacturers’ scale drawings, wiring and control diagrams, cuts or entire catalogs, pamphlets, descriptive literature, and performance and test data.” 48 CFR § 552.236-72 (West, 2022).

On most projects, the prime contractor and its subcontractors are responsible for preparing and furnishing submittals to the architect or the owner. Where AIA Contract Documents are used, the architect then reviews and approves the submittals, but only for the limited purpose of checking for conformance with the design concept of the project, and not the accuracy and completeness of finite details.[1] This is because the contractor has control over the means and methods of the work, and is responsible for ensuring that all of the project pieces completely fit together.

Generally, the purpose of submittals is to demonstrate how the contractor will conform to the information given and the architect’s design concept. Usually, submittals are neither considered a part of the contract documents nor an opportunity to change the overall design of the project.

In all, “submittal” is a generic term that can have a varied meaning based on a party’s obligations under the contract documents. Submittals are generally thought of as a document or other information provided by a contractor to an architect or owner for evaluation that the design intent is captured and followed throughout construction of the project.

AIA Contract Documents has provided this article for general informational purposes only. The information provided is not legal opinion or legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship of any kind. This article is also not intended to provide guidance as to how project parties should interpret their specific contracts or resolve contract disputes, as those decisions will need to be made in consultation with legal counsel, insurance counsel, and other professionals, and based upon a multitude of factors.

[1] See, B101®- 2017, Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect, §