Glaziers Speak Out: Changes Order Challenges

If there is one thing that is constant in this industry it's change. Change of any nature brings about special challenges. One area that is particularly challenging for glaziers today involve addressing issues that stem from conflicts between the structural and architectural drawings that can ultimately result in a Request for Information (RFI) and ultimately a change order. Change orders require additional, time, resources and manpower and compensation above and beyond original contract documents.

"In a perfect world, it would be great if it change orders didn't exist," says Bernie Thueringer, president of Pacific Glass in Renton, Wash. "There seems to be this misconception that we (glaziers) are getting rich off change orders. The reality is that it's tough to make a profit. In fact, it usually ends up costing us money when it comes to facilitating change orders."

"A part of the problem in some cases is that in today's competitive environment, we have a short window in the bidding process (usually less than 30 days)," explains Thueringer. "The architect usually wants any conflicting issues addressed during this time so that an amendment can be sent out for clarification. Due to time limitations in this process there isn't enough time to ask questions so we all bid in the most efficient manner we can with the clarity we have at the time. Conflicts are addressed later through the RFI and subsequent change order process."

"Our focus is primarily public works projects," he continues. "We aren't the ones who typically generate a change order but are responsible to respond to any conflicts between the structural and architectural drawings that create a change to our scope of work. While it varies project to project, we have numerous contracts where there aren't any change orders. Typically, projects with conflicting plans and specifications are the ones that create change orders. When the owner and architect think their documents have no conflicts, they do not want to assume the additional change order costs and the relationship between architect and contractor can become adversarial and impact negotiations."

"The bottom line is change orders can create more headaches and consume more project management time than they are worth," notes Thueringer. "We don't have a problem getting paid or doing the additional work, it's typically not a money making proposition for us."

Randy Diener, project manager with Heinaman Contracting in Orange County, Calif., says the biggest problem involving change orders is overhead and profit. "Most contracts are written ... to cover miscellaneous costs such as delivery, freight, surcharges, and some unplanned expenses, etc. However, when it comes to changes, there are many hidden costs that add up and eat away at what's left of that small profit margin and often exceeds that pre-set margin. For example, a single change can involve time and manpower for interoffice management costs for accounting, drawing, drafting, printing and paperwork. Extra project management time is often required to go through the plans, check the changes and find a solution for the changes. There are additional costs for going back and forth in the process to produce a final change order. If it is a state or government job completing the paperwork alone can be a phenomenal task."

"Glazing contractors have to work to justify every penny for all the added miscellaneous costs the general contractor already thinks should already be included in the overhead," he continued. "It's often a major hurdle when what is required exceeds the cost allowances in the contract documents. We have to be diligent in documenting all the time and costs involved to have a chance at recouping the additional expenditures."

"The best course of action with change orders," points out Diener, "is to be completely honest and thorough with your documentation. It's a lengthy and time-consuming process to break down and list all your costs involved with the change(s) but you increase your chances of getting reimbursed by doing so. If you work with a general contractor who has integrity and can show your costs that went above and beyond what was called for in the original contract documents, you should get paid for those additional costs."

Clear Vue Glass, Inc. specializes in high-end custom glass primarily for residential interiors. "In our case, change orders are relatively simple," says Leslie Mason, vp of the specialty business that services the Research Triangle section of Durham, NC. "However, when you get involved with a big general contractor and have change orders, there's reams of paperwork and it's a pain in the neck."

"Effective November 13, we implemented a policy that attaches a $30 fee to any change or order cancellation," explains Dennis Russell of Glass & Mirror Craft in Wixon, Mich. "It doesn't matter who you are [customer, designer, or general contractor], any type of change request requires a lot of time, manpower and paperwork. Therefore, we felt we needed to implement some type of compensation for the added work involved with changes."

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