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Laboratory Design, Construction, and Renovation: Participants, Process, and Product
manages the distribution of shop drawings, and provides estimates for change orders. Because this individual typically plays a vital role in the success of a laboratory construction or renovation project, he or she should be carefully selected by the client team and design group if it is possible to do so.
Change Orders. "Change order" is a term that refers to both the documentation and the process for approval of modifications to the contract documents during construction. Change orders can be initiated by all three parties to the design and construction contracts—the client, the design architect/engineer, and the contractor or subcontractors. Change orders are used to correct, modify, and add essential materials or details to accomplish the intent of the contract documents. They are a mechanism for correcting errors arising from lack of coordination between subcontractors as well as design errors or omissions; they are also generated when a client changes the scope of a project or modifies previously approved components. In some projects, if the construction documents have not been completed or coordinated prior to the initiation of the construction phase, the architects and engineers continue to complete the construction documents during the construction phase, often creating additional change orders. It is often better to delay the bidding and negotiation period until the client team and the design group are confident that the construction documents are complete and coordinated.
Change orders are initially approved by the design group and finally approved by the client. The architect/engineer submits to the client recommendations for the changes requested by the client or required by code or for some other reason. The contractor provides the price of the materials and labor to complete the modification. The contractor may also provide alternatives and recommendations for accomplishing the desired results.
The cost of change orders is offset by the client's construction contingency. Change orders not initiated by the client should not exceed 5 percent of the construction cost for a typical laboratory project and should ideally fall below 3 percent. The best way to avoid those change orders not initiated by the client is to verify that the construction documents have been competed, are accurate, and are coordinated. Many architects and engineers perform substantial quality reviews and coordination of documents to reduce the potential for change orders.
The design group and, if one is engaged, the construction manager should carefully scrutinize change orders initiated by the contractor or subcontractors, as should the client project manager. Cost control is achieved by controlling contractor-generated costs for all change orders. Public agencies and institutions may be vulnerable to excessive requests for change orders because of low-bid acceptance practices. Government and public construction projects typically experience far higher levels of change orders than do projects that are negotiated with prequalified contractors or those that do not require taking the lowest bid.