Reed says life-cycle and maintenance issues are common reasons why he suggests specification changes on concrete paving jobs, an area where he sees a lot of outdated specifications. One example is joint design; his company can pave wider widths and decrease joint spacing, which benefits the owner because it decreases potential for joint degradation.
Another issue is government specifications on concrete paving jobs. “Most are written for slipform specifications with sideform options. However, the sideform specs often require weight and horsepower equipment that is not conducive to new placement technologies,” Reed explains.
At the recent three-phase Spokane International Airport project, Reed and his team pushed for specification changes on an active apron/flightline where the design was not conducive to slipform placement. They were able to change that specification to allow placement with a Multiquip SuperScreed. “By addressing the logistics and owner requirements while also considering the cost impacts, we were able to offer options that benefited both the owner and our cost impacts. We essentially provided superior scheduling and still met the ultimate performance requirements of the project. All of the performance criteria, including strengths, core density and profilograph, exceeded the specifications,” Reed says.
The right delivery
Broaching these specification suggestions with the owner, GC or engineer is where contractors need to spend time crafting an approach. The onus is on the concrete contractor to convince the appropriate party that a specification change would somehow benefit the project — don’t expect a specification change if you only promote how the change would help you. To add clarity to your argument and make a change easy for engineers to approve, include supporting documentation from the American Concrete Institute (ACI), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM International), American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) or other industry resources.
Neuber says the best thing a contractor can do is get educated on the technical aspects of concrete and get involved with the industry through associations and industry groups as a way to gain the necessary knowledge. He adds that until a contractor has the knowledge to go “toe to toe” with an engineer, he will need help.
Over the years Neuber has built a reputation as a consultant and expert in the concrete industry — he is the chair of ACI Committee 302 - Guide for Concrete Floor and Slab Construction, a voting member of ACI Committee 360 - Design of Slabs-on-Ground and a Fellow of ACI. But it wasn’t always that way. Neuber started out like any other contractor looking for better ways to build with concrete but challenged to find an engineer willing to take his ideas and suggestions seriously. “The best thing we ever did, especially on bigger jobs, was hire a consultant who had clout and name recognition in the industry. We paid them a fee to read the spec, we would share with them our concerns, and they would write a letter or make a phone call to the engineer. It carries a tremendous amount of weight, more so than the concrete contractor himself,” he says.
“The problem is in our industry there is this stigma that if a contractor suggests an alternate way to do something, someone thinks we are just trying to make it easier or cheaper for us,” Neuber continues.
Neuber’s company is currently working on an industrial slab at a food processing facility in New Jersey where one of the specifications was originally written for loose #4 rebar placed 18 inches on center and tied on the ground. His company got that specification changed to structural reinforcing mats that are pre-tied and pre-fabricated which they can set as they pour and screed over with a laser-guided screed. “When we bid the job, we supplied that change as a value engineering suggestion to the GC. We were awarded the job based on the base bid, then met with the owner, owner’s engineer, architect and other parties in a pre-construction meeting. We proposed our value engineering suggestion and they accepted it after we explained how it would result in a better end project because it would be easier to get the reinforcement where it needs to be and that it would speed up construction because it’s a less labor intensive reinforcing process,” he explains.