Two terms in construction estimating often get entangled––General Requirements and General Conditions, and many in construction view them as being one in the same. But this is far from the truth. While both represent assessments, activities, events, and decisions that mostly have to be in place before actual building can begin and some of their costs are metered out across the cost of the entire project, they by no means have the same stipulations.
Besides accounting for what a project will cost to build, the estimate provides a great deal of transparency into the building process itself.
In the Construction Specification Institute's, MasterFormat 2004, 00 72 00, "General Conditions" falls under Contracting Requirements and covers contract types such as stipulated sum, construction management, cost plus fee, and unit price or 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 that need special attention to tease out all the details of the project and get them estimated adequately. There is a vast range of activities represented under general requirements that might need to be estimated. Particularly for contractors, there are key subdivisions to analyze closely to ensure you are factoring in all the costs you will come up against.
Project Management & Coordination 01 31 00
One often overlooked area here 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 what meetings are costing, then people have justification for finding alternative methods, keeping meetings short and to the point, and for being efficient with how meetings are scheduled. Another sleeper here is the project website, where you might include costs of hosting, setting up, maintaining, and managing. If the site is an owner site, then consider the purposes people would interact with it and if the time spent doing so would be at an additional cost.
Construction Progress Documentation 01 32 00
Here is where you incur costs such as scheduling the work, tracking progress, acquiring survey and layout data, observing work in progress, documenting work with photos and tracking purchase orders, among other things. These activities often happen as part of other activities and so it is possible their costs could be absorbed elsewhere. A superintendent making the rounds might stop and observe a process and it would be cumbersome to try to break out those two activities from each other. But when the super makes a special trip to an area of the job site to observe a process, then that's taking the super away from other tasks and may be a cost that should be accounted for.
Quality Control 01 40 00
There are a few items here that 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 and maybe even 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 QA process should be done.
Temporary Facilities and Controls 01 50 00
There are no less than 42 items in this subdivision of General Requirements and they include some potentially big-ticket items. Basically, this covers anything that is not going to become a permanent part of the project, but is needed in order to build it. All temporary utilities fit here as well as any temporary construction administration and facilities such as offices, sheds, first aid, and toilets.
This also encompasses access items like temporary bridges, decking, and ramps. Elevators, hoists, cranes, scaffolding, and platforms might also be needed at various times for particular activities and they would be included here as well. This subdivision also includes safety, security, and environmental requirements such as barriers, barricades, fencing, dust and noise barriers, and controls for minimizing or eliminating erosion and storm water pollution and runoff.
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 for reporting and other management aspects. In many cases, these come with fees and license requirements for the participants.
Another item to pay attention to is Owner-Furnished Products. On the surface it might seem as though these would be supplied to the contractor without cost, however, there are many ways costs might be involved. For example, there might be handling costs and shipping costs, but also additional costs associated with installing or using these products. Likewise, Product Delivery Requirements might entail additional labor if the deliveries are not available during the normal project operating hours.
Execution and Closeout Requirements 01 70 00
Of the 35 items included here, there are two that might easily be overlooked. Protecting Installed Construction could be as simple as putting up barrier tape to announce wet concrete or erecting a tall fence to do the same. It all depends on the risks the installed construction might face, and the more sensitive the property, the quicker the costs can add up. The more review stages there are for Closeout Procedures, the more time they will take. Closeout submittals can be a nightmare because of when they occur––at the tail end of a project. At this point in time people are already moving on to the next job and closeout is the last thing on their minds. If closeout details haven't been collected throughout the project's life cycle, then closeout will be particularly 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.
Besides accounting for what a project will cost to build, the estimate provides a great deal of transparency into the building process itself. Paying close attention to General Requirements can yield greater accuracy in the cost portion of the estimate while providing insights that can inform decisions made during the planning stages.
One school of thought contends that making General Requirement costs as transparent as possible will instill more confidence in owners and will help highlight areas where costs should be scrutinized more closely. If the owner has no idea meetings are going to cost the project tens of thousands of dollars, then there is little incentive to minimize the meeting requirements. If it isn't evident to an owner that the mockup of a utility area is going to increase the utility area cost by five percent, then the owner's options for controlling that cost are marginalized.
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, means they will either be trying to make up the costs in other areas, or will end up with a vague estimate of the project's expenses. When project records are vague, the opportunity to improve processes or streamline operations in future projects is minimized.