supplementary conditions - what are they good for?
by Sheldon Wolfe, CSI, CCS
this direct violation of the "say it once" principle is harmful in at least two ways
Part 2 - frosting on the cake
Many modifications found in supplementary conditions or other parts of a project manual are merely re-statements of existing requirements. They usually appear after a firm has had a dispute on a project.
"I know we told the contractor to do something, but we got into this horrendous argument, and I want to make sure the next contractor knows what we want done!"
The response is understandable, but wrong. Proper interpretation and continual enforcement of contract requirements is the correct way to avoid and resolve this type of conflict. One can argue that, since we are merely restating requirements to make them understood, no harm arises from these modifications.
In fact, this direct violation of the "say it once" principle is harmful in at least two ways. First, any restatement of a requirement that is not identical to the original provides a second way to interpret the requirement. If it is an identical statement, it does nothing to clarify the original, and is clearly unnecessary. If the two statements differ, then they are not the same, and introduce a conflict.
Another effect of repetition is that it needlessly makes the documents longer and more difficult to understand. We have a nasty tendency to over-specify products and procedures, thus burying those items that make a given project different from the ordinary. The contractor or supplier may start with the intention of reading and understanding the entire project manual, but boilerplate text and endless repetition of well-know requirements quickly forces them into skimming the specifications. The result is that they miss that truly unique provision in the twenty-third subparagraph on the fifth page.
Sounds logical, doesn't it?
Let's see what the general conditions already require.
It looks to me like the example adds nothing to the existing requirements. The phrase "or different from those indicated" leads me to suspect that the author of this modification used specific details for one product but specified something else.
The contractor is required to comply with the contract documents, but the design professional is responsible for preparing documents that are correct and that can be easily and correctly interpreted.
Send me some of your favorite examples and we'll look at them in the next column.
© 1998, Sheldon Wolfe
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