Lessons learned for integrators from being 'last in'

Dec. 3, 2012
Pitfalls to avoid when working with a general contractor

Major construction projects start from a seedling of an idea formed in an owner’s mind. The owner knows what they want the end result to be, however, communicating that down the line, the idea can become muddied, especially as a host of professional designers, architects and engineers come into play. Quite often the general contractor (GC) is selected during this planning stage and in turn brings in many different trades, including electricians, plumbers and mechanical contractors, integrating their expert trade knowledge, best practices, means and methods into the project.

More times than not, unfortunately, the security integrator is not brought on board until all plans and specifications have been written, finalized and construction has actually begun. This can create many pitfalls for the security integrator, such as unclear plans and specifications, as-built drawings that are not drawn true to design-build, the separation of what the owner envisions and what the general contractor perceives and an overall lack of critical coordination between the electrical contractor and the security integrator. Here are some lessons learned from being the last contractor in on many of these projects.

Make sure you are as specific as possible during the bidding process

This cannot be stressed enough, if you are only including 10 nuts and bolts, state you are only including 10 nuts and bolts. Be just as specific on what you are excluding from the project. If you are including 10 nuts and bolts, but excluding washers, this becomes just as important. A GC has some 31 major construction divisions (according to MasterSpec, published by ARCOM for The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the widely followed master guide specification system for use on building and construction projects). Many of the divisions will intersect in their perspective scopes, such as electrical and security. Who is responsible for running the conduit? When is the conduit to be concealed? Who will provide the power panel? It is here that items are missed and subcontractors can be subjected to extra costs.

Be specific about all your responsibilities during the scope of the project

I have personally encountered similar situations in subcontracting through a GC. Once I was contracted to install perimeter security cameras to an existing compound and according to the as-built drawings, the conduit existed and was virtually empty. Once we were on site, however, the conduit could not be located. We spent one full day searching for the raceway. And of course, conduit was a necessity, as there were three buildings within the compound to receive security cameras with perimeter security administrated from a single central command post. Searching for buried conduit could have taken days and added dead time to this project, stalling installation and leveraging additional costs that were not budgeted into the contract. The GC’s response was that it was the responsibility of the security integrator to confirm that conduit was in place or provide new conduit as the scope of the work and contract. Unfortunately, we failed to exclude conduit in the bidding process, which gave us no recourse for any formal rebuttal of responsibilities. So it was back to the drawing board. We gathered our team of security experts to find an alternative. Keeping with industry standards in addition to forward thinking, it was suggested that the project go wireless, which it did, which enabled us to finish the project on time as well as within budget.

Do your due diligence at the beginning of a project

Go to those weekly meetings early on, even if you are not scheduled to begin work for some time. Insist on working closely with the GC’s project management team and electrical contractor. Get involved! The participating contractors already have a working rapport. Insert yourself into that discussion and be proactive in seeing the issues before they become your problem.

About the Author: Kimberly Fontenot is a project manager at 2MCCTV, a Dallas-based security and surveillance solutions provider.

About the Author

Kimberly Fontenot

Kimberly Fontenot, project manager at 2MCCTV