Why the Engineer Should Hold the Detailing Contract

In most construction projects, the steel fabricator is the one who holds the detailing contract. If asked why, most people may say that this is simply how the process has always been done. However, when looking at this traditional method closely, actually the steel fabricator holding the detailing contract doesn’t bring a lot of value as they don’t really benefit from it financially. They do benefit from controlling it of course, since how the detailing is done affects how the steel is fabricated, and how the steel is fabricated makes a difference to the fabricating cost. However, with modern detailing most if not all detailers are (or should be) aware of the most cost effective way to fabricate, thus should create the drawings in the correct fashion anyway. As a result, nowadays having the fabricator involved in the detailing process makes it more complicated and actually slows the project down which can be very damaging to the fabricator financially, especially if it results in shop downtime.

The Long Communication Chain

One of the main problems with the steel fabricator holding the detailing contract is that it creates a long chain of communication for RFIs. Each RFI has to be reviewed by the fabricator and forwarded on to the GC with instructions to again forward on to the EOR or architect as the case may be.  There’s also a lot of back and forth on issues such as scheduling and project drawing updates, and it’s up to the fabricator to make certain that everyone is on the same page and that questions and answers get answered and sent on to the correct party quickly.

In our design-detailing process, this inefficient communication chain is eliminated. The engineer holds the detailing contract, and they hire the detailing team directly. Most if not all of the RFIs are answered early on in the design phase, so there’s no need to involve anyone else. Questions are answered quickly, and the engineer has the advantage of having the detailer providing them with information and pointing out issues before anyone else is brought into the project. 

The Design Rarely Changes After IFC Drawings Are Issued

Because the engineer has the detailing contract and is working with the detailing team directly, many issues get worked out during the design phase. This means that these issues don’t crop up during construction. The engineer isn’t going to have to issue addenda to the plans being worked off of because many, if not all, of the problems that would require addenda will have already been addressed and incorporated in the IFC set. The plans given to the GC and others are often the final plans rather than plans that may change due to unexpected complications.

A major benefit of this is that the overall cost of the project is lower. The design doesn’t get revised during construction, so work can proceed at a fast pace and most importantly without extra work charges. There’s no need for the GC to have their teams stop work while plans are redesigned, nor is there any need for large extra work charges to rework the detailing model and revise steel to accommodate changes in the design. Everything is done correctly the first time. These factors reduce costs from schedules delays and eliminate many of the extra charges that come up during construction.

Lastly, because there are fewer unexpected design revisions, contractors are able to make their bids more accurate. Furthermore, they are able to review the completed steel model and associated bill of materials while putting together their bids, allowing them to price materials more accurately and reduce risk contingencies. This tends to lower the overall bids on the project since information is clearer and everything can be accounted for.

In summary, as a fabricator we recommend you let us manage the detailing directly with the EOR, so you can focus on where you make your money which is fabricating steel. As an engineer we recommend you hire us to complete the detailing under your contract so you can save the owner time and money, which will certainly lead to more project awards for you.

If this sounds good to you, please consider working with Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing on your next project. Contact us today to learn more about our design-detailing process and how we can help you and your team


Cliff Young – VP Sales
Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing