Who Dictates Steel Erection Sequencing?

Structural steel erectors often complain that the general contractor (“GC”) modifies the erection sequence, either before or during construction, but almost always after the subcontract has been executed. On the other hand, general contractors often complain that their post-bid erection sequence directives are met with resistance by the steel erector. How can such an impasse be prevented?

Almost invariably, the structural drawings will contain the following specification: “Fabricate and erect all structural steel in accordance with AISC Code of Standard Practice for Steel Buildings and Bridges.” Section 7.1 of the American Institute of Steel Construction (“AISC”) Code of Standard Practice for Steel Buildings and Bridges, April 14, 2010 edition, states, in pertinent part:

Fabricated structural steel shall be erected using methods and a sequence that will permit efficient and economical performance of erection, and that is consistent with the requirements in the contract documents. If the owner or owner’s designated representative for construction wishes to prescribe or control the method and/or sequence of erection, or specifies that certain members cannot be erected in their normal sequence, that entity shall specify the required method and sequence in the contract documents.

Reading the Code and the drawings together would, absent a contrary intention elsewhere in the contract documents, appear to leave the erection sequence to the erector’s discretion. Accordingly, the steel erector will presumably bid the project using “a sequence that will permit efficient and economical performance of erection.”

After the subcontract has been signed, there is usually a pre-erection meeting. It is at this point that the GC seeks to impose its sequencing mandate upon the steel erector. And more often than not, the GC’s sequencing plans do not coincide with the steel erector’s sequence. For instance, the GC may desire that all the steel be erected from the perimeter of the building, whereas the steel erector may have planned on setting the steel from a centralized location. For this reason, it is suggested that the GC anticipate erection sequence prior to seeking erection bids. At the very least, the GC should include its anticipated sequencing plans in the subcontract scope. And for design-build projects – those where the GC typically has more control and input during the design process – have the sequence explicitly indicated on the drawings. Following these simple steps may prevent, or at least mitigate, the potential for project disputes and delays.

Alabama attorney and professional engineer Jacob W. Hill practices construction law, representing general contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers, developers, architects, engineers, and other parties to construction and development projects. Contact Jacob Hill for more information or a consultation regarding your project.