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Converting to electronic submittals management: A case study (Rush University Medical Center)

For the Rush University Medical Center project, Perkins+Will used BIM and an integrated team approach to design a new hospital to LEED Gold requirements. But the submittals management process was the domain of one person, and piles of files covered every tabletop.

In weekly meetings with the contractor and owner’s representative, Power/Jacobs Joint Venture (PJJV), it was not uncommon for our Perkns+Will records to disagree with the PJJV reports. Submittals might show as being open when they had in fact been returned.

During the work week, the Perkins+Will submittals administrator, who was stationed at the job site, had to repeatedly drop what she was doing to seek answers for the construction project manager, who had come to the office looking for the disposition of a particular submittal.

The submittals workflow backed up even further when the administrator took time off. And the volume of submittals was rising. Electronic submittals seemed to make it easier for contractors to submit more, and they requested we respond by email, as well.

Adding more people to a sub-optimal process for submittals management was not considered to be a viable option.

The solution: project information management (PIM) software
As a solution, Perkins+Will Principal and Senior Project Manager Bridget Lesniak suggested that we make greater use of the firm’s project information management (PIM) solution. To that point, the firm was using it for email management, file transfers and information searches on the firm’s project file servers, but it had been under-utilized as a tool to manage submittals.

The software in question was Newforma Project Center. In addition to being used company-wide as Perkins+Will’s PIM solution, it had also been implemented by the Rush project’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineer, Environmental Systems Design.

It didn’t take long to realize that adopting an integrated PIM solution would bring both firms’ submittals management process up to the same level of quality as their design and engineering.

From three applications to one
The Perkins+Will submittals administrator had been using Newforma’s PIM software, but only in a cursory manner. She maintained a Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet as the log. Project team members used Adobe Acrobat to mark up documents.

I worked with Perkins+Will Architect Matthew Williams to establish a CA process. He showed our document control teams how the PIM solution’s functionality for submittals management could not only streamline logging and marking up submittals, but also fully integrate each step of the process in one seamless workflow.

Because our PIM solution includes a viewer and markup tools, we no longer needed Acrobat for markups. The PIM solution generates reports, making Excel spreadsheets unnecessary. The need to use fewer applications simplified the process and the automatic logging freed up time.

Our PIM software also allows for electronic stamping, so we developed stamps that had most of the information already filled in. The only thing our reviewers had to do was note the status, drop the stamp on it and send the PDF back to document control.

Within a couple of months, those stacks of paper at the document control center started to disappear. They were able to reduce their backlog and get caught up on their submittal process, and reduce the amount of paper that had to be handled and shipped.

When the construction project manager visited the job site’s submittals office to find the disposition of a particular item, he got answers quickly, with minimal disruption, because the PIM software puts answers at any team member’s fingertips.

More productive meetings
Now, at weekly meetings, team members pull the most current information from the PIM software. The reports tell who has a submittal, when it was sent, and when it needs to be returned.

The contractors and consultants appreciate that we are now able to handle the submittals in the allotted time and know where any given submittal is at any given time – whether it’s been received, being reviewed or been returned to the sender.

An integrated PIM approach drastically reduces the amount of things that slip off a person’s radar. It’s very difficult to lose track of things because of optional alerts that remind people of what needs to be done and by when.
In addition to the time savings of using a more efficient submittals management process, both firms appreciate the reduced risk of errors that comes from using an integrated PIM approach to the contract administration phase of this large project.


The ESD process is turning around submittals in the target window of 10 days, month after month, and the P+W process is turning around Rush project submittals within the contractual requirement of 15 days.

The volume of submittals to be processed is rising due to having multiple fit-out prime contractors on the project, and due to the demands of LEED certification. The demand for quick turnaround is rising, too. Although we still have to process and file some hardcopy submittals, such as when we receive material samples, our electronic, PIM-based processes eliminate time-consuming work such as making copies, scanning, bundling hard copy packages for a courier, and filing in-progress hardcopies.

What’s more, because the process is no longer tied to one specialist, backup team members can keep the work flowing when the primary submittals administrator takes time off.

Managing submittals using Newforma Project Center gives us the efficiency we need to sustain a healthy process, contributing to the delivery of the Rush project and more.

LMN Architects Director of Construction Administration Art Haug and Director of Information Technology Tim Rice offer the following savings metrics for a typical design project:

Paper Savings
Paper saved per single submittal:
2 sheets 30" x 42" = 17.5 square feet
17.5 square feet x 7 distribution copies = 122.5 s.f. per submittal
Average number of submittals: 440

TOTAL PAPER SAVINGS in one project: 440 submittals x 122.5 s.f./submittal = 53,900 s.f. saved by going paperless

Time Savings
• TIME saved per single submittal: 0.5 hour
• Average number of submittals: 400
o (RE-submittal rate of 10% = 40 additional submittals
• TOTAL TIME SAVINGS in one project:
• 440 submittals x 0.5 hr/submittal = 220 hours saved
• Project manager bill rate: $150/hr.

TOTAL TIME SAVINGS in one project: 220 hours x $150/hr = $33,000 in PM time saved

On the $ Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, architect Perkins+Will and MEP engineer Environmental Systems Design used Newforma Project Center to log, assign, mark up, stamp, return and report on submittals. Other consultants on the project using the software included Thornton Tomasetti, TERRA Engineering and Hitchcock Design Group.

An integrated submittals management process helps Perkins+Will and Environmental Systems Design meet demand for tight turnarounds and reduced chance of errors and omissions.
About the project

The Rush University Medical Center is a 14-floor, 806,000-square-foot building that’s a $575 million component of a $1 billion campus transformation program. Three floors are devoted to surgery, imaging and specialty procedures; upper floors house 304 acute and intensive care beds, 72 neonatal intensive care beds, and 10 labor and delivery suites. Perkins+Will delivered Rush University Medical Center using building information modeling (BIM). The program manager on the project is Power/Jacobs Joint Venture, an enterprise of Power Construction and Jacobs Engineering.


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