Understanding UFGS, Product Specs, Submittal Descriptions, and the QC Process on Government Projects
According to the AGC, the federal government spends almost $140 billion per year on construction, on everything from agricultural research facilities to embassy security to transportation infrastructure. Projects done by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, and NASA account for a good chunk of this spending.
As the old saying goes, there is the right way, the wrong way, and the Army way. You’ll find specifications and submittal procedures work slightly differently on military projects than they do in commercial, non-military construction. Here are some of the differences we have observed.
UFGS vs. Commercial Construction Specs
In non-military work, other than DOT projects, specifications almost always use the numbers and titles found in MasterFormat. They also use the standard three-part spec format: PART 1 – GENERAL; PART 2 – PRODUCTS; and PART 3 – EXECUTION.
Military projects use specifications based on the United Facilities Guide Specifications (UFGS). These specs are in the public domain and are available to anyone. If you know MasterFormat, you’ll find a set of numbers and titles that are similar, but not quite the same. You’ll also find some distinct differences in the ways specs are presented. They include:
- Numbering scheme
- Product specs are 100% standards and performance based
- A different way of identifying action, informational, and closeout submittals
Fortunately, UFGS specs use the standard three-part format – there is no extra learning there.
Almost all commercial specifications use a standard outline format: Decimal number, then a capital letter, followed by a number and small letters.
UFGS specs, by contrast, are all decimals.
In commercial work, product specs tend to be “multiple choice,” providing a choice of manufacturers and products, or “generic”, providing a performance standard a product must meet. In cases like this, contractor makes the product selection, subject to approval by the architect or engineer. (Occasionally you will encounter a “proprietary” spec, allowing for only one product or system.)
In the UFGS world, there are no multiple-choice or proprietary specifications. Most likely this is because the government cannot be seen as endorsing particular products or manufacturers. Like the generic specs in commercial work, builders and their suppliers have to verify that the product they are choosing meets the standards set forth in the spec.
Builders also need to provide manufacturer data sheets as submittals. Many submittal procedures require the contractor to annotate the datasheet, highlighting the ASTM or other standards called out in the specs. If the product you submitted doesn’t meet the standard (or you forgot to highlight it), be prepared to get it back to “revise and resubmit.”
Action and Informational Submittals – UFGS Descriptions and Approval Notations
Submittals come in two basic flavors: action submittals, which require approval by the design team, and informational submittals, which become part of the project record but do not need design team approval. Some people consider closeout submittals, delivered at the end of the project, to be in their own special category. Some of these closeout submittals need to be approved, others do not. (For more info see: “What Are Construction Submittals, and What is the Point of Doing Them?”)
Most commercial specs callout action submittals, informational submittals and closeout submittals in separate parts of the outline format.
UFGS projects work differently. The government has established 11 submittal descriptions (SD) or submittal types, as follows:
|Types of Content|
|Certificates Of Insurance, Surety Bonds, List Of Proposed Subcontractors, Schedules, Submittal Log, Quality Control plan, etc.|
|Drawings, diagrams and schedules to illustrate portions of the work.|
|Manufacturer product datasheets and submittal information.|
|Jobsite mockups and color samples.|
|Design calculations, mix designs, and analyses.|
|Lab reports and acceptance tests.|
|Manufacturer certificates, Confined space entry permits.|
Text of posted operating instructions
|Installation and handling details.|
Manufacturer’s Field Reports
|Testing and verification actions taken by manufacturers’ reps at the job site.|
Operation and Maintenance Data
|Data needed by facility managers for operations.|
|All requirements related to closing out the contract.|
In each specification section submittal requirements are classified using these SD types. The builder has to submit them in this form. Action submittals will also have a “G” designation, meaning that they will require government approval. If there is no G designation, then they are for information only. Just as in commercial work, action submittals must be done separately from informational ones.
Army Corps of Engineers projects will sometimes have additional designations after the G indicating what level of approval a submittal will need.
Regardless of whether you are the GC or subcontractor on a government project, it’s very important that you read Section 01 33 00, Submittal Procedures, before starting work. If you have questions on how to set up packages, we suggest you clarify them with the Construction Quality Control System Manager on the project.
Quality Control, Approvals, and Final Notes
On government projects submittals are often managed by a designated Construction Quality Control System Manager, or CQC. They are responsible for overall project quality control, making sure the builders are doing the job as the contract documents require.
As a contractor on the project, you’ll do your iterations with the CQC. When the CQC is satisfied, they approve and stamp the submittal and then send it to the design team for final government review and approval.
In summary, here are some important distinctions to keep in mind on projects with UFGS specs:
|Numbering scheme||All decimals, such as: 188.8.131.52|
|Product Specs||All generic, referencing ASTM and other standards.|
|Submittal Types||Identified by the SD-01 through SD-11 designations|
|Action and Informational|
|Action submittals are noted “G”, for government approval.|
|Management||Key role of the Construction Quality Control System Manager.|
Submittal.com can help you with government projects: we include easily usable presets for UFGS numbering and well as the full set of SD designations for submittal types.
As anyone who has worked on government projects can testify, submittal requirements can be onerous. Hopefully this article has shed some light on how submittals on UFGS-based projects work.
On that note, we wish you all the best on your next government project. Questions or comments? Please let us know – we would be delighted to hear from you.