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General contractors shift job-site responsibilities to glaziers

On-site coordination and problem-solving that traditionally landed on the desks of general contractors has increasingly become the responsibility of the subcontractors, glazing contractors say.

To compensate for the additional responsibility, glazing contractors require more staff and resources, and thus more money, says John Heinaman, president of Heinaman Contract Glazing in Lake Forest, Calif.

“Most of the work we do is negotiated. So, we have the opportunity to add the cost of [the extra] services into the price,” says Heinaman, who estimates his costs increase about 1 percent on any given project as a result of the added responsibilities.

Glaziers can end up hurting when the extra costs can’t be factored into bids, Heinaman says. This can occur when subcontractors compete for public-works projects, and the jobs go to the low bidders, he says.

“Our margins are pretty small, so it makes a difference if we can’t add [these additional costs] into a bid,” Heinaman says.

Costs aside, the additional duties hit glaziers hard, because they are often the last subcontractors working a job, says Bill John, president of InterClad in Plymouth, Minn.

“We’re usually the last ones in, when the opening is already made,” John says. “If we’re supposed to get a 6-foot opening, and it’s 6 feet 1[inch], the contractor says ‘Can’t you just make it work?’ We’re supposed to coordinate how we’ll make it work and who is going to pay for it.”

John says smaller contractors are less likely to pass along this liability. “The smaller guys are still making buildings,” he says. “I see it happening among larger contractors, where they are thinking more like construction managers instead of builders. A lot of these guys don’t even have their own labor crews on site.”

John and Heinaman say responsibility shifting has occurred more during the last five years, and glaziers need to become accustomed to the practice.

“If they can take some risk and liability away from themselves and put the responsibility onto the sub, they will,” Heinaman says. “We’re seeing a lot more of it. It’s not a problem, but you have to do it and find a way to compensate for the extra costs.”

 

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