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Green Communities

High Performance Scopes of Work

Contract language containing pre- and post-checklists and performance-based evaluation can integrate trade contractors for green results

To get the water, air, and thermal barrier continuous and aligned around the tub, several trade contractors have to integrate their work, honoring the trades that come before and after their work. That's where high performance scopes of work come in mighty handy.
Image Credit: IBACOS & Steve Baczek

What are Scopes of Work?

Scopes of work (SOW) are part of the legal contract between the general contractor or client and the trade contractors, detailing exactly what must be done to complete his or her work and achieve the desired result, an assembly or system that works. A program of SOW connects the work of individual trades so that the work of each produces the desired result: a home that works.

I learned about this approach, the SOW program, from a great book by Lindsay Haas Davenport, The Scopes of Work Program: Procedures and Standards to Increase Quality. Davenport breaks her SOW program into four key parts:

1. Terms and Conditions

2. Job Requirements

3. Pre- and Post-Work Inspection Reports

4. Warranty Agreement

These four elements are used to lock in trade contractor performance, most importantly, creating hard links between what conditions one contractor needs to start his or her work (pre-work checklist) and the conditions that must be achieved in order for the next trade contractor to do his or her work (post-work checklist).

Another cool thing about Davenport’s approach is that each of her books comes with her whole SOW program on a compact disc in a complete series of Microsoft Word documents; it was her way of saying, “I know that each builder will need to customize their own SOW program, so have at it with mine.”

How are high-performance SOW different from standard SOW?

Under the Building America program, team leaders such as Building Science Corporation and IBACOS saw the need for contract documents that supported the integrated, systems-thinking approach. I worked with IBACOS to take the Davenport SOW program and customize it for high performance for the following key trade contractors:

1. Foundation

2. Framing

3. Windows

4. Drainage Plane (weather-resistive barrier)

5. Air Sealing and Insulation

6. HVAC

That essentially meant adding building science and systems-thinking to each of the four elements of Davenport’s SOW program for these trades. The new high-performance pre- and post-checklists integrate these six trade contractors’ work; whenever possible, we added performance testing for the desired result (for example, linking blower-door test results to the air sealing and insulation contractor’s final payment). As you look over the IBACOS High Performance SOW you will see construction details strikingly similar to ones within GBA; the same architect, Steve Baczek, did the details for both.

A cool thing about the IBACOS High Performance Scopes of Work is that, like Davenport’s, the IBACOS Scopes are available in Word document form, so that any general contractor or client can customize them. And because the IBACOS SOW were developed under the federal government’s Building America program, they are free to download: High Performance Scopes of Work.

3 Comments

  1. User avater
    Michael Chandler | | #1

    Another good model
    I'm working on Scopes and Best Practices with my Builder 20 club and downloading all I can find right now for a coming meeting. So here's another good model from the Building America Program:
    http://www.toolbase.org/PDF/BestPractices/ScopesofWork.pdf

  2. Lloyd Brown | | #2

    I realize this article is several years old now, but is there any chance of getting those download links updated in the last paragraph? Right now, they appear to be broken.

  3. Peter Staecker | | #3

    You will find a lengthy discussion of Scopes of Work in Appendix E of this Building America Document. (https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy07osti/39744.pdf). Starts on p. 201

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