As you may have heard (just kidding, there’s no way to miss any piece
Closeout. Turnover. Handover. These synonyms are elegant shorthand for the conversely not-so-elegant process more accurately described as, “the tail end of a construction project when the general contractor gathers their team leads together and organizes heaps of charts, drawings, and a myriad of other data relevant to said construction project to compile and give to the owner (who sanctioned the whole ordeal) prior to the general contractor receiving final payment once everything checks out.” For the sake of this article, and in regards to yours and our sanity, we’ll just stick to “closeout,” “turnover,” and “handover.”
Unspooling the definition of closeout is, of course, a bit like closeout in miniature. There’s much that goes into it, and despite being the period on the end of the proverbial construction-process sentence, the turn-over process can be quite lengthy and potentially troublesome if carried out less than efficiently. Let’s look at five of the most important aspects of turn-over documentation and why the owner will find them most vital to their own mental well-being. While this list is far and away from exhaustive, it will serve as a helpful reminder as to what’s most important to the owner.
Probably the most obvious bits of hand-over documentation are O&M’s, or manuals that will explain operations and maintenance procedures to the owner for every individual device or system that is built as a small part of the larger overall project. Examples include heaters, toilets, security systems, water filtration systems, heck, even slightly complicated toasters. O&M’s are handy in that they include all relevant info regarding the product including manufacturer, model number, drawings, safety tips, product life expectancy, and replacement info. If that slightly complicated toaster has a rare Swiss lever that breaks and needs to be replaced every 70 bagels or so, that’ll be referenced in the toaster’s O&M (those better be some incredible bagels).
The original spatial blueprints of a project become defunct the moment necessity forces an alteration in construction. Let’s say a construction worker—we’ll call him Gabe—throws away a precariously littered banana peel, muttering under his breath something about this being a “construction zone and not Mario Kart.” On his trip to the nearest trash receptacle, he notices that a set of stairs leads to a brick wall. In this scenario, Gabe isn’t living in some sort of Kafka-esque hell. Rather, the incompetent (though well-meaning) blueprints mistakenly dictated that these stairs lead to nothing. After Gabe’s discovery, a door would inevitably have to be built, forcing the contractor to assign someone to redo the blueprints. These revised sets of 2D drawings are known as “as-builts,” and they’re a vital part of closeout documentation that details updated dimensions and geometry of all elements of the completed project.
A “warranty” is a blanket term that can cover any number of agreements concerning a project, though is generally a legally binding expressed written agreement between the owner and general contractor where the GC assures that any defect or loss suffered after the project is completed is either repaired or paid for during a given period. Warranties come in many different formats and can be agreed upon at various points throughout the project, though they all have to be compiled and sorted when it’s time for hand-over documentation.
4. Progress photos
Progress photos are another essential piece of closeout documentation, and one that can prove to be unpleasant to acquire and categorize properly if not collected in an organized way throughout the project’s lifespan. 360º Progress Photos, sometimes referred to as photospheres, are flashier and much more evolved versions of still photographs. With 360º Progress Photos, Gabe doesn’t need to take 46 pictures around any given room—only one! If taken consistently, they’re also handy in observing the appearance of every inch of a project at every step of its lifespan, noting foundations that would have otherwise been impossible to be aware of in case some remodeling is in order. Remember when Neo could see the green code beneath everything at the end of The Matrix? 360º Progress Photos are almost nothing like that, but that was a really impressive moment in the film.
5. Ease of consumption
While these categories of hand-over data are all important in and of themselves, perhaps the most vital thing the owner needs when it comes to hand-over documentation is consumability. Let’s say an owner can’t find a specific RFI that came to the mind of one of their stakeholders. If the owner can’t locate the RFI after perusing for a minute or two, they’ll more than likely give up, pick up the phone (think corded, coiled, novelty lime green analog telephone from yesteryear for added effect) and contact the general contractor directly, considering the GC was in charge of organizing closeout in the first place.
More often than not, the owner is sent an unwieldy PDF that is hundreds of pages long in a format that bogs down the owner’s computer upon attempting to download and open. It’s significantly easier for the owner to reach out to the GC rather than waste another second trying to find an RFI-needle in a closeout-haystack. This is why a simplified closeout documentation process is so valuable—it helps both the owner in digesting and general contractor in preparation.