In the present condition of the market, with the price of steel more than doubled because of the universal engagement of American steel plants in the manufacture of munitions for the European war, it might be profitable to eliminate all steel uprights and thereby lessen the amount of steel framework, substituting for the uprights at bearing points, brick pilasters, concrete filled hollow tile, or stock Lally columns, and employing only iron beams for floors, with individual detached balcony and roof trusses.
If a sliding roof be adopted the trussed roof framing should provide for a clear opening and covering this opening there should be an independent framework mounted on wheels and divisible in two sections. The construction of these movable sections should be light and arranged with a drip gutter around their base to carry off rain water in inclement weather. The exposed flat ends of each hemisphere of the sliding section and the side walls of the well formed by the permanent roof opening should be ceiled in a manner to conceal all structural features when the sliding roof is open.
Before the excavation begins, the steel contract should be awarded to a reliable firm on a competitive basis, at a ton weight price including erection, with a provision that the total cost shall not exceed an expressed sum. Payment at a weight rate automatically regulates the price in case of additions or omissions. A competent clerk of the works can easily check up the steel as it arrives, and the architect or a good superintendent can supervise and pass upon its construction, thus eliminating all extra profits of a general contractor for a service he does not perform.
The American Institute of Architects advises the awarding of all building contracts direct to the contractors who are to perform the work, and recommends that all such contracts be made on what is known as a "quantity basis." With such a contract the architect or a competent superintendent employed by the owner can properly safeguard his interests.
This is the manner of contract universally employed throughout Europe, and it is the only one that is just to both owner and contractor. A "quantity basis" contract tends to eliminate so called "extras," which by many contractors are considered their sole source of profit. Under its provision all materials measurable are paid for on a measurement basis at so much per lineal, square or cubic foot (as the case may be), when satisfactorily completed. Articles not conveniently measurable are paid for at fixed unit prices when installed complete. The Contractor fixes a limit sum not to be exceeded in his contract, and specifies a payment price on a measurement or unit basis.
Extra work or omissions due to changes in the plans are paid for according to these scheduled quantity prices, thus eliminating so-called "extras." The maximum limit sum therefore can be affected only by gross additions made to the plans or specifications. Persons inexperienced in building are not likely to know that trade unions demand that all extra work required must be performed by the contractor already engaged on the job for that class of work. This is an imperative rule that places the owner at the mercy of the contractor in fixing prices for extra work.
The cheapest and best method is to award excavating contracts to an excavator at a cubic yard price. Separate cubic yard prices should be arranged for rock excavation including blasting and for ordinary excavation, with various prices for carting away or depositing excavated material. By custom and usage all rock or other material excavated belongs to the contractor, unless some contrary stipulation be made. Provision must also be made for depositing enough excavated earth alongside the wall trenches for a refill upon completion of the walls. For extensive excavations requiring special machinery there are firms who make a specialty of this class of work and have an elaborate equipment for performing it.