The Cost of Custom
Contributed by Sheldon Wolfe
Many products offer not only a selection of standard finishes at a standard price, but offer more options at additional cost. Some will offer those options in price groups, such as Standard, Group 1, and Group 2, where each group is more expensive than the last. Finally, some manufacturers offer to match any color.
Unfortunately, the requirements for getting a custom color often are vague, and a minimum quantity may be required or other limitations may apply.
The result? I may tell a project architect that a custom color will cost more, but because I often don’t know how much, the response usually is, “It doesn’t matter; we want custom.”
The problem, of course, is that bidders, who are trying to get the job, are forced to either comply with the specifications and risk losing the job, or bid a standard color in hopes of getting away with it - which too often is the case. I recall a project that required all exterior metal finishes and all concrete coatings to be bid as custom, to match a specific color. Had that color been something unusual or exotic, that might have made sense, but the chosen color was essentially off-white. Trying to get all those colors to match was a nice theory, but in practice, there was as much difference in appearance between adjacent panels, one in shade and the other in full sun, as there was between the colors submitted. And then there are the effects of dirt and UV exposure… Colors change, and some change more than others, so the carefully selected finishes may no longer match after only a short time. For that project, the owner probably paid the price of custom color and got a standard color for some of the finishes.
A couple of years ago we had two projects going, which just happened to have the same custom color for the metal roofing. An astute supplier was able to combine materials for both in a single order. Individually, neither project had enough material to meet the minimum for a custom color, but together they almost did, so the supplier was able to cover most of the added cost. It's always possible for the architect to insist on a custom color regardless of quantity, but that can be more than a bit embarrassing when the contractor tells the owner that the cost can be reduced by a large amount simply by changing to a slightly different color.
Some joint sealants can be produced in virtually any color, and architects are accustomed to always asking for custom colors. It’s usually not a problem for a large project, but the architect should know that the contractor might have to buy fifty gallons of sealant for a joint that's only ten feet long.
Specifying acoustic properties presents similar challenges. Many assemblies will meet a given STC or NRC rating: brick, CMU, CMU with filled cores, multiple layers of gypboard, high density gypboard and similar products, resilient channels, clips, resilient adhesives for multi-layer assemblies, etc. What do they really cost? How do they really perform? Without knowing the relative costs and properties, detailing a particular assembly may result in performance that is lower than expected, or it may cost more than another assembly that would perform just as well.
And what about dimensions? It's easy to draw a large panel in elevation, but can it be produced? Do the length or width force the fabricator to alter the orientation of panels, which can affect appearance of some finishes? Do the dimensions require greater thickness of material, thereby increasing the cost beyond what the designer expected?
These are all very real issues that big-D Designers don't think about, yet it's essential to evaluate such information early in design - before the client has been sold on the design.
A Worthy Rant to Product Reps
Contributed by Cherise Lakeside
Be warned, this is going to be somewhat of a rant and likely not for those whose sensibilities are easily offended. I am a little disheartened that, in this day and age, I would even feel the need to write this. Honestly though, after 30 years, it feels good to unload some of these frustrations.
I need to preface this blog with the fact that I have come to know many amazing product reps since I joined CSI. For those amazing Reps, this blog is NOT for or about you.
This blog is about what I will call “The Others.” Some of this blog is about how “The Others” interact with women in the AEC industry.
While it is not particularly important for the purpose of this writing but, in the interest of full disclosure, I was the Standards Coordinator at a fairly large Engineering Firm that does work all over the world and am now a specifier at a multi-office architecture firm. I have been a the keeper and guardian of Master Specs, run a QA/QC program and performed various other duties associated with having quality documents and consistent standards. I have over 30 years of experience in AEC.
Because we had multiple disciplines and I am not an Engineer (most of my career was spent in architecture) I did not typically make final product decisions. That was left to the engineers. I am the central information point for feedback and information on our engineers experience with particular products.
One side piece to my former job was supervising two of our general office staff. It is the responsibility of our administrative assistant (newly hired to replace the last one who was promoted) to set up lunch and learns. I had not trained her to do this. I have performed this task since the promotion of our last administrative assistant because I find that having a direct line to our product reps helps me do my job better. We had far too many lunch & learns in our office for it to be feasible for me to attend every single one. Performing this task gives me an opportunity to speak with every product rep whether I can attend their event or not. It also helps me get specific information that I need and get to know them.
In addition to my work, I have become heavily involved in CSI and have attended the last five CONSTRUCT Shows as well as many of our Chapter’s Industry Forums which both have a product show component.
And that is where my rant begins. For “The Others” I have a few words of advice. I hope you will take this advice in the spirit in which it is given. Some of you are so insulting that your behavior is shared far beyond that initial phone call that you make. That behavior does not go over well with the folks you are trying to reach so please, take heed of some words to live by:
Construction Costs: Unknown
Contributed by Elias Saltz
In my very first post on this site, the one titled, “Is Construction Broken?” I listed a few ways in which the profession of architecture is contributing to the ways in which construction is broken and needs to be fixed. I’m providing the link so readers can go back and refresh their memories on the whole discussion but for the rest of this post I will be addressing one observation, which reads in part:
(Most but not all) Architects have very poor knowledge of how much construction costs, and use loose rules of thumb to try to determine whether or not their designs are within their clients’ budgets. They rarely know how the details they create affect the project cost, and the resulting necessary Value Engineering (VE) costs them time, money and prestige.
As I’ve thought more about this, it occurs to me that this is one of the biggest problems facing the profession. The Owner’s money is not an unlimited fountain and most projects have some sort of budget, either a hard limit or a ‘this is where we’d like to be’ type of budget. Owners rely on architects to curate the expenditure of amounts of money that massively outweigh the architects’ own fees. They also rely on architects to develop designs that meet their facility needs.
When architects begin with the ‘design concept’ as the primary driver, or if they have a personal ‘favorite move’, the client’s budget is already at risk. Swoopy curves and other grand gestures may be considered the fun part for the architect and even for the building occupant, but complexity often carries a heavy premium. I learned recently of an office that designed an S-shaped, low-slung residence with structural insulated panels (SIP) instead of normal framing and sheathing for the roof structure. Each SIP would have needed to be custom made in a trapezoidal shape. Is there any wonder this project was significantly over budget? The resulting VE exercise cost the architects most of their interesting design as well as their (uncompensated) time, while it cost the client its seasonal construction window. It also generally cost goodwill all around.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
Seven short months ago, after discussing issues in construction with Cherise Lakeside for what seemed like the infinite time, I blurted out that someone should start a 'fix construction' website and start tackling some of these concerns we were having. Being short of patience myself and wanting to strike while the iron was hot, I leaped at the opportunity when I discovered that the URL was available. I registered the domain LetsFixConstruction.com on a whim and brought up the core of the website you are reading here in a few short hours.
I was unsure as to what the response would be, but I was aware that we knew several individuals who were active construction bloggers and would be interested in what our core message was from the start: "to better the industry by sharing our knowledge, openly communicating and encouraging collaboration". It turns out that we seemed to be striking a chord almost immediately. Contributors were happy to share new and archival posts, the social shares were there and almost immediately, people were talking about #FixConstruction and what we were trying to do.
Fast forward seven months and dozens of posts later, we've now received recognition by having our blog nominated for not one, but two different industry awards. As previously mentioned, Construction Marketing Ideas has nominated us and 25 other bloggers for the 2017 Best Construction Blog award, which you can vote on here. In addition, #FixConstruction has been nominated in the 8th Annual JDR Industry Blogger Awards for Best Construction Business Blog along with ConstructConnect, ForConstructionPros and Miron Construction.
We are incredibly humbled and honored to be nominated by both Construction Marketing Ideas and Jackson Design & Remodeling. If you find us deserving, would you please take a moment to vote for Let's Fix Construction in the JDR Industry Blogger Awards here?
In the meantime, we're going to continue what we've been doing for the last six months: offering an unbiased and unsponsored platform for industry professionals to share their viewpoint on issues they're seeing in AEC and their solutions on how to swing things into a better light.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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