Contributed by Eric D. Lussier & Cherise Lakeside
Part I: Written by Eric D. Lussier - Co-Founder - Let's Fix Construction
A year certainly goes by faster than it used to. This past year? Even more so.
One year ago, a spur of the moment conversation with my friend, Cherise Lakeside, spawned my squirrel brain to kick into action. After discussing the continued ills of the construction industry for seemingly the umpteenth time, something clicked. We could continue talking about these issues, or, better yet, we could try and correct these issues. We knew we weren’t the only ones facing hurdles in the office or in the field. There had to be others. We had to do something about it.
Three hours later, I presented Cherise with www.LetsFixConstruction.com, complete with its first two blog posts, 'The Fifth C of CSI: Collaboration' and 'Product Manufacturers: Are You Doing it Right? Construction Education for Product Reps'. In addition to the website I created a Facebook page, a Twitter and Instagram account and an official hashtag: #FixConstruction.
The concept was simple, share your gripe, but offer positive, left of center solutions to the problem at hand. We both recognized some of the shortcomings of the AEC industry – the aversion to technology adoption, the skilled labor shortage and communication issues among plenty of others. It was finally time to admit the problems, engage individuals to discuss them and publish proactive solutions for all to benefit from.
Response was immediately enthusiastic. But we knew the voices couldn’t be just ours. It needed to be anyone and everyone in AEC who saw an issue and had a solution. Each person we asked were happy to contribute posts and offer their view. In this past year we’ve gained twenty-some contributors and have stayed true to our initial mission: to better the industry by sharing our knowledge, openly communicating & encouraging collaboration, all while being an unsponsored and unbiased platform.
We've received two best of construction blog nominations and in the process Mark Buckshon of ConstructionMarketingIdeas.com said 'This blog is one of the most solid interdisciplinary resources for architects, engineers, contractors and specifiers I’ve seen in the business.' Not too bad for a side project that launched over Twitter direct messaging.
Contributed by Sheldon Wolfe
In the last few years, it has been proposed that owners might benefit from hiring specifiers directly; it has even been suggested that specifiers might help owners choose architects. Specific aspects of these ideas, and of related issues, were addressed by member presentations at the Construction Specifications Institute's (CSI) annual convention over the last handful of years.
In 2014, at the convention in Baltimore, several Institute directors and interested members met to discuss a report that had been submitted to the Institute board by Ujjval Vyas, PhD, of the Alberti Group. This report, titled "The Risk Management Value of Specifications," was prepared at the request of CSI. The report's Executive Summary noted conditions that would surprise few specifiers: Specification software is beginning to replace activities traditionally done by a specifier; contractors are becoming more involved in specifications, especially in design-build projects; and specifiers suffer from the Rodney Dangerfield syndrome - their value often is not appreciated by their employers, with commensurate effect on stature, compensation, and opportunity for advancement.
What will happen to specifiers in the next decade? Will they be replaced by software? Will they shed the grunt work of word processing and become even more valuable, devoting their time to product research, coordination of documents, and adding intelligence to the building model? Or will they simply fade away?
Just as has happened with drawing - we moved from linen to vellum to digital images, and we moved from drafting to CAD to building modeling, yet all of these options remain in use - all of the above possibilities for specifiers will exist in some degree, and it's possible someone will continue using a typewriter to write specifications. But which of these possibilities, or what combination of them, will be most common?
What I see suggests the answer won't be to the liking of most specifiers. Specifying software will get better, it will extract more information from the building model, it will get easier to use, it will further automate editing of specifications, and it will be seen as a replacement for specifiers. Contractors will continue to increase their importance during construction, and designers will continue to lose credibility with clients. Will specifiers soon find themselves in the unemployment line?
What happens, both to specifiers and to specifying as a career, will be affected by what specifiers do to influence the discussion. If they do nothing, they will be further marginalized, and though they might not be laid off, they may not be replaced when they leave. Based on what I've seen, that is the likely course.
Contributed by David Stutzman
We see it time and again. The deadline approaches. The rush is on. All the delayed decisions and tasks are now urgent.
Stress builds. Checking stops. Mistakes happen. Coordination suffers. Quality erodes. Time runs out. Then comes the refrain, “We’ll catch it in the addendum.” The A/E is already spending his construction administration budget.
And, ultimately, the Owner pays!
Getting it right the first time ultimately saves time, avoids unnecessary costs, and relieves stress. Think about the consequences and the conclusion is obvious.
What Are the Consequences?
Let’s review a hypothetical project after the deadline. The documents are issued for bidding. The bidder receives the documents and checks to be sure he has everything that is required to develop his bid. He checks the specifications table of contents and compares the listed sections to those actually bound in the project manual. He also checks the drawing list against the drawing set.
What is he likely to find? Missing or “extra” documents that are not named as part of the bid set? Documents with titles or numbers that do not match the list? Next step – RFI, and the bidder hasn’t even looked at the technical content. What else awaits discovery for potential Change Order?
The bidder writes the RFI, creates a transmittal, and sends it to the A/E. “Hey, Mr. A/E, I just received your bid set documents. What you said was included does not match what you sent. Would you please explain the discrepancies?” Translation: If this A/E can’t get the document list right, what can I expect of the content?
The A/E’s clerk receives the RFI and logs it in. The clerk sends it to the project manager who reads it, decides who must respond, and returns it for distribution. The RFI is distributed to the project team. The team members review and respond. The project manager assembles all the responses, drafts a reply to the bidder, and collects the revised documents from the team.
By the way, Owner tend to notice RFIs. Some may rate the A/E by the number of RFI and Change Orders. The more the bidders question missing or inaccurate information, the more the Owner’s faith in the A/E erodes. That faith may be critical, later, when defending a claim.
But wait! It’s not so simple now. Once issued for bid, documents can only be changed by addenda. Drawing revisions must be clouded. Spec changes must be tracked. Each revision must be formally issued to modify or replace the previous issue.
What Time Does the Process Take?
Make your own assessment. I believe, on average, each RFI is a minimum of 8 hours – just for the design team. This is only the first RFI just to confirm the bidder has the right set of documents. How many more might there be?
Meanwhile, the bidder is reviewing the content for the first barrage. The more the bidder finds the more his confidence in the documents erodes. The less the confidence, the greater the price to compensate for the perceived document quality and assumed risk.
Let the Owner Pay Less!
Bids include both the cost of construction and the bidder’s risk. Maximizing document quality reduces bidders’ risk and associated costs. Plus it also reduces the design team’s construction administration time and costs. A/Es have long lamented their cost overruns during construction administration. Managing document quality allows A/Es to reduce their risks during construction administration.
When risks are reduced, fees can reflect the reduced risk. Reduced fees and better quality will put design teams at a decided advantage when pursuing the next commission.
The Owner pays less and the A/E improves profits! What a combination.
Plan for Quality
Stop the stress and improve the documents. Adopt a workflow that promotes decisions and creates information when both are needed. Address all the easy issues first. Get them out of the way early. Then focus on the more difficult and important issue.
Require a simple step to improve coordination. Insist that entire design team develop a proposed list of specification sections during Schematic Design. Maintain, update, and distribute the list regularly as the design develops. Or better, yet, use a live, collaborative document, accessible by the entire team. Add notes and questions to the list about the major products and systems that will be included in each specification. Use the specifications list as the powerful coordination tool it can be.
Schedule time for quality checking and correcting. Set an early completion date for drawings and specifications before the end of each design phase. Distribute a check set. If possible, arrange for an independent review by staff members not on the design team.
Schedule reviews. Allow time to make the necessary corrections and complete the coordination. Follow the schedule.
(Editor's note: This blog post, along with numerous others, appeared originally on the Conspectus website. You can view an archive of Conspectus' posts here.)
Contributed by Lori Greene
This issue continues to arise on a regular basis, so I’m hoping to clarify it once and for all. The sections entitled “Access-Controlled Egress Doors” – present in both NFPA 101–Life Safety Code and past editions of the International Building Code (IBC), have led some to believe that all doors equipped with access control readers must comply with these sections of the model codes. Although the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) has the final say on matters of code-compliance, it’s not the intent of the model codes for these sections to apply to all access-control doors or to all doors with electrified hardware.
The requirements of the model codes specific to access-controlled egress doors are essentially the same, but in the 2015 edition of the IBC, the section title was changed to Sensor Release of Electromagnetically Locked Egress Doors. The reason for the change was to help avoid confusion about when this section should be applied. The corresponding section in NFPA 101 is still called Access-Controlled Egress Doors, but the two sets of requirements are very similar despite the differing section titles.
What’s an access-controlled egress door?
These two sections apply to electrically/electromagnetically locked doors, where the lock is released by a sensor detecting an approaching occupant. The most common type of lock that is used in this application is an electromagnetic lock (AKA mag-lock), but the section could also be used for other types of locks that are released by a sensor – for example, a power bolt. The key is that the section only applies to locks that are released by a sensor which detects an approaching occupant and unlocks the door. Most other types of electrified hardware – electromechanical locks, electrified panic hardware, electric strikes – are released by “normal” means, like turning a lever or pushing on the touchpad of the panic hardware. These are not access-controlled egress doors.
What about mag-locks released by other means?
Not all doors with electromagnetic locks are released by a sensor or required to comply with these sections of the model codes. Both the IBC and NFPA 101 also include separate sections that apply to electrically/electromagnetically locked doors that are released by door-mounted hardware incorporating a switch to release the electrified lock. Many locks used for access control are released without the use of a switch, but because mag-locks require a separate release device – a sensor or a switch in the door-mounted hardware – mag-lock applications are typically released by one of these two types of switches. In NFPA 101, the section for mag-locks released by a switch in the door-mounted hardware is called Electrically Controlled Egress Door Assemblies. In the IBC, this section is currently called Electromagnetically Locked Egress Doors, but beginning with the 2018 edition of the IBC, this section will be called Door Hardware Release of Electrically Locked Egress Doors.
What are the requirements for each of these applications?
Contributed by Jon Lattin
Editor's note: If you haven't read the first post, 'Let's Build a Future for Women in AEC', please read it here.
Close to one month after the inaugural Let’s Build Camp began, we have taken a deep breath and are now reflecting on the outcomes of our week. Did we accomplish what we set out to do?
Let’s Build Construction Camp for Girls started as a vision to introduce young girls to the AEC industry. It was designed to allow them to explore the construction trades, architecture, engineering, and construction product manufacturing through hands on experiences and field trips. In this mission, the camp was an overwhelming success. Twenty young ladies of varying experiences and capabilities learned key construction principles as they built and finished wall sections. Through this hands on approach, they experienced carpentry, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, masonry, and painting while being exposed to green building, the principles of cement and metal roof manufacturing, and design with BIM. To see pictures of our camp, please visit www.letsbuildcamp.com.
In retrospect though, the camp was so much more than a construction camp, it became a camp of life skills training. Problem solving, managing team dynamics, respecting others, listening to instruction and executing tasks based on them are all skills that naturally evolved during the course of the weeklong camp. These are all attributes that we as adults deal with on a daily basis, both in work and at home. The girls experienced these realities of life through the course of building their walls in small teams of four.
After kicking off camp with an ice breaker activity and a factory tour, the girls were grouped by skill level and then teams were created by pulling a girl from each level. This attempt at equalizing the teams worked perfectly as the girls with more experience and skills became team mentors to the girls with less experience. Seizing this opportunity to build leaders, we were able to harness this informal mentorship to allow the girls a chance to lead the teams, resulting in confidence building for both the “leader” and the “students”. A shining moment for each team came as they turned on their lights for the first time, with smiles beaming from ear to ear as they flipped the switch and saw the results of their efforts working successfully.
Another gratifying time was the last day when the teams painted their walls. We expected the girls to paint the walls with a single color and to be finished with their work. In reality though, this was the first opportunity that they could be free to express themselves, since most of the work up to that point was defined for them by the construction documents and instruction. The teams showed creativity and style as they all added their own personal flair to their creations, resulting in five completely different wall sections.
Let's Fix Construction is a collective group of construction professionals who want to better the industry by sharing our knowledge, openly communicating and encouraging collaboration.
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