Contributed by David Stutzman
Design and construction projects require an enormous number of participants to complete each facility. The basic teams include owners, architects, contractors, and suppliers. The lines of communication are well defined, especially after the construction contract is executed. But how are the teams collaborating before the contract is signed?
In no particular order…
The relationship between the owner and architect is well defined by the agreement for the design services. According to AIA agreement Document B101, the owner and architect share information at each design phase. The owner provides the project program and budget. The architect reviews the information and advises the owner if there are any concerns before the design is started. They discuss alternatives for the design approach and for the construction project delivery method. The communication is nearly continuous as the design is refined and solidified while progressing to the completion of the construction documents.
When the owner retains a contractor or construction manager for preconstruction services, the architect communicates with the contractor about cost, schedule, and constructability. When the architect and contractor are collaborating during design phases, the owner can have greater confidence that the ultimate design will meet the owner’s budget and schedule.
Product representatives, whether manufacturer’s direct employees or independent representatives, will meet with the architect team, including the specifier, to advise about the use of specific products for particular applications. The discussion is particularly valuable to resolve unusual conditions, to verify the product performance will meet the owner’s project requirements, and to understand the product cost implications created by the design decisions.
The specifier typically begins by challenging the architect – asking many questions to determine the design intent and confirm project systems, assemblies, products, and materials. The Q&A process becomes a dialog to ensure all aspects of the project will be specified correctly so the owner realizes the quality expected in the completed facility.
The specifier may recommend alternative systems and products that offer advantages to the project. And the specifier will connect the architect to suppliers, subcontractors, and other resources needed to solve particular design problems. The architect and specifier discuss alternatives to determine the optimal design solutions for each application.
Subcontractors provide invaluable real-world experience, with both product and installation. They can advise architects and specifiers about the practicality of construction details, installation sequencing, system costs, and product availability through local distribution channels. The owner may engage subcontractors during design to provide design assist services to develop project specific details and shop drawings before design is complete.
Unlike suppliers who typically furnish product prices only, subcontractors can provide installed system costs that reflect the expected project complexity.
Availability can be a significant issue, especially for short duration projects and just-in-time manufacturing. When architects select the perfect product that is not available in time, project completion may be delayed.
Traditionally, the subcontractor is rarely given an opportunity to contribute during the design process, except as part of a design assist process. The architect team, including specifiers, tends to rely on suppliers for product and system information. Suppliers are rarely responsible for complete systems, while subcontractors always are responsible for complete systems. Be sure to include subcontractors in the process.
Each team and every team member has a contribution to make. The best design responses will take advantage of experience and expertise that is readily available. Together, through active collaboration before the construction contract is signed, the teams can help ensure the owner’s project requirements will be met when construction is complete.
(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 Karl Michels
The recent growth of programs advocating sustainable design is numerous: LEED, Living Building Challenge, mindful MATERIALS, etc. Through all of these, though, there seems to be a disconnect between specified products and installed items. The owner is paying for something he didn’t receive, the architect is delivering a product they didn’t envision, the contractor is building a project that is not as described, and the manufacturer missed out on a sale of a product designed for the task.
The Boss noticed a continuing pattern of building projects where there is a difference in collaboration and specification language of sustainable design between architects, engineers, and contractors and he wants me to look into it. Something’s not right in these specs and I can’t quite figure it out, but, I’m on it. My name is Specman; I carry a bunch of technical sheets.
* * * * * * * * * *
8:15 AM. The sun is bright, the coffee burnt, and my head is splitting. I have been at this since 5 am this morning. I reach into the desk drawer, shake the last two aspirin out of the bottle, and knock them back with the lousy coffee. It’s going to be one of those days. Thank God for the pharmaceutical guys; they’re my helpers. The 010000 General Conditions and 018113 Sustainable Design specifications are pretty clear. Why didn’t this project get built with the appropriate materials as specified? I don’t quite get it.
9:02 AM. I phone the architectural specifier. “Specifier”, she barks into the phone. “What do you want?” She’s a hard driven cookie; smart, but tough. Billable hours are important, there’s no time for small talk. I called her Honey when I first met her; she made it quite clear she wasn’t an ex-wife or current girlfriend. Just because she was female didn’t mean she didn’t know her stuff and I would be well served to address her appropriately. She was right then and right now. She doesn’t know, however, that I call her Toots behind her back. “Look, I need some answers and I know you can give them to me”.
“Yeah. What’s the deal with the intent of sustainable design that only encompasses half of the project?” I ask.
“What are you talking about, Specman?” she answers. “A sustainable project is sustainable throughout. We just finished issuing the documents on that LEED Plutonium Level building. You know, the one intended to be loved and cherished by the community for time immortal. We covered all the bases: Fasteners are made solely of recycled horseshoes; Ventilation is air movement generated by the wings of 100,000 Monarch butterflies and the Finishes are comprised of the most ecologically responsible building materials with a minimum 20% recycled rainbow content verified by an independent third party. What more is there?” I increasingly get the feeling I might be grabbing a tiger by the tail.
“Well”, I answered, “someone else didn’t get the memo. The engineer hired by you to design the parts of the building no one sees in this same project advocated Electrical Wiring as “throughout” and Piping as “leak free.” Will that meet your sustainable design criteria?”
Contributed by Lori Greene
Several proposed changes regarding classroom security are currently being considered for the 2018 edition of NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code. There is one proposed change – just one little word, actually – that is a major deviation from the current model codes and is inconsistent with both the International Building Code and International Fire Code:
The releasing mechanism shall open the door leaf with not more than two releasing operations.”
This proposed language would apply only to existing buildings and would not affect new buildings at this time, but it’s possible that this change could be used as justification for a future proposal that would affect all buildings. For the 2018 edition of NFPA 101, there are three occupancy chapters where this language regarding two operations would be inserted: Chapter 15 – Existing Educational Occupancies, Chapter 17 – Existing Day Care Occupancies, and Chapter 39 – Existing Business Occupancies.
Many college and university classroom buildings are considered business occupancies, so the proposal for Chapter 39 would include classroom doors within these facilities. Unfortunately, because the proposal for this chapter does not specifically reference classrooms or colleges/universities, the language could actually be applied to any room in any business occupancy with approval from the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).
This language would allow building owners to request the AHJ’s permission to use retrofit security devices in any existing business occupancy. NFPA 101’s definition of a business occupancy and the examples listed in Annex A include city halls, courthouses, outpatient clinics, town halls, and office buildings, in addition to college and university classrooms. This could put AHJs in a tough position, similar to the situation in some states where school districts have pushed for AHJs to allow classroom barricade devices in schools.
Given the changes in construction and code requirements over the years, it could be very difficult and time-consuming for an AHJ to evaluate an existing building to determine whether two releasing operations should be allowed on the egress doors. The presence or lack of active and passive fire protection features could affect this decision. It seems that an existing building without the currently-required safety features should have egress doors that are easier to use, not more difficult.
More is Not Always Better
When reviewing the proposed change to NFPA 101-2018, one should begin by considering the current one-operation requirement versus the proposed two-operation limit for existing buildings. Would increasing the number of operations that must be performed to open a door actually enhance the level of safety in our classrooms? Does the potential for increased security justify delaying occupants’ evacuation? What is the motivation behind this change, and does it outweigh the potentially deadly consequences?
The Life Safety Code has required hardware to unlatch with one releasing operation for almost 30 years. Even as far back as the 1927 edition of the Building Exits Code, doors were required to be “so arranged as to be readily opened.” Similar language still exists in the Life Safety Code today. It seems obvious that a door that requires one releasing operation would be more readily openable than a door that requires two or more releasing operations.
Unfamiliar security devices that could be permissible under the proposed change might be confusing for users to operate, particularly in conjunction with existing latching hardware. Products that have not been tested or certified may not operate as expected when installed in a high-use / high-abuse location.
Contributed by Jon Lattin
“Let’s Build Careers! We need all hands on deck, and that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.” Michelle Obama (at the National Science Foundation Family-Friendly Policy Rollout September 26, 2011)
With less than 10% of the construction workforce comprised of women, and construction related jobs on the rise, now is the time to take action. Last summer I was reading an article about women in construction and it talked about an innovative camp that trained high school girls in the construction trades. The ultimate goal of these camps is to introduce young girls to the construction opportunities in front of them. Having young daughters of my own, this inspired me to work with the Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter of CSI and the Eastern PA Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) to start our own camp.
“The future belongs to those that believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Eleanor Roosevelt
With over 30 committee members that span the Lehigh Valley construction community, we are hosting the inaugural Let’s Build Construction Camp for Girls in June. From our research, the other camps of this kind seemed to be only trades based. However we are CSI, so we made the decision to include all aspects of the AEC industry. The Let's Build Construction Camp is a free week-long camp for girls aged 14-18 to explore the construction trades, architecture, engineering, and construction manufacturing through hands on experiences and field trips. (editor: for a sample preliminary schedule, please click here)
“Motivation is what gets you started. Commitment is what keeps you going.”
This endeavor has been one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever participated in. The Let’s Build planning committee exceeds 30 professionals from all over the AEC spectrum, with 75% of the committee being women. From project managers to architects, building manufacturers to subcontractors, and from educators to general contractors. Everyone involved with Let’s Build is passionate about making this camp a success and committed to making this the most rewarding experience for twenty lucky girls this summer.
To learn more about the Let’s Build camp, please visit www.letsbuildcamp.com. As of Friday, May 19th, the new application deadline is now Friday, June 2nd and only 20 Applicants will be selected. The application consists of contact information, a detailed statement why the applicant wants to be a part of this camp, and at least one letter of reference.
After this great event, we look forward to reporting back on our successes in July, so stay tuned! We'll let you know about the activities, successes and lessons learned. Maybe we can get CSI Chapters across the country to pick up this charge and host similar events?!
Contributed by Tom J. Moverman, Esq
A long time ago modular construction had a limited understanding that brought it down to parked trailers and temporary metal buildings that did not retain heat. Fast forward to now, increased efficiency in the modular business has shifted the focus from stick building methods to new building processes.
What Is Modular Building Or Construction?
Put simply, modular construction or building is the method of having all the components of a structure pre-built in a secure and dry factory and finally assembled at the respective site. Most people who have seen this type of building have witnessed it in the construction of a home. An increase in modular construction saw nearly three percent of all commercial construction done using modular methods. Using modular construction is growing in popularity in the construction industry and with very good reasons.
One of those reasons for this popularity is that modular construction saves time and money. For example, construction slows down in the colder parts of the country, but using modular building methods means this is not normally the case. Construction is done inside a climate-controlled factory where workers do not have to battle the elements and construction companies don't have to be concerned about losing time and money due to inclement weather. It's estimated that a structure built through modular methods can be constructed 25 to 50 percent quicker than standard construction methods. This further adds to its popularity with companies looking to save money on building costs.
Questions That Come With This Type Of Construction
One of the most pertinent questions that come up when talk about modular construction happens, is how this type of construction will affect American workers' jobs. The most viable answer to this question is that foreign companies can try to create modular building segments to be used in America but they are not going to have the best insight into building exactly for American needs. This lessens the potential threat of job loss that this construction is perceived to bring.
Furthermore, shipping costs associated with getting big modular segments to the United States can prohibit foreign companies from building for American projects. As already stated above, foreign manufacturers might use materials and methods that do not meet American building costs. It is likely that foreign modular construction companies are going to be reluctant to change their methods in order to meet American specifications. What all this means is that there is a less chance American jobs will be taken out of the country and into foreign hands.
A Degree Of Accuracy Is Required
Another element of modular construction that needs to be taken into consideration is how precise the site preparation needs to be in order to for a structure to be built correctly. With regular building projects, imperfections in the foundation can be corrected by making adjustments on site. However, when it comes to modular buildings, the foundation has to be accurately level to within one-half of an inch otherwise the entire structure will need to be rebuilt. Many American construction companies have adjusted to this unique facet of modular construction, however the thought that one wrong move could ruin the whole project can certainly elicit a lot of frustration sometimes.
Will All Buildings End Up Looking Similar?
Modular structures used to look alike a lot, regardless of their structure. Thankfully, technological advances have helped modular construction companies find ways to offer a lot of variety to their clients. Some of those advances now allow architects to design modular structures with curves and other various shapes that were not possible before. A desire for modular construction companies to acquire more of the commercial market is the reason behind this new innovation. Modular manufacturers turned to commercial construction after the residential housing market fell. Many manufacturers have found success in this market.
However, despite the changes and successes, modular construction still faces some limitations based on the look and functionality of a structure. That still does not mean modular construction is not something to consider for your projects. It is also worth noting that modular does not have to be done for the entire structure; heating, cooling or plumbing systems can be built in advance and shipped after completion. Whichever way modular construction is used, it is worth considering for its time and money saving purposes.
Tom Moverman established the Lipsig Brooklyn Law Firm with Harry Lipsig and his partners in 1989; The firm’s focus is in products liability, personal injury, construction accidents, car accidents and medical malpractice.
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