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 Elias Saltz
As a consulting specifier, my clients come to me for my expertise, and to bolster my knowledge I frequently find myself in conversations with product reps, talking about the nitty-gritty technical aspects of their products. These conversations delve into a far deeper level of detail than I would previously get when I was a ‘normal’ design architect and project manager. Over the course of those conversations, I am occasionally surprised that things I thought I knew a lot about were based on misconceptions. In fact, even things that I considered “common knowledge” have been shown to be wrong, or at least over-simplifications. Armed with accurate information, I can pass correct technical advice on to my clients, hopefully dispelling those misconceptions one person at a time, one project at a time.
Which leads me to the idea for this series of posts. Misconceptions can be found across the spectrum, in every product category and in every MasterFormat number. I thought it would be fun and enlightening to ask my go-to reps in a wide variety of product categories to tell me the biggest and most common misconceptions they hear as they work with designers and architects, and present their responses here. In each post I’ll relate my discussion with reps in one category or one MasterFormat header. So without any further ado, today’s Misconceptions.
The reps I chose to approach for this post, Andy Vegter from USG and Thad Goodman from National Gypsum, are both active and involved CSI members that I’ve come to know well over my career. I consider them my trusted advisors when it comes to questions about their companies’ lines of gypsum-based products. I’m not promoting their products over their competitors’ - it’s far more about the individual reps than the companies that they work for.
Without any further ado, today’s Misconceptions.
09 29 00 - Gypsum Board
I asked Andy and Thad this question:
“When you think about the questions and comments you hear from design professionals across all levels of experience, what misconceptions about gypsum products do you find that you most commonly have to dispel?”
First, this brief introduction - What is gypsum/gypsum board, anyway?”
Gypsum is a natural mineral, chemically made up of calcium and sulfur bound to oxygen and water. It is found naturally in sedimentary rock formations, with some of the world’s largest natural reserves in North America. A synthetic version, which is a byproduct of coal burning electric power plants, is chemically identical to natural gypsum. Some gypsum board manufacturing plants are fed with mostly synthetic gypsums and others are built over a mine where the gypsum is coming out of the ground. Synthetic gypsum is considered a recycled material by sustainability rating systems, so projects seeking certification can specify that gypsum panels be made up of 90% recycled content. It’s important to remember that not all products are available from plants that use synthetic gypsum.
Gypsum board is manufactured when gypsum is mixed with water and additives to form a slurry which is then fed between continuous layers of paper or another type of facer. Through a chemical process, the slurry hardens to its original rock state, and the facer becomes bonded to the gypsum core. The boards are then cut to size and dried.
What follows are some of the most frequent misconceptions and misunderstandings that the reps related, followed by the correct information.
Contributed by Cherise Lakeside
If you already know me, you know that young professional development is an area in AEC that is very important to me. I have had mentors and guidance throughout my career that has helped me in my growth and success. I still have amazing people helping and supporting me every day. Because of that, I feel a burning need to give back what I have been given and help our younger professionals get ahead and succeed.
I have become more and more aware of an area where our young professionals are being neglected at an extremely critical time. We need to fix this.
A few things happened recently that motivated me to write this blog:
BREAKING NEWS: Manufacturers, you are missing the boat in a very big way. You are missing the boat in marketing, you are missing the boat in risk management and you are missing the boat in educating the right people about your product.
Contributed by Sheldon Wolfe
Although it didn't seem like it at the time, one of the best parts of my CSI chapter's certification classes was reading the A201 - not selectively, but the whole thing, beginning to end. Being the heart of the construction contract, anyone who works on a project should know what's in it. I can't quote every part of it, but it's familiar enough that I can find what I'm looking for fairly quickly. I don't deal with much of it, e.g., claims and time requirements, but there are a few parts that I find of particular interest.
We'll start with what I call the complementary clause.
§ 1.2 CORRELATION AND INTENT OF THE CONTRACT DOCUMENTS
Most architects are aware of this requirement, which is quite useful when something is on the drawings but didn't make it into the specifications. Clearly, when that happens there has been a communication failure. The specifier might not have seen something on the drawings, or it might have been added unbeknownst to the specifier. Regardless of the reason, this clause has saved many an architect when something was missed.
It's obviously a useful fallback requirement, but it shouldn't be relied on to cover mistakes that should have been avoided. It is quite powerful, but it also is limited. Let's look at a couple of examples.
The bidding documents show a bathroom on the drawings, and in the bathroom, floor tile is indicated. Unfortunately, there is no specification for tile. No problem, right? The complementary clause requires the contractor to provide floor tile! Of course, there is that pesky provision that requires to contractor to ask the architect about obvious conflicts, but it's pretty much impossible to prove the contractor saw this error and failed to call the architect.
Now we're in construction, and the contractor discovers the error. Because the tile should have been included in the bid, and because of the complementary clause, the contractor is on the hook; the tile must be provided. That is true, but without specifications, the contractor is free to choose any type of tile. The contractor can claim the bid was based on plastic tile on sale at the dollar store, instead of the really cool stuff the architect wanted, priced at $20 per square foot. Furthermore, without installation instructions, the contractor could argue that simply laying the tile on the floor is all that's required.
A silly example, to be sure, yet it emphasizes the importance of specifications as a way to ensure you get what you want.
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