Contributed by Elias Saltz
Like it or not, the architectural product library is a thing of the past. No longer do firms set aside rooms dedicated to shelves covered with hefty binders. The parade of product reps schlepping suitcases filled with paper updates has mostly stopped. Architects' and specifiers' need for up-to-date information, on the other hand, has not abated. My job writing specifications requires me to research multiple products and systems every single day. Product data is now almost exclusively available electronically, and manufacturers are figuring out the best way to present and distribute that information. Many consolidate the information on thumb drives and hand them to architects and specifiers at meetings and product shows. But how useful is that when those thumb drives end up tossed in a box, gathering dust?
Also, it's recognized now that thumb drives are a major cyber security risk; any one of them can be a malware or espionage vector and the product manufacturer may not even know it (every single thumb drive is made in China, and who knows what's hidden in them?!). Also, the data on the drives is current as of the date the drive is made, but quickly gets obsolete. So thumb drives aren't the answer.
The only feasible on-demand information source we have, other than old-fashioned picking up the phone or meeting reps in person, is manufacturer websites. I visit dozens of sites for every project I write, and often I struggle to find the information I need. This might be because the sites are poorly designed, require registration, or simply don't have the information. The search bars return useless results. The guide specifications, when available, aren't editable. There are no details. There are no tools to find local reps.
Most sites actually contain very thorough information, but there's frequently a learning curve to finding it efficiently because they do counterintuitive things. Often, for example, clicking "I'm an Architect" displays only CEUs, not product information.
The time is ripe, I believe, for the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), a national association most famous for publishing formats adopted by the entire construction industry, to jump into solving this problem. WebFormat (or whatever it would be named) is an idea that has been floating around for a long time, but hasn't yet been implemented. Given the investment CSI has been making in upgrading its technological footprint, the time is ripe to develop this product.
What would WebFormat contain? I imagine a single hyperlink on each manufacturer's homepage that would bring us to an index of the available products, perhaps organized in multiple ways (how about drop down options for sorting by MasterFormat number, UniFormat category, and OmniClass table), with a very brief description of the product within the index. The main index page would also have a way to search for local reps and senior technical reps. Upon visiting a specific product, we could immediately find details, product data sheets, photographs, available colors/finishes, guide specs (in MS Word), warranty information, HPD's and EPD's, installer qualifications, and installation instructions. All the information will be organized by every manufacturer in a uniform way.
Let's end the endless, frustrating, fruitless web searches, and learn from how MasterFormat and SectionFormat have transformed AEC. CSI needs to begin working on WebFormat, now.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
I've been saying it for years now. The public's perception of just what is a construction worker has to change.
Sure, the hardhat and overalls wearing carpenter, working outdoors and swinging a hammer does indeed exist. But construction is SO MUCH MORE.
Construction is the process, art, or manner of constructing something.
Using that definition, if you work within the construction industry you could hold one of well over a hundred different job roles or titles. Due to our heavy involvement in the Construction Specifications Institute and CSI's diversified membership base of ALL players within the built environment, when Let's Fix Construction was founded we chose to view the construction industry as this more encompassing whole. We chose AEC - Architecture, Engineering & Construction - as our definition, a term that is more widely recognized and accepted today.
So whether that is more of a skilled tradesman position, such as a flooring installer, cement mason, painter, welder, ironworker or boilermaker, or perhaps it may be on the design end, such as an architect or engineer (or one of dozens of roles within an office), construction is so far beyond our hammer-swinging carpenter that has become the unfortunate public face.
During this Careers in Construction Month, it’s important that we not only talk to, but inform the younger generation on not just what construction is, but what construction can be.
Today, Monday October 7th, is Careers in Construction Day. Meant to be a day of action on social media for those working within construction, please take a moment to share a picture of yourself on the job and post it to social media with the tag #CICDAY2019 in order to give people a true glimpse into our daily lives. While you're at it, feel free to use our hashtag #FixConstruction
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
Purchasing for construction projects isn’t like purchasing in our personal lives.
When we buy things in our personal lives, we go to a store, or go online, find exactly what we want, and buy it. Sometimes we ask someone else to get something for us. The very particular among us might attach a photo of exactly what we want when we send the email or text message request for the item.
On construction projects, the architect finds out from the owner the general idea of what is required, then the architect, through the drawings and specifications, tells the general contractor exactly what to provide. OK, so this is complicated, but it still makes sense.
What happens next is where it gets weird…
The bidding general contractors solicit bids from subcontractors and vendors, each of whom is a specialist in his or her area. These are the people who read the documents and actually provide what the drawings and specifications require, and the general contractor who is awarded the project coordinates all of that work. These bidders may submit bids on the specified items, or may submit substitution requests, requesting that different products be approved by the architect.
One time I was talking with a product rep at my CSI Chapter meeting about specifications for toilet partitions and lockers. The rep represents several different manufacturers. She currently has someone working with her who is new to the construction industry.
The new person looks at specifications for all projects that have just hit the street, to see if the specs include manufacturers they represent, or products that they might be able to meet the spec for, even if their manufacturers aren’t specifically listed. If their manufacturers aren’t listed, but they can meet the spec, the product rep will prepare a substitution request and submit it to the general contractor for him to submit to the architect, to see if they can get approved, and therefore be able to provide a bid.
The new employee described this process as “the strangest way to do business.” It is very odd, from a manufacturer’s or distributor’s point of view. The building owner, through the architect, asks for something specific, or maybe says “provide one of these three” or maybe says “provide this, or something equal.” Then the manufacturer, distributor, or subcontractor goes through a process which looks a bit like begging to be allowed to play, too.
This isn’t actually that strange when the documents are clear.
Contributed by Russell Harrison
As product reps, most of us have it pretty easy in our day-to-day lives. Sure, there are long days walking, driving, or even flying from meeting to meeting. And don’t forget the many nights in hotels!!! But overall, our jobs aren’t too difficult.
Well, except for the one thing that we don’t have control over. When the drawings and specifications don’t agree on a project. This is always a difficult spot to be in for a product rep. I won’t even start to cover what happens at the subcontractor level, as that’s a blog post unto itself.
Has anyone ever wondered what happens when a manufacturer’s rep is asked to provide a bid in that instance? Many things happen, and not necessarily all of them are good! To give you a background on what products I cover as a rep, I handle aluminum composite materials (ACM), plate, and honeycomb panels in the Pacific Northwest. Our products are specified on a regular basis. A good number of projects we end up working on are handled via substitution request.
Typically, when a subcontractor gets an invite where one of our products are being used (material, not necessarily manufacturer specified), we’re forwarded some, or all of the information we need to get started on providing a material bid. As reps, we get to go through the details and specs to make sure they work together and there aren’t any issues. In the last month, I’ve had eight or ten projects come across my desk where the specs and details did not agree, even to the point of ACM rainscreen panels being specified, but the drawings calling out honeycomb barrier panels. That, kids, is an apples and oranges conversation and very difficult to negotiate at the architectural level without ruffling feathers!
The first thing that I do when providing a subcontractor request is to annotate the project spec and note where our proposed substitution is an equal or comparable, but I always include notes where there was a “miss” on the part of the architecture team to either make sure the spec was clean or where the details don’t match the specs. Unfortunately, because my notes are on the spec, it always seems that I’m picking on the specifier, but I’m not. Regrettably, it’s a feature of the substitution request process, since they are typically based around the specifications.
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
I think there’s a big problem with the way substitutions are often handled, at least here in Colorado.
CSI has some great solutions – for example, 2 different substitution request forms, one for use during bidding, and one for use during construction. MasterSpec has what I consider to be fairly decent language regarding substitutions, in Division 01. But these solutions are often not implemented.
I think that “what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate” on several levels:
As a specifier, I sometimes add some language to the “acceptable products” list in each spec section that refers to the Division 00 section “Procurement Substitution Procedures” and/or Division 01 section “Substitution Procedures,” or if I have a Basis-of-Design product by one manufacturer listed, and a list of comparable manufacturers after that, I sometimes add language in each spec section that indicates that the contractor should “Comply with the requirements of Division 01 Section ‘Product Requirements’ for comparable product requests.”
But as with everything else, the project architect still has to know what’s in the specs (and then enforce the specs), the G.C. still has to comply with the requirements of the construction documents (and make sure his subs do too), and the Owner still has to understand that proposed substitutions have to be very carefully evaluated since everything was designed around the specified product.
I think this is where our work as CSI members lies – we should try to educate the rest of our industry about the roles that all parts of a project team play in this substitution process.
This post originally appeared on Liz O'Sullivan's website as "Substitutions: Often a Quagmire, but CSI Can Help"
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SUBSTITUTIONS & SUBMITTALS?
The NEW Product Rep University Program at CONSTRUCT has been designed to meet the needs of Manufacturer's Representatives of Architectural Building Products, as integral members of the project team. The program features a full day of education (6 sessions) which includes 'Substitutions and Submittals: Not So Dirty Words' presented by Michael Chambers. Get additional details on the Product Rep University here: www.constructshow.com/PRU
Download a Product Rep University flyer here.
CONSTRUCT will be held October 9 - 11, 2019 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. Read more on CONSTRUCT here. )
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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