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 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 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 Cory Robbins
I work for a multi-disciplined exterior envelope contractor. We have run into the same problem over and over for the past decade and are looking to address it sooner rather than later. We are talking about the huge gap/loophole that exists when installing a multi-layered dry-joint rainscreen system. Rainscreens are here to stay, and architects are designing buildings across the country to include them and show off some beautiful looking exterior facades that make everyone stop and stare when walking past.
The issue that we have run into is quite simple, but tricky to fix. At the end of a project, if there happens to be a leak in the elevation including a rainscreen, the owner is in a heap of trouble. There is usually an Air & Vapor Barrier installer, and an Exterior Façade installer on the project and they both will complain and blame the other contractor for the leak. The worst part is they both have valid arguments. The AVB installer has an easy out in that “My work was watertight before the exterior façade installer drilled 50,000 holes through it, you can’t blame me!” The exterior façade installer says “My system is dry-seal, and is designed to let water through, how can you possibly blame me?”
And so…… The Blame Game ensues!
To make things worse, every AVB material warranty is void the moment it is pierced by any fastener. They specifically do not warrant workmanship and the best they will do is warrant their material failing. Manufacturers of AVB will replace the material (which costs next to nothing) and sometimes pay for the labor to remove their material, NOT INCLUDING the overburden/exterior façade. The owner of the building has two options at this point.
Both of these options are TERRIBLE! In both situations, the owner loses and the only winner is the lawyers who are making $400/hr. We have come up with a solution that can be incorporated into the specifications by the architect designing the project. The concept is simple, place the AVB installer/subcontractor underneath the exterior façade installer/subcontractor and make them one entity that provides a 10-year workmanship warranty for the wall system. This way, there is only one company to call when a leak is found in the elevation, the exterior façade installer. That subcontractor is in charge of the wall system, and they vouch for the AVB installer and their work. This does not mean one sole-source company, and it can be two separate companies, with one united goal, a leak-free rainscreen wall system.
The precedent for this has already been set in curtainwall when the curtainwall installer includes the storefront and glazier and caulker under one umbrella. Or, when a roofer brings along their favorite plumber for the storm drains that need to be installed. The 10-year workmanship warranty language also forces a more detailed coordination effort by the two installers, simply because they know they will be coming back if there are any leaks after project completion.
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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