Contributed by Roy Schauffele
One of my favorite movie lines is “you’re killing me, Smalls”, from the baseball movie, 'The Sandlot'.
Well in today’s world, especially specifications for air barriers, the construction industry is killing me. I have written about this item before on #FixConstruction, but to no avail. One of the technical data points I hear design folks dig their feet in on is the “perm rating”. Permeance is a measurement of water vapor transmission through a material, often based on testing performed in accordance to ASTM E96, either Procedure A (dry cup or desiccant) or Procedure B (the wet cup). Big note here, the IBC (International Building Code) in Chapter 2, only references Procedure A.
For the record, I love good reproducible usable data, but the ASTM E96 method of testing leaves me flat. At this moment, I’m sitting here looking at the same material, tested by two different accredited laboratories and there is a 300% difference between the two labs between both two (2) Procedure A samples and two (2) Procedure B samples. With that type of difference, how can one rely on this type of data?
The ASTM E96 standard itself states, in part, “A permeance value obtained under one set of conditions may not indicate the value in another set of conditions”. Based on a round-robin testing effort, ASTM reports E96 has about 20% lab-to-lab variability. I bet you are going to have to think fairly hard about another part of your project manual where you’d allow a 20% variability in testing data.
Permeance data is not an evaluation criterion for ABAA (Air Barrier Association of America). The data is listed by ABAA because the design community has requested it.
Going back to the code definitions, the language used in the air barrier business is constantly changing as the industry and technology evolve. Nowhere is this more evident than in Building Code language, which now fully defines Vapor Retarders and Vapor Permeable in Chapter 2 of the 2015 & 2018 IBC (International Building Code).
Contributed by Michael Chambers
In my perspective from the back of the bus, I often wonder why so many product representatives feel ineffective or intimidated calling on architects. Granted, some architects can be quite a treat. The terms argumentative, aloof, know-it-all, unapproachable, abstract, and expletive deleted are often mentioned. Have you ever stopped to wonder why?
Without trying to defend architects, consider that often an architect’s attitude towards product reps is the result of being misled or over-sold on the applicability, features, and benefits of construction products. Look at a typical reaction to telephone marketers or used car salespersons, what is it that is so offensive? I would suggest two aspects. First, the unrelenting hard-sell without having any idea of your needs or interests; and second, the underlying attitude that the product offered is the only possible choice and how could an architect be so stupid not to immediately understand?
Unfortunately, product representatives must overcome the back wash of less enlightened sales types that have gone before them. However, it is relatively easy to overcome this type of resistance by using a solution-oriented approach rather than a typical product-oriented approach. Architects are primarily concerned with finding the most appropriate range of solutions not the best or greatest product.
In a survey done (editor's note: many years ago) by McGraw-Hill Sweets, architects were asked what they wanted from product representatives. The top 2 results were ‘recommended uses & application of products (92%)’ and ‘guide specifications (88%)’. The last choice was ‘manufacturer’s history, experience, overall capacities & range of products (40%)’. This means that architects want to know how to appropriately apply and integrate products into their designs, not be confused by competitive features and benefits. The need for guide specifications clearly indicates the need write clear, competitive, and enforceable specifications. Lastly, horror of all horrors, the least thing architects want to know is about your company.
Another critical element for effective architectural sales calls is the ability to listen. Practically every time a rep calls on me, the first words are about company history, the president’s ancestors, and how many products have been installed in Outer Slabovia last week. Next, we hear how many years he or she has been in the business, how big their territory is, on and on. Then, a guided tour through the product binder, page by page by never ending page. In all this time, usually 30 minutes, never once has the rep asked about projects, how products are selected, are the office master specifications up-to-date, and the like. The best advice I can offer for effective architectural sales calls is to SHUT-UP AND LISTEN!!!! You will be amazed by the knowledge and insights you can discover about what the architect knows and wants to know about your product. There is a definite reason why the Creator gifted us with 2 ears and one mouth. Here is the outline that I used when making architectural sales calls. These are basic issues and touch points that I found highly effective when dealing with project architects, curmudgeonly specifiers, and firm principals.
Contributed by Roy Schauffele
Late fall and during all winter, concerns and problems arise with air barrier applications on CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit). I know because I get the phone calls. Generally speaking, the fluid applied water-based vapor permeable air barriers go on OK but take a long time to cure or set.
Additionally, I’ve observed a myriad of job site problems with self-adhered vapor impermeable sheets, flashings and tapes. The vapor impermeable materials were applied properly but exhibited blistering and lack of adhesion within days. When investigated there was always liquid water on the adhered side of these sheets.
Observations of quite a few jobs leads me to state that, in this investigation, the vast majority of “problem” jobs had the following in common:
OK, let’s deal with what will lead to an excellent new construction air barrier installation and long-term performance:
1. If the Architect/Specifier has specified a dry water repellent in the CMU, it is already causing a potential problem with the adhesion of a water-based air barrier or primer. This issue has been written about previously in an article in Coatings Pro Magazine July 2018 “Legacy Specifications, Wall and Air Barrier Performance”. The Air Barrier installer absolutely needs to make the Architect/Specifier aware of this prior to bid.
2. If the project is wide open with doors, bay doors and windows not finished or openings not protected from water entry, then a tremendous amount of water can enter the CMU causing some of the problems referenced above. The top of the walls and window openings should be treated in such a way as to prevent water from running in to these open areas.
One of my friends and great technical writer in Austin, TX, Mr. Dave Watts, RA, has the following statement in his specifications: Section 04 20 00, 3.18 PROTECTION OF FINISHED WORK, 3.18.e “Protect tops of masonry with waterproof coverings secured in place without damaging masonry. Provide coverings where masonry is exposed to weather when work is not in progress.”
Contributed by Jori Smith
So, you have a non-Design-Bid-Build (DBB) project on the boards? Hurrah!
Collaborative project delivery methods such as Construction Management At-Risk (CMAR) have a proven track record of improving project outcomes for everyone. This is a different way of doing things though, and we all must adapt to the new normal. Are you evolving, or hanging on to old habits? Here are some ways that the A/E (Architect/Engineer) team can short circuit a successful process.
Having Meetings Without the Contractor
Anticipate that your builder will be included in all project planning activities and emails. A truly collaborative team works together as much as possible and appreciates the extra brain cells solving problems. The project benefits from builder attendance even at programming sessions with users, where the opportunity to learn about the priorities of both the client and the designer will affect feedback down the road.
Not Taking Advantage of Your Partner's Field Skills
Camera scoping of existing piping, roofing cores, investigative demolition inside walls or above ceilings, and surveying. I've had to BEG designers for lists of field verifications helpful to the project. This is a chance to change the reliance upon as-built documents provided by the Owner. Can we reduce, or even eliminate "unforeseen" conditions? Dare to dream!
Figuring it Out on Your Own
The construction team brings access to trade skill sets and constructability experience. In addition, they have been exposed to a diversity of project experience with multiple designers - some of whom might have had a great idea or two. We want to help you solve system/assembly problems while the project is still in design.
Letting the Engineers Put Off Progress Until You Finish "Moving Walls"
This is one of the most effective ways to cut the pre-construction process off at the knees. The builder cannot provide the estimating and constructability services we've been contracted to do when provided empty floor plans on the engineering sheets. Anyhow, BIM is forcing the team to make decisions earlier too, so this is a habit that needs to be broken.
Leaving Out the Details
The project will still be competitively bid by, all or most of the subs, and they need that information for an accurate scope. Sure, the builder at the pre-construction table heard you say “that” months ago (and may even remember), but she/he can’t be charged with communicating your design decisions to the bidders –unless you want to let her/him have the authority for those decisions. To maintain control of design and protect the Owner from unnecessary change costs, a fully complete set of construction documents must be provided.
Forgetting About the Bidding Documents
Again - the subcontracts are still being competitively bid. Additionally, all of Division 01 likely still applies and will require a thorough review by both teams, as changes are generally needed to align the requirements with the project delivery method.
Not Taking Advantage of Scheduling Options
Changes are inherent in the pre-construction process. We're working together to make them now, instead of later – because later costs the owner money in change orders. This is an opportunity to reconsider putting out incomplete or uncoordinated drawings just to hit a milestone date. Ask how your builder can adapt the schedule to give you more time to finish. Early work packages are a fantastic tool. Give me the foundation and steel, I'll get started while you finish the door hardware schedule. Fast track concepts are easily incorporated into these projects.
I’ve had several A/E professionals tell me that public procurement must be DBB. Not so! There are several states which are allowing CMAR and Design-Build. Encourage your lawmakers to open the process and allow other project delivery methodologies. While no delivery method is perfect, there are definite advantages to be had from partnering with the construction team - leading to a more successful project for all.
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
On a recent project of mine, the lack of a submittal for the contractor’s proposed solution to an unexpected situation caused a problem. The contractor didn’t think that a submittal was required by the contract documents, and the architect didn’t realize that a submittal was required by the contract documents. The contractor could have saved himself some money and time, and could have saved the architect and the owner some time, if the contractor had just prepared a submittal for the architect’s review before proceeding with the work. (Oh, yes, some freshly-installed flooring underlayment had to be removed before the project could proceed. THAT was a waste of time and money.)
If something is added to a project, because of an unforeseen condition, everyone (architect, owner, contractor) often acts as if it’s the first time this sort of thing has ever happened. It’s not. Unexpected things happen all the time on construction projects, and that’s why we have standard processes to deal with them.
Anything that wasn’t originally in the project, but is part of the project now, is in the contract as the result of either a change order or a minor change to the contract. Whether it’s a moisture mitigation treatment for an existing slab, or a whole new roof assembly, whether it was initiated by an owner as a late addition to a project, or it was initiated by the contractor as a solution to an unexpected condition, or initiated as a substitution request because of a sudden product unavailability, it ends up in the contract as the direct result of a change order or a minor change (such as the type authorized by an ASI, Architect’s Supplemental Instructions). Even when the change results in no added cost to the owner, and even when its purpose is solely to repair a mistake made by the contractor, it’s a change, and it should be documented (and submitted on).
Architects and specifiers can make sure that the contract documents require submittals for things that weren’t originally in the project. Requiring submittals for items added to the project during construction is a good idea. In fact, requiring submittals for items added to the project during construction may be even more important than requiring submittals for things that were originally part of the design, since the new element wasn’t originally thought through along with the rest of the design. The contractor’s preparation of the submittal, and the architect’s review of the submittal, act as a double-check mechanism to help make sure that the added item will be appropriate.
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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