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 Liz O'Sullivan
I’m going to say it again: If something is required by the Specifications, it’s required by the Contract.
A procedure or item specified in the Specifications is part of the Contract, just as much as if the procedure or item were specified in the Agreement. (The Agreement is what many people usually think of as the “Contract,” because it’s the particular document that gets signed by the Owner and the Contractor, and it has the Contract Sum indicated in it. But the Agreement is only ONE PART of the Contract.)
The Contract is made up of the Agreement, the Conditions of the Contract, the Drawings, the Specifications, etc. AIA Documents state this requirement most clearly; Owner-generated Agreements and Conditions of the Contract sometimes fall short of being explicit about this. (This is one of many good reasons to use AIA Documents instead of Owner-generated documents.)
This requirement is SO IMPORTANT that it makes up ARTICLE ONE of AIA Document A101-2017 (Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Contractor where the basis of payment is a Stipulated Sum), a very commonly used Agreement.
“The Contract Documents consist of this Agreement, Conditions of the Contract (General, Supplementary and other Conditions), Drawings, Specifications, Addenda issued prior to execution of this Agreement, other documents listed in this Agreement and Modifications issued after execution of this Agreement, all of which form the Contract, and are as fully a part of the Contract as if attached to this Agreement or repeated herein.” – from Article 1 of AIA Document A101-2017
I don’t think I can say this any more clearly.
But somehow, there are a number of Contractors out there who don’t seem to realize that the Specifications are part of the Contract, and there are even a few Architects out there who don’t seem to realize that the Specifications are part of the Contract that they are supposed to be administering during construction. An Owner agrees to pay a Contractor a certain sum, the Contractor agrees to provide the Owner with certain things indicated by the Drawings and Specifications and other Contract Documents, and, in a separate Agreement, the Architect and the Owner agree that the Owner will pay the Architect a certain sum, and the Architect will administer the Contract between the Owner and the Contractor. We all have contractual obligations during construction, and we all need to understand, and follow through on, all of those obligations.
Remember, if it’s in the Specs, it’s in the Contract.
This post originally appeared on Liz O'Sullivan's website as "If It’s in the Specs, It’s in the Contract"
(Editor's Note: The CSI (Construction Specifications Institute) Construction Document Technologist (CDT) Certification is an ideal resource for this core knowledge of project delivery. Want to learn more about the CDT and the Study Groups offered for the Spring Testing window? Please visit here.
Contributed by Lisa Wetherell
Light is important for creating that warm feeling you get when you step into a building or home. It’s also important for boosting productivity and keeping everyone safe and happy. Not to mention, lights are a big part of the architectural creation and can make a huge difference when used right.
In fact, there is an entire niche dedicated to how we use light to enhance spaces, and it’s called architectural lighting design. Specialists in this niche can tell you that there are different categories of lighting and that the color, type, and even light source are of tremendous importance.
However, even though there are plenty of options available, more and more architects and interior designers lean towards LEDs. Have you wondered why?
If you have, below you can get the answer and learn why LEDs are indeed the best artificial light sources one could use in their projects.
While all spaces need artificial light, we must consider the level of energy consumption. This becomes even more important when we’re talking about commercial and office spaces, where the amount of energy consumed by the lighting system is significant.
LED lights are among the most energy efficient artificial sources because they use 80% of the energy to create visible light and only lose 20% as heat. When you compare this with incandescent lights, where 90% of energy is wasted through heat, you can see why so many architects and designers choose this option.
Further, LEDs don’t break easily because they don’t contain glass and they don’t need a lot of energy to create light. Moreover, LEDs come in a wide range of shapes and fixtures, and they can be recycled (which is no true about incandescent lights)!
One of the reasons why LEDs are favorite in commercial and architectural application is their long life. LED lights have an expected lifetime of up to 50,000 hours and they don’t break if left on for a long time (since there is no heat and glass to deteriorate). According to specialists, if left on 8 hours a day, seven days a week, it will take about 10 years for an LED light bulb to burn out.
LED lights are expected to last 25 times longer than halogens and incandescent lights, which is why they are used for difficult to reach places or commercial settings where lights need to on at all times.
Contributed by Chris Maskell
Is there a problem with flooring glued to concrete with a high fly ash content? Fly ash is the finely divided residue that results from the combustion of ground or powdered coal and that is transported by flue gasses. It is used as a replacement for Portland cement in concrete and in some cases can add to the final strength, increase its chemical resistance and durability and can significantly improve the workability of concrete.
If you talk to enough flooring professionals on the subject of site preparation and related issues, eventually the question of concrete, high fly ash content and adhesive bond failure will crop up.
I've heard the question from all corners of the commercial flooring industry, and there are many concerns, but few definitive answers. As a result, many commercial flooring contractors are not warrantying their installations over such concrete. Instead, they add a disclaimer in their 'terms and conditions’ stating that no installation warranty is offered when a certain percentage level of fly ash in the concrete mix is exceeded. Some say 15%, others 20 to 25%, some say more. Such disclaimers won't protect the flooring contractor if there is a failure and things turn nasty.
Concrete with a high fly ash content results in a denser, less porous product. This in turn can interfere with the flooring adhesive’s (or hydraulic cement underlayment's) ability to mechanically bond. Hard troweling of the concrete surface to a super smooth finish adds to the problem, and introduces the need for shot blasting. Shot blasting requires time and money, both of which are in short supply at the end of the project when the flooring is scheduled.
As concrete mixes are proprietary to the concrete supplier, it can be difficult to confirm exactly how much fly ash is present in any one mix. If this is the case or where the concrete is super smooth, unusual in color, or if you are just not sure, then perform a water absorbency test in accordance with ASTM F-3191 and/or a bond test prior to installation.
Place dime sized droplets of water on the cleaned concrete surface, if they are not absorbed after 60 seconds (or in accordance with ASTM F-3191), you could be facing an adhesive bond issue. If this is the case then you need to shot blast to a concrete surface profile (CSP) of 1 or 2, or per adhesive manufacturers’ requirements depending on the floor covering to be installed. (A CSP 2 for example, is similar to 60 grit sandpaper)
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
(Editor's Note: It should be noted that the skilled trades gap has been a long time coming, and this post was originally written by Liz over seven years ago on her blog that you can find here)
I have great respect for people who work hard and are good at their work.
Many people consider hard work and skill to be respect-worthy. However, the same people who respect hard-working and successful doctors, actors, and software engineers, often have little or no respect for hard-working, successful construction tradespeople.
This lack of respect may partially stem from a lack of understanding of what is involved in the work of tradespeople. Sometimes we do a little fix-it work around our own homes and figure that it’s not that hard. We watch tradespeople on TV who make their work look easy, and think, “Oh, well I could do that.” But it actually only looks easy, and that’s because they know what they’re doing!
I suspect that there’s actually a deeper and broader pattern of thinking that’s at work here, and it needs to change, soon.
There is a lack of respect for the construction trades because of the push by schools to get kids to college. Somehow, attaining a 4-year college degree has become the only respected post-high-school option for many kids. It may be the only avenue they hear about from their guidance counselors and parents.
In the Denver Post on February 20, 2011, a guest writer, high school teacher Michael Mazenko wrote:
“…schools keep pushing the college-for-all mentality. The education system should promote the trades and skilled labor as much as it does academics and bachelor’s degrees, and education at all levels should become more experiential and skill-based.”
“This conclusion is supported by the recently released Harvard study that concluded not all kids should go to college – or at least not a four-year university in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. The aptly titled report ‘Pathways to Prosperity’ recommends a new direction for education reform, based on the practical needs of students and the economy.”
Not every teenager really wants to have a career that requires a 4-year-college diploma. But there is pressure from society to go get that college diploma, or else he may be considered to be not smart, or to be an underachiever. Sometimes it works out, and the college student thrives, and ends up taking a career path that did require that college degree. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, the student struggles or hates college, or just wonders why he’s there, AND has student loan debt to deal with after the inevitable drop out of college.
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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