Contributed by Sheldon Wolfe
In the last few years, it has been proposed that owners might benefit from hiring specifiers directly; it has even been suggested that specifiers might help owners choose architects. Specific aspects of these ideas, and of related issues, were addressed by member presentations at the Construction Specifications Institute's (CSI) annual convention over the last handful of years.
In 2014, at the convention in Baltimore, several Institute directors and interested members met to discuss a report that had been submitted to the Institute board by Ujjval Vyas, PhD, of the Alberti Group. This report, titled "The Risk Management Value of Specifications," was prepared at the request of CSI. The report's Executive Summary noted conditions that would surprise few specifiers: Specification software is beginning to replace activities traditionally done by a specifier; contractors are becoming more involved in specifications, especially in design-build projects; and specifiers suffer from the Rodney Dangerfield syndrome - their value often is not appreciated by their employers, with commensurate effect on stature, compensation, and opportunity for advancement.
What will happen to specifiers in the next decade? Will they be replaced by software? Will they shed the grunt work of word processing and become even more valuable, devoting their time to product research, coordination of documents, and adding intelligence to the building model? Or will they simply fade away?
Just as has happened with drawing - we moved from linen to vellum to digital images, and we moved from drafting to CAD to building modeling, yet all of these options remain in use - all of the above possibilities for specifiers will exist in some degree, and it's possible someone will continue using a typewriter to write specifications. But which of these possibilities, or what combination of them, will be most common?
What I see suggests the answer won't be to the liking of most specifiers. Specifying software will get better, it will extract more information from the building model, it will get easier to use, it will further automate editing of specifications, and it will be seen as a replacement for specifiers. Contractors will continue to increase their importance during construction, and designers will continue to lose credibility with clients. Will specifiers soon find themselves in the unemployment line?
What happens, both to specifiers and to specifying as a career, will be affected by what specifiers do to influence the discussion. If they do nothing, they will be further marginalized, and though they might not be laid off, they may not be replaced when they leave. Based on what I've seen, that is the likely course.
Contributed by David Stutzman
We see it time and again. The deadline approaches. The rush is on. All the delayed decisions and tasks are now urgent.
Stress builds. Checking stops. Mistakes happen. Coordination suffers. Quality erodes. Time runs out. Then comes the refrain, “We’ll catch it in the addendum.” The A/E is already spending his construction administration budget.
And, ultimately, the Owner pays!
Getting it right the first time ultimately saves time, avoids unnecessary costs, and relieves stress. Think about the consequences and the conclusion is obvious.
What Are the Consequences?
Let’s review a hypothetical project after the deadline. The documents are issued for bidding. The bidder receives the documents and checks to be sure he has everything that is required to develop his bid. He checks the specifications table of contents and compares the listed sections to those actually bound in the project manual. He also checks the drawing list against the drawing set.
What is he likely to find? Missing or “extra” documents that are not named as part of the bid set? Documents with titles or numbers that do not match the list? Next step – RFI, and the bidder hasn’t even looked at the technical content. What else awaits discovery for potential Change Order?
The bidder writes the RFI, creates a transmittal, and sends it to the A/E. “Hey, Mr. A/E, I just received your bid set documents. What you said was included does not match what you sent. Would you please explain the discrepancies?” Translation: If this A/E can’t get the document list right, what can I expect of the content?
The A/E’s clerk receives the RFI and logs it in. The clerk sends it to the project manager who reads it, decides who must respond, and returns it for distribution. The RFI is distributed to the project team. The team members review and respond. The project manager assembles all the responses, drafts a reply to the bidder, and collects the revised documents from the team.
By the way, Owner tend to notice RFIs. Some may rate the A/E by the number of RFI and Change Orders. The more the bidders question missing or inaccurate information, the more the Owner’s faith in the A/E erodes. That faith may be critical, later, when defending a claim.
But wait! It’s not so simple now. Once issued for bid, documents can only be changed by addenda. Drawing revisions must be clouded. Spec changes must be tracked. Each revision must be formally issued to modify or replace the previous issue.
What Time Does the Process Take?
Make your own assessment. I believe, on average, each RFI is a minimum of 8 hours – just for the design team. This is only the first RFI just to confirm the bidder has the right set of documents. How many more might there be?
Meanwhile, the bidder is reviewing the content for the first barrage. The more the bidder finds the more his confidence in the documents erodes. The less the confidence, the greater the price to compensate for the perceived document quality and assumed risk.
Let the Owner Pay Less!
Bids include both the cost of construction and the bidder’s risk. Maximizing document quality reduces bidders’ risk and associated costs. Plus it also reduces the design team’s construction administration time and costs. A/Es have long lamented their cost overruns during construction administration. Managing document quality allows A/Es to reduce their risks during construction administration.
When risks are reduced, fees can reflect the reduced risk. Reduced fees and better quality will put design teams at a decided advantage when pursuing the next commission.
The Owner pays less and the A/E improves profits! What a combination.
Plan for Quality
Stop the stress and improve the documents. Adopt a workflow that promotes decisions and creates information when both are needed. Address all the easy issues first. Get them out of the way early. Then focus on the more difficult and important issue.
Require a simple step to improve coordination. Insist that entire design team develop a proposed list of specification sections during Schematic Design. Maintain, update, and distribute the list regularly as the design develops. Or better, yet, use a live, collaborative document, accessible by the entire team. Add notes and questions to the list about the major products and systems that will be included in each specification. Use the specifications list as the powerful coordination tool it can be.
Schedule time for quality checking and correcting. Set an early completion date for drawings and specifications before the end of each design phase. Distribute a check set. If possible, arrange for an independent review by staff members not on the design team.
Schedule reviews. Allow time to make the necessary corrections and complete the coordination. Follow the schedule.
(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 Elias Saltz
As a consulting specifier, my clients come for my expertise. 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.
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.
The reps I chose to approach for this post, Kurt Wenzel from YKK AP and John Stelter from EFCO Corporation, 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 fenestration 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.
08 43 13 - Aluminum-Framed Storefronts
Introduction to Storefronts:
Webster defines storefront as “The front side of store or store building facing a street.” The use of storefront products dates all the way back to the 1930’s, and the systems of today have changed very little from the original design. The design intent of the storefront sash and glass originally was to allow for shopkeepers to display their wares to pedestrians who would pass by their stores. They aimed to entice them to stop and look with the hopes of attracting them inside.
Aluminum-framed storefronts are basically extrusions of aluminum that are fabricated and assembled to allow for glass (or other infills) to be installed into the system, providing a see-through weather barrier between the inside and outside of the building. The extrusions are normally 1-3/4 to 2 inches wide by 4 to 4½ inches deep; systems 6 inches deep are available from some manufacturers. Systems intended for use on buildings’ exteriors usually are fabricated with a thermal break lined up with the center of glass. The thermal break reduces heat energy loss through the system, preserving energy and minimizing condensation. That thermal break is omitted when the storefront is located on the interior, such as in a vestibule.
With storefront systems, the entire extrusion is structural, there are no non-structural pressure caps or decorative covers like there are in curtain wall systems. Multiple configurations are available, and all are conceptually equivalent, other than the plane of the glass. Configurations include structural glazed, front, center, and rear glazed systems.
CSI’s Specifier Practice Group recently held a webinar session discussing how storefronts, windows, curtain walls and window walls are made and how they’re distinguished from one another in performance and in their use. The video of that webinar is available here.
Contributed by Randy Nishimura
Construction insurance, bonds, and warranties are among the most confusing and inscrutable matters requiring the everyday attention of everyone involved with design and construction. Consequently, it’s important for building industry professionals to understand their various forms and the salient features of each that distinguish their fundamental purposes.
Accidents happen. Losses occur. Things break or don’t work like they’re supposed to. To “fix” these problems entails prescribing responsibilities and providing assurances necessary to safeguard the interests of the various parties involved in today’s increasingly complex building processes. This is the role of construction insurance, bonds, and warranties.
In a nutshell, they may be defined and distinguished as follows:
Fundamentally, insurance is a financial risk management tool, the primary concept of which involves the transference of the risk of potential financial loss from the insured to an insurance company in exchange for a monetary premium.
Most everyone is familiar with insurance in one form or another, such as automobile insurance, homeowner’s insurance, or health insurance. Construction industry insurance is similar, protecting policy holders from catastrophic financial losses in the event of a claim or occurrence.
Construction insurance includes coverage for general liability related to claims for bodily injury, property damage, personal injury, and others that can arise from construction-related activities. There are also professional liability policies, that protect individuals and companies from the full cost of defending claims of negligence, primarily for errors & omissions (after all, humans sometimes will make mistakes). Other forms of liability insurance include policies for managerial liability, and liability risks related to pollution, the actions of company directors and officers, cyber activities, and workers’ compensation. Excess liability policies provide coverage limits above those of an underlying liability policy, and are sometimes a contractual requirement on construction projects.
Construction insurance also includes property insurance. Builder’s risk policies offer coverage in the event of property losses, protecting the insurable interests in materials, fixtures, and/or equipment being used in the construction or renovation of a building. Builder’s risk insurance can be purchased either by the owner or the general contractor, depending upon the terms of the Contract for Construction. It is usually a statutory requirement for public work. Inland marine coverage (a peculiar term) protects property in transit, as well as the instrumentalities of transportation (the bridges, roads, and piers, etc.).
Property insurance purchased by one party can also provide coverage for the business or personal property of others, who become additional named insureds on the policy. This kind of coverage is often used in the instances where an owner may rely upon the insured contractor to provide protection of property the owner has paid for but is not yet part of the completed work (such as for materials stored in an off-site warehouse).
Some cautionary words about construction insurance: Insurance, the saying goes, is like Swiss cheese. There’s a lot of substance to it but a lot of holes as well. It’s in everyone’s best interest to understand required and recommended coverages for any construction project. It’s also important to avoid limiting coverage through poor contract language. Equally important for everyone involved with a construction project is to review contractual requirements related to indemnification with their respective insurance providers. Finally, coordinating, verifying, and tracking certificates are keys to effectively managing insurance products.
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.)
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