Contributed by Cherise Lakeside
If you haven’t read my previous blogs, as a bit of history, I have worked in Architecture for most of my career (in 3 different firms), as well as in Construction and Engineering. All of these firms did some form of public work. A couple of them performed public work almost exclusively, one of which I was at for 23 years.
I guess that is a long way of saying that I have worked on, and prepared architectural specifications, standards and documents for a ton of public projects over my 30+ year AEC career. I would venture to say that I am fairly well versed in what it takes to get a public project out the door. You could also say that I have seen it all.
For those without experience in public projects, the differences in the documents between public and private work are notable and they typically take a lot more time. Why is that you ask?
Besides the typical code compliance items that need to be addressed, public work requires compliance with public contracting laws and bidding procedures. Public contracting laws vary from State to State. In addition to State rules, you may also have to deal with Federal, City, County, Environmental, local jurisdictions and then the actual specific public agency’s rules, as well. Also, many public agencies also require at least three equal products on everything in the building to promote competitive bidding, since it is a low-bid wins environment. This is not always easy to do and there really is no such thing as perfectly “equal” products. This also leaves room for dispute.
These rules are the law and must be complied with. If they are not, a Contractor may have right to file a dispute and have the bids thrown out to force a rebid. Contractors watch for these things, as it may give them another avenue to pursue if they are not the low bidder.
To add on to the complexity, many of the specific agencies have their own front end documents (Divisions 00 and 01), which may not be coordinated with your technical specifications. Some agencies have their own technical specifications, as well. These are documents that you are expected to work with, you have never seen before and you have no background on the decision making process of the content or the qualifications of the agency staff who wrote the content. You have no idea if it is even current. And often, it isn’t.
This week marks two years of Let's Fix Construction. Cherise Lakeside and I have gone into the founding and the why many times over these last 730 days, both here on our blog and on the LFC Podcast.
It was at first a whirlwind founding and medium. It was quickly legitimized by the feedback we instantly received. We've stuck with it and we don't plan on turning around anytime soon.
Why? Because what we're discussing has to occur in some way, shape or form. The contract model, which holds our communication to a limited chain, is working in fewer and fewer applications. The specialists rarely get to speak to the proper party on a construction project, and that, unfortunately, is a shame. As we've mentioned, our workshops have been a fantastic interactive medium to introduce the no holds barred, no contract model, and we don't plan on letting up on this opportunity.
So, where now? We're two years in and we should at the very least look two years forward.
One immediate thought is a theme called 'What COULD You Do?'. Due to the contractual model, there are only a handful of responses that a party could do, due to the contracted model between the two (or more parties) and how you can communicate and respond to any given scenario.
Another thought is a theme called 'What WOULD You Do?'. A short issue or concern where you could address what you would do to react and respond to a certain scenario.
Another thought is 'What SHOULD You Do?'. This is indeed different than the question of 'What could you do?' or 'What would you do?' and the same issue posed could offer two distinct answers based on honesty, contractual liability or flexibility.
Let's Fix Construction is just starting. We have a long way to go. What do you want to see? What COULD you do, if given the choice? WOULD you do, if given a choice? What SHOULD you do?
Let's fix construction. Let's do it together. Let's not wait any longer.
Earlier today, while researching job ads on Craigslist, I came across a help wanted post for flooring installers that had some interesting exclusions and language:
My immediate thought was ‘boy, does this guy have some nerve to post an ad like this!’.
But then I thought about it more.
I put myself in the post creator’s shoes for a minute and I immediately knew where he was coming from. Having written ads on Craigslist for flooring installers and laborers myself, and even going so far as to register the domain workinflooring.com to find potential applicants, I know full well that there are very good reasons why these requirements were listed in the above ad.
Much like the list of terms and conditions that my company has in our proposals to clients, there are legitimate explanations for each and every one of those items being there. Typically, an item is added to our terms because at least one time in the past, a situation arose on a project jobsite that necessitated declaration for potential future work. I don’t even need to jump to conclusions to know that every item listed above is spelled out, in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS at that, because he’s seen it first-hand.
But without even knowing who this person was, I could easily envision the scenario, and it hits very close to home. They’re a small business. They’re owner-operated, and chances are, the owner is the lead installer, as well as chief cook and bottle washer. They don’t have a marketing division, nor a human resources department. They have more than enough work to keep them busy at peak times and when times are lean, everyone in the company feels the pinch. I could just as well be describing my day job. I could also be describing thousands of other small businesses across the nation.
In early June, the United States Department of Labor released the news that for the first time since statistics were tracked in 2000, the number of American job openings exceeded the number of job seekers. As a result of this ratio, business owners may feel that they have to say yes to someone who comes along unqualified, because they answered an ad. Chances are the Owner is short on time. They’re short on employees. They have bigger fish to fry and more important tasks to accomplish. And that is why, out of sheer frustration, after hiring and firing a times over, Mr. Craigslist Ad posted the above.
Contributed by Roy Schauffele
I just reviewed another project from a different architect with the same recurring design misunderstanding. This is isolated to the parapet area of a building. I see this detail dozens of times a year and yes, I’m being Texan polite by calling it a misunderstanding.
The building is an administrative office for a Fortune 100 company. It is of steel stud construction with R-13 batt insulation between the studs, 5/8” exterior gypsum sheathing, an ABAA (Air Barrier Association of America) approved liquid applied air barrier (from Company XXX), 1” of an ABAA evaluated foil faced polyisocyanurate insulation (from Company XXX) and a metal façade. This assembly has an effective R-value of >13, which exceeds code. It is also an ABAA evaluated assembly and completely compliant with the Code Mandated Fire Requirement to NFPA-285, and since the air barrier and insulation were from the same corporation, chemical compatibility issues are avoided.
All is well on the front of the building.
Unfortunately, all is not well on the backside of the parapet.
The detailing of the parapet backside showed steel studs, R-13 batts and 5/8” exterior gypsum sheathing for an effective R-value of about 6.6, at best. Undoubtedly, this area is going to be highly energy inefficient and it will have a different dew point (the temperature to which air must be cooled to become saturated with water vapor) than the front of the building. When the dew point occurs, the condensate will drop straight in to the conditioned space, possibly causing mold and definitely leading to reports of a “roof leak”.
The fix is easy.
Just put 1” of your specified continuous insulation over the top and backside of the parapet and now your entire building has the same thermal envelope, with the same dew point profile on both sides of the building.
The advent of code required effective R-value and the use of continuous insulation has led to certain misunderstandings, but as I said above, there is an easy fix and it is in the paragraph above.
Eugene and Portland, Oregon.
Providence, Rhode Island.
Arlington and McLean, Virginia.
Las Vegas, Nevada.
Las Vegas, Nevada. Again.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
New York, New York.
If you had told me 365 days ago that I would have presented twenty-one times in twelve cities alongside my Let's Fix Construction co-founder, Cherise Lakeside, I would have laughed at you.
Every idea has to start somewhere.
When CONSTRUCT 2017 had a call for presentations, Cherise and I submitted for a 'Let's Fix Construction' workshop. What it would entail, we weren't 100% sure, but we knew that we had to get face-to-face with individuals and start talking real time about the issues that we were all facing in construction and writing about on our website.
So, what happens when you get accepted for a presentation? Not only do you have to create the presentation, but to have it go well, you need to practice! Cherise sent out two emails to two acquaintances and within two days, we had buy-ins. Not just any guinea pigs, either, but Willamette Valley CSI in Eugene and Carleton Hart Architecture in Portland, Oregon. To tack on practice, we coordinated a CSI Portland chapter meeting in downtown Portland immediately following the Carleton Hart session.
What did we learn? Our idea worked.
People within the AEC industry WANT to talk about the issues that we're all faced with. They WANT to move things forward. They WANT to make things better. They WANT to share knowledge and implement new concepts. The mightiest problem may be that we are typically operating within the contract model, not able, or not wanting to communicate directly with parties we aren't obligated to and perhaps don't have the time or place to move the laundry list of WANTS forward.
Enter Let's Fix Construction.
We had a website that was attracting eyes. We were recognized as an independent AEC industry sounding board that was unsponsored and unbiased. We provided a place, a format and the ask to share: your knowledge, your solutions and your industry answers. Three things that can be implemented and benefited from immediately. This medium was only as good as those that found their way to LetsFixConstruction.com. The workshop, however, seemed to be a different story.
The feedback was immediate and gratifying. Everyone seemed to have a takeaway. Whether it was a Monday-morning implementation, a new contact, a laugh or a new lens, those that attended and participated were engaged. It turned out that most of the time, ninety minutes wasn't enough. People wanted to keep talking. To keep sharing. To keep brainstorming.
So, we kept going. CONSTRUCT led to CSI Chapter meetings, which led to another architectural firm, which led to talking to PROSOCO customers at World of Concrete, which led to CSI Region Conferences, which led to CSC Canada's Conference and then to New York City for PROSOCO again.
And we've got more work to do.
Total World Domination doesn’t come overnight.
I look forward to where the next 365 days will be leading Let's Fix Construction.
(If you want to find out where our next stops will be, check out our 'Upcoming Workshops' page.)
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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