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.)
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
2017 will be my seventh straight #CONSTRUCT conference. For those unaware, CONSTRUCT is the Construction Specifications Institute's annual meeting and affiliated trade show, now presented by Informa. I attended my first CONSTRUCT with the full education package in 2011 in Chicago, I returned to Phoenix in 2012, Nashville in 2013, Baltimore in 2014, St. Louis in 2015 and Austin in 2016.
For this year's conference, taking place September 13-15, 2017, at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, Rhode Island, I had the privilege of serving on the conference Advisory Council with a slew of other construction industry professionals. We assisted in culling down the 200+ submitted proposals down to over 40 available presentations, where participants at CONSTRUCT can earn over a year’s worth of CEUs, including 18.5 AIA LUs/HSW.
What's new at CONSTRUCT for 2017? Well, for me, I'll be presenting. TWICE!
I am honored to deliver one of the Featured Sessions on Day 1, Wednesday, September 13th, with my partner-in-crime-and-education, and co-founder of this blog, Cherise Lakeside. Titled 'Let's Fix Construction: An Interactive Luncheon', it is based on this website and blog and we do hope that over a lunch meeting we can demonstrate how you can improve communication, collaboration, unique ideas and the sharing of perspectives from different disciplines. Please more on this session here.
On the final morning of CONSTRUCT, you can find Cherise and I back together to co-present 'She’s a Specifier, He’s a Product Rep: Different Roles, Same Goals'. We hope that by representing both sides of an architectural sales call, we will be able to educate both parties in a dynamic manner.
Registration is now open for CONSTRUCT, which is the only dedicated national event specifically designed to provide the commercial building team with real-world, practical products and education solutions. The Exhibit Hall will be packed with 200+ exhibitors spanning over 28,000+ net square feet. covering everything from air barriers to fire protection systems, coatings to architectural hardware, and much more, Exhibiting companies will showcase products, services and technologies for commercial building industry professionals who design, build, renovate or operate in the built environment.
You just missed out on saving 35% on your registration fees. Rates are now up and posted at https://www.constructshow.com/en/register.html.
You can read the official press release here announcing registration.
The press release which announces the Keynote, Game Changer and Featured Sessions (which includes Let's Fix Construction) and Speakers for 2017 can be read here.
If you are interested in a FREE Exhibit Hall Pass, you may click on the graphic below to register for one.
If you are unable to make CONSTRUCT in 2017, and are interested in the LIVE #FixConstruction program, you can host your ow! Please visit our Live Events page here which also includes the Portland, Oregon Chapter of CSI hosted event on July 27th at the Ankrom Moisan Offices.
I hope to see you in Providence.
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 Lori Greene
Several proposed changes regarding classroom security are currently being considered for the 2018 edition of NFPA 101 – The Life Safety Code. There is one proposed change – just one little word, actually – that is a major deviation from the current model codes and is inconsistent with both the International Building Code and International Fire Code:
The releasing mechanism shall open the door leaf with not more than two releasing operations.”
This proposed language would apply only to existing buildings and would not affect new buildings at this time, but it’s possible that this change could be used as justification for a future proposal that would affect all buildings. For the 2018 edition of NFPA 101, there are three occupancy chapters where this language regarding two operations would be inserted: Chapter 15 – Existing Educational Occupancies, Chapter 17 – Existing Day Care Occupancies, and Chapter 39 – Existing Business Occupancies.
Many college and university classroom buildings are considered business occupancies, so the proposal for Chapter 39 would include classroom doors within these facilities. Unfortunately, because the proposal for this chapter does not specifically reference classrooms or colleges/universities, the language could actually be applied to any room in any business occupancy with approval from the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).
This language would allow building owners to request the AHJ’s permission to use retrofit security devices in any existing business occupancy. NFPA 101’s definition of a business occupancy and the examples listed in Annex A include city halls, courthouses, outpatient clinics, town halls, and office buildings, in addition to college and university classrooms. This could put AHJs in a tough position, similar to the situation in some states where school districts have pushed for AHJs to allow classroom barricade devices in schools.
Given the changes in construction and code requirements over the years, it could be very difficult and time-consuming for an AHJ to evaluate an existing building to determine whether two releasing operations should be allowed on the egress doors. The presence or lack of active and passive fire protection features could affect this decision. It seems that an existing building without the currently-required safety features should have egress doors that are easier to use, not more difficult.
More is Not Always Better
When reviewing the proposed change to NFPA 101-2018, one should begin by considering the current one-operation requirement versus the proposed two-operation limit for existing buildings. Would increasing the number of operations that must be performed to open a door actually enhance the level of safety in our classrooms? Does the potential for increased security justify delaying occupants’ evacuation? What is the motivation behind this change, and does it outweigh the potentially deadly consequences?
The Life Safety Code has required hardware to unlatch with one releasing operation for almost 30 years. Even as far back as the 1927 edition of the Building Exits Code, doors were required to be “so arranged as to be readily opened.” Similar language still exists in the Life Safety Code today. It seems obvious that a door that requires one releasing operation would be more readily openable than a door that requires two or more releasing operations.
Unfamiliar security devices that could be permissible under the proposed change might be confusing for users to operate, particularly in conjunction with existing latching hardware. Products that have not been tested or certified may not operate as expected when installed in a high-use / high-abuse location.
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