School Construction Photo

School Construction Photo
A job site photo of a school under construction


The content provided on this site and in the Posts is intended to be thought-provoking, educational, and - in some cases - entertaining. It is not intended as direction or recommendations for the design or construction of any specific building project. The information is provided in good faith but without assurance as to its completeness, accuracy, or suitability for any particular purpose. If you are considering using information provided on this site, you are responsible for verifying its appropriateness to your needs, and you assume all risk for its use.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Construction Documents Coordination Matrix

It may look a little "geeky", but this matrix can be an effective tool for considering interdisciplinary coordination needs. The design disciplines for a project are listed across the top and down one side. The intersection points represent coordination between disciplines (e.g., between Civil/Site and Electrical). Seeing the possibilities in this format can help to minimize coordination gaps. On a given project, the extent and specifics of coordination will differ from point to point, and the design displines may also differ. Still, seeing an intersection point can prompt thoughts about needed coordination between any two disciplines. For example, where Civil/Site meets Foodservice, it may bring to mind the need to coordinate the locations of exterior condensing units with site work. Etc. Etc. Etc

Looking at this coordination matrix, it is also easy to see how extensive coordination really is (and must be) on an architectural project. On some complex projects, coordination can be seen as a full time job in itself, from the coordination of consulting agreement scopes of work to the coordination of sub-trade scopes of work and the dotting of i's and crossing of t's in construction documents.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Construction Documents Peer Review

Joe Iano (see Iano's backfill ) shared with me an approach to quality review of construction documents that is used by a prominent firm where he is employed in Seattle (see the AIA 2009 Honor Award Firm of the Year Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects in the May 2009 issue of Architectural Record). Joe said the firm has senior non-project staff review construction documents together with staff who developed the documents for a given project. The issues, concerns, and comments that are raised during the review can go a long way toward mentoring less experienced staff.

A similar approach could work in utilizing the services of an independent peer review architect who can review the construction documents together with the staff who developed the documents. Compared to a "redline only" mark-up of drawings and specifications, the interactive review process can include a substantive conversation that carries longer term value for the firm, while taking advantage of review expertise outside the firm.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Architect's role at the construction site

As construction began on a building, the architect's field representative was approached by the electrical subcontractor. The subcontractor wanted the architect's approval to install all distribution conduit at a specific level and prior to construction of interior partitions and mechanical distribution systems. It sounded like a great idea, a really clean and efficient installation for the electrical subcontractor that also appeared to offer post-construction advantages for the owner. However, it did not consider other construction and schedule needs. Had the architect given the nod to the electrical subcontractor, it would have interfered with the general contractor's responsibility and authority for scheduling and coordinating the work of the subcontractors, and it would have interfered directly with the work of other sub-trades. Further, the owner had no interest in the advantages proposed by the electrical subcontractor. At best, it was a good idea for some other project.

An architect visiting a construction site can feel a rush of power as construction personnel approach with questions. "Finally," you may hear them exclaim, "someone with answers!" This is an opportunity to show your knowledge of construction, the project, and the construction documents, and it is also an opportunity to make a complete fool of yourself. You have to be careful to stay within the limits of your contractual role*, which is normally to observe construction for consistency with the construction documents and to communicate with the contractor's superintendent. This can be challenging when workers are gushing with excitement to hear your opinion about what should or could be done. A question may be valid and may warrant a prompt response, but the architect's reply should be consistent with the requirements of the construction documents, and it should be made through proper channels. You have to observe construction, but you should do what you can to avoid a claim or the appearance that you personally directed a worker or subcontractor to make a change. One subcontractor can sound very convincing when presenting a question or a dilemma, but there may be other factors, interests, and requirements to consider.

[*The architect's contractual role during construction is typically established by the General Conditions of the Contract such as AIA Document A-201 or by similar documents and/or amendments thereto.]

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Masonry Design: Not-Quite-Through-Wall Flashing

Through-wall flashing is a common water management feature of masonry cavity wall and veneer construction. It is most effective if its outer edge is beyond the outer face of the wall and is turned down to form a drip edge and help water fall away from the joint under the flashing. It can be ineffective and result in leaks into a building if the outer edge of the flashing is concealed within the wall. In at least one case, a leak was attributed to flashing that stopped above the core holes of extruded brick. The design relied on the through-wall flashing to protect the building interior, but water which was intended to be conveyed out of the wall by the through-wall flashing was instead allowed to re-enter the wall and subsequently find its way to the building interior. Apparently, someone did not want to see the edge of the flashing coming out through the wall. At the time of construction it was common for the flashing to be coated with asphalt, and the asphalt coating - not especially attractive in any case - would melt under sunlight and over time it would drip and stain the face of the wall below. More attractive materials are widely used today, including drip edges of proprietary compositions or even stainless steel. The more attractive materials are likely to be more expensive. However, stopping the flashing within the wall may be the most expensive option of all, considering the possible costs of leak remediation.