Volume 35, Number 9, September 2000
Hey Were Not So Bad, Really
Working with Curtainwall Consultants
By Rob Stegeman
Many years ago, you would have expected to encounter curtainwall consultants on a few of the new, high-rise/monumental building projects usually located in major cities. At the time, curtainwall design was in its infancy and each system was custom designed to meet the unique requirements of each signature building. Curtainwall manufacturers played a key role in their products development, continuing to raise the bar to meet the ongoing, creative demands of architects.
Today, after decades of evolution, curtainwall comes in a wide variety of types, performance levels and erection methods and is installed on a wide variety of building types. And while the building industry has changed, curtainwall has also changed to meet new demands. Creativity continues to flourish and curtainwall consultants play key roles, influencing the successful outcome of many projects, due in part to todays building technologies and the need for independent, technical specialists in such a diverse and demanding industry.
The ultimate goal of a curtainwall consultant on any building project is to assure a fully-functional and integrated building enclosure that meets design intent and performance criteria. The consultants clients for new construction projects can include architects, owners, developers, construction managers, design/build teams general contractors and glazing contractors.
The Consultants Role:
During the design phases of a project, consultants provide technical reviews of schematic design, design development and construction drawings. They provide recommendations related to system selection, system cost considerations, the influence of building codes, wind load requirements, water infiltration considerations, effects of building movements and more. The architects technical performance or performance specifications are reviewed for his or her incorporation. When a wind tunnel study is required, for example, consultants evaluate the laboratory results and incorporate the information into the wall systems design and specifications. The architects typical design details are reviewed and he or she is assisted in the development of special details, based on his or her profiles.
During the design phases consultants work toward ensuring design feasibility and sufficient, technical information in the bid drawings so the clearest picture of the requirements are conveyed to those who will bid the work.
The Consultants Role:
The Consultants Role: Construction Administration Submittals
Once a subcontractor has been awarded the project, consultants can provide reviews and comments on material submittals, product data, test reports, shop drawing submittals and structural support calculations to verify the submittals offer a workable solution to the bid documents, that also meet the design intent and performance criteria.
When working for general contractors, the consultants work generally begins during the pre-construction phase, in which they provide a peer review of the up-front documents with the performance criteria, highlighting potential problems and/or areas of concern. Field testing procedures are established and supplemented and a review of the subcontractors technical bid information for glaring deficiencies is provided.
Efforts during this phase are focused on providing timely information to the general contractor so issues may be addressed early in engineering and prior to manufacturing and installation, thus avoiding the potential of built-in problems and minimizing the impact on schedules and costs.
The Consultants Role: Construction Administration - Field Services
During field services, consultants services generally are similar for most clients. Field services include periodic site inspections and observations of the in-process installation work or witnessing air and/or water testing, to verify conformance with the approved documents and to detect errors and omissions.
For unitized curtainwall systems, consultants can provide fabrication facility, quality assurance and control inspections, observing the production and fabrication of system components, unit frame assembly, glass and glazing operations and more. It is at the fabrication facility where the quality of unitized curtainwall occurs. This proactive service helps minimize the occurrence of built-in problems and defects during fabrication and assembly.
The Consultants Role:
Consultants also can provide mock-up submittal reviews and often provide factory fabrication. At an independent testing laboratory, the consultant is there to observe and report on the critical aspects of the mock-ups construction, by witnessing and reporting on the pre-testing and/or the formal testing of the mock-up, and evaluating the data generated by the independent laboratory.
Curtainwall consultants services are provided not only for his or her clients, but also in the projects best interest.
Curtainwall consultants are part of the projects solution and success and add a measurable value at any level of involvement. You could say we are arbitrators, combining the interests of diverse groups into a singular, workable solution, in the projects best interest. Our objective is to provide a fully-functional and integrated building enclosure that meets the design intent and the performance criteria, which is the glazing contractors objective as well.
Robert Stegeman is the business development manager for Heitmann & Associates Inc., building enclosures consultants, headquartered in St. Louis, Mo.
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