• Field Notes 27.01.2010

    I forgot something I wanted to do a couple of weeks ago since I heard Greg Carney’s out on his own.  Too, too many years ago, I met Greg when he was a local sales rep for LOF straight out of Southern Miss, if I’m not mistaken.  We were BOTH pretty wet behind the ears. If he won’t tell any tales on me, I won’t on him. We have stayed somewhat in touch during his sojourns at, let’s see if I can get them all, LOF, Spectrum, Interpane and as technical director for GANA. I wanted to thank him for everything he’s accomplished at GANA. For that effort, the entire industry should be grateful. It’s a better industry because of his contribution.  Greg, good luck in your future endeavors. AND thank God, we’re glad to have you still around, too!!!

    Now onto to the latest blog posting…

    Lyle Hill, president of MTH Industries, wrote a piece called “Incurable … Irrefutable … Immutable: The Laws of Contract Glazing.”  It’s funny, it’s straight to the heart of the matter, and makes you wonder why so many people stay in the biz… 

    Below is my take on where Murphy comes into play with curtain wall. I’ve tried to make this funny, or I started off that way. Please don’t take it any other way except as a poor attempt to laugh at some of the situations we in the glazing industry find ourselves in way too often. Some of it is and isn’t our own fault. It just seems to be the nature of the beast we call curtain wall.  Here goes: 

    1. Color of the curtain wall or windows is strictly the prerogative of the architect, and you are going to guess wrong in predicting whether or not any two paint samples, chips or coupons are a match. Or not. Any two people will see colors, or shades, or tints differently. Don’t ever assume that because YOU think it’s a match anybody else, including the architects, will agree with you. I offer as evidence any time you’ve had a discussion about what color to paint a room in your house. How’d that go with your significant other? Sending material to be finished before the approval of the color is returned is doubling the amount that will be paid for finishing a given project.  
    2. Aesthetic issues will always be addressed by the architect, and it’s impossible to predict how the issue will be decided. RFI’s are great for submitting questions about how a detail should look but, like paint, predicting the approval of the RFI detail is a risky proposition. I’ll bet $1 to a donut the detail will not be approved. You can show it as an option, but it’s highly likely what’s returned is something different. And there’s not enough money in the estimate to do it the way the architect has responded.    
    3. Tolerances are never accounted for properly, and won’t be addressed until a problem occurs on site. At the latest, they are a point of discussion prior to the pre-construction meeting. And that’s usually held after the material has been built or shipped to the site. Making them a point of emphasis in shop drawing submittals makes more sense. Included in this discussion should be:
      a. Concrete forming tolerances,
      b. Steel erection tolerances,
      c. Precast pouring and erection tolerances,
      d. Other surrounding substrate tolerances, such as stud framing, brick/stone masonry openings, and
      e. The fabrication and erection tolerances of the windows or curtain walls that go in last.
      And when they are off, the contractor responsible for creating the condition has already left the job. A leading curtain wall subcontractor makes a great case for getting on site as soon as possible, and getting off even quicker:  If they get their material built and installed, everybody has to work to them, instead of them having to deal with everybody else’s mistakes. On one project, I observed this glazing sub installing windows in stud walls before sheathing and stucco were put on the studs. The second the studs were up, they were installing the windows. As soon as the shoring was out of the way, they were in doing layout and erecting curtain wall. What a novel approach! 
    4. Straight lines on a drawing are never built that way on site. That goes for ALL drawings, be it architect’s, glazier’s shop drawings or manufacturer’s cut sheets.  
      a. Edge of slab can be off from the nominal location and likely will be more than the nominal dimensions specified. If designed for +/-1” in/ out, up/down, left /right, there will be some point more than that. Pick 2” instead of 1”, and it will still be missed.   
      b. Floor slabs, lintel beams and precast panels sag between columns or supports, some more, some less than others, and seldom to the specified criteria or dimensions predicted by the structural engineer.    
      c. Floors don’t align in plane for the full height of the building.
      d. Curbs are never consistently the right height, nor are they ever flat.
    5. Bid exceptions never make it past the GC to the architect or owner. It doesn’t matter whether the exceptions are to the specifications or architectural details. Shop drawing reviews will bring this issue to a head. The shops are prepared based on how the project was bid and how you planned to do the work, as explained in your bid qualifications to the GC. All of that’s forgotten the second the architect has the drawings. Too many times, the architects don’t know anything about your exceptions, and they won’t recognize them. Now what do you do? And do you really think you’re going to get the money to do it the way the architect wanted it originally? Which is why you took the bid exception in the first place, right, to cut costs out of the job? This has got to be where the term “vicious circle” and “dog chasing its own tail” originated. 
    6. Schedules:  I saw a cartoon a couple of years ago, I think was called, “The State of Art.” It was about a guy working on a drafting board. The caption over his head, with a Merry Christmas banner in the background:  “All I want for Christmas is a project whose schedule is in touch with reality.” I think that says it all.  Murphy’s Law: there will always be one entity in the chain that despite the best laid plans, will deliver their work at the very last possible minute if not late already, causing everyone else downstream to scramble. No matter how late the work commenced, the end date ain’t moving. It doesn’t matter what happens in between, whether the issue is in your control or not, the end date is inflexible, immoveable, irrefutably your fault if it does move. 
    7. When bidding, no matter how many bids are within 5 to 10 percent of each other (meaning everybody saw things pretty much the same way, and the bids are pretty much apples-to-apples), there is always one bidder that is 25 to 30 percent (or more) under everybody else. The corollary to this is it’s usually the company with the least experience or the worst by reputation with the abnormally low bid.To add fat to the fire, the GC will award the contract to that REALLY low bidder, and sell it to the owner for the next lowest bid. The GC will then call when either the schedule’s run away from the sub or when the owner/architect won’t accept the work. The GC’s light finally comes on, and learns he didn’t have an apples-to-apples bid when he assigned the work to this sub.And irony of ironies, the GC pleads for help, and forgets all about the money they pocketed when the work was sold to the owner and will beg you to do it for next to nothing, with those dreaded words: “If you will help us out on this, we will make it up to you on the next project.”

      And last, but certainly not least, we will ultimately see the same situation repeating itself on that next project. But not to worry:  the added cost to “make up for it” will put you 25 to 30 percent higher than the competition, and you won’t even get a call to discuss the bid with the GC. Is that a happy ending or what? 

    Only 7? There’s got to be others. But I’m brain dead at the moment, and can’t think of any others. Care to share?

    Posted by Blogger @ 8:12 am

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