Old School: Sticking to the Tried and True Sometimes Outweighs the New

By Craig Carson

Like many of you, I look forward to seeing our tools of the trade progress. These include tools and equipment for fabricating systems and those that help with glazing system installation. Today, I’m going to talk about the progression of systems for doing takeoffs—or, should I say, how these are used.

Document Challenges

Most of our bid invitations today include a PDF of the contract drawings and specifications and, sometimes other information that pertains to the project. There is, though, a lack of quality in some documents. I see many early versions of the documents, sometimes at the very start of the shop drawing level. In their nature, they are incomplete. We usually make suggestions about the system choices and detailing of the systems and surrounding
conditions. I like doing this to help the architect recognize potential clashes in the detailing or identify system depths to meet the system’s structural requirements. But when we use the new PDF readers (Bluebeam, On-Screen Takeoff, etc.), I feel that we lose touch with what needs to be identified with the clashes of the systems and surrounding conditions.

This is probably a minimal task for most of the smaller projects. You can identify these issues, make notes on the drawings, and share them with the architect or general contractor. But on larger projects, I find that trying to tag problems and going back and forth on computer screens is a frustrating adventure—and a significant opportunity to miss details that need to be reviewed in the correct context. My old-school habits come into play for these. I find it much easier to get blueprints and go back and forth between elevations, wall sections and details to evaluate conditions and make notes on the drawings. I also think you get a better feel for the project than you can get from a computer screen. This is especially true if it’s a project with which you’ve not been involved since the beginning of the design process.

Stick with What Works

By going old school and printing drawings of these projects and reviewing them for installation details, system compatibility to the project and performance criteria, you will get a more complete take-off and a better estimate. After you have made notes on the drawings, you need to take the time and transfer these to the PDF of the document to share. Depending on whether you’re involved with the design-assist of the project or just passing the project through to project management, they need to see these notes to share with others on the team.

This may seem time-consuming, but the amount of time will change with the project’s complexity. If you’re not thorough, though, and miss a detail that has you providing a flashing or trim, you may be exposed to a cost that could ruin your budget.

Remember, the devil is in the details, don’t let him get you.

Craig Carson is the vice president and general manager of 8G Solutions in Denver.

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