26 January 2015

The importance of being earnest

Importance of Being Earnest, Wikimedia
A couple of months ago, in "Your slip is showing!", I mentioned that I had been specifying slip resistance for a very long time, but only recently became aware of a serious problem: Even though codes other regulations require a "slip-resistant" finish, there is no definition of what that means. I encountered a similar situation recently while reviewing the titles of the many standards cited in our specifications: I discovered that ANSI (American National Standards Institute) produces no standards!

When I was looking up hardware standards, I found references to standards with the number 115 in virtually every hardware or hollow metal specification I found. Some were preceded with an A, others were not. But it's only one letter; what's the big deal if it has an A or not?

19 January 2015

Rules of thumb

Drafter at work; Wikimedia
A huge problem that continues to grow is that we have too much information. When American architects formed AIA, 150 years ago, construction was much simpler; mechanical systems hadn't changed much since the Romans used them 2,000 years ago. Since then, countless new materials and processes have been introduced.

Life was simple for architects of those early years, much of their time being spent detailing ornamentation. In 1905, a local university building of 112,000 square feet was built using a steel frame, with brick, marble, granite, and terra cotta. The construction documents comprised 58 drawing sheets and a 51 page project manual. By today's standard practice, hundreds of pages of drawings and a project manual of at least two volumes.

02 October 2014

Just another day... No, we're not in England.

From: Wolfe, Sheldon Sent: Wednesday, September 24, 2014 2:14 PM
To:
Subject: RE: PN MG - DETAILS

 2C/610.2
This is a mitre:














Did you mean this?


27 May 2014

Finish schedules - the ultimate specifications format?

Thirty or so years ago, when I graduated from architecture school, we had a couple of types of finish schedules. They were fairly simple tables, but, in conjunction with the specifications, they did a pretty good job of showing what finish materials were used where, and what colors of finish materials were required. Little did we realize that this format could one day replace specifications as we knew them!

02 December 2013

Capital idea!

In "Worst case", I said it is time to stop using uppercase font on drawings. Let's continue that discussion, this time looking at specifications. Not that we should be using one set of rules for drawings, and another for specifications; the same rules should apply to both. With a few exceptions, text should use sentence case - capitalizing only the first word of a sentence and proper nouns. This seems reasonable, but, as we will see, it rarely happens.

Let's start with the exceptions. Section titles, Part titles, and article titles typically are presented in uppercase, and though it's not necessary, it has little effect on readability or comprehension, as these elements have few words. In addition, we're accustomed to it, as it's common in many other publications to use uppercase in those locations.

Beyond that, however, use of capital letters is unnecessary, and can be misleading.

13 November 2013

Worst case!

IN THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY, IN E-MAIL, AND ON THE INTERNET, USE OF UPPERCASE IS LIMITED. STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT MOST PEOPLE FIND IT HARDER TO READ UPPERCASE, AND TODAY'S DIGITAL ETIQUETTE VIEWS USE OF ALL UPPERCASE AS SHOUTING. WHY, THEN, DO WE CONTINUE TO USE IT ON DRAWINGS?

One of the reasons architects and engineers have used only uppercase may have been the difficulty of learning to letter. I don't know what today's students think about lettering, but when I was in architecture school, developing a "hand" was seen as a critical part of the architect's identity.
Baudot keyboard - no lowercase letters!
Shortly after graduating, I wrote a check at a department store. I still recall my swelling sense of pride when, after looking at the check, the cashier said, "Oh, you must be an architect!"