03 January 2017

Building envelope - or building enclosure?

In October, I published "Tegularity," a discussion of the proper term for acoustic ceiling panels. (The title came from the name for a specific type of panel edge.) Shortly thereafter, in December 2016, I received a question from Anthony Capkun, editor for  Electrical Business Magazine and former editor for the Construction Specifier. He asked, "What is the correct term these days: a) Building Envelope or b) Building Enclosure?"

I responded that I had always used building envelope, and that that is the term I hear most often. But, having learned a long time ago that always hearing a term used in a particular manner does not mean that that is the correct term, I decided to investigate further.

15 November 2016

Just another day - what to paint

I often joke about paint specifications, which frequently have a list of things that are to be painted, along with another list of things that are not to be painted. It seems no matter how many items are in each list, the painter will ask about something else.

That brings to mind the military maxim: "If it moves, salute it. If it doesn't move, paint it." And that can be reduced to, "If it doesn't move, paint it."

It appears the painter on this project took that seriously.

Look at all that nice, white paint! But what's that round thing where the wall meets the ceiling?
A bird nest! Well, it wasn't in the list of "do not paint"...

25 October 2016


As part of an update of approved abbreviations, my office changed its long-standing ACB (acoustic ceiling board) to ACT (acoustic ceiling tile). Before coming to this office I had always seen ACT, and it took a bit of time to get accustomed to ACB. No one knows where the unusual abbreviation came from, but it is the more logical of the two, as it includes both acoustic ceiling tile and acoustic ceiling panels. Still, it was decided to change from ACB to ACT because it is unusual. I doubt many contractors will ask an architect, "What's ACT?" but it has not been uncommon for contractors, subs, or suppliers to ask us what ACB is.

The change reminded me of a discussion at a CSI technical committee meeting many years ago when we discussed correct terminology for SpecText. It also brought to mind a similar discussion on LinkedIn, which opened with the question, '"Ceiling TILE" or Ceiling "PANEL" -- What's the correct usage?' At the time of the former discussion I thought, as many do, that ceiling tile is 12 inches square, while ceiling panels are 24 by 24, or 24 by 48 inches. That belief lingers on, and appeared in the LinkedIn discussion.

06 June 2016

Just another day - laying out tile

A common recommendation for laying out tile is that the edge pieces should not be less than half the width of the tile. Here's an interesting way to do that.

Just use more grout - saves a lot of cutting!

15 May 2016

Just another day - mystery material

Following up on galvanized stainless steel. I know it is available, but it is not used often, at least in construction. I found an item advertised to be stainless steel and galvanized. It didn't look like anything special enough to require exceptional corrosion resistance, so I asked for more information. This is the discussion:

Me: What type of stainless steel? How thick is the zinc coating?

Vendor: This is Galvanized Stainless steel. There is not a zinc coating.

Me: Galvanizing is the process of applying zinc to a substrate. If it's galvanized it has a zinc coating. How thick is it? If it is stainless steel, what type is it? 304, 316, ???

Vendor: I am sorry, but the specific information is not readily available at this time. I am researching your question and will follow up with an update within one business day. [Kudos to the vendor!]

Vendor: I called and spoke with the manufacturer regarding your questions. I asked them if they could tell me what kind of steel is used in the item, citing the examples you gave such as 304, 316, etc. I also asked if they could disclose how thick the zinc coating is. They informed me that they do not provide information regarding either of those questions. I do apologize for any inconvenience that poses for you.

03 May 2016

Just another day... corrosion-resistant fasteners

"1.    Where rough carpentry is exposed to weather, in ground contact, or in area of high relative humidity, provide fasteners with hot-dip zinc coating complying with ASTM A153/A153M of Type 304 stainless steel."

Galvanized stainless steel! I wonder what they want for below-grade fasteners. 
Maybe that "of" near the end of the sentence should have been "or".

14 March 2016

Key clauses of the general conditions; more means and methods

In the last post, we looked at the means and methods clause in Article 3 of the A201. At the end, I concluded that the architect's responsibilities in construction documents are to show what the building should look like, identify the materials, and establish the standards for those materials. I also stated that virtually everything else - including supervising, scheduling, coordination, and deciding how materials are to be installed - is the contractor's responsibility.

When I make seemingly heretical statements like that, I often am asked how I came to such a conclusion. Many architects have a hard time believing they no longer control much of what goes on during construction, contractors sometimes don't like having that much responsibility, and subcontractors often tell me they don't like it when designers use reference standards because they expect the architect to tell them how to do their jobs.

As I explained, my conclusion is based on the requirements of the AIA general conditions (and general conditions from other sources, which typically have similar provisions). Not only does the A201 say the contractor is responsible for means and methods, it also says the architect is not responsible for means and methods, in Article 4 (my italics):