29 November 2012

Product information "security"

Among the specifier's most common frustrations is the requirement to login before getting product information. Just this morning, I tried to get information about metal panels from a well-known manufacturer's website, and was kicked out. Apparently, I had registered some time in the past, because when I went through the registration process, I was told that my e-mail address already was in use. That forced me to either set up a new account, and risk forgetting yet another password, or to go through the "forgot my password" routine. I chose the latter option, with the intent of using a simple, non-secure password I use for all such websites, something like "password".

I was surprised when an e-mail popped into my inbox almost instantly, as most websites have some delay, and some can take a day or more. Do you think all those requests get sent to some poor soul who has to validate them? The response from this manufacturer did offer bring bit of levity to an otherwise dreary morning of grinding out specs for two projects. The temporary password was - get this - x=H=)Xarq%+z+U. Good grief, that looks good enough to protect nuclear launch codes!

01 October 2012

Comments to Clients; the project manual

What are specifications? Why are they important?

Most people have some understanding of what drawings are, and how they are used in construction. However, it takes more than drawings to build a building. Along with the drawings, on nearly every project, we issue a project manual. Many people are unaware of the project manual, and I suspect most who have seen one don't pay much attention to it, for a couple of reasons. First, the project manual for a typical project will have two volumes, each one being two to four inches thick - enough to scare off all but the most curious. Second, it is not light reading, with countless pages of what appears to be highly technical mumbo-jumbo, full of strange acronyms and unknown terms, written in a style clearly not meant for entertainment. Obviously, few would be interested in the project manual!

But without it, the building can't be built. The project manual and the drawings are complementary - that is, they work together. Each needs the other, each serves a specific purpose, and each is used to show specific information that is not shown in the other. In the construction contract, they are treated as a single document.

12 April 2012

Not all details are equal

I recently followed this link in the NRCA SmartBrief: "Modular construction could boost efficiency of construction projects." It led to an article titled "Construction officials pushing prefab revival", which touts the advantages of modular construction. The opening paragraph acknowledges the "technique [is] hundreds of years old" but modular design may be a foreign concept today.

Modular dimensioning has been with us for a long time, and is almost inescapable for some things; masonry units are modular, and partitions rely on modular dimensions for framing and sheathing. And, although they're not modular in the same sense, many products at least come in standard sizes. In each case, the consistent properties make these products easier to know and to use.

06 April 2012

What happened to the bidding period?

In the good old days, not all that long ago, the architect's work was divided into a few neat phases: schematic design (SD), design development (DD), construction documents (CD), bidding or negotiation, and construction.

In theory, the requirements of each phase are completed before moving on to the next. In practice, it seems we have strayed from the true path.

When I started my present job, more than fifteen years ago, projects progressed through the phases in a fairly linear manner. We didn't issue many addenda, and the ones we did issue were short. Since then, schedules have shrunk, and the separation between phases has blurred. We now do full specs at DD, even though they have little value because many decisions have not been made, and some design issues remain unresolved until the CDs are issued - or beyond. Addenda are common, and lager; I occasionally see one that is half the size of one of the project manual volumes, accompanied by many drawing sheets.

30 March 2012

Virtual conventions - good or bad?

AIA is promoting this year's convention as a virtual convention; I don’t know if this is a good idea or not. It offers great opportunities for participation, but it also undermines an important reason to attend.

We’ve been talking about the decline of trade shows for years, and it seems the end may be near.

It’s hard to argue in favor of trade shows:

28 March 2012

Unlike my Constructive Thoughts blog, which offers more in-depth posts, I'm using this blog to comment on more of the day-to-day things I see.