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William L. Shannon, Editor

William L. Shannon, Editor of CISCA

Simplified Elegance

for the November / December 2005 Issue, CISCA's Interior Construction Magazine

There is a very widely held belief that in order to produce a building project in time and on budget, that the building must consist of standard, off the shelf, multiple "or equal" sourced materials. Sadly, many important projects are designed and constructed with this belief fully entrenched in all aspects of the projects. What a loss to the owners, users, and in many cases taxpayers who support this ludicrous notion. Very few award winning projects result from this approach.

One would think, with all of the technical advances of the past fifty years, that the members of the design and construction team would have figured out a way to design and construct elegant buildings, in a cost effective and sensible manner. Some have of course, but, unfortunately, it's all to common to hear that wonderful new products and technologies cannot be used on the project because of the lack of equals, coordination issues, lead times, or it's simply too complicated.

It seems reasonable for the people paying for their important project to expect the very best products or systems that fall within the budget for the project. If it's reasonable, why are important material and system compromises so common?

The number one reason is lack of adequate time to properly research, bid, and procure the vital components that will assure an award wining, elegant project. This problem can be easily tackled by determining a reasonable schedule from the very beginning of design and sticking to it through the completion of construction.

There are many time saving concepts that can be effectively incorporated from the early design phases;

  • Select products and systems that are readily available or readily modified to coexist with and integrate with adjacent products and systems. Use the single source approach for systems when available.
  • Work with manufacturers with in house CAD capabilities that can be integrated with the CAD Systems of the architects, engineers, manufacturers and contractors. Require detailed shop drawings and adherence to project specifications.
  • When components from different manufacturers occur in the same wall, floor or ceiling, incorporate contrasting or complementary colors. Avoid color matching if possible. It is extremely difficult to match colors of different painted components from different manufacturers. The identical paint on differing textures or building planes usually will not match. Color matching is very time consuming.
  • Work with companies with in house painting capabilities when possible. Color matching problems are virtually eliminated.
  • Use reveals, multiple plane or overlapping designs for adjacent surfaces eliminating the need to wait for as built field dimensions of adjacent finishes. Many months can be lost on a project waiting for the adjacent wall or ceiling to be installed, measured and dimensions distributed to other trades. There is no reason for this delay.
  • Use manufacturer's standard perforations, textures, paint or systems when available. There are two immediate benefits, lead time for initial raw material is shortened, and, damaged materials are easily replaced.
  • Be certain that contracts are awarded in a timely fashion for all interdependent materials or systems allowing the standard manufacturing and delivery schedule to work for the project.
  • Don't cave in to a late "or equal product"!

It is incredibly frustrating for owners and designers to be forced to eliminate exciting and meaningful details on their project, because the material was ordered late. It seems to be becoming more and more acceptable to expect the bidding schedule for complex custom projects to mimic the schedules of "plain vanilla" supermarket projects. It doesn't make much sense. Expecting quotes for specialty materials or systems in a day or two is perilous at best and will inevitably cause serious job problems during construction.

The responsibility for this problem is shared by all members of the design and construction team. Architects have to become more aware of the process required to manufacture custom products and systems. They have to diligently review the interdependency of adjacent finishes and systems, allowing room for error, and enabling multiple products and systems to be produced simultaneously, eliminating the need for field measurements when at all possible.

Contractors have to determine at the outset of the project, the products or systems that have direct impact upon the schedule, assuring early contract awards, and supervising the simultaneous production of shop drawings and other interfacing techniques to guarantee compatibility.

Manufacturers have to allocate the proper resources to produce needed submittal information on a timely basis.

There is absolutely no reason that an award winning building cannot be produced to meet or exceed the expectations of all involved. No single member of the team can make this happen, everybody is in it together, teamwork will result in simplified elegance!

William L. Shannon CSI, CISCA
President of Shannon Corporation
Recipient of the 2004 De Gelleke Award

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