“Pre-engineered” vs “Stick Built” Construction
As our business world becomes more sophisticated expectations are increasing at a rapid pace! The level of quality accepted only a few years ago, will not be accepted on today’s projects.
This is not a new trend. If you look back in history, across many different industries, new technology has changed all segments of our world. From the introduction of mass production and modern production lines by Henry Ford, to the development of personal computers and the evolution of the Internet, increased quality, capacity and overall excellence continue to evolve.
It has long been understood that controlled environments enable materials to be produced with a higher level of quality control. Factory manufactured products are almost always more reliable than field manufactured alternatives. The ability of an engineering team to carefully select materials, test them not only as individual components but as part of a complete system, eliminates many of the unknowns.
Take a moment to ruminate about other segments of our industry. Whether working in the realm of structural, HVAC, Electrical, or process engineering, design is dominated by the use of fully tested systems. HVAC Systems, Electrical Systems, you will rarely find a modern building project using “Stick Built Components” for any major portion of the project.
What does the term pre-engineered really mean in the interior construction industry? It generally refers to an interior ceiling, or wall system that is designed in collaboration with the architect, manufacturer and local Independent Manufacturers Representative. The system is then manufactured as a finished product, in the factory and shipped to the project to allow installation with a minimal amount of field cutting or fabrication. All details and interfacing with other building components are generally worked out in the shop drawing phase, utilizing the most current CAD Technology.
Pre-engineering eliminates the shipment of a “kit of parts” or “stick built system” and guarantees a much higher level of quality in the finished product, resulting in superior performance and appearance. This concept also dramatically reduces costly and time consuming field fabrication and generally contributes to more rapid project completion. Imagine buying your new automobile in individual parts and pieces, what would the finished product look like? How long would it take to complete? Does it make any sense?
A commonly asked question is, will the utilization of pre-engineered ceiling and wall systems cost more? No! Generally the approach leads to significant savings. Manufacturers and Reps of custom ceiling and wall systems are specialists. They know the most current technology for hanging ceilings, or installing wall panel systems without the use of exposed fasteners, field welding or grinding, pop rivets or field painting. They have worked with many outstanding Architects and Designers; they know what it takes to produce an award winning project.
The marketplace is littered with failed attempts of extraordinary designs. Virtually any architect asked will share disappointing experiences with custom ceiling and wall designs. Careful analysis will generally reveal that these specialty architectural items were created with non pre-engineered materials and were often included in inappropriate sections of the project specifications.
Experience has shown that if these items are carefully specified as pre-engineered systems, and specified in their own specialty section, the owner and architect will be assured that a competent team of specialists will be producing and installing the systems on their project. They will be further assured of compliance with the most current interior construction technology, and satisfactory rendition of their design concept.
When selecting a team for a custom project, be certain to ask to review photographs and details of their “body of work”. Ask for and carefully check their references, speak to past and present clients. Review copies of shop drawings from similar projects. Visit their jobsites.
Architects should work closely with their local Independent Manufacturers’ Representative, who acts as an unpaid professional consultant to them and their client. Most qualified representatives bring years of valuable experience to the team. A qualified Rep works on hundreds of projects each year, enabling them to help the architect with their design solutions while avoiding costly mistakes.
When the final design has been completed, be certain that the details are extensive and complete. Take the time to create a very thorough and detailed specification. Include testing requirements. Contractors will confirm, that carefully prepared plans and specifications help to minimize the unknown and almost always result in a lower bids and a higher quality finished product.
Pre-engineered vs “kit of parts” construction? You be the judge. The facts speak for themselves!
William L. Shannon CSI, CISCA
President of Shannon Corporation
Recipient of the 2004 De Gelleke Award