As part of my regularly working with companies who are members of the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI), I have come upon an interesting and intricate topic regarding architectural specifications related to contract work. Basically, the use of materials as specified is many times incompatible with the properties of the materials.

To be more specific, drawings indicating a given material do not agree with the written specifications; details shown in drawings are incompatible with given material properties; material availability in specified dimensions and thickness are incorrectly assumed. Materials identify for certain applications are not in the best interest of the ultimate Client by avoiding the use of modern material alternatives.

Architects out of touch 

In short, we must say that architects are often unaware of the true nature of the materials specified, and also unaware of the latest materials available. That being so, this circumstance inherently bears the risk of the ultimate client being shortchanged by paying for a product that is overvalued.

Basically the circumstance is not surprising. Consider the amount of detailed knowledge that architects need to have regarding a building project. We are talking about structural steel, electrics, plumbing, ventilation, bylaws and so forth; ultimately even woodwork. Consider the explosion of materials and processes that have been added in the last 30 years. How can anyone keep abreast of all this information? Is it even possible to devote enough time and energy to unearth every bit of minutia about the plethora of products and services required to specify a modern structure today?

What needs to change? 

In these times, when most if not all contracts are awarded purely on price, that aggravates the situation even more. Time is money. The less time spent, the more money can hopefully be made.

The question now becomes, what can be done to remedy the situation:

If architects are unaware of all that needs to be known;

If what is specified does not suit the material;

If the results are higher costs for all, resulting in higher prices for the client;

What then needs to change in this well-established relationship between architects, designers and others writing specifications, and those that build?

Rely on the expert 

Michelangelo, was a painter, sculpture, architect and engineer, he possibly knew all that was known. Nowadays, it is hard to keep up with just one given discipline related to one’s specific work.

Maybe it’s time to pay more heed to the specialist in our industry as well. Why not let architectural woodworking companies specify materials and structural details, and let the architect determine the form, function and finishes of the project to be created? Perhaps the AWI or other institutions can be instrumental in moving the industry toward a brighter future.

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