If you’ve not checked out part 1 of this article, I suggest you do. It takes you through the first eight of 16 construction specifications as designated by the Construction Specifications Institute, and it provides you with insight into the mind of your architect.
Part 2 continues this tour through your architects mind as he considers the remaining eight divisions of specification (starting with Division 9). Like in part 1, I’ve placed in bold key definitions/concepts. I have also continued to include my opinions and tips on important things you need to consider as a member of a new construction/renovation team.
Division 9 – Finishes
Once your building is standing, you’ll need to make it presentable. You’ll want to cover your floors, walls, and ceilings to add a little class. Paint, ceiling tiles, and carpeting are some of the products your architect will specify. VCT is vinyl composition tile, which is nothing more than the square vinyl tiles you see just about everywhere. The code your building is designed under might require a certain class of finish. That’s not to say that the code officials don’t think your building is classy enough. The class of a finish refers to its flame spread rating – it propensity to spread the fire. Finishes are often substituted at the last minute because they tend to be discontinued at a moments notice. Don’t let that last minute rush result in an unclassified finish in your building.
Division 10 – Specialties
Here’s a good miscellaneous category. CSI decided on this instead of another 37 divisions to cover things like fire places, flagpoles, mailboxes, chalkboards, and other components of a building that aren’t quite construction items, but, unlike furniture, get nailed or screwed down. Chances are the owner will have lots of opinions about what’s in this division. Typically, decisions about colors, materials, and operation need to be thought about. Keep your own folder on these types of items throughout the design process. Before the job goes out to bid, check this section of the specifications first. Be sure all the specialty items are picked up and specified as you want them. If you have asked your architect to make those decisions, make yourself aware anyway. You are the one who has to look at it every day!
Division 11 – Equipment
This covers all equipment that is not related to the mechanical systems of the buildings. Residential appliances (stoves, dishwashers, refrigerators), parking control, library equipment, vending, loading dock equipment, food service, and the like are all included. Here’s another place where you need to pay close attention. The equipment installed could very well be serving the purpose for which the building was built. You could build a beautiful observatory, but if your observatory equipment isn’t quite what you wanted, will you be happy?
Division 12 – Furnishings
Furniture is sometimes not part of the construction contract. Remember, “architect” does not necessarily equal “interior designer”. Some architects have in-house interiors services, and some farm that service out. In some cases the owners may have a preferred interior designer, or may choose to do it themselves. There are certainly plenty of architects with good interior design skills. Be sure that whoever is specifying your furniture has done it before. It’s a little different than specifying brick.
Division 13 – Special Construction
Suspiciously similar to specialties, and often confused for Division 10, special construction refers to systems which are made up of more than one component. Swimming pools and aquariums, pre-engineered structures, lightning protection, and air supported structures all fall in Division 13. Strangely, fire suppression systems (like sprinkler systems) are specified here, while the fire suppression piping is specified in Division 15. This is not a well-known fact, but a largely ignored one.
Division 14 – Conveying Systems
Here’s a riddle: How big a pit do you need to dig for a holeless elevator? Before you yell out “Grant!” keep in mind that a pit isn’t a hole. In fact, the size of your pit in a holeless isn’t really any different than one in a regular hydraulic elevator – 4 feet or so. The hole that you don’t need is for the hydraulic plunger, which in a holed elevator is pretty darn deep. Holeless elevators are used a lot in construction, but remember that it doesn’t slip in like a couch. So get your gardening spades out, it’s going to be a long night.
Also covered in conveying systems are escalators, dumbwaiters, and people movers, those big conveyor belts that people like to stand on in the airport to make sure the people behind them can’t move.
Division 15 – Mechanical and Plumbing
That thing your cat drinks out of may not be a toilet in your architect’s eyes. Not that your cat cares, but your architect may call it a water closet. In fact, “toilet” is often used to refer to the room that houses a water closet, even though “water closet” sounds much more like a room than “toilet” does. In other words, don’t trust your dictionary. Especially when you consider that “lavatory” may be defined as a toilet, but is often used to describe the bowl over which one shaves and brushes ones teeth. If you thought that was a sink, you are right, though in some places a sink is only a sink if it is surrounded by a countertop. Otherwise, it’s a lav. So either make sure you are clear on the terminology your architect is using, or watch where you wash your hands.
Did you know there is an underground market for water closets (the porcelain, not the room)? In 1992 the Energy Policy and Conservation Act set limits on how much water fixtures could use. You can now only buy toilets in the U.S. that are limited to 1.6 gallons per flush, which isn’t much. This is a serious problem for many university housing officials. People are actually smuggling old toilets into the country, keeping the Canadian Border Patrol plenty busy. If you don’t want a flush valve (that noisy flusher attached to a pipe above your toilet, found in many public restrooms) you may be able to get a pressure-assisted toilet that looks more residential. These are gaining popularity, and are more expensive. But think of all the time you’ll save not having to wait for the tank to fill up before you can flush a second or third time.
Not only are plumbing fixtures covered in division 15, but everything that takes water – or anything else – to and from the fixture is included. Also, all mechanical systems, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning), piping related to it, ductwork, and the work associated with it are covered by this division.
Division 16 – Electrical
Edison did not invent the light bulb; he just made it better. Many unnamed souls have followed in his footsteps making enough different kinds of lamps to they can’t all be stocked in one store. Fluorescent lamps have come a long way from the flickering, blue/green, noisy fixtures I remember from school. Fluorescent lamps, as everyone knows, are more energy efficient, and your architect will probably scream less loudly about their use today as he might have many years ago. Fluorescents come in warmer shades, have quieter ballasts, and come in small tubes that can be screwed into smaller incandescent-looking fixtures.
Your architect may want to use lights like high-pressure sodium or metal halide lights inside a large space, or outside for site lighting. Good idea – they are efficient, put out lots of light, and don’t need to be changed often. To keep your lighting uniform, your architect may want to use the same kind of lighting on the building itself. Still not a problem, but look carefully. If any exterior lighting needs to come on quickly for emergency use, forget about it. These lamps take several minutes to warm up before they put out any substantial light. So, unless your muggers are willing to wait, stick to a quicker lighting lamp for those applications.
In addition to lighting, look in division 16 for power, communications, sound, video, electrical distribution (panels), and of course, outlet covers. They are never the right color.
The 16 Divisions will help you organize your thoughts and understand how your architect has organized his. The terminology architects use is not as arcane as some other professions, but it may take some getting used to. Don’t be afraid to ask, and if your architect asks, “Do I need to draw you a picture?” you may want to show him the exit device.
By Ted Sottong, AIA, who is a principal in the firm of Noelker & Hull Associates, Inc.