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(Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2007 - 09:57 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I would welcome any and all comments and suggestions from you knowledgeable folks on this issue!

We have a project with a significant amount of guardrail on the second floor. Our drawings indicate that the height of the rail is to be the code minimum 42". Which is exactly how it was constructed. However, the drawings don't specifically indicate that the 42" is to be AFF. So the fabricator built them to be 42" above the concrete slab. Then along comes the 3/8" thick floor surface and well....you know the rest of the story. This was red flagged during one of the inspections, and now all parties are trying to figure out how to remedy the situation. I have little doubt that "who pays for it" will become an issue as well. Have any of you faced similar experiences? As I said, I would welcome any and all comments and suggestions.
Ronald L. Geren, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA, SCIP
Senior Member
Username: specman

Post Number: 588
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2007 - 10:30 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I would request a meeting with the building official. Building inspectors are trained to follow the code and typically are not permitted to grant variances.

The issue to ask is: does 3/8" really make the guardrails that much unsafe? The construction industry has to deal with tolerances all the time--some are tight others are not--but the building codes and accessiblity standards rarely include any type of tolerance allowances. I see this a lot with accessibility and water closet locations (will the user be able to notice that the WC is 1/4" closer to the wall then it should be?).

If nothing can be worked out with the building official, then take a look at your drawings: did your dimension indicate AFF? Is the extension line drawn from the concrete deck or floor surface? If either of the above applies, then the handrail fabricator is on the hook.

In general, I always recommend designing a little over the minimum or little under the maximum just to account for the lack of precision in most construction work. However, it's difficult to comply when hard dimensions (such as in the ADAAG) are given unless you make it very clear in the documents that there is no tolerance.
(Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2007 - 04:12 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Weld a 3/8" diameter rod to the top of guardrail. We always dimension guardrails to be 43" high.
Steve Taylor (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - 05:27 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Is the subcontractor a specialist in stairs and guardrails? Anyone with the slightest experience in the field should know that the code requires guardrails to be 42" AFF (except for some residential situations.)
David R. Combs, CSI, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: davidcombs

Post Number: 278
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 - 07:00 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Ahh, but what the fabricator "knows" and what the Drawings indicate may be two different things. The fabricator has not been engaged to provide what he/she "knows," - they have been engaged to provide what is shown in the CONTRACT Documents.

If the information in the Documents is incorrect (in terms of code compliance), then the fabricator is placed in a somewhat precarious position: Either comply with the CONTRACT and be in violation of the code, or comply with the code and be in breach of contract. And YES - we all agree that the fabricator should bring it to someone's attention.

Design Teams, in general, would do well to keep in mind the following:

1) The code provisions are MINIMUMS, not goals to shoot for. There's some merit to the 43-inch high scenario mentioned in the post above.

2) Ensure the design takes into account code provisions; ensure the information contained in the documents is code compliant.

3) Don't back the contractor into a corner by forcing him to choose between code and contract. All the contractor need do is point out the discrepancy to the owner, drop a hint or two about it being a "deficient design" that will cost additional $$ to remedy, and the architect's credibility is shot - probably for the duration of the remainder of the project.

4) The Contractor's obligation to point out discrepancies (but ONLY if they find them) does not change 1, 2, and 3 above.
Anne Whitacre, FCSI CCS
Senior Member
Username: awhitacre

Post Number: 772
Registered: 07-2002
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 - 11:51 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I would also remind the readers that by contract, it is the Architect who is responsible for code compliance. We often toss that onto the fabricator, who we assume "knows" their code provisions currently, but unless the railing was delegated design with the fabricator stamping the drawings, it is only the design professional who is on the hook for the code issues. David's exactly right -- it doesn't matter what the fabricator "should have known". he wasn't hired for that, but hired to comply with the documents as presented. I would suggest that the architect think up a very good design solution and make sure that their E&O is paid up.
J. Peter Jordan
Senior Member
Username: jpjordan

Post Number: 269
Registered: 05-2004
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 - 12:03 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I would go a bit further than Mr. Combs and Ms. Whitacre to note that even if the guard was a "delegated design" item, the criteria were probably only related to the structural requirements, not requirements having to do with height.

I deal with many architects who think they adequately cover themselves with a general note to the contractor to "comply with requirements of local code." This can work with most residential and light commercial where the projects have minimal drawings and specs, and the contractors are familiar with this type of construction in which a largely empirical approach will generally work.

However, issues such as this go back to the profession's view of the domain of "design responsibility" for which the Architect is responsible. Most students will graduate from NAAB accredited programs believing that their primarily design responsibility is limited to the visual quality of a building. I would not be surprised if this is why many graduates do not seek licensure/registration.

In my experience, the best designers understand that their professional responsibility encompases a very broad understanding of "design." The others "design" buildings until they go broke if they are in business for themselves or work in firms which tolerate a dilettante approach to architectural practice.
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 - 01:25 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

To suppport both Ms. Whitacre and Mr. Jordan [among others:

From Case Law:

The courts in HUANG v. GARNER, 157 Cal. App. 3d 404(1984) and BURRAN v. DAMBOLD. 422 F 2d 133 (10th Cir. 1970) found that the design professional was guilty of “negligence per se,” since the building in question was not designed in accordance with the prevailing building code. The offense was so pervasive that the court took no testimony regarding the standard of professional care, but rather found that a law had been broken and hence guilt was distinct. These two cases provide strong directions and precedents for design professionals and should not be ignored.

In BLOUNT v. UNITED STATES 346 F 2d 962, the court followed others in finding that while the contractor may be generally familiar with building codes, it is unreasonable to expect the contractor to make a detailed comparison of the design documents and the appropriate codes. In addition, if the design documents conflict with the governing codes, the court usually will find them to be ambiguous, and rule for the contractor. In BLOUNT v. UNITED STATES, the court stated, "...contractors are businessmen... pressed for time...seeking to underbid a number of competitors. Consequently, they estimate on only those costs, which they feel the contract will permit the owner to insist upon in the way of performance. They are not expected to exercise clairvoyance in spotting hidden ambiguities in the bid documents…."
Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI
Senior Member
Username: rliebing

Post Number: 847
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 - 02:20 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Interesting article in current CSI NewsBrief on self-certification of documents, by design professionals,in NYC.
Steven Bruneel, AIA, CSI-CDT, LEED-AP
Senior Member
Username: redseca2

Post Number: 108
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 - 03:58 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Excellent comments by all.

What I would like to know is where in all this is the submittal process? Although I am a working Architect (and specification writer) I have to say the Architect made two errors here. First, a petty error in not clearly including the thickness of finishes in the dimensioning on the contract documents. Two, doing it again in missing the issue in the review of the Shop Drawings.

I hope my firm would catch an error like this. To assist them and provide "checks and balances", my specification templates call for a full size mock-up sample and usually a pre-construction meeting. None of these is magic, but the hope is that enough eyes will catch the problem, or that fabricator, who isn't responsible for code intpretation, might accidently blurt out something useful in a face-to-face meeting.

"Anonymous" made a good point about adding a bit to a code required dimension to allow for little errors and the compounding of allowed tolerances. If an engineer adds a factor of safety I tell our designers they should too. In some code enforcement environments there is no room for little errors. I am all for 45 inch high guardrails and accessible ramps that are 1:13.
Anne Whitacre, FCSI CCS
Senior Member
Username: awhitacre

Post Number: 773
Registered: 07-2002
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2008 - 04:31 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

In theory, the shop drawing review is the final chance to get the building we wanted in the first place. I can testify though that when I was consulting, a lot of my clients saw submittals (and shop drawings, etc) as just so much busy work and wanted to not have to "bother" with all that, probably because they spent their entire CA fee in the design phase.

Even in offices which require shop drawings and actually look at them, unless you have an experienced practitioner, the 42" above the slab versus the 42" AFF would probably not be caught by most people who are doing the checking. They would assume that the person doing the drawings spent enough time to verify the dimensions (even though we all know that details get copied over and over) and its very possible that when that detail was originally drawn at 42" above the slab, the slab WAS the finished floor. This is the sort of thing that people remember only when they messed it up on some previous project.

I do love the line about "they are not expected to exercise clairvoyance in spotting hidden ambiguities." I'm going to use that in an office memo....
Steven Hauk
Senior Member
Username: sh1net

Post Number: 12
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Sunday, March 01, 2009 - 10:41 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I'd like to hear what the group here thinks about the original poster's mention of who pays for it. Do you find that architecture firms are paying for remedial measures in cases like this? We architects are working with a small amount of money in the scheme of things. If we paid for very much of this sort of thing, we might all be out of business. A few days ago I was having a fairly candid conversation with the primary rep of one of our clients. Although there's no problem right now, he gave me the impression he won't be tolerant of such things.
Mark Gilligan SE, CSI
Senior Member
Username: mark_gilligan

Post Number: 126
Registered: 10-2007
Posted on Monday, March 02, 2009 - 01:15 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

From a legal perspective the small amount of our fee has little if anything to do with whether we should pay. It appears that the two legal questions are whether the original instructions were clear and whether the designer had exercised the required standard of care.

Many design professionals have not regularly/consistently been held accountable for their errors and as a result they have not felt the need to exercise sufficient care to prevent most errors and have not charged enough to offset the risk. Of course if we did the above our fees would likely be higher and many of the same indignant clients would not give us the job because we cost too much.

The hard part is admitting that we contributed to the error. It is hard to be introspective enough to admit that we could do better because the risk exposure is so great.

The real challenge is to get individuals to admit that there is a problem and to help them to find a sustainable solution. The answer is not to set unrealistic expectations and become totaly obsessive.
Steven Hauk
Senior Member
Username: sh1net

Post Number: 14
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Monday, March 02, 2009 - 01:54 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I think litigation has proven that our fee has no effect on what we pay. I bring it up only to suppose that we must not be paying for most of our errors...we can't afford to.

If the level of care exercised by design professionals isn't sufficient to prevent errors, I don't believe it's for lack of being held accountable. I think overall we're just providing our services with very inexperienced professionals. Our people are giving it their best effort. But pitfalls like the one that started this thread are abundant.
Mark Gilligan SE, CSI
Senior Member
Username: mark_gilligan

Post Number: 127
Registered: 10-2007
Posted on Monday, March 02, 2009 - 02:59 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

My point is that individuals and firms have not made a connection between their actions and the results. When something goes wrong it is often easier to blame the problem on something outside their control.

This is complicated by the difficulty in changing practices. People and organizations resist change.

I believe that the solution will be found when we start to adapt and apply the concepts expoused by quality management, lean manufacturing, and lean construction.
Mojo (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Monday, October 24, 2011 - 01:17 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Guardrail correction! Take a look at this photograph: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mojoarchitect/6277263258/in/photostream Never mind that the toe kick is non-compliant.

There was a 2" high bar welded to the top guardrail in order to make it code compliant. Unregistered guest is correct - dimension guardrails to be 43" high.

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