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David G. Axt, CCS, CSI ,SCIP
Senior Member
Username: david_axt

Post Number: 1627
Registered: 03-2002


Posted on Friday, December 15, 2017 - 03:12 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I have run into a few problems on projects where I questioned the architect on a material on a detail in the drawings. I get the response that they are not using that material on the project. The detail is only a "place holder"! Usually I had already written the specification and just needed clarification on some particulars.

This really frustrates me because then I can no longer trust the drawings. I can understand if there is a later material change, but to put something in a drawing set that is knowingly incorrect is inexcusable.

Anybody else have this problem?
David G. Axt, CCS, CSI, SCIP
Specifications Consultant
Axt Consulting LLC
Robin E. Snyder
Senior Member
Username: robin

Post Number: 713
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Friday, December 15, 2017 - 03:21 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

All day long, every day, every project. "The only thing worse than no information is wrong information"
Guest (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Friday, December 15, 2017 - 03:55 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

David, don't you know that as specifiers, we must be able to read minds.
David J. Wyatt, CDT
Senior Member
Username: david_j_wyatt_cdt

Post Number: 220
Registered: 03-2011
Posted on Monday, December 18, 2017 - 09:52 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

David,

The situation you describe is common with specifiers, but perhaps more-so with the independent consultant. Because of your independent status, you are more acutely aware of inefficiencies chipping away at your project budget than the salaried employee, who has only a vague notion as to how profits are realized.
Chris Grimm, CSI, CCS, SCIP, LEED AP BD+C
Senior Member
Username: chris_grimm_ccs_scip

Post Number: 383
Registered: 02-2014


Posted on Monday, December 18, 2017 - 10:30 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Making a new standard question to the A/E: Please let me know if you can think of any "placeholder" details on the drawings that I should not focus on for this submission, i.e. unlikely to actually be used.
Dave Metzger
Senior Member
Username: davemetzger

Post Number: 714
Registered: 07-2001
Posted on Monday, December 18, 2017 - 01:02 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Good idea Chris. Questions can be organized into groups:

1. What do you know that you know?
2. What do you know that you don't (yet) know?
3. And most important, what do you not know that you don't know? This is where specifiers really earn their fees.
Steven Bruneel, AIA, CSI-CDT, LEED-AP, EDAC
Senior Member
Username: redseca2

Post Number: 622
Registered: 12-2006


Posted on Monday, December 18, 2017 - 01:29 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I am an in-house specifier and our projects are mostly large healthcare projects, virtually always with a design/build, design/assist, or other collaborative project delivery model.

This means:
Project budgets are usually frozen at a frighteningly early point in the design process - How about bidding from the 100% Design Development Submital?
Place Holders become the primary means of setting the budget for finish items.
You work with designers to set abstract price points. We know we want a 3/8 by large format porcelain floor tile in a dark tone and select the right manufacturers and their lines to define a limited price range.
With care, this can be an efficient specification writing process as you focus on performance and leave the final color and model number to the finish schedules on the drawings.
Where it can break down is when the designer wants a certain "look" and this can be accomplished by very different materials, requiring multiple Sections for the same work item, with some sort of bid alternate process to guide selection.

Where my spec budget falls apart is not with this, but with the need to package specs for random, seemingly on the fly Bid Packages hammered out in a meeting the spec writer isn't invited to.
Chris Grimm, CSI, CCS, SCIP, LEED AP BD+C
Senior Member
Username: chris_grimm_ccs_scip

Post Number: 384
Registered: 02-2014


Posted on Monday, December 18, 2017 - 02:07 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

That's right, Dave. My question aims to provoke them to consider #3.

Steven, I feel your pain. In rare cases they might listen to reason that the specs don't need to govern bid packages etc, and 011000 can point that out, quite rightly so. The CMc or GC, D/B'r, whomever, can write their own scope statements to be issued to the bidders or included after 011000. And yeah writing the specs somewhat generally (that is an oxymoron I know!) and by all means avoiding duplication any info that will be on the drawings but I see that you know this.
David G. Axt, CCS, CSI ,SCIP
Senior Member
Username: david_axt

Post Number: 1628
Registered: 03-2002


Posted on Monday, December 18, 2017 - 06:10 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

My issue comes about like this example.

I ask the architect, "What species of wood do you want for the handrail?"

The architect replies, "We don't have any wood handrails on this project."

To which I reply, "Well there is one indicated on Detail 15 Sheet A42.0"

To which the architect replies, "Oh that detail is just a placeholder."
David G. Axt, CCS, CSI, SCIP
Specifications Consultant
Axt Consulting LLC
Michael Chusid, RA FCSI CCS
Senior Member
Username: michael_chusid

Post Number: 351
Registered: 10-2003


Posted on Monday, December 18, 2017 - 06:33 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I have fallen down stairs, so I understand why a handrail might be called a "place holder".
Michael Chusid, RA FCSI CCS 1-818-219-4937
www.chusid.com www.buildingproduct.guru
P Bandy (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Monday, December 18, 2017 - 06:18 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

David G., I have had the same problem on three separate projects recently. And, the issue is not that the designer is "holding" a place for a similar product, but rather listing a product for the mere sake of listing a product.
David J., I disagree that the salaried employee is only vaguely aware of how profits are realized. As a salaried employee, the extra 20 hours overtime each week spent rewriting specifications is unpaid. I believe all salaried employees are aware that the free service they are providing diminishes their profit and time doing other things.
Chris Grimm, CSI, CCS, SCIP, LEED AP BD+C
Senior Member
Username: chris_grimm_ccs_scip

Post Number: 385
Registered: 02-2014


Posted on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 09:45 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Unless employees are in management (and it is well worth reading how the IRS defines this), they are probably misclassified if they are working slave OT labor for free.
Chris Grimm, CSI, CCS, SCIP, LEED AP BD+C
Senior Member
Username: chris_grimm_ccs_scip

Post Number: 386
Registered: 02-2014


Posted on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 09:48 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

David G. yes that is clearly #3 as Dave M points out. I see why he says we *earn* our fee by following along with placeholders and whatever ad infinitum items they come up with until the project is finally considered done. (Emphasis mine.)
David J. Wyatt, CDT
Senior Member
Username: david_j_wyatt_cdt

Post Number: 221
Registered: 03-2011
Posted on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 10:03 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

P Bandy:

I appreciate your perspective. There are exceptions to every blanket statement, and you sound exceptional.
David G. Axt, CCS, CSI ,SCIP
Senior Member
Username: david_axt

Post Number: 1629
Registered: 03-2002


Posted on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 01:05 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I figure that architects insert place holders for the following possible reasons:

1) Ignorantly paste the detail from a previous project assuming that it is correct.
2) Copy the detail into the drawing set and with plans of working on the later.
3) "Pad" the drawings set to look like they have completed the work to a certain percentage of the work in order to get paid by the Owner.
David G. Axt, CCS, CSI, SCIP
Specifications Consultant
Axt Consulting LLC
Steven Bruneel, AIA, CSI-CDT, LEED-AP, EDAC
Senior Member
Username: redseca2

Post Number: 623
Registered: 12-2006


Posted on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 02:46 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I posted the other day about how our large healthcare projects depend heavily on carefully selected "placeholders" to set budget values for various building components.

I also want to emphasize how even when we have a selected product, approved by the Owner and documented on the drawings and in the specs, it is often still a placeholder.

Our projects have long design and construction schedules. we celebrated a grand opening last month of a project for which I prepared the 100% Design Development specs for in 2008-2009. Those were the Bid specifications and set the project budget.

When you consider the dramatic acquisitions, mergers (and failures) of construction material manufacturers since the recession, the frequent renaming and reworking of product lines, it is more often surprising when a specified product from 2009 is still on the shelves in the mid-teens and my specs make it to the end without a need for revision than not.

So we go into these mega projects assuming just about anything that is not completely described by ASTM/ANSI/ACI/AISI etc. standards is probably a placeholder, but we still deliver a completely coordinated set of documents.
David G. Axt, CCS, CSI ,SCIP
Senior Member
Username: david_axt

Post Number: 1630
Registered: 03-2002


Posted on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 05:32 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I am going to start including Section 134900 Radiation Protection in all my school and multi-family projects as a place holder.
David G. Axt, CCS, CSI, SCIP
Specifications Consultant
Axt Consulting LLC
P Bandy (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 - 05:24 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Chris, DOL regulates labor laws. Please direct your attention to 541.300 and 541.301 in the following:

https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2017-title29-vol3/xml/CFR-2017-title29-vol3-part541.xml#seqnum541.300

David G. - all three points are on target. I had a project with a whole sheet showing mounting heights and accessibility requirements for toilet rooms. (No toilet room work required in the project.)
Chris Grimm, CSI, CCS, SCIP, LEED AP BD+C
Senior Member
Username: chris_grimm_ccs_scip

Post Number: 387
Registered: 02-2014


Posted on Friday, December 22, 2017 - 10:14 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

PB, that helps clarify. So as professionals (or creative professionals, as this thread points out we have to be to keep up with the designers), or administrators (not only the managers as I thought the IRS defined it), we are allowed by law to be treated like slave labor when it gets over 40 hours as captured spec writers in a firm. This is one of the reasons I am glad to be independent. I might not get time and a half like blue collar workers, but I at least might get something for my extra toil.

I don't understand why the CFR is written this way. Does it not penalize people for working hard to get a job that requires a college degree or specialized education in scientific fields, artistic work, or computer analyst type work? And why? We can fall prey to repetitive stress as much or more than anyone else. I have experienced that, and had to just stop working at one point until I could pinpoint the problems and then gradually build back up while taking care of my health first. Now I take a sustainable approach to pretty much everything.
Phil Babinec
Senior Member
Username: pbabinec

Post Number: 22
Registered: 09-2004
Posted on Wednesday, December 27, 2017 - 03:35 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Or after asked and answered, "it's only a place holder" - "It's Not in Project" only to find out later it was added but you were not informed.
Phil Kabza
Senior Member
Username: phil_kabza

Post Number: 601
Registered: 12-2002


Posted on Thursday, January 04, 2018 - 02:29 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

We should accentuate the positive, and see the above as an opportunity. The next time you get a call from the project architect during construction, asking why such-and-such product is in the specifications, the appropriate answer now is "It's just a placeholder."
Chris Grimm, CSI, CCS, SCIP, LEED AP BD+C
Senior Member
Username: chris_grimm_ccs_scip

Post Number: 388
Registered: 02-2014


Posted on Thursday, January 04, 2018 - 04:31 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Speaking of placeholders, the topic came up in today's webinar. I have to agree with the presenters on a certain level that it is good to challenge the status quo which has fostered a race to the bottom. But I'm not sure it is wise to put A/E's into the category of services which have a fiduciary duty, since A/E's do not have the power to act on behalf of the owner precisely in the manner that professions like financial managers do.

There is a very huge problem that needs to be addressed, though. For me the verdict is still out on how that should be done. And for the legal system it appears to be as well. http://www.lockton.com/Resource_/PageResource/MKT/fiduciary%20duty%20-%20an%20explosive%20liability.pdf

Presently, fiduciary duties for A/Es seem to apply only to those who have entered a project agreement with such wording. One of the presenters, Ujjval, I think is suggesting that such agreements are taking over and may be better for project participants since the A/E must then step up their game instead of offering the usual "place-holder" type stuff and getting paid for it.

If owners are willing to pay for the much higher cost of transferring that risk to the A/E and if the A/E's insurers have a different type of policy which can cover it, AND if the A/E has a staff and consultants who can do the level of perfection that owners seek (needs definition), AND if the owner will LET them do it, then yes I think we should be all for it. Right now that's a lot of ifs.

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