Volume 35, Number 3, March 2000


Spec Hunting

focusing on education will, hopefully, make this hit and miss voyage obsolete

by Max Perilstein

The fax machine was humming and the big job that we had been expecting to quote was coming through. After our machine dutifully spit out 12 pages of specifications and take-offs, we were ready to go. But before we could quote we had to get all of the proper equipment so we could navigate our way through the great specifications adventure.

We needed the bloodhound pooch to sniff out the hidden argon gas on page four and the black spacer tucked away on page seven. We had every manufacturer’s Sweets Brochure from the last four years at our fingertips in an attempt to match up the performance values listed. We were going on a “spec-hunting” trip.

Anyone who has quoted a glass job recently has run into some of these problems: Inconsistent specifications, out-of-date products, or glass with unmatchable performance numbers (unless you can somehow morph a piece of bronze into a piece of green). These are just a sampling of some of the issues out there and some of the things I decided to get closure on by calling Larry Zimanski. Larry is the director of specifications for TMP Associates of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Larry’s career spans 30 years, the last 12 in his current position with TMP, which received the 1999 Michigan Architectural Firm of the Year award by the American Institute of Architects. In his time, he’s pretty much seen it all when it comes to specifications and why over the past decade the above issues have become more commonplace.

The raw glass manufacturers have introduced many new products in the past five years. That influx has helped put the specifiers behind the eight ball. “Glass is a perfect example of something that has totally changed and reinvented itself over and over again,” said Zimanski. “I’ve specified the same four styles of roofing since I was a kid, glass is one of those product categories that has just exploded. It makes it harder and harder for more people to understand.”

While the same manufacturers are putting out new products, they have been cutting back on their visits to the architectural community. “Years ago, we saw people from the raw glass end all the time—not anymore.”

Zimanski’s frustration with the above is because “the bottom line is no one is educating the architects out there. It’s few and far between.”

So that is some of the reason for confusion, but what about some of those major inconsistencies? According to Zimanski, “For legitimate and non-legitimate reasons some of the younger architects have no idea what they’re specifying. They just haven’t been educated enough on how to control their specifications.”

What it really comes down to overall is that most architects are in the same labor boat as the rest of us. There are not enough people to handle the workload consistently and competently and not enough time to learn about the new products that continue to pop up quarterly in our industry.

So what can be done to avoid these tribulations? The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) is working on educating architects and making the specifications more standard and consistent. While the visits from the manufacturers have decreased, the information available from the primaries is better than ever before. The Internet is also another tool available to educate as well. Most importantly, the fabricators now must take a different road than what they’re accustomed to, working to include architectural visits and seminars along with their commitments to the glazing community. Focusing on education will give the fabricator/glazier an opportunity to become an expert thus making the sport of “spec hunting” obsolete.

wpe2.jpg (2313 bytes)Max Perilstein is vice president/general manager of PDC Glass of Michigan. His column appears bimonthly.


Copyright 2000 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.