Volume 35, Number 9, September 2000


Hey We’re Not So Bad, Really

Working with Curtainwall Consultants

By Rob Stegeman

Many years ago, you would have expected to encounter curtainwall consultants on a few of the new, high-rise/monumental building projects usually located in major cities. At the time, curtainwall design was in its infancy and each system was custom designed to meet the unique requirements of each signature building. Curtainwall manufacturers played a key role in their product’s development, continuing to raise the bar to meet the ongoing, creative demands of architects.

Today, after decades of evolution, curtainwall comes in a wide variety of types, performance levels and erection methods and is installed on a wide variety of building types. And while the building industry has changed, curtainwall has also changed to meet new demands. Creativity continues to flourish and curtainwall consultants play key roles, influencing the successful outcome of many projects, due in part to today’s building technologies and the need for independent, technical specialists in such a diverse and demanding industry.

The ultimate goal of a curtainwall consultant on any building project is to assure a fully-functional and integrated building enclosure that meets design intent and performance criteria. The consultant’s clients for new construction projects can include architects, owners, developers, construction managers, design/build teams general contractors and glazing contractors.

The Consultant’s Role:
Design Phase

During the design phases of a project, consultants provide technical reviews of schematic design, design development and construction drawings. They provide recommendations related to system selection, system cost considerations, the influence of building codes, wind load requirements, water infiltration considerations, effects of building movements and more. The architect’s technical performance or performance specifications are reviewed for his or her incorporation. When a wind tunnel study is required, for example, consultants evaluate the laboratory results and incorporate the information into the wall system’s design and specifications. The architect’s typical design details are reviewed and he or she is assisted in the development of special details, based on his or her profiles.

During the design phases consultants work toward ensuring design feasibility and sufficient, technical information in the bid drawings so the clearest picture of the requirements are conveyed to those who will bid the work.

The Consultant’s Role:
Bid Reviews

During bidding and negotiation, consultants provide assistance by answering technical questions posed by the bidders, evaluating proposed value engineering concepts and reviewing the bidders’ proposals and scope drawings for technical merit, and providing recommendations regarding the bidder’s selection.

The Consultant’s Role: Construction Administration – Submittals

Once a subcontractor has been awarded the project, consultants can provide reviews and comments on material submittals, product data, test reports, shop drawing submittals and structural support calculations to verify the submittals offer a workable solution to the bid documents, that also meet the design intent and performance criteria.

When working for general contractors, the consultant’s work generally begins during the pre-construction phase, in which they provide a peer review of the “up-front” documents with the performance criteria, highlighting potential problems and/or areas of concern. Field testing procedures are established and supplemented and a review of the subcontractor’s technical bid information for glaring deficiencies is provided.

Efforts during this phase are focused on providing timely information to the general contractor so issues may be addressed early in engineering and prior to manufacturing and installation, thus avoiding the potential of built-in problems and minimizing the impact on schedules and costs.

The Consultant’s Role: Construction Administration - Field Services

During field services, consultants’ services generally are similar for most clients. Field services include periodic site inspections and observations of the in-process installation work or witnessing air and/or water testing, to verify conformance with the approved documents and to detect errors and omissions.

For unitized curtainwall systems, consultants can provide fabrication facility, quality assurance and control inspections, observing the production and fabrication of system components, unit frame assembly, glass and glazing operations and more. It is at the fabrication facility where the quality of unitized curtainwall occurs. This proactive service helps minimize the occurrence of built-in problems and defects during fabrication and assembly.

 The Consultant’s Role:
Other Services

Consultants also can provide mock-up submittal reviews and often provide factory fabrication. At an independent testing laboratory, the consultant is there to observe and report on the critical aspects of the mock-up’s construction, by witnessing and reporting on the pre-testing and/or the formal testing of the mock-up, and evaluating the data generated by the independent laboratory.

Curtainwall consultants’ services are provided not only for his or her clients, but also in the project’s best interest.

Curtainwall consultants are part of the project’s solution and success and add a measurable value at any level of involvement. You could say we are arbitrators, combining the interests of diverse groups into a singular, workable solution, in the project’s best interest. Our objective is to provide a fully-functional and integrated building enclosure that meets the design intent and the performance criteria, which is the glazing contractor’s objective as well.

Robert Stegeman is the business development manager for Heitmann & Associates Inc., building enclosures consultants, headquartered in St. Louis, Mo.


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