Volume 43, Issue 4 - April 2008

Dear USG

One Specifier Asks, Who Should Handle Hardware Coordination?
Dear USGlass:
Mary Hester’s editorial “One Source Headache” (see January 2008 USGlass, page 20) laments the problems with proper coordination of hardware for glass and aluminum doors. No doubt these problems occur on too many projects. Properly coordinating the numerous components of a building is one of the greatest challenges of both design and construction. Unfortunately, Ms. Hester misunderstands the role of the designer in this effort. Certainly the designer must select hardware appropriate for the particular door, including stile size, door weight, lock function and appearance. However, it is purely the province of the contractor to determine which subcontractors should provide which assemblies and systems—specifications do not and should not provide “trade scopes,” a common misconception.

The Project Resource Manual published by the Construction Specifications Institute states that “neither the section titles nor their arrangement defines how the work of the project is to be assigned to various construction trades and subcontractors.” Although a section based on MasterFormat (CSI’s master list of numbers and titles) “may correlate with the activities of traditional contractor groups … it is not the intent of MasterFormat to assign work to specific construction trades. Conversely, the subcontractor and the installing trade should not influence the arrangement of the specification sections.” Experienced specifiers will not attempt to second-guess the general contractor’s preferences for dividing up the work between subcontractors. 

Specifiers include all door hardware in a single specification section for a number of reasons. Hardware has become significantly more complex, and many design firms engage hardware consultants to ensure that the selection of items for each door is appropriate, meets building codes, functions as needed, coordinates with other devices and integrates with electronic security and access control. If door hardware for aluminum doors and all-glass doors was included in those sections, large and significant portions of these requirements would need to be repeated—a poor specification practice. This also may be misinterpreted to mean that there is no need to coordinate between the two during the construction phase. At the same time, door hardware manufacturers’ stock offerings for hardware are severely limited and often inappropriate for the project needs, necessitating that hardware manufacturers be contacted directly to find the appropriate hardware.

The solution Ms. Hester suggests—that the hardware on glass and aluminum doors be furnished and installed by the glazing contractor—is one reasonable solution. She suggests glazing contractors “work with the architects or construction managers, as well as the general contractors, to show that [they] can get them the correct hardware,” but the architect does not make the decision who supplies what—the general contractor does. Further, she states that this “process puts some responsibility on the architect to look over the submittals carefully and make sure that the two hardware packages have the same brands of hardware to avoid issues regarding mix-and-match hardware brands.” This attempts to shift responsibility for coordination to the architect. The general contractor and the respective subcontractors should be sitting down together and completing this coordination effort before the submittal is prepared. It actually must be done before the hardware or the doors are purchased. 

Responsible general contractors working with reliable subcontractors can accomplish the necessary coordination without undue difficulty, and maintain the proper separation of responsibilities between the designer and the contractor at the same time. Expecting architects to assume a greater role, and micro-manage this coordination, is not the solution.

John Bunzick, CCS, CCCA, LEED AP 
Associate | Specifications
Symmes Maini & McKee Associates Inc.
Cambridge, Mass.

Hester Responds
Dear USGlass:
I feel that Mr. Bunzick unfortunately has missed the point of my article. I agree that the contractor makes the determination as to the subcontractors who provide which assemblies and systems, not the architect. I was attempting to point out the issues that arise from incorrectly specified hardware and how to best resolve those problems. As Mr. Bunzick points out, “Hardware has become significantly more complex,” and this is where I wanted to make the point that knowledgeable sources for hardware can ease sticky situations. 

My article does not address coordination of the trades but, rather, what problems exist for glazing contractors and suggestions of how to overcome them. I appreciate Mr. Bunzick’s knowledge on the role of the designer and the general contractor as well as the intent of a specification. I do feel that his point of trying to include aluminum and all glass doors in different areas of the specification would cause repeated work and be a poor practice. 

Many thanks to Mr. Bunzick for his views on my article.

Mary Hester
JLM Wholesale Inc. 

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