Letters

Construction submittals are relevant Charles Kilper certainly makes some germane points about the problems with the submittal process ("Are Construction Submittals Irrelevant?" CSE 04/02, p. 15). But his proposed solution—eliminating the process—is not an improvement. The problems he highlights are real, but are almost entirely the result of misuse of a valuable tool.

06/01/2002


Construction submittals are relevant

Charles Kilper certainly makes some germane points about the problems with the submittal process ("Are Construction Submittals Irrelevant?" CSE 04/02, p. 15). But his proposed solution—eliminating the process—is not an improvement. The problems he highlights are real, but are almost entirely the result of misuse of a valuable tool. In my experience, submittals are mishandled for a variety of reasons:

  1. Submittal of trivia. This problem can be eliminated by appropriate specification.

  2. Over delegation. Too often, qualified personnel feel it is "beneath them," so the task is delegated to the inexperienced. Even when the intent is to review their work as a "training exercise," in reality the review is often mishandled.

  3. Procrastination. Marketing, design and management tasks all seem to be more fun, but if submittals are handled on a priority basis, they get more quality attention .

  4. Lack of support from owners. Contractors are delivering a building. Engineers deliver drawings. We must intelligently justify our objections and they must be based on the specifications, which must be based on the client's needs, not on our preferences or prejudices. Eliminating the submittal review can only decrease the ability of the engineer to influence the construction process and thus decrease our value to the client.

We must manage the process to improve the quality of what we build, rather than throwing our hands up and losing more of our influence.

John Rickert, P.E., CIPE , Associate Partner Syska Hennessy Group, Inc., Fairfax, Va.

UFAD no case of 'puppy love'

The letter regarding underfloor air distribution (UFAD) as "puppy love" technology illustrates a negative issue within our industry ( CSE 04/02, p. 9). In my opinion, too often engineers do not examine the facts before they offer opinions or provide designs to clients. It can be difficult to determine truth from fiction. The answers to the questions posed in the letter are available and based on many hours of research, testing and actual field installations. UFAD works and it is proven in millions of sq. ft. of successful projects. UFAD may not fit the cookie-cutter approach some designers apply, and certainly it does represent a more complex heat-transfer technology.

But there is a more important point here: Why knock new technology unless you have done adequate research and analysis? For example, the reduced air volume with UFAD is a fact documented in multiple sources dating back over 15 years. UFAD technology is being delivered to clients by some of the most respected engineering firms in our country. UFAD is a legitimate means of providing high quality HVAC that is also energy efficient, yet supports high IAQ. To dismiss this technology as a fad is to deny these benefits. The "Flat-Earth Society" approach to HVAC does not serve us well, and new technologies like UFAD are needed to address the challenges of providing better comfort with lower energy consumption and improved IAQ.

UFAD is not for everyone; but there is no perfect HVAC system. And certainly, there can be less-than-ideal applications, but that is the responsibility of the engineer. Learning and keeping an open mind is the key. Technical articles published in CSE are a key element in this critical process.

Stanley J. Demster, P.E.

Don't revise history

The article "EPA Unveils Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program," ( CSE 05/02, p. 12) states that "the Bush Administration has refused to agree to [follow the Kyoto Protocol]." Please note that the Senate, under the Clinton Administration, unanimously approved a non-binding resolution rejecting the Kyoto Treaty. So it has been rejected by more than just the current administration. Anyone who understands the details of the treaty knows that implementing it would be economic suicide for the U.S.

Phil Seamon P.E., HarleyEllis, Southfield, Mich.

LEED Buried

In "Fight the Good (Green) Fight" ( CSE 05/02, p.7) you noted several green industry events that occurred in April. Interestingly, you missed one of the really big green world events which started here in Washington D.C. on Earth Day [April 22]—The U.S. Green Building Council Federal Summit. These, of course, are the folks that own LEED, and are working to maintain and improve it. A number of consulting engineers—my firm sent six of us—were in attendance, and are actively involving themselves in the LEED process.

You concluded your column by expressing concern that the main reason for innovative design practices is monetary. A colleague of mine was very insightful when she compared the whole green building initiative to the recycling push in the late '80s and early '90s. Everyone thinks that sustainable design is a great idea, but no one wants to take on the expense and trouble of doing it all by themselves. The same was true of recycling a decade ago. Everyone thought it was a great idea, but no one thought that recycling would be much use if they were the only one doing it. But then municipalities stepped in and mandated it, and now most people wouldn't dream of putting a glass jar in the trash.

It will take the same kind of local governmental impetus to push sustainable design, and in some localities—Arlington, Va. for one—that is already beginning to happen. Don't be surprised if 10 years from now, sustainable design is the norm and anyone who doesn't design and build "green" will be a social pariah.

Dan Kailey, P.E., Associate, Vanderweil Engineers, Alexandria, Va.

Preserve no Paradise

I read "Fight the Good (Green) Fight" with mixed reactions. On one hand, the opinion presented encouraging economy and efficient use of resources is the kind of thing that the engineering community needs to be reminded of on an ongoing basis. It is also the kind of editorial opinion that the nonengineering public needs to hear to be reminded that engineers are aware, and concerned about the environment on a global, as well as local level.

On the other hand, the apparent support of the ban on drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Preserve in Alaska makes my blood boil! I am deeply dismayed with the Senate and, as you said, the "minor victory for environmentalists." First, visualize the magnitude of the area involved. The State of Alaska is more than twice the size of Texas. The Alaska Wildlife Preserve is a flat treeless coastal plain and nearly devoid of vegetation any taller than 12 in. It is a land area of just over 3,000 sq. mi. Now keep in mind the total area which the state wants to open up for exploratory drilling—just 3/8 sq. mi. Next look at the history of the Alaskan people in protecting their environment and ask yourself, who is protecting who from what and why?

Edward P. Mjolsnes, P.E., Owner, EMDS, Anchorage, Alaska

Last line of defense

I have a number of issues with the article [on construction submittals], but 22 years in the consulting A/E business has taught me that, unfortunately, to a large degree, most of the points the author makes are valid. However, there is one point that is altogether missed or left out: Submittals are the A/E of record's last opportunity to correct errors. This may not be an issue that most A/E's are willing to acknowledge, particularly to an inexperienced owner, but the reality is still there.

Mark McDaniel, P.E., Mech. Engineer, Frankfurt-Short-Bruza Associates, P.C.





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