Pain Felt with Insulation and Shop Drawings
I looked at the cover of the February issue and noticed all the piping with stainless steel jacket. I saw the text about “revamping industrial M/E systems.” On the table of contents, another image of chilled-water piping insulated and jacketed with aluminum was pictured. I thought I was in for a treat— CSE discussing industrial insulation. Boy, was I disappointed. How can you show all those pictures of insulation systems and not mention a single word about them?
I look at an insulated pipe and see insulation. I don’t know what engineers see. In this correspondence I’ve included the editor at the National Insulation Association (NIA) as an addressee. Maybe CSE and NIA can get together and make insulation visible, and give it the respect it deserves.
The Real World of Codes
Thank you for your thoughtful editorial (CSE 03/03 p. 7) . I am about to complete my 20th year in code enforcement, and I can assure you that the remark by the local fire-science professor, that a further tragedy in these incidents is that “not much is ever really done after these catastrophes,” is indeed the case.
Codes are always behind the curve, and this is an outcome of both bureaucratic inertia and the lack of sufficient publishable research—as opposed to partisan opinion—being put into the code process in timely fashion. The problem of educating building owners is difficult, and not through any necessary fault of theirs. They are charged with running a facility in order to maximize profits. Most of them are educated in the financial world, not the world of physical and operational characteristics of buildings; some are, but they are not the norm. Likewise, many changes to codes are driven by “product push” from political interest groups and publicity from extreme events.
On the subject of the club tragedies, proposed changes to building exiting provisions have been kept on the agenda for more than 30 years by Mr. Jake Pauls, a noted authority on the matter, without avail. And as you point out, cost is stated in the first chapter of every adopting ordinance: “without undue economic burden,” etc. You now have a federal government that intends to subject all environmental/safety regulations to the “economic impact” assessment, regardless of the science. It is well to remember that the owners of the Chicago and Rhode Island facilities can at best be described as “marginals” in the world of building owners. Your goal of educating building owners remains laudable. I have spent a lot of time in the last 20 years trying to do so, with very limited success. I wish you better luck than I have had.
David J. Thomas, P.E .
Shop Drawings a Dinosaur?
In reference to Mark L. Brecher’s February letter responding to the shop drawing series (CSE 12/02 p. 13, and 01/03 p. 15) , I feel his pain, but there may be no clear answer.
Without question, serious building disasters have resulted from sloppy shop drawings or just mishandling, but the issue, as a whole, seems to be a dinosaur.
Years ago, when buildings were constructed on a design-bid-build basis—and consulting engineers literally had control over the bid list of contractors and final selections—life was simpler. Yet, lest we forget, the bottom line was still the bottom line: shop drawings were a requirement and the consulting engineer issued more detailed plans and specs because they had to.
Shop drawings told the engineer that the contractor intended to supply and install X. If there was a problem, it often was worked out over the phone. But when we reached the era of scope documents and performance specifications, the shop drawing ended up as the vehicle to complete design. Drawings issued by consulting engineers were deliberately shy of complete detail to allow the contractor to shop for best buys.
Shop drawings next morphed into coordination drawings, documents that would tell the consulting engineer—and now the owner, the construction manager, etc.—that construction would go forward without a hitch. In other words, if anything goes wrong, it will be the responsibility of the engineer.
We have now moved to a new stage. Coordination drawings now have a price tag. Contractors have learned that if they string out the process long enough, a small financial credit to the owner will makes the whole issue go away.
To Mr. Brecher’s point, yes, these duties should be the contractor’s responsibility, but it’s been dumped on the engineer, and somehow, we have to deal with that.
Eileen Duignan-Woods, P.E., E.D.W. Associates, Inc., Rockville, Md.
Don’t Forget Fire
Regarding “Commission Critical” (CSE 02/03 p. 20), absent was any mention of fire suppression or smoke detection systems. In today’s mission-critical environments, these systems are extremely effective in reducing, and in many cases eliminating business interruption due to fire. Current technology in fire protection allows for extremely sensitive programmable spot smoke detection, as well as advanced air-sampling detection, both with almost total immunity to false alarm. There is also a wide choice of clean fire-suppression agents for both total flooding and in-cabinet protection. If the desire is to achieve five “9s,” no mission-critical facility should overlook this level of protection.
David Hoffman, Communications Committee Chair, Fire Suppression Systems Assn., Baltimore