Enforceable standards are an architect’s sanctuary. Especially that page in a standards manual the architect holds up and confirms, “See? We specified it. It says so right here.”
Few know the power of that refuge better than Grant Golightly.
The Power of Specification
A veteran architect and project manager, Golightly works on commercial and government projects for Logan and Salt Lake City Utah-based Design West Architects, the longest continually operating architectural firm west of the Mississippi. One of his recent projects, the $13 million Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District Headquarters (SLC MAD) serves as an object lesson in the power of standards-based specification and design.
“We have inspectors that double-check welds, concrete, framing, any number of construction applications. Some are very specific to life safety, quality control, or aesthetics. All contribute to a successful project,” Golightly says.
"To sit and look at a pile of mosquitoes and have to count male, female, male, female. It's time-consuming. We wanted to make sure that their workstations were clean, that they were comfortable, that they would last." - Grant Golightly
Why not Millwork?
Golightly came face-to-face with that stark question on the SLC MAD project. One of the chief interior design features of the Level 2 biosafety testing laboratory is extensive interior millwork. A natural all-wood aesthetic was appropriate to the mission and comfort of the researchers. “They were counting mosquitoes on plastic tables before this. To sit and look at a pile of mosquitoes and have to count male, female, male, female. It’s time-consuming. We wanted to make sure that their workstations were clean, that they were comfortable, that they would last,” Golightly says.
How do you judge millwork quality? What exactly will be delivered? How will the woodwork elements be installed? What is the enforceable standard? Who says?
“My expertise is not millwork. I don’t inspect millwork weekly or even yearly, for that matter. I don’t know what to look for or what is required to meet standards,” Golightly says.
The Design West team researched millwork best practice. That led to a call to the Architectural Woodwork Institute’s Quality Certification Program (AWI-QCP), the industry standard for quality assurance for interior architectural woodwork.
“We brought up the matter at a weekly owner-architect-contractor meeting. Millwork certification was a concern and hadn’t been addressed,” Golightly recalls. “The millwork manufacturer that created the shop drawings decided they had enough time in their critical path to seek certification. AWI-QCP then inspected the millworker’s facilities, products, and past projects to validate and qualify them for AWI-QCP accreditation.
Golightly admits the millworker’s AWI-QCP accreditation and the millwork’s subsequent certification of the project was a source of great relief. As it turned out, a slight bulge in the wood was identified on one element, a possible downstream liability for the architectural firm. “We can now defend the quality of the woodwork with third-party validation. We can confidently accept or reject the work and require a replacement, accept a credit for any deficiencies, or receive an extended warranty. We wouldn’t have had this level of assurance without QCP,” Golightly says.
More Peace of Mind
Golightly is pleased that QCP certification is now an expected step in any project with woodworking elements. What’s more, the certification process doesn’t disrupt workflow and has made the entire design staff even more sensitive to quality matters.
“Nothing compares to third-party certification by an accredited millworker,” Golightly says. “Requesting AWI-QCP certification puts the pressure on millwork manufacturers and installers to meet industry-accepted standards. Our specifications are enforceable.”
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