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Archive for March, 2013

Late this morning I received word of a local gas leak that closed the only entrance to a local subdivision. Aside from the inconvenience to the residents of the neighborhood, there is also a school in the subdivision. The road closures that were the result of the gas leak also prevented school bus access to/from the school.

The subdivision in question was platted in the 1960’s and as was typical of the time only included a single point of access. Over the last ten years or so, the county has used a new urbanist model and required new subdivisions to have a second point of access, and even planned an interconnection to this development from a recently constructed project. The neighbors objected to the interconnection because it would “increase traffic” in their neighborhood. Had this connection been made, there never would have been a question as to whether the students would be able to get home this afternoon. They would have simply diverted the buses from the main entrance to the back way out.

As to concerns about increased traffic, with a second entrance, the number of vehicle trips past the houses fronting on the main entrance street would have gone down. Because of the location of the neighborhood, I don’t believe anyone would be using the connection as a shortcut, other than the residents of the newer development.

Assuming both developments are of the same size and type, the traffic differential ends up zeroing out. More importantly, emergency vehicle access and school bus access is maintained.

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It never ceases to amaze me how many construction proposals contain the very short specification “to code”. What amazes me even more is that there are actually consumers who believe this statement or some variation thereon assures them of a quality project.

Wake up folks! The building code is the crummiest construction that is legal.

So you ask: “How can I get better than the worst that’s legal?”

Better quality construction starts with better construction documents. Good construction documents are usually produced by a licensed design professional. For certain occupancies, a licensed design professional is required to seal and sign the construction documents before a construction permit can be issued by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). In such cases, simply having the seal of a licensed professional on the drawings is in the same category of “built to code”.

Better quality construction documents often involve the services of a Certified Construction Specifier (CCS). The CCS is a certification issued by the Construction Specifications Institute more commonly known as CSI. Holders of the CCS are required to have a minimum of five years’ experience preparing construction documents and at least two years of writing construction specifications. In addition, a CCS will have passed a rigorous exam to receive the certification.

Unofficially, a CCS is an experienced professional with a vast body of technical knowledge. As a member of the building team, the specifier will often prompt the other members of the design team to think about issues such as constructability, compatibility of materials, watertightness, and similar issues.

Once a project is documented, it will need to be constructed by a qualified contractor. One characteristic to look for in the course of selecting a contractor is whether or not he/she has a CDT on staff. A CDT knows his/her way around a set of construction documents. They understand the information presented and know where to look for certain information within the set of documents. Additionally, a CDT has a basic understanding of the relationships called for in a set of construction contract documents.

With this in mind, when shopping for construction services, hire someone who holds a CSI issued certificate or a CSI certified professional.

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