January 1, 2013
By Richard Sivertsen, CTR
Sectional overhead door systems (sometimes referred to as ‘panel doors’), as well as coiling (i.e. ‘rolling’) and high-speed door systems can be found on most commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings. Material options for these doors vary so much one regularly sees different thicknesses with steel, and aluminum in four finishes (i.e. mill, clear, coloured-anodized, and powder-coated). High-speed doors will be either fabric or rubber.
For single-purpose structures, at least one of these door systems can be found in:
However, within the overhead and coiling door industry, there is still confusion about how best to specify these assemblies. When a subcontractor bidder views the project bid documentation, he or she is relying on all the data being in agreement. However, discrepancies are not uncommon between the specifications and drawings.
Sometimes on a tender open to the public, there is no manufacturer or model specified (i.e. no basis of design [BOD]); rather, technical and performance qualities are taken from several particular proprietery products. Worse, the descriptions from numerous manufacturers’ models are often mixed together. Some bidders view this as a future opportunity for change orders. Those subcontractor bidders confident in a successful future change order will confidently submit an undervalued (i.e. low) bid. Low bidders get awarded the most contractors. Therefore, nonsensical specifications foreshadow change orders.
The specifications attempt to describe the owner’s needs (e.g. full vertical lift), but the drawings may indicate this cannot be achieved due to limited head room. Another problem can occur when the technical requirements in the specifications may not agree with the BOD product specified. The specifier should know the difference between full vertical-lift, high-lift, standard-lift, and low-lift overhead doors. When specifying a particular manufacturer with alternative names, he or she should know the various manufacturers’ products all have different limitations and know what they are. Bearing all this in mind, some design professionals may wonder how a single manufacturer’s product can be the basis of design.
There are groups of specification writers that run independent businesses; they work well with many architectural firms on contract, and have a lot of knowledge to offer. Some architectural/engineering (A/E) firms have internal specifiers for their projects using both online and hard-copy printed literature to choose products, as well as discussions with manufacturers’ representatives. Communication between specifiers, architects, and draftspersons could be the cause of nonsense bid documents.
Some of the difficulty is also found in the industry’s terminology:
A general R-value requirement is often mentioned in the specification of a sectional or a coiling door system—sometimes R-16, R-12, or R-6 is called out. However, there is still some confusion as to what this means to the overall door assembly, and whether these are estimated door insulation values or individual section or slat variables. Since these individual R-values can be achieved through various door thicknesses, there may be questions over whether polystyrene or polyurethane is the acceptable product to use and what their limitations and R-values are. Is one really looking for a defined R-value or for a fully weather-sealed option? When designing for a fully glazed overhead door, is there any point in making the glazing double-glass?
When calling for different types of sectional door hardware, it is difficult to know whether a 50-mm (2-in.) or 75-mm (3-in.) track is required. Is it to be angle-mounted track or not? What is the difference? The draftsperson should know each has a side-room requirement and they are different when it comes to the needed head room. When designing the wall structure around the opening, these details need to be understood, otherwise there will be a conflict between the drawings and the specifications. Does one specify the same kind of tracking system for a sectional door as one would for a coiling door? Is 75-mm track relevant to coiling door systems?
Concerning the door schedule, on numerous occasions it appears fire shutters are not listed, missing from the window schedule, or shown only on the floor plan. A door subcontractor bidder doing his or her ‘take-offs’ may not see it among all the other notations on the drawings. (Submitting a bid with a missed door will perhaps guarantee the award.)
Applications come into play as well. These include the answers to questions such as:
This author frequently sees this last omission; it is a costly option. The door’s size and weight has a bearing on whether one needs a slide-bolt lock together with a motor. How is this so? What kind of controls are needed, and who provides the conduit?
There are many components coming into play when specifying a product in the overhead/coiling door industry, with myriad manufacturers hoping to get a tight specification written to exclude as much competition as possible. At the same time, door installation firms are either bidding as per the specifications (sometimes as per the plans and specifications if they are not in conflict) or applying for an ‘alternate,’ ‘equal,’ or ‘substitute’ without really knowing the difference between the three. When a rolling steel door is at its limit, would a rubber assembly be more suitable?
During tender time, communication heats up between the door installation firm and the architect as RFIs from various sources are sorted out. This author has seen instances when the addendum is issued, further confusing the specification that will require another RFI to be sent out and dealt with. If the drawings, specifications, and door schedule are at odds with each other, many potential bidders decline to bid. Those that do offer a price will often base their decision on history, experience, and a hope their bid can be defended with qualifications the general contractor normally does not have time to vet before the tender’s closing.
All parties in the construction process need to make a profit. Fees and margins cost less today than 20 years ago, meaning individuals have to be extremely efficient in the way information is communicated. The longer one has to deal with the details, the more the margins are eroded.
Is there a way to minimize conflicts between specifications, drawings, and details? Can there be a model to reduce RFIs during tender time? How can the design professional decide what type of product, model, or operation of a door system is best-suited to the client’s specific needs? How can it best be communicated to the specification writer? What of the general contractor, design-builder, and construction manager? Is it possible to provide bids in a timely fashion fully understood by the estimator, project manager, and project co-ordinator? What about the door installation firm that interacts with the contractor, architect, engineer, and specification writer during this period (and the estimator, project manager, site superintendent should the bid be successful)?
Changing the industry
There has been considerable change in the industry’s landscape during the past number of years; coupled with emerging technology, the future is more than interesting. Numerous designers and specification writers are looking for ways to minimize the time needed to produce project documentation and embrace changes in the product selection. Doing it the same way, ‘because we have always specified this product,’ is no longer an option with all the new products and technology available.
Manufacturers have spent considerable time in research and development to produce door products that help minimize specifications as well as installation time, and to produce a lasting product that needs less maintenance and will give end-users a better return on their investment (ROI). To communicate this is the challenge of every manufacturer and their individual dealers. How can this
For the most part, manufacturers:
If the job has been done correctly, the benefits to specifiers are a thorough knowledge base and greater understanding of the product as it applies to specific uses, thus preventing wrong data being written, which contributes to post-tender problems.
As a CSC member, this author took his certified technical representative (CTR) course many years ago. I had been involved as a sales professional for some time at that point, but never fully understood the scope of understanding needed. To be honest, I was not fully aware of the processes specification writers and design professionals had to go through to write the project documentation.
This author has more opportunities now to consult with architects and specifiers on applications, product selection, installation difficulties, and best practices much more frequently without the hype and concentration of promoting dealer-specific products.
This author’s view is all parties, in all trades, must share time and effort at the front end to determine:
If this can be done in a generic sense for the good of the rest of the industry, conflicts can be greatly reduced when specifying these work results.
Implementing this interaction may not be required on something as simple as a garage door (though some are custom-made for very difficult installs), but it would be required on commercial/industrial and institutional applications.
Time is money
When a door installation company is called, it is doing the daily business of estimating, scheduling, expediting, and selling. It is also calling on some contractors that rarely become fully engaged when contacted for this information, unless they deem it profitable from the beginning. One of the fears may be if he or she uses his or her own time to sit down and discuss the nature of the project and what is required, the specification will be written for other door installation firms to bid on as well. This is a difficult situation for a profit-based firm.
However, all individuals must focus on the correct product for the appropriate application. This means ensuring the necessary detail for describing requirements within the project documentation, eliminating the confusion previously written about. If this happened, then each project would have more bidders on it.
The end state
After consultation with a door professional, the specification, plan, elevation, and detail drawing could be sent off to be proofread and modified if required, before tender release. No discrepancy, no reading ‘cut-and-paste’ specifications, clear and precise details, no RFIs, no bid clarification/qualifications—this would just be a bid sent in a timely manner, confidently stating all as per plans and specifications.
Richard Sivertsen, CTR, is the business development manager for Westgate/Entrematic. He has been involved in the overhead/coiling door and high-speed door systems industry for more than 30 years. Sivertsen has been associated with Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA), British Columbia Aviation Council (BCAC), Fire Chiefs Association of British Columbia (FCABC), and has been a member of Construction Specifications Canada (CSC) for more than a decade. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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