The focus of this blog is construction-related topics. The purpose is discussion, so please feel free to comment! See Specific thoughts for thoughts from the daily life of a specifier.

26 September 2016

Get your hands dirty!

Among the things specifiers grumble most about are the typical architect's lack of knowledge about how things work and how they go together, and the belief that "If I can draw it someone can build it!"

Some architecture schools do include courses about the practical aspects of architecture, but those courses are often optional, so most architects graduate with a lot of knowledge about visual design, planning, and presentation, but little understanding of materials or construction.

It's fine to have a presentation about masonry, but so much more could be learned from participants getting their hands dirty. It's easy to draw a 4 x 4 x 8 brick, but what does it feel like?
It takes no more effort to draw a 3-5/8 x 2-1/4 x 11-5/8 brick or a 3-5/8 x 3-5/8 x 15-5/8 brick, or, for that matter, a 12 x 8 x 16 concrete masonry unit, but what difference does it make to the mason? It doesn't take any longer to draw a large masonry unit, but does the size affect installation time?

Until you pick up a brick, mix the mortar, and try to build a wall, you simply cannot appreciate what your details mean in the real world. This shortcoming presents a tremendous opportunity for continuing education programs.

In June of 2000, twenty-five architects from my office went to the masonry apprentice school in St. Paul for an afternoon of fun, down-and-dirty continuing education. The program was set up by Olene Bigelow, our local International Masonry Institute (IMI) rep, and contact for the Brick Industry Association (BIA).

The apprentices set up a series of stations, each showing a specific part of the job. Demonstrations included reading drawings and specifications, estimating, mixing mortar, laying brick and CMU of various sizes, installing door frames, and more. After the book learnin' discussions, the architects got their hands dirty at each station and learned how their decisions affected construction and schedule.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter visited the school and followed the same program. It's easy to complain about what architects don't know, but they are not alone. Specifiers may know more of the technical properties of materials, but many have had no more practical experience in construction than architects.

I used masonry as an example, but similar programs could be done for everything that goes into a building.

All of us can us do better if we know more about how other team members do their jobs.

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