While there has been modest growth in the construction industry, it remains extremely competitive and deserves its reputation as a “dog-eat-dog” way to make a living. The continued practice of awarding contracts to low bidders reinforces this reputation but also, strangely enough, results in no long-term winners.
In our experience, it has become increasingly difficult to be the low bidder as a material supplier. Anyone can win a bid by submitting a low (but often unrealistic) price. The low bidder may not grasp the complete scope or may deliberately exclude scope from pricing to later increase the contract sum through change orders. Or, as a result of rough economic times, a supplier in survival mode may desperately seek any work for their shop and intentionally drive the low bid.
Many general contractors have learned the hard way that selecting the supplier with the lowest price may get them the job but not necessarily add to their bottom line. Alternatively, the general contractor who selects a supplier with a proven track record of good quality and service ultimately discovers that the bid is truly “firm”, matches scope of work and, therefore, is less expensive.
A quality vendor protects their reputation and that of the general contractor by telling the truth. This vendor will tell the general contractor what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. The vendor may point out that the requested delivery schedule is problematic and overly optimistic due to site conditions (what the contractor needs to hear) versus the low bidder agreeing to an unfeasible delivery schedule (what the contractor wants to hear). Reputations and esteem go down while costs go up when the low bidder misses the agreed schedule. This directly impacts the other trades involved. If a low bidder is replaced mid-stream with a better performing supplier, overall costs are higher than if the General Contractor had selected the quality vendor in the first place.
For Macuch Steel Products, Inc. and our Family of Steel, low-bidding is not part of our strategy. Our strategy is long-term growth built on a practice of providing realistic prices for high quality services and products. Our diligence to protect our reputation will, in turn, protect yours.
Macuch Steel Products, Inc.
Negative handrail tolerances
People build buildings. However, being human means that nothing we do is perfect. With this thought in mind – why do designers of buildings require handrails to be installed without negative tolerances?
“Buildability” is a valid design objective that includes, among other factors, achievable tolerances. Life Safety Code supports buildability of handrails, but it is ignored or misapplied in most contracts and designs. It becomes low hanging fruit for the inspector. Life Safety Code, as published by The National Fire Protection Association, states in section 18.104.22.168.4.1 “New Handrails on stairs shall be not less than 34 inches, and not more than 38 inches, above the surface of the tread, measured vertically to the top of the rail from the leading edge of the tread.” Most contract documents specify for the top of the handrail to be 34 inches. When we draw the handrails to anything other than 34 inches, the approver typically marks up this dimension, specifying the minimum 34 inches (no negative tolerance).
Tee Center – handrails by Macuch Steel’s affiliate Southeastern Stair and Rail
In the real world of construction, nothing is perfect. You add the bevel of a stair into the equation and problems become magnified. Life Safety Code also allows variance in the placement of treads (22.214.171.124.6 * dimensional uniformity). This variance alone can cause the Fire Marshal to fail the height of the handrail above the treads when the handrail is designed at the minimum height. When you add in variances in the surface flatness of poured-in-place treads, you can experience more variations in the dimensional uniformity. Finally, many treads are covered with vinyl or terrazzo. This allows another possibility of the leading edge of the tread being slightly different than the designer’s intent.
In conclusion, being human, we need both negative and positive tolerances when constructing buildings, and designers need to specify the tops of handrails to be at 36 inches. This will provide tolerance both ways and will allow the best chance for success in passing the Fire Marshal’s inspection.
Macuch Steel – inherently imperfect humans.
William L. Macuch “Bill”
Macuch Steel Products, Inc.
As we start 2014, we’re excited to see what the New Year will bring! According to several reports, one thing 2014 holds is growth for the commercial construction industry. Jones Lang LaSalle reported that the outlook for the U.S. commercial construction industry at the end of 2013 was positive and has identified four key trends which are helping it grow: more financing, rising construction costs, green building features, and funding for infrastructure updates from public-private partnerships (PPPs).
And according to McGraw-Hill, moving into 2014, the construction market should see an increase of 17%, up slightly higher than the 15% gain seen in 2013. The increase is attributed to the building of more warehouses, hotels, stores, and office buildings as well as more bank lending for commercial projects.
At Macuch Steel, we certainly predict these reports to be true as we continue to stay busy. Our current local commercial projects include the new Cabela’s store in Augusta, GA as well as a wellness center expansion for the Brandon Wilde Senior Living Community in Evans, GA. To view more photos of our current projects, visit our Macuch Steel Facebook page. You can also find out more about our services by visiting our website.