Author Archives: CS Editor

Electricity provider focuses on sustainability for new headquarters

FirstEnergy West Virginia’s operations headquarters is one of three regional transmission control centers managing the company’s 32,186-km (20,000-mi) network of high-voltage transmission lines. Photos courtesy Centria

FirstEnergy West Virginia’s operations headquarters is one of three regional transmission control centers managing the company’s 32,186-km (20,000-mi) network of high-voltage transmission lines. Photos courtesy Centria

by Greg Lusty

Built with efficiency in mind, an electricity provider’s new West Virginia data center is environmentally conscious, both inside and out.

The FirstEnergy WV’s operations headquarters in Fairmont is one of three regional transmission control centers that manage the company’s 32,186-km (20,000-mi) network of high-voltage transmission lines.

The $50-million, 13,749-m2 (148,000-sf) facility is perfectly situated for maximum visibility from the interstate, said building design firm Omni Associates Architects’ Richard T. Forren AIA, NCARB, principal/senior project architect. It houses the Mon Power regional utility headquarters.

Built with energy-efficiency goals, the structure is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified and earned the American Institute of Architects (AIA) West Virginia 2012 Merit Award. The building’s design features include:
● low-flow plumbing fixtures and sensors that reduce water usage by 45 percent compared to a typical building;
● energy-efficient lighting controlled by programmed control panels and occupancy sensors;
● white-reflective roof that minimizes heat absorption and results in less energy consumption;
● low-emitting (low-e) materials to improve indoor air quality (IAQ); and
● materials composed of more than 20 percent recycled content.

Specifying metal
Metal products were specified not only for their modern aesthetic, but also for their high level of environmental sustainability since FirstEnergy wanted a low ecological footprint. Additionally, the project was on a tight schedule. The metal cladding products, known for their efficient installation, were ideal to help keep the project on time.

An insulated metal panel (IMP) system was selected because of its combination of performance, aesthetics, and sustainability.

An insulated metal panel (IMP) system was selected because of its combination of performance, aesthetics, and sustainability.

“One of the things we look carefully at is finish, especially in a project targeting LEED Gold certification,” said Forren. “We had to head off any issues with air or moisture infiltration at the envelope.”

An insulated metal panel (IMP) system was selected because of its combination of performance, aesthetics, and sustainability. Compared to traditional multi-component wall construction, the IMPs were manufactured as a single panel. The single-component construction results in less jobsite waste, which helps make it a more environmentally responsible option and helps keep the project on budget and on time.

The lightweight, insulated metal composite panels feature concealed fasteners and are designed with double tongue-and-groove joinery. The factory foam-insulated system includes a thermal break between panel face and liner for outstanding thermal performance. The panels also provide weather resistance and can be installed quickly and easily.

The high-performance IMPs also help minimize HVAC costs, and the single-component construction eliminates the need for air barriers, gypsum sheathing, vapor barriers, and other parts of a traditional wall system.

Exposed fastener panels provide flexibility and a wide range of aesthetic possibilities. Additionally, the panels were specified because they come in various gages, colors, and finishes to match the corresponding panels and blend into walls, eliminating visual breaks.

GregLusty_2014Greg Lusty is the director of product management for Centria and is responsible for product marketing as well as new product development. He works closely with the company’s design and sales/marketing teams to focus on the promotion of current products as well as initiate efforts to develop new and improved products. Prior to this role, Lusty was the company’s foam product manager and gained more than a decade of sales and product management experience at Traco Window Company and Hussey Copper. He can be contacted by e-mail at

What the 2015 International Building Code for Wood Construction: Part II

by Buddy Showalter, PE

Photo © BigStockPhoto

To help translate what the latest changes to building codes mean for opportunities in wood construction, the American Wood Council (AWC) recently introduced four new standards which are adopted by reference in compliance with the 2015 International Building Code (IBC).

Last month, this author covered the 2015 National Design Specification (NDS) for wood construction—providing an overview of the dual-format allowable stress design (ASD) and load and resistance factor design (LRFD) standard used to design wood structures worldwide. The implementation of cross-laminated timber (CLT), new terminology for laminated strand lumber (LSL) and oriented strand lumber (OSL), and clarified withdrawal design values for lag screws were also discussed.

In this installment, the 2015 Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic (SDPWS) standard for wood-frame construction will be explored, with provisions covering materials, design, and construction of wood members, fasteners, and assemblies to resist high wind and seismic forces.

Years of research, real-life events, and building code development have proven wood-frame structures can meet or exceed the most demanding design requirements for high wind and seismic forces. Wood buildings tend to have numerous nail connections—especially in the shear walls and diaphragms—that have inherent ductility. This allows them to dissipate energy when faced with the sudden loads of an earthquake or high wind event.

These facts continue to be recognized in the design community, and the following changes reflected in the SDPWS provide a brief overview of the more significant enhancements:
● clarification of open-front structures and cantilevered diaphragm provisions;
● updated diaphragm flexibility terminology consistent with American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 7-10, Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures;
● clarification of high-aspect-ratio perforated shear wall strengths;
● new section on wind uplift force resisting systems;
● new section outlining seismic anchorage of concrete/masonry walls to wood diaphragms;
● inclusion of minimum depth for framing/blocking in high-load diaphragms;
● clarification of 2x for 3x (nominal) framing substitution; and
● increased anchor bolt spacing for wood structural panel shear walls designed to resist wind uplift.

The 2015 SDPWS standard for wood-frame construction features provisions covering materials, design and construction of wood members, fasteners, and assemblies to resist high wind and seismic forces.

The 2015 Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic (SDPWS) standard for wood-frame construction features provisions covering materials, design and construction of wood members, fasteners, and assemblies to resist high wind and seismic forces. Images courtesy AWC

Arguably the primary change reflected in the 2015 SDPWS is the clarification of open-front structures and cantilevered diaphragms. Their provisions were consolidated into Section to better explain applicability of requirements and remove ambiguity. Diaphragms in open-front structures are considered to be “cantilevered” because they are unsupported laterally at one edge.

The proposed revisions remove ambiguity from prior editions of SDPWS primarily by consolidation, separate sets of provisions previously applicable to structure types described as either “open front” or “cantilevered diaphragm.” Maximum allowable story drift at building edges is considered to be the appropriate minimum requirement, and larger aspect ratio limits based on materials and construction is also suitable unless the open-front structure is torsionally irregular. In such cases, smaller story-based aspect ratio limits are applicable. Additionally, a limit on diaphragm length of 10.6 m (35 ft) is recommended in lieu of having no limit on diaphragm length or the ambiguity of providing a length limit that could be exceeded where it is shown deflections can be tolerated.

It is important to note a story drift check at building edges is required to be met for all open-front buildings regardless of torsional irregularity. While torsionally irregular provisions are applied to open-front buildings, it is not the intent of new provisions to broadly classify all open-front structures as torsionally irregular and invoke various ASCE 7-10 requirements. An exception is added in the standard exempting open-front buildings with small cantilevers of 1.8 m (6 ft) or less from the standard requirements. It is viewed as a practical approach to prevent unnecessarily triggering special open-front provisions where cantilevers are small.

Sections and of the 2015 SDPWS were additionally revised to clarify high-aspect-ratio perforated shear wall adjustments and decreased shear for higher aspect ratio walls. Using more recent perforated shear wall test data, Section was revised to adjust the length of each perforated shear wall segment with an aspect ratio (h/bs) exceeding 2:1 (not to exceed 3.5:1) by multiplying by 2bs/h for that segment; compared to aspect ratios of 2:1 or less in previous iterations of the standard. Similarly, Section was added to account for decreases in unit shear for higher aspect ratio walls observed from testing.

Section 3.4 was added and Section 3.2.1 was modified to address wind-uplift force-resisting systems. It describes general design considerations for the proportioning, design, and detailing of members and connections resisting wind uplift. Provisions were added requiring consideration of element strengths (members and connections) in the load path as well as effects of eccentric loading in the uplift load path.

Section was added to address anchorage of concrete or masonry structural walls to wood diaphragms. Provisions for anchorage of concrete or masonry structural walls to wood diaphragms for seismic force resistance are subject to special detailing requirements as specified in ASCE 7-10 Section 12.11. Those provisions specify use of continuous ties or sub-diaphragms, or a combination thereof, to address load path for anchorage forces. The new Section has been developed based on provisions of ASCE 7-10 and modifications approved for inclusion in the 2015 IBC.

Section on high-load blocked diaphragms was updated to include requirements for minimum depth of framing members and blocking. Minimum requirements for width of the nailed face were provided for high-load blocked diaphragms in the 2008 SDPWS; however, requirements for minimum depth of framing members and blocking were not included. Such requirements are important to avoid splitting due to the relatively large 10d nails and higher density of nailing required for high-load blocked diaphragms. The proposed revision is also consistent with similar provisions for stapled high-load diaphragms outlined in the 2015 IBC.

Section was newly added for common framing members in wood structural panel shear walls, and construction provisions for wood structural panel and particleboard shear walls were revised to permit two nominal 2x framing members to replace a nominal 3x framing member. Previously in the 2008 SPDWS, the provision for use of two nominal 2x members in lieu of a single member was only permitted as an exception for wood structural panel shear walls where nominal 3x members are required. The 2015 revisions extend this provision more broadly to all framing.

Finally, Section was revised to permit determination of anchor bolt spacing for plates and sills in accordance with new testing and analysis (see figure below). The new standard eliminates the prescriptive 406-mm (16-in.) spacing requirement originally developed per the 2008 SDPWS.

From clarifications for open-front structures and cantilevered diaphragms, new provisions for torsional irregularity, shear wall adjustments, and other considerations for wood-frame construction based on new testing and analysis, the changes outlined in the 2015 SDPWS are significant new options for building design. While wind and seismic load requirements may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, national standards recognize wood buildings can be designed to resist these forces.

This figure showcases the new maximum anchor bolt spacing as permitted for wood framing based on the 2015 Special Design Provisions for Wind and Seismic (SDPWS). This table is included in Section of the updated standard.  Image courtesy AWC

This figure showcases the new maximum anchor bolt spacing as permitted for wood framing based on the 2015 SDPWS. This table is included in Section of the updated standard.

The 2015 SDPWS is available for download on the AWC website. The third part of this series will include an update on 2015 Wood Frame Construction Manual (WFCM) for One- and Two-family Dwellings, outlining new tabulated spans for lumber framing members in accordance with the new NDS for wood construction and 2015 International Residential Code (IRC).

Buddy Showalter HeadshotJohn “Buddy” Showalter, PE, joined the American Wood Council (AWC) in 1992, and currently serves as vice president of technology transfer. His responsibilities include oversight of publications, website, helpdesk, education and other technical media. Showalter is also a member of the editorial boards for Wood Design Focus, published by the Forest Products Society, and STRUCTURE magazine, published jointly by National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA), American Society of Civil Engineers/Structural Engineering Institute (ASCE/SEI), and Council of American Structural Engineers (CASE). Before joining AWC, Showalter was technical director of the Truss Plate Institute. He can be reached at

Manage your own construction project

By Norman F. Jacobs Jr., CSI, CPE

Project managers are the only ones who control each and every activity in construction so they must be synergistic. In many ways, after all, the ultimate success or failure lies in their hands. A responsible project manager is the chief motivator of people and positive actions and must take initiative for all operations—this means providing risk management with adequate documentation.

The astute project manager must also organize his or her game plan, and prioritize all construction activities. Then, he or she must prepare an organization chart showing staff members and their responsibilities.

This two-part series examines various strategies for effective project management, from contracts and billings to scheduling techniques.

Managing contracts, cost estimates, and billings
Risk management begins with reviewing, analyzing, responding to, and managing all contracts. There are essentially two opportunities to identify, manage, and resolve construction legal problems. The first, and best, is at the pre-contract or negotiation stage, while the second is during the contract management stage.

All construction contracts must refer to the plans and specifications, along with the general conditions. All cost estimates must be checked and analyzed to verify they include all plan and specifications requirements. The project’s schedule of values has to be prepared in the divisions shown in the specifications and be used on the monthly billings. Then, the estimate and the schedule of values can be updated to include all approved change orders.

Monthly billings for all subcontractors must be gathered, along with labor and material cost by specification divisions. Proper insurance needs to cover materials stored offsite. The project manager is to attend all monthly meetings to receive the architect’s approval of the monthly billings.

Managing all schedules
The assiduous project manager should obtain all critical path method (CPM) schedule input data from the subcontractors, architect, and engineers within two weeks after the notice to proceed. The schedule must include all work breakdown structure (WBS) activities, along with submit, approve, fabrication, and delivery activities. All activity logic and sequence have to be reviewed and critiqued.

The project schedule requires all activity durations consider the resources of manpower and equipment. Then, the specifications must be checked if dollar loading to activities are required on the schedule.

When applying durations to all activities, it is important to remember circadian rhythm—the balance of sleep and wakefulness that keeps us functioning. Research has indicated people are physiologically affected by change in the solar day cycle. Today, with the rapid trend of modern technology, every project manager must research and study the science of circadian rhythm in order to better manage the project schedule and improve productivity. The inefficiencies caused by crew size increases, or overtime work resulting from acceleration, may be avoided by working multiple shifts.

Each month, the prudent project manager is required to provide a contemporaneous update of the project’s CPM schedule, including all approved change orders and time extensions. With each update, one should also prepare a fragnet, showing each disturbance, delay, or impact.

Managing CPM schedule with TIAs
Network schedule techniques are useful in evaluating delay and impact on a project. Project managers use time impact analysis (TIA) techniques as simultaneous proof of both the facts and the cause of delays or impacts to projects. Accordingly, a TIA can be an effective tool for determining whether certain work was delayed and if it had an impact on the overall project. Some of the key advantages of networking techniques and TIA use to the project CPM schedule procedures are:

  • networking schedule techniques allow critical activities of work to be identified—the various paths of ‘criticality’ are visible, and those impacted by delay can easily be recognized (float time existing or expiring as the project changes can also be identified);
  • Time impact analysis is an effective tool for proving certain work was delayed and provides a means for isolating and quantifying delay periods;
  • when impacts or delays occur, these techniques can assist in determining correct action by the project manager; and
  • TIA aids in creating and preserving evidence of game plans, delays, impacts, and actual performance.

Managing FSA
Forensic scheduling analysis (FSA) refers to the investigation of events using CPM schedule calculation methods for potential use in a legal proceeding. It is the study of how actual activities interacted in the context of a complex model. Its purpose is to understand the significance of a specific deviation (or series) from some baseline model, and the role in determining the sequence of activities within the complex CPM schedule network diagram.

Since FSA is both a science and an art, it relies on professional judgment and expert opinion to make often-subjective decisions. The most important of these decisions are what technical approach should be used to measure and determine the causes of the delay or impact and how the analyst should apply the chosen method. The described objective is to reduce the degree of subjectivity involved in the current state of the art. This is with the full awareness there are certain types of subjectivity that cannot be minimized let alone be eliminated. Professional judgment and expert opinion ultimately rests on subjectivity.

Recommended minimum protocol for FSA is:

  • study and review all change orders and time extensions as to their placement into the project CPM schedule;
  • ensure there is at least one continuous critical path in the original CPM schedule and all monthly updates;
  • critique the project submittal log and when all entries were added to the project CPM schedule;
  • compare project daily reports as activity completions shown on the project CPM schedule; and
  • examine use of fragnets when documenting delays or impacts.

To be continued
In the next installment about project management, this author will examine the backbone of problem avoidance—construction documentation—and explore the concept of forensic documentation analysis (FDA).

Norman F. Jacobs Jr., CSI, CPE, is a principal at Jacobs Consultant Services, which offers cost management, schedule control assistance, project management, and claims preparation/negotiation. He has also served as an arbitrator, owner’s representative, and expert witness in arbitration and court involving multi-million dollar projects. Before creating his current organization, Jacobs provided design-build, construction management, and general contracting for developers, government agencies, and private clients for more than 30 years. He has served as the president of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) Richmond Chapter, chaired the Virginia Associated General Contractors (AGC) Documents Committee, and been a long-time member of organizations including the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE). He can be contacted via e-mail at

Copyrights in architectural drawings: Courts make it tougher

wernerSG LAW
Werner Sabo, FAIA, CSI, and Shawn Goodman

In the past few years, some courts have made it increasingly difficult for architects to win copyright infringement claims. There appears to be skepticism about what is original and, therefore, what is entitled to protection.To review, a work is given copyright protection from the moment it is put into a tangible form. For instance, when the architect draws some lines on a piece of paper, this expression is automatically given copyright protection. An idea is given no copyright protection until put into a tangible form, such as a drawing. The drawing is the expression of the idea and is given copyright protection by the Copyright Act, unless, however, the drawing is not original. If the architect merely sketches what someone else has already drawn, the element of originality is missing and there is no protection.

One of the elements of a copyright infringement action is “copying.” If you have not copied someone’s work, you have not infringed. Since direct copying is often difficult to prove, courts have come up with a method of proof that consists of two elements: access and substantial similarity. To have a chance of prevailing, you must show the alleged person had access to your work (i.e. the accused’s client was also your client and had copies of your drawings), and demonstrate the work is substantially similar to yours. Of course, substantial similarity is subjective. Courts have recently made this a much more difficult problem.

A case demonstrating this is Nova Design v. Grace Hotels. The plaintiff was an architect who had designed a Holiday Inn Express. The owner and architect had a falling out and the owner hired another architect to complete the project. The original architect sued the owner and others for copyright infringement. The trial court granted summary judgment to the owner and the appellate court affirmed.

The problem with the architect’s claim was the failure to identify what was original in the drawings and thus protectable under copyright law. The design was based on prototype drawings prepared by Holiday Inn. Those drawings, of course, did not belong to this architect. He could claim those elements of his drawings that were original to him, but even then there are limits.

For instance, the architect added an additional floor to the prototype. This, the court found, was not original and did not deserve copyright protection. Other elements claimed to be original were the result of requests from the owner accompanied by graphic designs. The court found there was no creative element to these features. Since the aspects of this architect’s designs that went beyond the prototype were insufficiently original to qualify for copyright protection, the claim for copyright infringement failed.

In another case, Zalewski v. Cicero Builders, an architect sued for copyright infringement, asserting he had created and licensed various designs for colonial homes to two construction companies, but the designs were infringed upon when contractors used them after the license expired. The architect alleged the defendants, using other architects to create infringing designs, had copied the overall size, shape, and silhouette of his designs, as well as the placement of rooms, windows, doors, closets, stairs, and other architectural features. The trial court granted judgment in favor of the defendants and an appeal followed.

To find infringement, the appellate court explained, there must be wrongful copying. Not every portion or aspect of a copyrighted work is given copyright law’s protection. Copying those aspects of a work is not wrongful. In this case, the defendants copied only the unprotected elements of the architect’s designs. The court conducted a lengthy examination of the design and explained why most of the elements deserved no copyright protection. For instance, many of the similarities between the plans are a function of consumer expectations and standard house design generally. Since the design was for a colonial home, most of the elements are features of all colonial homes, such as the placement of the front door in the middle of the house.

The court also stated “plaintiff makes no attempt to distinguish those aspects of his designs that were original to him from those dictated by the form in which he worked.” It further stated, although the plaintiff had undoubtedly spent many hours on his designs, as long as the plaintiff adhered to a pre-existing style, his original contribution was “slight—his copyright was thin.” The court thus set a high standard for proving such a copyright infringement case.

While other courts might make it less difficult for architects to prove copyright infringement, there are some lessons to be learned from these cases. First, proving infringement where the design is of a ‘standard’ house may be extremely difficult, and filing such a suit should be undertaken only after very careful consideration. If, on the other hand, the design is very novel, it would likely be much easier to convince a court an infringement has taken place. There must be an extensive and thorough analysis of what can be considered original and which of those original elements were copied or copied and modified.

This list of similarities and differences must then be viewed as one of these courts might view them before a decision is made to bring a copyright action. It is likely future courts will expand on these decisions and a definite trend established, either favoring copyright protection for architects, or gutting such protection to a significant degree.

Werner Sabo, FAIA, FALA, is an architect, attorney, and partner at the Chicago law firm, Sabo & Zahn. He is the author of Legal Guide to AIA Documents, now in its fifth edition, published by Wolters Kluwer. Sabo can be reached at

Shawn Goodman is an attorney at Sabo & Zahn. He can be reached at

Restroom partitions complement school expansion

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) particitions were specified for the new Science Centre restrooms at Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois. In total, seven partitions were furnished and installed—three in the men’s bathroom and four in the women’s bathroom. Photos courtesy Scranton Products

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) partitions were specified for the new Science Centre restrooms at Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois. In total, seven partitions were furnished and installed—three in the men’s bathroom and four in the women’s bathroom. Photos courtesy Scranton Products

by David Casal

Lake Forest Academy (Lake Forest, Illinois) is one of the country’s most renowned boarding schools, and as its population grew so did the need for new dormitories and additional facilities. Established in 1857 as a boys’ preparatory department of the former Lind University, the addition of the girl’s preparatory department came in 1869—currently, there are 425 students in grades nine through 12.

In the 1950s the school expanded its campus by adding more than 10 common areas, dormitories, and sporting facilities. The Science Center, the newest addition to the 40,412-m2 (435,000-sf) campus, was completed in August 2013.

Kelly Mede, director of facilities, and her team had the opportunity to specify the building materials from the ground up.

“Since this was a Science Center, our goal was to create a learning environment that was clean and modern-looking,” said Mede. “The plan was to have natural stone, concrete, and steel/chrome accents throughout the structure, as well as an atrium in the center.”

Selection of the bathroom partitions for the new Science Center was easy—Mede knew exactly what had worked in other buildings.

“We’ve done several renovations here on the campus and for the bathroom partitions, we had started to move away from traditional metal to high-density polyethylene (HDPE), a material that is much more durable and easier to maintain,” said Mede, who oversees the repairs and maintenance of all campus buildings. “The metal partitions had rust problems and required a lot of maintenance. Hinges need to be replaced frequently and the partitions peeled so they often required repainting.”

The solid plastic partitions are non-porous and resistant to bacteria as well as easy to maintain.

The solid plastic partitions are non-porous and resistant to bacteria as well as easy to maintain.

Solid plastic bathroom partitions were specified because they were found to be durable and could alleviate many maintenance and cleanliness issues associated with the metal partitions. Constructed from premium HDPE, the partitions also offer a sustainable solution for restroom stalls.

Mede suggested of the continued use of the partitions with the building committee; it concurred, choosing a stainless steel color. The texture has a pattern of raised dots with a ridged texture and, even though they are manufactured of solid plastic, the partitions feature a bold, metallic look without the high cost of stainless steel. Seven partitions were furnished and installed in the Science Center—three in the men’s bathroom and four in the women’s bathroom.

“The key to this project was finding an alternative to expensive stainless steel restroom partitions. The color and texture look just like stainless steel and is perfect for the contemporary design of the new Science Center,” said Mede. “Their sleek, modern look is exactly what we were going for.”

Cleaning can be a problem with wood or metal partitions, especially with mars in surfaces that can harbor bacteria or are prone to graffiti. That is why HDPE designed to look like metallic or wood finishes are becoming popular, both by aesthetic-minded designers and maintenance managers who oversee cleaning staff. The specified finish offers an additional layer of protection against scratching, markers, and other forms of vandalism.

From a cleanliness point-of-view, the partitions provide the academy with another substantial benefit—the non-porous surface of HDPE is naturally resistant to bacteria, odors, mold, and mildew. From drinking fountains, water faucets, or computer keyboards, schools can be a hotbed for germs; avoiding them is nearly impossible. HDPE does not retain germs and the surface is easy to clean. Graffiti also wipes off easily with most non-abrasive cleaners. The partitions can be power-washed and steam-cleaned without the worry of rust.

According to Mede, the partitions have proven to be low-maintenance.

“We’ve had virtually no maintenance issues in any of the restroom stalls and they look as good today as when we first installed them,” she explained. We simply wash them down from time to time and they look virtually brand new after almost a year of use.”

David CasalDavid Casal is the director of sales and marketing for Scranton Products, a North American manufacturer of HDPE partitions, lockers, vanity tops, and shower stalls. He leads an international team of sales and marketing professionals that work closely with the architectural and end user communities to use and understand the advantages of HDPE materials. Casal can be contacted by e-mail at