Author Archives: CS Editor

American Wood Council publishes new workbook

The American Wood Council (AWC) has released Design of Wood Frame Buildings for High Wind, Snow, and Seismic Loads. The workbook includes design examples and checklists for wood-frame structures in compliance with 2012 Wood Frame Construction Manual (WFCM) for One- and Two-family Dwellings. Included in the resource are plans from two-story residences as the foundation for designs that resist high wind, seismic, and snow loads. The evaluated example demonstrates the WFCM range of applicability. The 2012 WFCM references the International Residential Code (IRC) and the International Building Code (IBC). The free workbook is available at

Firestop education manual released

The Firestop Contractors International Association (FCIA) has developed a comprehensive Firestop Containment Worker Education Program (FSCW-EP). The organization is focused on promoting knowledge regarding firestopping and effective compartmentation, as well as educating workers and building owners on compartmentation performance. The training program is offered in two parts of the FCIA Firestop Manual of Practice: Firestop Containment Worker Edition (FSCW-M) and the Firestop Containment Worker Instructor Edition, which is the complete Education Program (FSCW-IE). The manual provides field workers with the firestopping information that will provide the required working knowledge. Visit

Green building standard now available

The 2014 edition of American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES), contains new requirements on reducing the energy and environmental impacts of buildings. ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES 189.1-2014, Standard for the Design of High-performance, Green Buildings Except Low-rise Residential Buildings, addresses sustainability, water-use efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and a structure’s impact on the atmosphere, materials, and resources. New elements to this version include revised building envelope provisions, fenestration orientation requirements, Energy Star references, and continuous air barrier guidelines. To order a copy, visit

Departing architect taking credit for work at prior firm


Werner Sabo, FAIA, CSI, and James K. Zahn, FAIA, CSI

A recent federal case addressed a common question arising among design firms: What use can a departing employee make of designs created while at a prior firm? In Gensler v. Strabala, the large international architectural firm filed suit in federal court against its former design director. Strabala left M. Arthur Gensler & Associates to form 2Define Architecture. On his new firm’s website, he stated he had designed five projects for which Gensler is the architect of record:
● Shanghai Tower;
● Hess Tower;
● Three Eldridge Place;
● Houston Ballet Center for Dance; and
● Tesoro Corporation’s headquarters.

Gensler alleged Strabala had violated the Lanham Act by making a false designation of design services. Specifically, Gensler contended he made a “false or misleading representation of fact” (his role in designing the five buildings) that is “likely to … deceive as to the … connection or association of such person [Strabala] with another person [Gensler]” and to deceive clients about the “origin” of the designs.

The trial court dismissed the suit on the basis the Lanham Act’s applicable provision applied only to “goods,” but not to “services” such as architectural design services. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that services are indeed, covered by that act and a claim for “reverse passing off” does state a cause of action. The case was sent back to the trial court where it will proceed from the point it had been dismissed earlier.

The discussion by the appellate court is interesting. First, it noted this case does not involve copyright because a false claim of authorship, without the making of copies, is outside the scope of copyright law. Next, the court examined whether Gensler has a tenable claim at all. It noted the claim amounts to a charge of fraud. The complaint, however, is short on particulars of what constitutes such fraud. It notes there appear to be three possible ways in which an architect’s assertion he or she designed a building could be false:

1. The architect did not have anything to do with the design, never having worked on the project.
2. The architect worked on the project, but overstated his or her role. For example, the architect may have designed some of a building’s details, but not its basic appearance or attributes.
3. The architect worked on the project and contributed some or even all important features, but the project was so complex no one person bore full responsibility.

The complaint does not allege either of the first two possibilities. Instead, it appears to rely on the third possibility—that buildings are team jobs no single person designs. This argument, however, leaves the question of what statement of Strabala was false. No such false statement is apparent, as would be required by a complaint brought under the Lanham Act. The court came close to ordering the dismissal of the case by affirming the trial court’s dismissal, although on different grounds. However, because the facts were not fully developed in the trial court, the possibility remains Gensler could allege some statement that is false, leaving the door open to further litigation. Thus, the case was reversed on the very narrow ground the Lanham Act does apply to services, contrary to the trial court’s ruling it does only to goods.

What does this mean to the average architect? For a designer leaving to go to a new firm, truth is required. A false statement about what the architect’s role was on the project could result in a lawsuit with a significant judgment. Truthful statements would likely result in a win. Of course, the departing architect does not want to be named in a lawsuit. Keeping the relationship on a professional level would certainly help. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Guidelines for the Attribution of Credit offer support for situations such as this. This document cites to two “Rules of Conduct:”

Rule 4.201: Members shall not make misleading, deceptive, or false statements or claims about their professional qualifications, experience, or performance, and shall accurately state the scope and nature of their responsibilities in connection with work for which they are claiming credit.

Rule 5.301: Members shall recognize and respect the professional contributions of their employees, employers, professional colleagues, and business associates.

Two “Ethical Standards” are also cited:

Ethical Standard 4.2 Dignity and Integrity: Members should strive, through their actions, to promote the dignity and integrity of the profession, and to ensure that their representatives and employees conform their conduct to this Code.

Ethical Standard 5.3 Professional Recognition: Members should build their professional reputation on the merits of their own service and performance and should recognize and give credit to others for the professional work they have performed.

At the heart of the AIA’s Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is the admonition architects should be truthful. This includes stating a former employer was the architect for a particular project and a truthful description of the architect’s contribution to that project. An agreement between a departing architect and employer as to what documents (e.g. renderings or photos) the architect can use (and how) would facilitate the transition and lessen the possibility of litigation.

Werner Sabo, FAIA, CSI, and James K. Zahn, FAIA, CSI, are architects, attorneys, and partners in the Chicago law firm of Sabo & Zahn. Both are resource members of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA’s) National Documents Committee. They can be reached, respectively, at and

More great walls of fire: Exterior separations

by Jeff Razwick


A fire-rated curtain wall provides lot line protection in a dense city. All images courtesy TGP

As shown in this author’s previous article, fire-rated walls typically stand guard inside buildings, ready to compartmentalize fires from within at any moment. As urban density and demand for daylight and visibility in the building envelope increase, these assemblies are also proving valuable for a growing number of exterior applications.

Fire-rated curtain walls can prevent a fire from traveling to or from neighboring buildings without restricting visibility. Unlike gypsum, masonry, and other opaque fire-rated materials, this multi-functionality can bring fire and life safety goals in line with the aesthetic design intent where building codes deem the threat of fire is significant from adjacent construction.

For design professionals evaluating when to use the assembly in the building envelope, it can be helpful to look at situations where it can benefit exterior separations with fire safety requirements.

Property line protection
As it becomes more efficient to build upward and closer together in cities to accommodate growing populations, property line setbacks are narrowing. This is generating an increase in the number of buildings required to use fire-rated materials as exterior separations—a safeguard building codes typically only require for structures in close proximity to each other.

Generally, lot line protection is required when a building is close to its neighbor, regardless of whether that adjacent structure is on the same lot. To provide clarity on this requirement, building codes specify the horizontal separation distances requiring fire-rated materials. For example, see International Building Code (IBC) Sections 705.5 and 705.8. In Section 705.3, IBC uses an imaginary line to determine whether buildings on the same piece of property are in close proximity to each other.

Where codes deem it is necessary to protect against the spread of fire between buildings, fire-rated curtain walls make it possible to do so while maintaining visibility and light. For example, they can provide lot line protection without sacrificing light transfer. Well-designed fire-rated curtain walls can even extend the surface area through which light can transfer to help illuminate a building’s core and better support green building goals. Some fire-rated curtain walls are available with fire-rated insulated glass units (IGUs) incorporating tinted or low-emissivity (low-e) glass for more efficient solar energy management, while taking advantage of daylighting techniques.

Transparent fire protection
Opaque fire-rated materials like gypsum and masonry can satisfy property line requirements and provide compartmentalization for both exterior and interior spaces. The downside is they restrict light transfer and visibility. Fire-rated glass curtain walls can serve as a clear alternative given their heat blocking characteristics; specifically, their classification as fire-resistance-rated wall construction.

Fire-rated curtain walls are tested to ASTM E119, Standard Test Methods for Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials, and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 263, Fire-resistance Ratings. Receiving classification as non-directional fire-resistance-rated construction (meaning they can maintain the same fire-rating from both sides) rather than an “opening protective,” they can exceed 25 percent of the total wall area to provide transparency from the outside where fire and life safety is a concern.

Exterior cladding performance criteria
The air and water penetration resistance of fire-rated steel curtain wall systems (tested per ASTM E283, Standard Test Method for Determining Rate of Air Leakage Through Exterior Windows, Curtain Walls, and Doors Under Specified Pressure, at 30.47 kgf/m2 [6.24 psf] and per ASTM E331, Standard Test Method for Water Penetration of Exterior Windows, Skylights, Doors, and Curtain Walls by Uniform Static Air Pressure Difference, at 20 percent of design wind load, respectively) is typically better than comparable, non-rated aluminum systems. The steel profiles are protected from air and water penetration by a continuous, full-width silicone gasket mounted to the face of the profiles in the glazing pocket.

Regarding thermal performance, the increased thickness of the rated glass in fire-rated curtain walls can help reduce potential for heat flow. Where energy-efficient curtain wall design is critical to building goals, fire-rated IGU constructions allowing low-e glass to be incorporated in the ‘glass sandwich’ can further improve energy performance. As an added benefit, narrow steel frames paired with high-performance fire-rated glazing can help lower the potential for heat transfer and therefore increase condensation resistance. Simulations of the actual construction can be modeled, giving the designer the ability to know how the fire-rated curtain wall will affect the sizing of the building’s HVAC systems.

Fire-rated curtain walls with steel frames can also work in close conjunction with surrounding materials to help ensure a sound building envelope as the temperature changes. Steel’s coefficient of expansion is nearly half that of aluminum, and is similar to glass and concrete. This also reduces the size of perimeter sealant joints, especially at locations where expansion is being addressed.

Tested to ASTM E119 and UL 263, fire-rated curtain walls can provide fire protection from the outside in.

Tested to ASTM E119 and UL 263, fire-rated curtain walls can provide fire protection from the outside in.

Support for demanding applications
Industry standards for exterior curtain wall frames typically limit deflection due to wind load to L/175 or 19 mm (¾ in.)—whichever is less—for spans under 4 m (13 ½ ft), and L/240 for greater spans (where L equals the length of the span between anchor points). These standards were originally developed to prevent sealant failure of insulating glass units due to mullion deflection.

In fire-rated curtain walls, the rated glass may impose stricter limits on the framing, such as L/300. Since steel has a Modulus of Elasticity three times that of aluminum, it can more easily meet these deflection limits without increasing the system profile size. It can also reduce the need to reinforce the frame members. As a best practice, one should consider verifying deflection requirements with the glass manufacturer before accepting typical industry standards.

For all the ways fire-rated glass can enhance building design goals for interior fire separations, there is an almost equal amount of options to do the same for exterior fire-rated glazing applications. To ensure the safety of people and property while still providing a high-performance product required by specification for exterior applications, it is important aesthetic goals align with fire and life safety standards in local building codes. Where necessary, the design team can consult with the manufacturer or supplier.

Jeff Razwick Head ShotJeff Razwick is the president of Technical Glass Products (TGP), a supplier of fire-rated glass and framing systems, and other specialty architectural glazing. He writes frequently about the design and specification of glazing for institutional and commercial buildings. Razwick is a past-chair of the Glass Association of North America’s (GANA) Fire-Rated Glazing Council (FRGC). He can be contacted via e-mail at