Specifying Flagpoles: Exploring standards and common errors

Photo courtesy Delaware River and Bay Authority

By Joseph Scarpa, CSI, CCCA, CPSD, CPSM, GGP, LEED AP, SCIP, and Marc Summers
Flagpole specifications commonly found in institutional, commercial, and other requests for proposals (RFPs) have numerous errors, which, albeit not catastrophic, affect the aesthetic and functional life of the flagpole, as well as the project cost.

MasterFormat’s April 2016 update included two new section titles in Division 10−Specialties. These were 10 75 26−Roof-mounted Flagpoles and 10 75 29−Plaza-mounted Flagpoles, bringing the total count of level-three specification sections regarding flagpoles to six. This article focuses on 10 75 16−Ground-set Flagpoles, often specified as 10 75 00−Flagpoles, with some commonality amongst all flagpole sections. (While the authors recognize many readers may be in the United States, it is very common for MasterFormat specifications to be used throughout the world. As such, some of the comments and recommendations in this article also refer to the international aspects of flagpole design and erection. Differences in practice and approach should be considered when using a master specification guide for international projects.)

Although construction projects have similarities, every property is different. After ascertaining owner project requirements, the first order of business in specifying ground-set flagpoles—particularly above standard heights—is to obtain a geo-technical report. This may be Section 00 31 32−Geotechnical Data or Section 02 32 00−Geotechnical Investigations. Should a project’s particular situation indicate unusual soil and weather conditions, the typical ground setting using a sleeve and burial—with or without concrete—may not be appropriate. Instead, one should specify a base plate with anchor bolts embedded into a concrete foundation.

It is also prudent to be consistent with practices prevalent in the local area. For instance, most flagpole installers and manufacturers in the United States prefer the sleeve-and-burial method due to its simplicity and cost-effectiveness, while flagpole installations in Europe and the Middle East generally employ a shoe base plate with anchor bolts and a typical concrete foundation. Both the mounting method and the fabrication of the flagpole are different in these two situations. Specifying something outside the local norm may increase project costs needlessly due to special orders and unavailability of specified material.

Stainless-steel flagpoles, standing 15 and 12 m (49 and 39 ft), are featured at the Meydan Horse Race Course in Dubai.
Photos courtesy Trident Support Co.

Understanding the NAAMM standard
American National Standards Institute/National Association of Architectural Metal Manufacturers (ANSI/NAAMM) FP1001-07, Guide Specifications for Design of Metal Flagpoles, has become the recognized U.S. standard for the structural design of metal flagpoles. NAAMM’s fifth edition since 1985, it provides wind speeds for design purposes in the United States, and—in its appendix B—appropriate flag sizes for varying pole heights, up to 24 m (80 ft).

While there are other international standards and specifications used in the design of flagpoles, the unique aspect of NAAMM FP1001 is it considers
both the loads of the pole itself and the wind loads associated with the flag. As an example, European standard BS EN 40-3-1:2013, Lighting Columns: Design and Verification−Specification for Characteristic Loads, is sometimes used by manufacturers as the standard for poles outside the United States. While this specification is appropriate for a pole (e.g. lighting mast or sign pole), it does not specifically consider the load of the flag, as the NAAMM FP1001 standard does. As stated in its introduction, “a flagpole’s function is to fly flags”—therefore, a standard accounting for both the loads of the pole and the flag provides an added degree of safety for a flagpole.

The NAAMM standard uses actual flight-testing of flags of various sizes and wind speeds to obtain data on the loading of flags, which were used as the basis for the development of the flag drag formulas in the guide specifications. As such, this article’s authors consider it entirely appropriate and prudent to require NAAMM FP1001 as the basis of the design of any flagpole, regardless of its ultimate location, either in the United States or elsewhere in the world.

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