Specifying door hardware is a minefield for architects and spec writers. It’s ridiculously easy to make embarrassing mistakes by specifying the wrong hardware. Plus, it’s not always easy to determine how the building owner wants to use the space, and thus how he wants the hardware to function.
So that’s why architectural firms frequently call on hardware consultants to write door hardware specifications.
· For small projects, especially those in existing buildings where new hardware needs to match existing, many spec writers and architects are quite capable of producing a simple generic hardware schedule that’s biddable and will work fine.
· But for bigger projects with more operational complexity, it’s smart to get a hardware consultant involved, especially to make sure that code issues are dealt with properly.
· Hardware consultants deal with such matters every day and can educate you and the owner about the issues involved.
· They frequently know the eccentricities of the local building departments and can incorporate such requirements into the bidding documents.
A hardware consultant is not quite a true consultant in the sense of an independent professional because most work for hardware manufacturers and/or distributors. They thus have a vested interest in specifying and selling the products they represent. However there’s no denying that they have door and hardware expertise way beyond that of the average architect or spec writer. And the Door and Hardware Institute’s accreditation requirements to become an Architectural Hardware Consultant (AHC) are rigorous and highly professional.
If project circumstances allow the hardware consultant to write a sole-source specification for the products he represents, his services are usually provided at no charge.
If the specifications must allow more than one manufacturer for the major hardware products, the hardware consultant usually charges a fee for his services.
Put the consultant’s expertise to work for the benefit of the project, but don’t expect him to work in a vacuum. Give the consultant plenty of feedback and collaboration such as:
· If at all possible, put him in touch with the owner, to determine the owner's likes and dislikes. Especially the dislikes. If you specify a product the owner has had trouble with, you’re in deep doo-doo.
· Ask the consultant to review and comment on your in-progress door and frame specs, too.
· Ask the consultant to review technology/access control/security specs and drawings in progress. Access control requirements especially are creeping into more and more projects these days, and the hardware consultant can help get it right the first time.
· Ask the consultant to review electrical drawings in progress to make sure power is brought to every device that needs it.
· Since you’ve asked him to review the drawings and specs you’re preparing, return the favor: Review and correct his specs, too. Since he doesn't have the benefit of the spec writer’s perspective of the total contract documents package, he isn’t likely to be sensitive to things like erroneous or inapplicable cross-references. Plus, a hardware consultant pours the majority of his effort and expertise into the hardware schedule. He's likely to be much less sensitive to the body of the hardware spec.
· Keep the consultant up-to-date with last minute plan changes and door/room number changes. There’s nothing more embarrassing than to have a bidder ask why you scheduled hardware for a pair of doors on a single door, or vice versa.
· Ask the consultant to review the contractor’s door and hardware submittal. The project architect should review it too, but the hardware consultant can spot issues much faster than an architect or spec writer.
Finally, enjoy the experience of working with a hardware consultant. I've worked with many people in the hardware industry over the years, and virtually all of them have been creative problem solvers, proud of their industry, and eager to share their expertise. All of them have wound up teaching me something I needed to know about doors and hardware.