Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lousy Signage in Well-Designed Buildings

Our company in the Boston area, like architectural signage firms everywhere, routinely receives bid requests from general contractors for the "signage" subcontract portion of construction projects. Unfortunately, we usually encounter documentation that is so seriously flawed we are unable to prepare an accurate bid.

Here are just a few of the problems we have seen:

  1. The signage documentation package normally includes a written spec, but almost never includes drawings, a sign message schedule, or sign location plans.
  2. The sign contractor is required to submit construction shop drawings for signage, but is given little information about critical variables such as overall size, typestyle, or graphic layout. In other words, design responsibility for the signage elements is assigned to the signage contractor.
  3. The sign contractor is required to compile and submit a message schedule for approval, but there is no indication as to where the text information for specific signs is to be found.
  4. In most instances the specifications on these projects include a blanket statement stipulating overall code compliance, but since they do little to define actual code requirements, the responsibility for code compliance is also assigned to the sign contractor.
  5. Products are specified that do not exist, such as "cast stainless steel letters", or approved manufacturers are listed that are no longer in business.
  6. Confusing signage specifications are created when information is copied from past projects, or directly from product specifications, without making the necessary selections or editing for the projects’ requirements.
  7. These specifications almost never include a quantification of the scope of the signage work, leave bidders to do their own "take-off" based on vague information, and invariably result in multiple bids that are simply not comparable.
What other problems do you encounter?

Because of these kinds of problems, the signage installed on thousands of building projects in the United States is governed by poorly crafted documents, and often reflects a lowest common denominator profile of design, cost, and product quality.

I have never spoken with an architect who said they did not want the signage on their projects to be well designed, manufactured to high quality standards, and properly installed. Unfortunately, the signage on many projects is falling well short of these goals, and the creation of better construction documents would be a good way to start improving the status quo.

Our firm has developed a unique approach to CSI format spec writing for signage. If you would like to see a copy of a typical specification that illustrates this approach, give us a call or drop us a line and we would be happy to share.

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