Factory inspection visits are vital; and they unfortunately have a habit of being overlooked. The factory inspection process during the Building Envelope Commissioning (BECx) is especially important when it relates to fenestration systems, when any prefabricated components are being installed or when complex architectural glazing is being utilized on a project.
As more and more systems are being fabricated off-site (to minimize not only rising costs of field labor, but also to improve general quality) the importance of reviewing these components in the factory is critical to ensuring that they ultimately will meet the project’s goals. While this process starts on paper with the review and commenting on Quality Control/Assurance plans and discussions with the contractor and their team, it is most important that these steps and processes are verified in the factory setting with project specific materials. Critical components that are commonly verified in factory settings are as follows:
- Architectural Glazing: Architectural Glazing is complex and many of the fabrication steps can result in glass which lasts for 50+ years on a building, or some that results in failure after only 10 years in service. While many of the items associated with glazing are thought of to be visual in appearance, it is important to understand that each step in the process has an effect on the overall performance of the units. In addition, these factory inspections provide a key step in ensuring that project glass meets the aesthetic goals of the team prior to it arriving onsite.
- Metal Panels: Many projects are including either insulated metal panels, formed rain-screen panels or metal panels installed into fenestration systems of a variety of different and challenging materials. Some of these metals include, to name a few: aluminum, stainless steel, zinc, steel and/or copper and may include a variety of surface treatments. While each of these materials have different fabrication methods, as well as, require different means of being assembled, factory inspections, in some cases, become the only place where materials can be verified to be in accordance with the project goals prior to them being installed onsite.
- Stone: As stone is a natural material with variations, it is critical that not only its properties are verified at the quarry or point of fabrication, but also that all of the means of fabrication and assembly meet the goals of the project. While aesthetics play a big role in this, it is also important for the BECx Agent to verify that all proper tests are performed to ensure the structural integrity and longevity of the stone being utilized on the project.
- Punched Window, Window Wall or Curtain Wall Assembly: What is most critical for these types of fabricated fenestration components is to ensure that all critical seals and structural components are properly installed. A common verification in this regard is to ensure that architectural glazing is properly fixed into framing. Types of attachment methods for both glazing and metal panels are either the use of silicone structural glazing or the use of VHB tape. It is also critical that when these panels are fabricated, that all critical seals which are intended to keep air and water out of a building are properly installed. This is critical as in most cases once units arrive onsite these seals are either inaccessible or not able to remediated onsite. Depending on the project, it may also be recommended to review the manufacturing or fabrication of each of the major components which get installed into these systems.
In most cases, factory inspections provide a critical step for the AEC team to verify that the components which are being installed on the building meet the aesthetic goals of the project. It is recommended that the AEC team visit the key fabricator facilities to ensure that all material being prepared for the project is in accordance with not only the project specifications, but also meets the aesthetic vision of the project.
In closing, it is important to include this critical step in the inspection process. This will ensure that you are minimizing the risk associated with your project by avoiding rejecting material being delivered to the site, or having to uninstall components which are defective due to their fabrication methodologies.
Written by: Robert Golda, Building Enclosure Associate