(design) Precision.

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Perfection = 1/4″?


Designers are perfectionists.  The challenge is that we rely on consultants and trades to execute the precision we envision.  So we have to establish tolerance for intolerance.  And in (design), tolerances usually come in 1/4”! Yes, this means, as designers, we need to surrender our desire for the unobtainable 1/16″ and have tolerance.

As we create, the important thing to remember is that ambiguity cannot be executed.  Our DIY formulas (if we entertain Suzie here and discredit ourselves for a moment) are ‘specific’ and they come in the form of Construction Documentation (and specifications – novel!).

Even Tolerance has Intent

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I may have left Las Vegas, but as I continue to design, I don’t ignore the odds.  I intentionally avoid (design) risk.  Design assumptions are costly.  There is a reason that the relationship between architects and engineers and contractors is not (truly) symbiotic.  You, the design professional, (remember you – the one who gets hired to think differently?) Hi there – yes you… you have an obligation to establish tolerance.

It’s important to understand what tolerance is (bear with me).  ASME Y14.5M defines tolerance as “the total amount a specific dimension is permitted to vary.  the tolerance is the difference between the maximum and minimum limits.”  So what is allowable to you?  The designer?  This is the fun part (if documents were considered fun).  This is where you get to implement your tolerance band.

Establishing (design) Limits.  (of course)

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A tolerance band is a range of (considered) allowable dimensions.  The larger the difference between upper and lower limits, the larger the band.  This is “loose” tolerance.  Ever heard of bandwidth? – how‘s yours?  The opposite of this or the smaller the tolerance band, the “tighter” the tolerance.  Did I spark interest?  Finally…

Deviating from ‘nominal’

Establishing dimensional tolerances are key in (design) constructability.  By providing them in documentation, you (the designer) can clarify your intent and give the contractor the leeway for appropriate means and methods… and he can get “back” to you… and then you can redline the hell out of his first pass at a shop drawing!  #architecturaljoy.  A.Void redundancy in documentation and this first round will go much “smoother”.  Speaking of “smooth”

Level 5 Finish – LOL!


This really is laughable, yet we continue to specify it (Level 5, that is).  But, here is the kicker… someone else is responsible for erecting it.  Not you, you little perfectionist you.

Who is responsible?… ‘that’ guy is (the one to the left)… and, ‘that’ guy doesn’t give a shit about your (documented) “finish” schedule.  He has his own agenda.  He may even be union?

Your carefully arranged, industry appropriated, architectural ‘prep and prepare walls’ ‘level 5 finish’ to “receive” ‘owner provided wallcover’ is a joke to him.  So as you indicate, remind yourself of intended tolerance and then blue tape the hell out of the wall at architectural punch!

Square Peg, Round Hole.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

I wish I could tell you that the world was perfect.  That this personality perfectionism that permeates our industry could be built that way.  It can’t.  Parts must interact with each other.  Trades must interact with each other.  Materials (even) acclimate.  So as a designer, you better follow suit…

Follow suit, then lead, and then, create!  Create AND document so the round “hole” you have imagined that those square pegs can’t fit into (without redundancy) can be built!







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