How to Mitigate Risk: A question of quantity vs. quality
Any construction project invites risk. For architectural glass and metal, risk begins with which glazing contractors are hired. It extends to building enclosure issues that result from the way products and systems are installed by those glazing contractors. Risk begins and ends with the question of quantity vs. quality.
When a glazing contractor is hired, specified qualifications often include the following quantitative criteria:
- Experience defined by years in business: But years of experience don’t guarantee quality work or future success.
- Successfully completed similar projects: But who defines “successful” or “similar”?
- Record of successful performance: But who validates performance?
- Trained and approved by the manufacturer: But manufacturers rarely train or approve contractors in any formal manner.
Nebulous, ill-defined, and subjective qualification specifications – based on quantitative data – do not provide highly capable glazing contractors with enough differentiation.
A survey of over 340 industry professionals cited most defects and failures were caused by installer and/or glazing contractor insufficiencies. Too often, shortcuts are taken in the interest of time. Glaziers may lack understanding of procedures. Management may lack oversight tools to ensure work is done properly. Manufacturers describe 95 percent of field visits result from installers not following fabrication or installation instructions. Those in the field may not understand how systems work or may not be required to follow manufacturer instructions. As a result, architectural glass and metal – primary components of most building enclosures – present some of the largest construction risks. A 2020 Insurance Business article cited water infiltration and related losses as top construction insurance claims. Owners, architects, and envelope consultants can specify high performing components, but the glazing contractor ultimately holds a key to project success.
How to differentiate the quality-conscious glazing contractors?
When a group of glazing contractors got together in 2014 to voice their concerns about quality and risk in the industry, they were concerned that the design and construction community had no way to determine which architectural glass and metal companies were adequately qualified. What if there was a qualification method that took a comprehensive look at glazing contractors’ business practices, office operations, shop operations, and field operations? A credential could promote quality and safety, mitigate risk, and add value across the industry.
This influential conversation spurred development of North America’s first independent, third-party, ANSI-accredited certification program for architectural glass and metal contractors.
North American Contractor Certification (NACC) was born.
Architectural glass and metal contractors earn the NACC credential through a time-intensive evaluation process and demonstrated proficiency in five components: business practices, safety, glazing processes, contract administration, and quality. A Quality Management System (QMS) forms the cornerstone of NACC certification, providing multi-faceted quality controls and documentation. By assessing all aspects of a glazing contractor’s business, the well-rounded certification process benchmarks the means and methods that consistently drive high performance and high quality in the industry.
NACC offers third-party proof that a contractor has processes and procedures in place to consistently meet high standards. Certification reduces risk by minimizing errors, improving documentation, and establishing standards for business and glazing. NACC means improved jobsites and public safety, minimized subcontractor defaults, and fewer construction claims. Certification instills confidence within and for each certified company.
According to Empirehouse, Inc. President Mike Gilbert, “NACC truly has made us a better company. It sets us apart and has made us best in class. We feel more confident in the way we’re providing clients with a complete package by being certified.” The Minnesota-based architectural glass and metal contractor has held certification since 2016.
Collaboration as a key
The key to making the NACC program successful was gaining the input of a cross-section of the industry who collaborated on certification development. Architects, envelope and fenestration consultants, specification writers, general contractors, professional glaziers, manufacturers, and suppliers all participated in program development. The process addressed the perspectives of each segment of the industry, resulting in a certification that has been readily accepted and adopted.
Kraus-Anderson Construction Company (KA) of Minnesota endorses NACC. As a contractor, KA focuses on means and methods, whereas an architect focuses on results. The risk profile difference between the two perspectives lends itself to labor and contractor certification programs such as NACC. “What’s attracted KA to NACC is how to evaluate qualified subcontractors,” said Michael Spence, AIA, FCSI, of KA’s Building Science Group. “When we work in our home area, we have relationships, but as we reach out to other areas, independent certifications are a tool to evaluate competency. That’s a real strong selling point.”
Industry taking notice
Since launching in 2015, NACC has gained industry recognition for raising the bar of quality and professionalism. In 2020, the NACC program won the Insurance Risk Management Institute, Inc. (IRMI) Gary E. Bird Horizon Award for demonstrated commitment to improving construction risk management through the implementation of innovative, cost-effective, and efficient risk management techniques.
MasterSpec® introduced specification language in the July 2019 Section 8 update, noting as part of the Quality Assurance category language that Architectural Glass & Metal (AG&M) contractors be certified under NACC. As of June 2020, the latest update to MasterSpec includes NACC language in six building enclosure-related sections.
Competency without guesswork
Construction managers report that when they seek new glazing contractors, certification ensures competency without guesswork. As more design and construction industry professionals become aware of NACC, program organizers – and certified contractors – hope the credential becomes widely required for its risk protection, quality assurance, and overall project benefits.