The Push-and-Pull of Electric Hardware Installations
Smart hardware is everywhere. Be it a smart camera, light or an access control system, you unknowingly interact with these devices daily. And when it comes to glass entrance systems, chances are that a dance among trades occurred to install, wire and fire up the product.
Take an access control system embedded in a glass door, for instance. These devices control which users can access each area and which will be denied. The hardware is tied into a software system that uses biometrics, fobs, smartphones or a card reader to gain access. The system is meant to be convenient for users while providing additional security.
The hardware enabling the system was likely installed by a contract glazier and connected to power by an access control technician or electrician. Matt Fox, a glazing training specialist at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), says that glazing contractors each have their own installation methods. Some work with low- and high-voltage electricians, with access control subcontractors or install the electronics themselves.
Training is on Me
Chris Wolfe is the project manager for entrance design at Roschmann Group. The Germany-based company, which has U.S. operations in California, Connecticut and New York, advises, manufactures and installs building envelopes. Wolfe says there are many ways for glaziers to learn how to install electrified hardware, including using union shops and by taking original equipment manufacturer (OEM) courses. These complimentary programs teach glaziers how to install, set up, support and troubleshoot OEM products.
Brian Albanese, vice president of Forno Enterprises Inc., adds that union-provided training has been beneficial because glaziers enter the workforce prepared to install electrified hardware. Forno is a Trout Creek, N.Y., – based architectural aluminum and glass company.
“That’s the advantage of unions,” says Albanese. “And now we have the North American Contractor Certification program and the Architectural Glass and Metal Contractors program, which take training and expectations to another level. When you have people familiar with how these components work and deal with them in a training atmosphere where they can break things to learn, they can make mistakes. It’s not costing an employer money; you’re getting a guy who has already messed it up somewhere else on someone’s dime. When you have them installing, fixing and servicing, it’s done right because they’ve done it wrong before in training.”
Jordan Blatter, a glazing instructor for IUPAT, says he knows of glaziers who have had to wire components outside of their scope of work, but in order to walk away from the job, they had to do what they could to finish the work.
“As glaziers, we know about our door systems,” he adds. “We know how they work and what our tolerances are. But I’ve had electricians say, ‘This isn’t my normal scope of work.’ In a couple of instances, they’ve told me to do it. I don’t know if that was because of a lack of training or expertise. Some of these low-voltage security contractors are smaller operations, and it seems like you’re fighting to get them onsite when you’re there. When the glaziers install the door, and it’s ready to be wired up and operational, the [low voltage-security contractors] are nowhere to be found.”
Don Cherry is an electronic sales engineer with Allegion, an Irish hardware company with several brands and locations in the U.S. He says that the mechanical installation of electrified hardware is supposed to be done by licensed electricians.
“That said, I have never seen that called out or enforced here in New England,” he explains. “Factories for the aluminum world and/or local glaziers install electrified stuff all the time, especially exit devices since the mechanical installation is almost the same as installing a non-electrified device. Now that we’ve got connectors on almost everything, especially quick electric latch, electric latch and customer experience devices, even field testing with a test supply is all plug-in and really quick. That doesn’t interfere with, nor require, an electrician onsite during mechanical installation. Hardwiring is a different story, but it’s not where glass contractors I have worked with want to be.”
The scope of work on large construction sites has a push-and-pull between the trades, says Wolfe. This conflict usually revolves around the struggle to define the scope of work among glaziers, carpenters, electricians and sometimes ironworkers. However, that conflict is dictated by where the project is and how strong the unions are, says Greg Wojciechowicz, vice president of operations at Glass Solutions Inc., a glazing company based in Itasca, Ill.
“It depends on where you live, how strong the unions are and how they work together,” he says. “Here in Chicago, [glaziers] cannot power anything. Even if we need to fix a mag-lock and replace a bad one, an electrician has to be there to disconnect it, install it and reconnect it … We don’t even do that even if we have an automatic operator with the door. Electricians put the headers in and do all the wires and connections. We just hang the doors. The electricians are there when we hang them and then they make their final connections. There’s a pretty fine line about who handles what.”
Wojciechowicz adds that while plug-in-play products are becoming mainstream, installing electrified hardware is more about programming and turning on sensors, which is not in the glaziers’ scope of work. And with respect to programming, messing with wires and working with electricity, glaziers would rather not deal with it, says Wojciechowicz.
So, You Want to Claim This?
Wolfe says that when it comes to installing high-security locks and electrified hardware, he wants to ensure that whoever claims it knows what they’re doing.
“In my case, I’m like okay, you want to claim this scope of work. I tell them, ‘You have some high-security, detailed technical components on these locks. If you’re claiming you own it, then I want a name. I want a person I can talk to so I can have comfort knowing they won’t butcher it,’” he says.
Wolfe adds that while the general contractor is required to divvy out who does what, they often overlook electrified hardware until it’s too late.
“Only 6-8% of the building’s value is door frame and hardware,” says Wolfe. “But 90% of the punchlists, added costs and change order is Division 8. So, it’s a small scope of work, but when the building gets turned out, and they’re trying to turn everything on and hand it over, door hardware and access control always get badgered.”
Hardware Installation Challenges
Along with proper wire management, the lack of pre-installation conferences has been Wolfe’s biggest issue in the past decade. “The pre-installation conferences are super-critical,” he says. “They’re specified in the door frame and hardware specs. The contract hardware supplier must have a pre-installation conference with the security integrator and the electrician. The 80-20 rule comes into play. Eighty percent of the time, they don’t do it adequately or at all.
Joshua Huff is the assistant editor of USGlass magazine. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on LinkedIn.
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