What can be specified as solid surface? Columns, staircases, wall cladding, cabinets? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Everyone knows that solid surface is a great material for countertops. The non-porous nature of solid surfaces makes this material great for countertops in healthcare, schools, kitchens and public spaces. Many people do not know that solid surfaces can be used in other applications as well. Below are some examples:
Columns. Columns are the structural elements that transfer loads from the slab to the foundation. Many architects and designers are realizing that instead of trying to hide columns they can be aesthetically pleasing by making necessary columns a focal point. This can be accomplished by adding solid surface cladding to the columns. Because there are so many color combinations for solid surface you can design the space for any experience. While dark colors are not the best option for working surfaces, the vertical non-working surfaces of columns can be done in any color. Keep in mind when specifying solid surface clad columns that each manufacturer requires expansion joints. Instead of trying to hide the expansion joints it is best to add a reveal as part of the design. Another important technical element to cladding columns is knowing the radius of the column in comparison to how tight the radius can be of the material you are specifying.
Staircases. Staircases provide access to different floors and the roof of a building. Many of us remember thinking of a staircase or stairwell as a means of travel between floors when the elevator was not working. Or maybe an egress in the case of a fire. Concrete treads, block walls andan area of a building that often was not cleaned regularly used to defined a stairwell. But things have changed. Today many of us are choosing to take the stairs in an effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a means to achieve our 10,000 steps daily. Owners are recognizing this and providing stairwells and staircases that provide a more positive space for the occupants. Solid surface clad staircases can provide a clean and uplifting experience while traversing floor to floor. Add backlighting to a solid surface staircase and you have provided safety and a better user experience. Keep in mind that when using solid surfaces in staircases often times the cladding will have a compound thermoform. Make sure that you specify your fabricator of choice that has the technical knowledge to achieve your design intent.
Wall Cladding. Solid surface used as wall cladding is damage resistant and easily repaired. The non-porous nature of solid surfaces make solid surface wall cladding an ideal material for public spaces, labs, kitchens and even operating rooms. Solid surface wall cladding does not have to be boring. You can choose Sculptcor™ wall cladding to provide texture while retaining the clean ability of a solid surface wall. Solid surface flat wall panels are easy to install and will outlast most of the surrounding materials.
Cabinets. Solid surface cabinets are popular in Europe and are becoming the standard in the United States for certain environments. Wood substrate cabinets simply cannot handle the harsh environments of a healthcare emergency room without chipping and de-laminating. This exposes the wood substrate and is a great place for bacteria to grow. Because solid surfaces are not laminated and non-porous, there is no place for bacteria to hide and can be easily cleaned. Solid surface cabinets are impervious to moisture, resistant to damage and heat, and can be repaired easily. We placed a wood substrate cabinet and one of our solid surface cabinets on the roof of our offices leaving them there for almost three years. Both cabinets are AWI rated “Institutional”. After one year the wood substrate cabinet had swelled and completely de-laminated to the point that it could not be moved without completely falling apart. Our solid surface cabinet experienced a broken hinge because of the wind whipping the door open and was easily repaired. Otherwise the solid surface cabinet is in good working order. Even the slow close slides still work like new. When specifying solid surface cabinet understand that the upfront cost of specifying solid surface over traditional cabinet can be more but the TCO is much less.
At ASST, we have be fabricating solid surfaces for 24 years. We have a solid surface fabrication facility in McSherrystown, PA and a quartz fabrication facility in Corry, PA. Whatever your needs, ASST can build it to the exact specifications, in a safe manner and to the finest quality standards you expect. Contact us now online or call us at 717-630-1251. firstname.lastname@example.org
In the jobs market today, finding and retaining good employees can be a challenge. The Society for Human Resource Management reported that on average it costs a company 6 to 9 months of an employee’s salary to replace an employee. So if an employee makes $75,000 per year it will cost the company $37,500-$56,250 in recruiting and training. We all know that your employees are the face of your company, they are the people that make your products, they are the people that manage your projects, and they are the glue that holds your ship together. There are many things your company can do such as competitive salaries, benefits, etc. Below are a few things you can do, that really don’t cost much, to retain your productive employees.
Make sure that you show appreciation for good work with positive reinforcement. Sometimes a simple “nice job” or “thank you” can go a long way. Employees want to know that Going Beyond is recognized. If you have employees that manufacture a product, share with them the end result of their work. For example, if you manufacture millwork for hospitals, show employees completed pictures of the hospital. Let them know that because of their hard work, a place for healing has been created. If you build schools, let your employees know that because of their hard work our future leaders have a place to learn and grow.
The US Chamber of Congress list “Allowing employees to speak their minds” as one of the most important methods of retaining employees. It is important for employees to feel that their opinions about the business are being heard by management. Make sure that employees have a method to share their opinions with management. Make sure that you address all suggestions no matter how silly they might sound. If your employee Bobbi suggests that everyone gets a new car you could respond by saying “Hey Bobbi, this isn’t the Oprah show… you get a car… you get a car… but we are providing lunch for everyone at the employee safety meeting on Friday”. If you have an employee that makes a suggestion, that helps with efficiency, and that suggestion is implemented, acknowledge the recommendation in front of that person’s peers.
Happiness is infectious and happy employees are more productive than disgruntle employees. Forbes recently cited a study by Camille Preston that happy employees are up to 20% more productive and with sales people that number increases to 37%. A simple smile when passing someone can have a profound effect in how that person feels. Start meetings with a piece of good news. This can set the tone for your meeting. Make happy part of your company culture.
Encourage a work life balance. If you are in a manufacturing or labor intensive industry give your employees flexible start/stop times. Let your employees know that you understand that they have a life outside of work and you want to promote a healthy balance.
At ASST, we know that productive employees need more than continued employment. Our employees are the face of our company and they really are the glue that holds our ship together. Our employees fabricate and install your best work!!
The Construction Industry Institute reported that 55% of construction rework is caused by inaccurate documentation. This often happens when someone is referencing the wrong set of documents. It is critical to commercial construction project success to have one and only one set of documents that everyone is using. Utilizing or not utilizing centralized plans, photos, revision management and other important documents will make or break your projects.
Document accessibility on job sites is important. Equally important is having the correct documents while on site. What happens when changes are made due to site conditions and the Project Planner does not update the correct set of drawings? Rework.
Rework causes longer construction schedules that push occupancy dates and cost overruns that can be between 2%-20% of the project value. This percentage comes from the Construction Industry Institute of Texas. Could your project absorb a $400,000 rework on a $2,000,000 project? Rework not only affects your bottom line, but it can also cost companies their reputations and sway decisions regarding future work with a customer.
Throughout a project lifespan there will be multiple drawing revisions. Ensure that your document management system implements some type of version control. Some companies use in house developed document management systems. Some companies use out of the box software such as Procore, Textura, BIM 360, Plangrid and Blue Beam. These cloud based systems can assist with subcontractor communication. For example a millwork contractor gets the plumbing submittals that include sink cutouts and faucet information that is needed to fabricate the tops.
The bottom line is that if you do not have control of your documentation, you have a much lower chance of successfully completing your projects on time and in budget.
Commercial construction projects rarely progress exactly as planned. Wikipedia defines scope creep as changes, continuous or uncontrolled growth in a project’s scope, at any point after the project begins. This can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled. It is generally considered harmful. Scope creep will happen when Project Managers fail to address changes as they occur. Failing to remain in control of project scope/schedule is a runaway train and will result in a financial train wreck.
What are some causes of scope creep? Poorly defined project scope. This usually begins with your preconstruction team. Failure to stick to change practices. If a customer asks you for a change, no matter how small, document it. Because one of our goals a satisfied customer, when asked for a change, we may agree without first initiating a change process. Any change in requirements, large or small, becomes a new feature (scope) that was not part of the original agreement.
Recently a large addition to the millwork scope was added to a healthcare project we were managing. This happened because the owner had overlooked it in the original design and therefore it was not part of the original contract. Our team immediately assessed how this would affect our responsibilities to complete this project on time and in budget. We did request additional material and labor cost to the added scope via a change order. In this case, we were ahead of schedule and did not have to work overtime to ensure that the work was completed on time. No overtime labor costs were passed on to our customer.
Another example is when a customer informs you that the owner would like the color of the solid surface countertops to be a complex patterned color that just so happens to be the most expensive group of coloring offered by the manufacturer. Your preconstruction team priced the material at a cost that is half that of what is now being requested. If your team did not clearly define what material was included in your proposal, you may be at odds with your customer about changing the scope/cost. This is a great example of scope creep that is caused by requirements or material not clearly defined.
There are many things you can do to help prevent scope creep. Make sure that your project is clearly defined. Something as simple as the color of countertops can make or break a project. Make sure that everyone on your team is aware that ALL changes to project scope are documented and go through the project management team. This includes employees that are handling submittals and installers. Let’s say that your submittal coordinator receives a phone call from the customer and they let them know what pulls they want on all of the casework and what company to use. The submittal coordinators thanks them for making their day just a little bit easier as they don’t need to dig through the specifications to find this information. They submit the pulls that were requested via the phone call not knowing that they are completely different from what is in the spec and costs 25% more. Your project costs just increased and no one even knows it. Another example is when your installers have a plan to go floor-by-floor installing tops. On a few floors, the trades before you are behind and the customer lets your site supervisor know that the schedule for installation has to be changed. If your site super does not let you know that you are delayed because of another trade you may be asked to keep your schedule. When this happens, it needs to be documented. Make sure that you have a clear process for dealing with changes. If there is no process then your team members have no guidelines for what has to be done with scope changes and will most likely assure scope creep. Make sure that changes are addressed immediately. It may become a problem if you go back to your customer with a change request for something that you have already completed.
In February 2022 the Bradley Corp conducted a survey and 51% of Americans stated that an unclean lavatory shows poor management. COVID brought a heightened sensitivity to the cleanliness of public spaces and even more so in public restrooms. There is a sense of fear that some people have when entering a public space that may be contaminated. That fear is a direct reflection of how a person feels about the owner of the building.
Traditional plastic laminate vanity countertops and drop-in sink bowls provide an opportunity for moisture to destroy a particle board substrate. This creates an optimal environment for bacterial growth. We have all witnessed public countertops with laminate surfaces that have swelled from exposure to water.
To address these common problems, ASST developed a wall hung solid surface vanity system. The 30” wide modular units utilize a sturdy aluminum and polyethylene support structure with a removable solid surface front panel allowing for easy access to plumbing. The Modular Vanity system™ is available in 30” wide increments and includes a solid surface top, backsplashes, side panels and your choice of an integral mounted sink. The system is available in all solid surface sheet products. Without wood that can rot and grow mold, the system is perfectly designed to handle rigorous public restroom environments.
As of 2020 there were 5,139 community hospitals in the United States (www.aha.com). New healthcare spaces today are no longer the institutional hallways that instill desperation and smell like antiseptic. Thanks to pioneers like Esther Sternberg, we now know that there is a direct correlation between the environment that we occupy and healing. Healthcare providers are looking to offer a space that provides hope and healing. To make this happen, new healthcare facilities are now offering premium finishes that include custom solid surface nurses’ stations and reception desks.
Times are tough in commercial construction. We are all dealing with supply chain issues (see our article about this here), labor shortages, logistic shortages and turbulent markets. When a GC buys out the millwork, are they buying from the same subcontractor? Are they buying the wall panels from the same supplier as the cabinets? Are they buying the flat top solid surfaces from the same subcontractor as the custom thermoformed nurses’ stations? Is the casework sub communicating with the tops sub? What happens when the tops show up and the casework is not there because of a delay in material procurement for the cabinets? Handling multiples subcontractors for a single millwork package is a sure way to endure cost overruns, scope creep, project delays and many change orders (queue the cash register drawer).
Why add more moving parts than necessary? At ASST, we have been providing Division 6 and Division 12 millwork, casework, solid surfaces and quartz for large healthcare projects for 24 years. We understand that to become a beacon of hope for an entire community, the healing space must be innovative and constructed with the highest standards. We have the experience to provide project scope on time, in budget and we do it safely. Whatever you need, ASST can build it to the exact specifications, in a safe manner and to the finest quality standards, you expect.We look forward to Going Beyond for your exciting project! Contact us today at email@example.com or visit our website at www.asst.com.
Did roofers show up to install the casework for your large commercial project? If you have worked in large commercial construction, you have either suffered the consequences of bad installation or heard the stories of it happening. Did the PLAM on the wall cabinets not match the PLAM on the base cabinets? Often times this happens when materials are ordered with a large time span between procurement. Did your millworker not inform you that they were delayed because of a material shortage until the day of installation?
These are just some of the ways your large commercial construction project can come off the tracks. We are all acutely aware that we are at the tail end of a pandemic that has rocked commercial construction. We are dealing with supply shortages, employee shortages, and unheard-of escalations. Coupled with owners that may not understand how this affects schedule or cost and you have a recipe for disaster. How are your millworkers dealing with this? What happens to your project when your millworker is ill-equipped to maneuver in these difficult times of commercial construction? Will your project be delayed? Will occupancy dates get pushed?
At ASST, we know that materials are in short supply. We know that there is a serious shortage in labor. We know that times are tough all around. What are we doing about it? We have always been willing to provide VE options when bidding a project. We can also offer material options when we know that a material may be difficult to procure. We are ordering further out than we ever had before and we are storing materials that we know are being delayed. We are using multiple shipping companies to ensure that if one cannot provide a mobilization for our project, we have a backup that can. These are just some of the ways we are handling the current issues in commercial construction. At ASST, one of our core values has always been innovation. We continuously generate new ideas and methods to ensure success.
Would you and your team like to do a virtual shop tour of one of our facilities? It only takes about 25 minutes and we demonstrate how we successfully plan and complete large millwork projects on time and in budget. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to setup a virtual shop tour.
Solid surface is one of the most versatile millwork finishes. There are some guidelines when specifying solid surfaces to keep your design intent. Below are a few of those guidelines.
Solid colors and colors with small particulates will either show no seam at all (solid colors) or be difficult to see (small particulates). Solid surfaces colors that will show a seam are any color that has movement (swirls, large particulates, etc.). Keep in mind that most solid surfaces come in 30” X 144”. If your project has a surface area larger than this, there will be a seam. The last thing you want is your best work to have, what might be considered, a flaw that is painfully obvious. If you have any reservations about how a seam will look, contact your fabricator and ask them to send you large seamed samples. Any good fabricator will do this at no cost to your firm.
Color and Finish Level
Solid surfaces come in hundreds of colors from different manufacturers. While solid surface is a versatile surface with few limitations, there are some guidelines when specifying light and dark colors. When you are choosing color selection for a working surface (transaction ledges, tops, etc.) stay away from dark colors. Dark colors will show every little scratch and although they are easy to repair, it will have to be done often to keep the aesthetic you have designed. Light colors don’t show scratches easily and most often will only require basic cleaning. Dark solid surfaces are great for vertical applications such as die walls or wall cladding. When specifying a dark color, make sure that you specify the finish level. A matte finish on a black solid surface will actually look grey. With very dark colors you will want at least a semi-gloss finish. Keep in mind that the higher the finish the higher the cost as there is more labor involved.
Thermoforming solid surfaces gives you the ability to remove the chains and take your design to a whole new level. Solid surfaces are no longer just the flat countertop in a well-appointed kitchen. Thermoformed solid surfaces can be used for anything from an eye-catching nurse’s station to the radius corners in an operating room and beyond. When specifying a thermoformed solid surface project, make sure that you specify the fabricator of choice. Don’t let your best work be doled out to the cheapest millworker.
At ASST, we have been fabricating healthcare solid surfaces for 23 years. We have a solid surface fabrication facility in McSherrystown, PA and a quartz fabrication facility in Corry, PA. Whatever your needs, ASST can build it to the exact specifications, in a safe manner and to the finest quality standards you expect. Contact us online or call us at 717-630-1251. WWW.ASST.COM