Services: Architecture, Interiors and
ENR Top Design Firms Rank: #40
William J. Schmalz, AIA, LEED AP
Perkins+Will approaches code compliance in several important ways: (1) making the building codes accessible to the entire staff; (2) training the staff so they have a thorough understanding of the principles and requirements of the codes; (3) ensuring, through firm-wide delivery standards, that the documents incorporate the requirements of the codes; and (4) using developments in technology to find new ways to ensure the public safety.
First, Perkins+Will makes the building codes and standards available to all of the staff. With over 20 offices and 1,600 employees, and a practice that designs projects throughout the world, it is no longer possible for Perkins+Will to maintain physical libraries for each office with all of the necessary code and standards books.
It is more the rule than the exception for, as examples, the Chicago office to design an educational facility in Saudi Arabia, or for the Los Angeles office to design a hospital in Baltimore. This requires that a wide range of code books be available to each office.
To a large extent, the solution to this problem has been the development of web-based code services, such as MADCAD, which provide access to many of the most frequently needed codes and standards, including the International Building Code, NFPA, ASTM, as well as local codes for New York, Florida, California and other states. By tailoring its MADCAD subscription to the needs of the firm, Perkins+Will gives every staff member access to the majority of codes needed for most projects.
The second way Perkins+Will ensures code compliance is by making sure that the professionals responsible for project delivery understand the principles and requirements of the applicable codes. Through a combination of in-house training and mentoring and outside seminars, Perkins+Will raises the level of code understanding among the staff.
Perkins+Will has a firm-wide Learning+Development program that allows the most experienced people to share their knowledge with the entire firm. Occurring twice each week, the L+D classes cover a broad range of topics, including codes and standards.
Perkins+Will has also recently started a training program focused specifically for people who are on the verge of becoming project architects. A large portion of this program is called Designing to the Code, covering the basics of occupancy requirements, exiting and fire-resistant construction.
For all the value of the large-scale training classes, nothing beats having junior professionals working directly with experienced architects. Each office has a Technical Director responsible for overall project delivery within the office, and our larger offices can have as many as 15 Senior Project Architects, each with 20+ years of experience. The Senior Project Architect serves as a resource to the project team for code-related or technical issues, as well as performing quality control reviews at each project milestone.
This leads to the third step in ensuring code compliance: the Perkins+Will Project Delivery Manual. This document, located virtually on Perkins+Will's intranet system, establishes the design and documentation requirements for all projects. Critical early deliverables are the Building Code Analysis and the Code Compliance/Life Safety Drawings. The Building Code Analysis identifies, in narrative form, all the code requirements applicable to the project, while the Code Compliance/Life Safety Drawings demonstrate graphically how the building design complies with them. These documents are reviewed and approved by the Senior Project Architect in Schematic Design before the team can proceed to the later phases of design.
With the International Building Code as the basis of most local codes in the U.S and internationally, Perkins+Will makes use of all the resources provided by the International Code Council. Each office is encouraged to have at least one ICC member, so that code interpretations can be requested. Perkins+Will's Quality Assurance Program incorporates the IBC project checklist, a useful tool for developing code analyses. Additionally, staff is encouraged to participate in outside seminars to gain a better understanding of the IBC.
Finally, technology is giving Perkins+Will new tools in meeting code requirements. As more and more projects are being designed using Building Information Modeling (BIM), Perkins+Will is exploring graphic 4-D demonstrations of exiting from high-occupancy spaces and buildings; this will be valuable in showing the level of safety designed into Perkins+Will buildings.
Through a combination of in-house experience, a comprehensive training program, firm-wide project delivery standards, and new developments in technology, Perkins+Will is meeting its responsibility to provide safe environments for the public.