Testing Products for Flame Resistance
Testing agencies such as Underwriter’s Laboratory will test the fire resistance of an assembly of components used to construct a wall, for instance. An assembly refers to the components of a structure, wall, or enclosure, combined and rated as a unit. A door assembly would include the door, frame, hardware, and window glass.
Interior finish materials are tested by a variety of smaller-scale flame tests. The finish material is usually tested on top of the substrate to which it will be applied. The results of the tests are used to rate the material for instance, Class A, B, or C for wallcovering, or Class I or II for flooring. The various standards organizations have written these tests into their standards, and they are thus incorporated into building codes.
In order to communicate the design of a space or building so the project can be priced, permitted, and built, the designer prepares a set of contract documents that include construction drawings and specifications. The codes officials working for the local jurisdiction review these documents for compliance with all applicable codes and regulations before issuing a permit to build the project. The documents also serve as the basis of a contract between the owner and the general contractor, as well as a guide for construction.
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A specification is the written portion of the contract documents that describes the material or the product to be used, the quality of the product or material, and the installation or construction methods to be used. For some small projects, specification information may be incorporated into the set of drawings, but for larger projects, specifications are prepared as a separate written document or Project Manual. Interior designers may also write separate specifications for furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) to be issued, not to the general contractor, but to vendors who will supply the FF&E after the construction is complete. Interior designers and architects write standards into a specification, selecting and specifying products that have been tested for their compliance with codes and performance standards, and requiring evidence that the products used meet the standards.
Architectural specifications are formally structured documents, and have traditionally been based on CSI (Construction Specifications Institute) Masterformat, although other formats are similar. CSI Masterformat specifications are written so that the specifications writer can choose from options for each category of information. Information is included to guide the designer in the decision-making process. The CSI Masterformat specification package includes a General Conditions section that gives instructions to the bidder related to the entire project, such as definitions, responsibilities of each party involved, requirements for using the site, and processes for determining completion of work and receiving payment. The specification is then divided into divisions for each type of product or material. Interior designers are often given the responsibility for writing or gathering information for a specifications writer specifically for the divisions related to interior finish materials and components of an interior, such as Division 9: Finishes. Specifications may require the submittal of evidence that products meet performance standards for example, tear strength standards for vinyl, citing specific ASTM and ANSI standards or industry standards.