Breaking down ANSI/AWI 0641 – Architectural Wood Casework with Hunter Morrison

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In our recent podcast, Jeff Brown, Director of Education at the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI), chatted with Hunter Morrison, Technical Director at AWI, about the new AWI Standard ANSI/AWI 0641 – Architectural Wood Casework.

In this accompanying blog post, we break down the standard’s five main sections: Purpose, Scope, Material, Structural, and Aesthetic.

1.0 Purpose and 2.0 Scope

ANSI/AWI 0641 provides standards and tolerances for the quality and fit of architectural wood casework. It establishes minimum aesthetic and performance requirements that permit a well-defined degree of control over a project’s quality of materials and workmanship.

In terms of this standard, the scope of “wood casework” follows CSI MasterFormat Divisions, in which Section 06 41 00 is titled Architectural Wood Casework. This section is further subdivided into:

  • 06 41 13 Wood Veneer Faced Architectural Cabinets
  • 06 41 16 Plastic Laminate Clad Architectural Cabinets
  • 06 41 93 Cabinet and Drawer Hardware

3.0 Requirements

3.2 Material

Section 3.2 of ANSI/AWI 0641 is titled Material. However, the materials used to construct a product covered within the scope of this standard must actually adhere to AWI 300 – Materials for its specified aesthetic grade.

“The AWI 300 standard works in tandem with 0641,” Hunter explains. “You’ll have to reference two standards to construct a finished product under the Architectural Wood Casework standard.” This is similar to how multiple sections in the AWS 2nd Edition were referenced at the same time.

The Material section of 0641 defines some material requirements specific to the different components that make up a cabinet. For example, the Toe Kicks, Bases, Sleepers, and Levelers section requires materials to be a minimum 11/16th thick with a minimum finished-to-installed height of four inches. Whether that material is MDF, particleboard, veneer-core plywood, or otherwise would be further defined later in this section or found with reference to AWI 300.

Hunter sums up the Material section of 0641 like so: “Typically, AWI 300 is going to define the material requirement. Then, the Material section of 0641 further defines any product-specific requirements.”

3.3 Structural

While section 3.4 Aesthetic will be familiar to anyone who has used AWI Standards in the past, the Structural section is a new addition to ANSI/AWI 0641. “Historically, AWI established prescriptive requirements for the structural performance of a product,” Hunter explains. “This was basically a list of options and criteria that a manufacturer needed to meet in order to comply with the standard. But ANSI/AWI 0641 introduces a performance-based structural requirement.”

To comply with ANSI/AWI 0641, products must now be tested to one of four performance Duty Levels:

  • Duty Level 1: For casework with light commercial applications
  • Duty Level 2: For casework with regular commercial applications 
  • Duty Level 3: For casework with institutional applications (default performance standard)
  • Duty Level 4: For casework with laboratory applications (highest structural performance standard)

A product’s Duty Level is determined by the lowest tested value derived from the test methods. If the cabinet body construction meets Duty Level 4 but the shelf suspension system meets Duty Level 2, the overall assembled final product would be rated at Duty Level 2. But if both were tested to Duty Level 4, the overall assembled product would be Duty Level 4.

If a product fails to meet the requirements for its specified Duty Level, you have three options:

  • Make adjustments and have the product retested
  • Submit the product for testing against a different Duty Level
  • Follow the audit process for an AWI Construction Library method.

All construction professionals should note, however, that the load values that determine performance Duty Level don’t suggest normal service loads. Instead, these values are used to determine a baseline performance criteria for the cabinet. This helps an architect, designer, or specifier determine whether the cabinet will meet the needs of the project under the circumstances the end user will require.

3.4 Aesthetic

Similar its predecessor, AWS Section 10 – Casework, ANSI/AWI 0641 continues to categorize architectural wood casework in three aesthetic grades:

  • Premium (the highest)
  • Custom (default unless otherwise specified)
  • Economy (the lowest)

However, that doesn’t mean Economy woodwork is low quality. As Hunter puts it: “It just means it’s going to use lower grades of materials. Typically, there’s going to be more allowances for natural characteristics to be present within the materials used.”

In the Aesthetic section are familiar requirements for doors, drawers, shelves, dividers, and other cabinet components, as well as some materials. This tells you if the interior of the cabinet needs to be TFL, or if it needs to be a material that matches the exterior of the cabinet.

There are also requirements for when and how grain needs to be vertically matched through the product, or if it’s allowed to run horizontally. Similarly, this section features requirements for doors, drawers, and edge banding, as well as tolerances for gaps and flushness between different components.

4.0 Figures/Illustrations and 5.0 Supplemental Information

To provide a visual aid for the requirements of ANSI/AWI 0641, the standard features various figures and illustrations. In the online version, these appear in the body of the standard. In the hard copy version, you’ll find them toward the end in their own dedicated section.

The final section, Supplemental Information, contains a glossary of AWI terms. This helps readers understand certain definitions that AWI used when writing the standards.

Within this section, readers will also find the heading Design Professional Responsibilities. “This isn’t necessarily a fully comprehensive list of what the design professional is responsible for,” Hunter explains. “It discusses items that are important to the standard and more specifically how the product gets manufactured. It then clarifies what the design professional is responsible for and why it wasn’t a requirement of the standard elsewhere.”

For example, if a cabinet requires glass doors or glass shelving, this section states that specifying the glass type, thickness, and edge treatment is the responsibility of the design professional. It also includes grain direction (if vertical isn’t specified), and any special requirements such as seismic fabrication, flame spread rating, or moisture resistance.

Jeff neatly describes this additional information as: “an overview of things that don’t fall under a specific category in the standard but are essential to project success.”

Read our guide to the AWI Standards of architectural woodwork to find out more about ANSI/AWI 0641 – Architectural Wood Casework and other woodworking standards.

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