It Ain’t Your Father’s AWI Standard

By Wayne Hintz, QCP Representative

If you don’t live under a rock (or a hack of particle board), and you interact with AWI or its Quality Certification Program (QCP), you are probably aware that AWI is developing new standards, most of which are being created under the auspices of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).  Named simply “AWI Standards,” four of its eleven sections were released for industry use on March 15, 2019.  These include AWI 100 — SubmittalsAWI 200 — Care and StorageAWI 300 — Materials; and ANSI/AWI 0620-2018 — Finish Carpentry/Installation.  Those four sections of the new standard replaced corresponding sections in the Architectural Woodwork Standards, Edition 2 (AWS2), AWI’s previous standard since 2014. The balance of AWS2 sections that are “still standing” will remain in force until they too are “phased out” as additional sections from the new AWI Standards are released.  (Note: for projects bid prior to 03/15/19 which call for “current AWI Standards,” the entirety of AWS2 will apply.)

Recently, QCP’s contingent of field inspectors, along with senior QCP staff members, began a series of meetings in cyberspace to compare line-item differences between the four “active” sections of the new AWI Standards, and the corresponding portions of AWS2 which they replaced.  As might be expected, our comparison of these line items was a mixed bag, with some unchanged, and others revised, deleted, re-located, or completely new.  The good news is that so far, our findings seem to support AWI’s description of the new standard as “less prescriptive and less restrictive” than its predecessors.

However, taking this deep dive into some of the new standard’s content also began to reveal a separate and important fact about how the new standard will function as a document:  The “road map” required for successful navigation of the AWI Standards will be fundamentally different, and in some ways noticeably more complicated than that needed for previous standards.  Although I believe this to be a fair statement, it is not a criticism.  We are mindful that the constituent parts of the new standard developed organically out of both an evolving woodwork industry, and an effort to establish performance-based testing of products as an increasingly important alternative to prescriptive (i.e. dictated) requirements for conformance.  It should also be noted that developing a standard under the auspices of ANSI also introduces additional formatting considerations.

To me, one of the most notable aspects of using the AWI Standards is that they are  no longer “self-contained,” as previous standards have been.  With minor exceptions, the typical user of previous standards could find within “the book” every line item and requirement necessary to build, finish, and install products that conformed to AWI rules.  Whenever other specific industry standards were adapted for use by AWI, those “outside” standards would usually be partially or fully re-printed as necessary in the AWI Standard itself.  It was therefore generally not necessary to own or have access to the “outside” standard from which AWI was borrowing.  That is not always the case with the new AWI Standards (at least the sections released to date).  One of the best examples of this is the way AWI 300 — Materials treats information found in the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association’s (HPVA) HP-1 Standard.  Previously, in AWS2 Section 4 (Sheet Products), seven pages of HPVA’s “Allowable Wood Veneer Face Grade Characteristics” are fully reproduced, and another five pages of similar HPVA material is printed in AWS2 Section 9 (Doors).  By contrast, the AWI Standards do not reprint that material in AWI 300, and 3.3.1.a instead directs the user to a chart listing eight outside “reference standards,” including ANSI/HPVA HP-1.  The eight standards deal with everything from veneer to HPDL to hardboard.  The chart’s introduction states: “The standards referenced below, adopted for the performance, fabrication, and appearance of face veneers, laminates, overlays, backers, and cores, serve as the [AWI Standard’s] basis for evaluation of natural characteristics, defects, and other properties.”  That knowledge having been imparted, it is then up to the AWI Standard’s user to find and access these “outside” standards, if that happens to be a necessary component of AWI conformance for that user’s particular product or project.”  (Note: HPVA has been re-branded as the “Decorative Hardwoods Association.”  ANSI/HPVA HP-1-2016 (current) can be purchased from their bookstore at www.decorativehardwoods.org/products.)

The content of ANSI/AWI 0620-2018 — Finish Carpentry/Installation is another indication that the AWI Standard is no longer a self-contained collection of rules, but instead uses a “multi-polar” organization of conformance requirements.  The first requirement presented in ANSI/AWI 0620-2018 is 3.1.b:

“Installer shall obtain, review, and comply with manufacturer/supplier’s documented instructions for installation. Product shall be securely attached. Contract documents regarding installation method(s) shall supersede manufacturer/supplier’s directive unless design professional’s approval to deviate is provided in writing.”

Such manufacturer’s instructions could be fairly characterized as “Specifications Light,” since (like an architect’s specification) they prevail over any conflicting line items in ANSI-AWI 0620-2018.  Any installation requirements not provided by either the manufacturer or the architect must be found by the installer in ANSI/AWI 0620-2018, which covers all product categories.

If the product to be installed is casework, there is an additional consideration.  As with installation of other products covered by the standard, casework installation is subject to the general requirement that the installer obtain installation instructions from the manufacturer.  However, if casework installation instructions (in particular) are not provided to the installer, then the installer is subject to an additional requirement per 3.3.1.a:

“If the manufacturer/supplier does not provide such documented instructions for installation or if such instructions are not applicable to a particular job, installer shall refer to the AWI Casework Installation Guidelines –  (available for download at http://gotoawi.com/standards) and follow the installation method set forth in those guidelines. Installer shall not install a manufacturer/supplier’s casework in any manner prohibited by the manufacturer in its instructions.” [Editor’s Note: The specific “Installation Guideline” currently available at the link is “Installation Guidelines, Anchorge”]

The system of manufacturer-provided installation instructions has some interesting implications, especially for the Quality Certification Program.  But alas, that discussion is for another day.  However, don’t worry. The era of the new AWI Standards has just barely begun, and we will all be exploring its nooks and crannies for some time to come.  We would urge any QCP participants who have not already acquired the four standards described at the beginning of this article to do so at www.awinet.org/store.  The future has arrived!

Also peruse background information on the AWI Standards, their ongoing development, product testing, and AWI Technical Assistance at http://gotoawi.com/standards. Click here to read last quarter’s Tech Talk article regarding the new standard’s emphasis on product testing, and the AWI product testing laboratory.  That article also explains how to tell whether the new Standard applies to any project(s) your company may have under contract.

To read the full article, click here.