Recently I traveled to Merchants Fixture in Ashland, Virginia, a casework and millwork manufacturer which several months earlier had applied for Quality Certification Program (QCP) licensing, and was now ready for the required inspection of its work samples and facilities. During my visit, Vice President (and QCP Liaison) Brandon Wright explained that since the company’s establishment in 1978, its bread and butter had been the design of retail, fast food, and other commercial interiors. He described how Merchants began fabricating its own casework in 1984, after clients expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of fixtures generally available to them.
Taking advantage of the fabrication and installation prowess it has since developed, Merchants Fixture has become increasingly active in areas of the architectural woodwork market which are typically less modular in nature, and often specify AWI Standards. As part of its systematic effort to compete in that environment, the company applied for QCP licensing. During that process, Merchants became aware that QCP also offered an “Individual Drafting Accreditation” (IDA) program designed to give woodwork industry engineers and drafters a working knowledge of current AWI Standards, including those for shop drawings. As AWI Standards became a more frequent requirement for projects which Merchants was pursuing, company drafter Brandon Gomez was asked to take on the challenge of diving into the Architectural Woodwork Standards(AWS), and becoming QCP licensed. (For an overview of the IDA, visit awiqcp.org/Home/DraftingAccreditation. He has completed the initial “learning modules” curriculum of the program, and is ready to take the final exam required prior to accreditation.
Brandon began his drafting career as a student at the Hermitage Technical Center, a public high school in Henrico County, Virginia whose mission is to “prepare the students to be contributors to a competitive workforce, which will be needed in the 21st century.” His two years of training there included participation in drafting-based competitions. After graduating from Hermitage, Brandon went on to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), where his continuing AutoCad training emphasized 3D modeling.
Merchants Fixture added Brandon to its staff shortly after he left VCU, and he spent his first year as a professional learning the construction details and terminology which comprise the content of architectural woodworking. In 2017, he was assigned his first project which required conformance to AWI Standards, and for the first time, his drafting required referring to the AWS. The resulting drawing details were incorporated into a Microvellum library for future use. Brandon noted that this ongoing process “is a lot of work, but once we have everything set up in the computer, in spec groups and so on, it will become much easier”.
Commenting on how the IDA curriculum benefits his approach to drafting and the company’s awareness of the Architectural Woodwork Standards, Brandon said, “I like how AWI formats its drawings. There is a lot of detail, providing all the information that is needed over the course of project, including for installation, when that’s required. The formatting includes basic information that some of us previously never added to our drawings. I like it.”
Brandon also believes that his contact with the IDA curriculum has been beneficial to his personal drafting skills and the company’s drafting procedures. “AWI formatting definitely opens up my eyes when I am laying out all the required information in paper space. Looking at examples of AWI drawings shows me how I can become more organized and consistent when putting the various view types on the sheet, with the floor plan at the top, section views at the bottom, and so on. Before, organizing that information was different from job to job. AWI formatting is the same for every job, and that’s what I like. We are now consistent in how information is laid out on paper.”
Brandon has promised to check in with Quality Times after completing his final IDA test. We wish him good luck!