The Match Game: Architectural Woodwork Standard’s “Checklist” for Wood Veneer Wall Paneling

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This Quality Review regular feature will strive to present woodwork-related technical topics of common interest and importance to the design community, general contractors, and the architectural woodwork industry.  

Inspectors for AWI’s Quality Certification Program (QCP) are privileged to see a very wide assortment of commercial and institutional construction as they assess conformance of those projects’ woodworking components with AWI Standards.

Many of these projects are plainly utilitarian in nature, and the scope of woodwork categories needed to achieve their intended purpose is correspondingly modest.

Then there are the peacocks.  These are the projects, which for any number of reasons, require prominent aesthetic features intended to evoke additional meaning or emotion in the building’s users as they go about their business.  Among the many decorative elements deployed by architects to achieve this result, decorative wood veneer wall and ceiling surfacing is of course one of the most time-tested and evocative.  And although it can appear elegantly simple once installed, highly matched veneer panels are in fact typically one of the most complex items in the architectural woodwork universe.  There is a long list of material, veneer matching, and engineering parameters which must be accounted for in order to leave nothing to chance in the fabrication and installation of decorative wall paneling.  This is especially important for those projects which specify rigorous sequencing or (and perhaps end matching) of veneer over large areas.  Although not impossible, fixing an error or accidental damage in a sequenced panel elevation can be harrowing for an architectural woodwork firm, since a highly figured veneer leaf shares an important property with a snow flake: no two are alike.  Achieving an acceptable fix for a compromised panel can be time consuming and expensive.

Because aesthetics is the raison d’etre for wood paneling, it sometimes is more heavily detailed by architects and specifiers than some other categories of woodwork.  If the architect has also designated the Architectural Woodwork Standards, Edition 2 (2014)—current AWI recognized Standard—as the contract documents’ required reference standard, that can serve as a safety net by providing a rule for the woodworker to follow in lieu of any particular paneling detail which may have been omitted from specifications (for example, whether the leaf arrangement within a single panel is based on a “running” or “balance” match).  As the AWS states in its Section 8 (“Wall/Ceiling Surfacing”), unless the project’s contract documents require otherwise, the applicable AWS rules govern.

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