By: Adam R. McManus

A specifier for an exterior building restoration project is likely to include several proven products and product systems that are similar in quality and cost. What differentiates one product from another may be technical representation, well executed mock-ups and review of similar projects with successful outcomes. Some material mock-ups may be created after a project is under contract, since the installation may be quickly executed. When the selection of a product manufacturer is reliant on a performance review of a product mock-up installed on a specific structure, it may be valuable to install material mock-ups before the restoration project is competitively bid out.

What factors determine which product to use?

In the early planning stages of a restoration project, it may not be clear which product repair system is best suited for the structure. Exterior restoration projects typically involve the selective repair and replacement of deteriorated building elements that are directly exposed to weather. The following are factors that influence product selection: product lifespan, lifecycle cost, project scale, system complexity, market reputation, designer/specifier preference, manufacturer representation and technical support, product availability, lead time for ordering material, available certified installers, etc. Sorting through the reasons for selecting a product system can be based on an organized and intentional product comparison effort to select the most suitable system.

How may cost impact the product selection?

Product/system cost is largely based on the material and labor required for installation, along with mobilization costs. High quality products may have larger upfront costs, but the durability may extend the product lifespan and overall value. A lesser product with a shorter life expectancy may require a subsequent restoration effort. This may exceed the lifecycle costs of a premium product with a longer life expectancy. In order to plan for cyclical capital improvements, Owners should determine the lifecycle costs involved with a comprehensive restoration project.

Why install product/product system mock-ups?

Static product comparison mock-ups are often installed to compare and choose the most aesthetically pleasing match to a building facade feature. Other product comparison mock-ups are installed to test their functionality, i.e. how they endure pedestrian or vehicular traffic. A  project plan should always factor in periods of time to test products in place and monitor their performance through weathering and traffic use.

Where should product mock-ups be installed?

The location of a mock-up should be selected based on product system’s purpose. To ensure that a material mock-up matches the existing color and texture of an existing element on a structure, it may need to be exposed to direct light and weather over an extended time period. If the performance of a product is based on function such as pedestrian or vehicular traffic use, the mock-up(s) should be located at the most heavily used areas so that direct impact on the system can be monitored.

How many product mockups should be installed?

Since a mock-up may serve different purposes, the number of mock-ups should be determined based on the intent of the product comparison. Due to the quick turnaround, accepting or rejecting a product based on color or texture might not require the comparison of many materials, and therefore, may only take a couple of days. However, if the mockup needs to be evaluated under certain conditions over the course of several months, a full range should be installed, as seen in the photo at the beginning of this article (direct-to-deck material mock-ups at a parking structure).

Who should install the product mock-ups?

A certified installer that is recommended by the product manufacturer is a prudent choice. If there are multiple products, it is beneficial to have one installer that is certified in all products to simplify the process. A manufacturer’s technical representative should also participate in the mock-up phase to provide the product assembly components and guidance in the application of the materials at the time of installation.

Is there a way to verify product system success with similar projects?

Visiting completed projects offers the owner and designer an opportunity to observe the condition of the product systems during various periods of the product’s lifecycle. This can shed light on any deficiencies, weaknesses or craftsmanship issues associated with the product system, as well as confirm its durability and its possible advantages over reputable competing products.

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