Up Front: Alpha Dogs
I was raised in the construction industry and surrounded by men whose handshake was their bond. As a young buck, I looked up to these men. These men were raised through the Depression era and survived wars in Europe and Korea. They were tough, hard-working and they don’t take bull from no one.
They were tough, hard-working and didn’t take bull from no one.
The toughest of these men went into construction; the toughest of the tough went on to become foremen and supervisors, even contractors. These men wouldn’t back down, quit or admit wrong-doing. They believed the only way to win was to be the alpha dog. This is how the construction industry was built and those in the power positions were raised that way, so it should not be surprising that this is the attitude that still permeates construction to this day.
NOT ONE SIDED
Many building inspectors and owner’s reps came from the field and have the alpha dog attitude. When two alpha dogs disagree, there will be fireworks. I have been in those fights, from each side and even as the neutral third-party playing referee. Having been on all sides at one time or another, I learned a few things about dealing with alpha dogs.
The inspector, consultant or owner’s representative is-and this will be hard to believe-not out to get you. They believe in what they say and what they “think” they know, and then are forced to back it up or back down.
My advice is do not confront or challenge their authority-you will likely lose. Ask for guidance, since you are confused, and ask if they are willing to review some data you recently read about. The “this-is-the-way-I-have-done-it-for-years” retort is not going to work and will have the exact opposite effect you desire. In addition, do not take a piece of literature that proves you’re right and shove it in his or her face to prove they’re an idiot. I did this in college to my professor. I proved I was right and he was wrong, in front of the whole class. That was the only architecture class I ever failed, and I wonder why.
INSPECTORS AND OWNER’S REPS
I know you have the power and can wield it when you want. But you have a responsibility to ensure the building gets built properly, safely and without costs escalating out of hand. I find the statement of “build it like the picture” just as offensive as the field guy who says “I have done it that way for years.”
I have been a field guy and built projects. I have been the architect and created details for the field to follow. I understand that “build it like the picture” is not always possible and certainly not always required. Consider the intent, function and purpose of the detail. A good example would be “nailing-off gypsum panels.” The picture shows the fasteners no less than 3/8 inch from the edge of the panel. I have seen both contractors and inspectors be utterly ridiculous and then dig their heels in and refuse to be reasonable.
Example one:The predominant number of screws are so close to the edge with face paper torn, the gypsum core is crushed and the contractor blatantly cannot see or be willing to admit he made a mistake.
Example two:The inspector is on-site with a measuring tape and rejecting screws that are 1/8 inch away from perfect and looking for any slight sign of the start of a paper tear with a magnifying glass. Maybe he or she finds two screws out of perfection, thus the system is rejected.
Both sides are wrong and when these alpha dogs meet, the showdown can start. We don’t need a tape measure to inspect properly attached gypsum panels or to measure the edge spacing. We should be looking for a well-attached panel. A “few” random screws that broke the paper-face or spacing that is not perfect does not violate the intent of a properly installed system. It may violate a “perfectly” installed system but perfection is not reasonable and the code does not demand perfection. I have signed my name to reports accepting panels that do not meet the “build it like the picture” statement. I have also made contractors tear it off when it failed to meet the “intent” of the design. I did not care if he or she had always done it that way. What I believe we should ask ourselves is, “Will the assembly function as intended by the code?”
Let’s all of us, contractor and inspector, try to leave the alpha dog mentally at the door. W&C