Performance Standards vs. Product Specifications
Facility engineering design is a complex process. Therefore, A/E firms must consider different factors to ensure the safety, efficiency, and functionality of the design and construction of a building. Given this, performance standards and product specifications are two essential factors architects and engineers consider. These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct differences. Moreover, when stakeholders understand the difference between industry performance standards and product specifications a facility can better meet building code standards.
What are Industry Performance Standards?
Industry performance standards define acceptable performance levels for a product or process. They are guidelines established to ensure that buildings and building systems are safe to occupy, operate, work, and live in. In addition, they ensure buildings are energy efficient and sustainable. Industry organizations develop performance standards based on extensive research and testing. They cover different aspects of facility engineering design, including structural integrity, fire safety, accessibility, and energy efficiency.
Likewise, industry performance standards outline the minimum requirements building products must meet before architects and engineers can incorporate them into a design. The International Code Council (ICC) codes are a series of code books adopted as part of the law in most cities and states. These codes reference many of these standards. As a result, these standards are often legally binding. Consequently, architects, engineers, and construction contractors can face significant liability when not following these standards during the design and construction of a facility.
Examples of Industry Performance Standards
For example, industry performance standards typically used in design and construction are:
- Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) provides performance criteria and certification for HVAC and refrigeration equipment;
- Acoustical Society of America (ASA) develops standards for acoustic-related products and noise levels within facilities;
- American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) sets standards for products utilized by civil engineers;
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) develops mechanical engineering standards for the design, construction, and testing of mechanical devices;
- American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) develops technical standards for procedures, testing, and classification of various materials;
- International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) develops standards focused on plumbing products;
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) develops standards relating to electronic products;
- National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) develops standards to minimize the risk and effects of fire by establishing criteria for building, processing, design, service, and installation;
- Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) develops standards used to test and assess components, materials, systems, and products;
What are Product Specifications?
On the other hand, product specifications are created for the consumer. The product developer provides a detailed description of the specifications for the construction, installation, and use of the product. Also, product specifications outline specific necessities, including size, shape, dimensions, and performance characteristics.
However, it is critical that stakeholders understand product specifications are not mandated to comply with local building codes nor applicable industry performance standards. As a result, architects, engineers, and construction contractors must evaluate product specifications concerning code compliance before incorporating products and materials into design or construction.
Industry Performance Standards Vs. Product Specifications in Facility Engineering Design
Considering this, industry performance standards and product specifications are essential in facility engineering design but are not yet required to serve the same purpose. Organizations, like those mentioned above, established industry performance standards to complement building codes and ensure occupant safety. At a minimum, product specifications inform the consumer of requirements for installing, operating, and maintaining a product. They are not mandated to comply with building codes. However, a well-written product specification will reference the industry performance standards the product meets. As a result, these products can be relied upon for safety and efficiency.
Over time, the difference from performance standards will be more recognizable as product specification standardization grows. Until then, it is good practice for architects, engineers, and construction contractors to evaluate code compliance for all products specified in design or used in construction.
To learn more about A/E services read How Architecture and Engineering Services Ensure Real Estate Development Success.