Building a High-Rise Fireproofing Estimate for Structural Fire Safety
Bidding tips for a successful installation!
By Jonathan Wohl and David Dal Pra
Constructing a high-rise building presents a unique set of challenges for every trade involved, including structural steel fireproofing. From fall protection to people and material movement, high-rise construction is unlike any other type of construction. Similar to all other projects, though, a good job starts with a good estimate.
The first items to review are any contract documents that may have been included in the bid package. These will detail specific project requirements such as safety programs, Owner Controlled Insurance Programs, project scheduling and insurance requirements. Any of these items can result in hidden costs that you must protect yourself against to ensure that the project is profitable.
After reviewing the project-specific requirements, it is important to carefully review
the project specifications. The specs are part of the construction documents, and set contract requirements. They are a wealth of information that with important material physical properties, material requirements, material finish, systems requirements including the need for mechanical attachments, and even specific UL designs to be utilized for fire resistance ratings. All of these items can be sources of additional costs for a contractor, that can turn a winning bid into a financial nightmare if they are overlooked!
With any trade, a good estimate requires a review of the architectural plans to become acquainted with any special requirements of the project such as construction phasing, and to get a better understanding of what the project will entail. Architectural drawings show what kind of fire-resistance ratings are required for the building, as well as special areas such as corridors, stairways, shafts and fuel storage rooms that may require additional fire protection. They also show important details that can help better qualify the scope of your work. A piece of steel that is encased in concrete, or fireproofed with intumescent paint/ coating or a sheetrock assembly, is a piece of steel that does not require spray-fire-resistive-material (SFRM) fireproofing!
UL SFRM Fireproofing System Design Selection
Each piece of steel structural member has its own material thickness of fireproofing applied, which is based on a UL tested and listed fireproofing design. Careful consideration should be placed on the utilization of UL system fireproofing designs to ensure that the selected design is applicable to the type of construction.
UL designs exist for all kinds of construction conditions, but are generally separated into letter groups indicating the type of construction they cover. For example, a D series design refers to a floor assembly, and an X or Y design refers to a column design. Floor and roof assemblies are further sub- divided into restrained and unrestrained conditions.
A thermally restrained condition is one where the floor or roof assembly will retain its structural integrity as the steel approaches average fire temperatures (1100° F).
The decision of whether an assembly is thermally restrained belongs to the architect or engineer, and if a structure is not specifically mentioned to the restrained by either person, then the conditions should be assumed to be unrestrained.
Restrained assemblies usually require less fireproofing material to provide the same hourly fire resistance rating. Once the proper UL fireproofing designs have been identified, they can be used to determine how much fireproofing material is necessary to provide the desired hourly rating on any piece of steel.
System Take Off
The next step in a fireproofing estimate is the review and take-off of the structural framing plans. Each piece of steel should have been carefully taken- off to properly quantify the amount of fireproofing material necessary to perform the work. While this process can be done manually, it is time-consuming and can easily be done just as accurately with computerized digitizer software. Once the quantities of steel and the necessary thicknesses have been determined, an accurate material cost and quantity assessment can be assembled.
Throughout the bidding, be sure to stay in touch with the client you are bidding to and submit RFIs (Requests For Information) to clarify the scope of work. This information is usually shared with all bidders which, if the other bidders are paying attention, allows for the purchaser to evaluate proposals based on the same scope.
The final step in project estimating is the responsibility of the person with the most experience. The “Chief Estimator” or “The Boss,” this person has the experience to apply time and motion studies, negotiate material pricing, and – based upon past performance – respect each project’s unique requirements, may assign the final productivities for the project. No responsible estimator should fall into the trap of cookie cutter estimating (price/bag or unit pricing based upon dollars per square foot.) These units should only be used as a final check. Every project is different and should be treated appropriately.
Once the pricing is complete, the proposal or bid form should be completed to the best of the estimator’s ability, based on the plans and specs. It may occur that when bid schedules are very tight, submission of every last item such as the labor rate sheets, or the equipment lists, etc. may not be required by the client. Most projects go through multiple rounds of bidding with follow up information allowed the next day. However, when it comes to ‘publicly funded project bidding, a lump sum amount and no discrepancies on the bid forms is not unusual– and deviation is likely reason for disqualification. Be sure to include a cover sheet on your company letter head that includes clarifications, exceptions, value engineering and, of course, the price in bold letters.
Here is a check list of items that may be included in your bid for the project. While this list is extensive, it is by no means complete. However, it is a good place to start in building your estimate:
- Engineering Costs/Project Management
- Masking Materials & Labor
- Tarping Labor & Materials
- Scaffolding/Man Lifts
- Bonding Agents – Application Labor & Equipment
- Mechanical Attachments – Application Labor & Equipment
- Materials & Freight
- Forklift, Pallet Jacks, Dollies
- Placement of Materials Labor (Offload)
- Fireproofing Crew Labor
- Fireproofing Equipment – Pumps, Mixers, Compressors, etc.
- Standpipes + Installation Labor
- Water Supply – Hoses, Meters, etc.
- Electric Panels, Pig Tails, Cables, Lighting, etc.
- Safety (PPE) Disposable Suits, Masks, Gloves, First Aid Kits
- “The Volley Ball Team” – Teamsters, Electricians, Plumbers, OP Engineers???
- Environmental Controls – Heating & Ventilation
- Special Insurance Considerations
- Surety Bonds
- Taxes, Capital Improvement, OCIP, CCIP, etc. 24. Allowances (ex, Patching)
In Fireproofing, just as in any other trade, the outcome of the project is set prior to the project award. By studying the plans and specifications, planning how the project would be constructed if awarded, and understanding the scope of work, success in the field can occur.
Often a part of the construction industry that is overlooked, estimating is a very important part of the building process. And, since each architectural design, project site, building team, is individually unique, the value of estimating is important to all...subcontractor, general contractor/construction manager, and building owner and manager.
Jonathan Wohl, U.L., DRI is Owner/Operator of Lawrence B. Wohl, Inc./Wohl Diversified Services. He is a board member of the National Fireproofing Contractors Association (NFCA) and BCA, and Vice President of PSFC of Greater New York. David Dal Pra, U.L., DRI is an Estimator with Lawrence B. Wohl, Inc./Wohl Diversified Services. http:// www/wohldiversified.com.