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Nuts & Bolts of Hardware

Posted:  Feb 29, 2016
The world of architectural hardware has a lot of parallels in my mind to the wardrobe that leads to Narnia. I didn’t know it was there, even though it was essentially in front of my eyes the whole time, and it’s full of interesting and exciting characters that are opening my eyes up to how I’ve lived my own life.

This is only a slight exaggeration for effect.

My dad is an electrician and my in-laws have worked in the door hardware business ever since I’ve known them, so I was always aware that construction was an industry that existed and could be a career, but I didn’t think it was anything I could do.

Construction to me meant building things or, in the case of my in-laws, working for a company that provided products to construction workers.  There are so many more forces in play, though, that I feel slip under the radar of people who actually use and work in these buildings that my whole life now revolves around.

First – architects.  Yes, they draw plans.  I never knew who hired them or what exactly they did besides build balsa-wood models.  I always pictures them as the artistic types of romantic comedies, but they are a major player in the construction business.
Architects write up the blueprints and hardware schedules that literally make up that building.  This is where I come in.  My job is to help architects with the hardware schedules and with any other things they need while writing up the specifications and submittals for these buildings.  Coming into this field it was hard to believe that the entirety of a building is written, from scratch, on a piece of paper.  Surely it must be more complex than that – computer programs, lists of supplies for each stage.  Well, it’s complicated all right, and it’s all in one place.

General contractors – I had the vague idea that these guys are the actual construction crew.  I was right, but it is such a small part of the truth!  These guys have to big on jobs and get accepted by the building owners and architects.  There is a lot of relationship work that goes on here, and I’m impressed every time I see one of those panel vans that say “John Doe, General Contractor.” That guy is building a business from the ground up.  Is there anything more American than going to work for yourself and depending on your own hard work like that?

Distributors supply products to general contractors and develop relationships with architects to make sure their products are used in construction.  They work off the specification and hardware submittals to supply all the products for a building (obviously there are multiple distributors for every project – everything from door hardware to interior design).  This field is hugely specialized and enormous.  Drive through any industrial area in any city, and you’re looking at 90% distributors.  

Now enters the sales agencies.  They provide products to the distributors and as I already mentioned, support and resources to architects.  They can talk with general contractors about what’s needed on a project and any problems that may arise in installation or use.  

Of course, in a field with so much competition, the field is in constant motion regarding relationships between all these players.  Local codes and building standards that are constantly under review also make for a dynamic work place!

Meanwhile, the average joe sees on a construction crane on the horizon or a formerly empty lot being built up and thinks “huh, I wonder what that’s going to be.”  Little do they (or did I, a few months ago) know that behind the scenes is a dynamic world that employs so many hard working people

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