Cooke Brothers News

Nov 15, 2008

Letter to the editor Pennywise, pound foolish - Counting the true cost of under specification.

Architectural Ironmonger Journal

Whilst recent legislation and development of standards has helped, there are still too many new buildings being completed with under-specified hardware. This is leaving a cost time bomb for future generations to incur.

The problem is not easy to detect, as to the unwary buyer one piece of architectural ironmongery can look virtually identical to another, leaving the purchaser with the mistaken belief that he has just made a shrewd purchase and saved up to 50% on the ironmongery bill. But for every £100 of saving he may have thought he has made, he may instead have cost the future owner of the building over 10 times as much in replacement costs.

Take for example our own sphere of expertise, that of hinge manufacture. An incorrectly specified and inadequate hinge will start to fail from day one, although that failure is rarely sudden or catastrophic. Failure is progressive, starting with a small amount of wear, but building up to rapid grinding away of the bearing surfaces with every swing of the door. The initial impact is usually only visual or audible, the hinges look in poor condition or squeak but the door action is broadly unimpaired. As the wear increases, other ironmongery items are unable to perform their function correctly and start to fail.

Take a door that has dropped 5mm. The hinge still works, but the door starts to bind on the floor covering, putting excess strain on the door closer, which no longer has the power to close the door. Handles become roughly treated and fail, and the door, if a fire door, will no longer deliver that essential requirement.

With construction costs and land prices having risen sharply in recent years, and prime development land regularly costing over £1m per acre, developers may feel that sourcing cheaper ironmongery is a way of clawing back some of that cost, but can they really afford to do so. Whether your role is as architect, contractor, ironmonger, supplier or development owner, the one thing that everyone has in common is a desire for each creation to continue to impress for many decades, and ideally centuries, into the future.

Surely it is better to risk over specification and know that the ironmongery will outlast the building, than under specify and risk not just expensive replacement costs, but your reputation.

Philip Cooke - Managing Director
Cooke Brothers Ltd