The importance of being earnest

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC

A couple of months ago, in "Your slip is showing!", I mentioned that I had been specifying slip resistance for a very long time, but only recently became aware of a serious problem: Even though codes other regulations require a "slip-resistant" finish, there is no definition of what that means. I encountered a similar situation recently while reviewing the titles of the many standards cited in our specifications: I discovered that ANSI (the American National Standards Institute) produces no standards!

While looking up hardware standards, I saw reference standards with the number 115 in virtually every hardware and hollow metal specification I found. Sometimes the 115 was preceded with an A, other times not. But it's only one letter; what's the big deal if it has an A or not?

The reference numbers I found were inconsistent, so I set out to discover exactly which standard or standards were intended. As we so often find in the world of construction, there is a lack of consistency. I saw titles of some standards appear both with and without ANSI, titles that appear with only ANSI, and titles that have only a number, with no indication of the issuing organization. I found titles with different combinations of ANSI with another organization, and I found references to standards that have been withdrawn or replaced.

Many of these specifications referred to ANSI A115, but others, including manufacturers' guide specifications, refer simply to "ANSI 115", for what appeared to be the same standard. My first step was to visit the ANSI website, which allows a search of their records. I found no standard titled ANSI 115, but as I expanded my search I found references to several standards related to doors that include A115 in their titles.

• ANSI A115 Hardware Preparation in Steel Doors and Steel Frames
• ANSI/BHMA A156.115 Hardware Preparation in Steel Doors or Steel Frames
• ANSI/DASMA 115 Standard Method for Testing Garage Doors
• ANSI/DHI A115 Specifications for Hardware Preparations in Standard Steel Doors and Frames.
• ANSI/DHI A115.IG Installation Guide for Doors and Hardware
• ANSI/SDI A115.1 (no title specified)
• BHMA A115 Specifications for Steel Door and Frame Preparation for Hardware
• BHMA A115 Steel Door Preparation Standards

With the exception of the ANSI/DASMA standard, it appears all of these may be the same. Is it possible that they're all correct? The most interesting thing I learned was that ANSI does not produce standards. Rather, it accredits the procedures of organizations that develop standards, verifying that they meet certain requirements. During more than thirty years as an architect, I have seen countless standards with designations such as ANSI/ACI, ANSI/BHMA, ANSI/DASMA, and so on. I also have seen many standards that did not include ANSI in the title. My perception was that those standards with ANSI in the title were jointly issued by ANSI and the other organization, while those that did not include ANSI were issued solely by the indicated organization. And, because I saw many standards that included only ANSI, I assumed those standards were issued by ANSI.

My investigation revealed that references to standards are far too casual, and too often incorrect. However, despite the many incorrect titles used, it seems there have been few problems, probably because the people who write and use these sections are familiar with what's in the standards. Even so, manufacturers should cite only active standards, and use the proper titles and revision dates in their guide specifications and other publications.

One letter can make the difference between being Ernest, and merely being earnest.

© 2015, Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, CSC
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