FF&E stands for furniture, fixtures and equipment. FF&E should meet life safety codes and standards such as for flammability, toxicity, and slip resistance
Just like an iceberg, there's much more to FF&E than meets the eye. Besides, aesthetics, FF&E involves a lot of technical and legal issues, such as flammability and code requirements. It's an important part of both the IDFX and IPDX exams:
Content Area 4. Furniture, Finishes, Equipment and Lighting 15 Items – 15%
- Life safety (e.g., flammability, toxicity, slip resistance)
- Wall treatments
- Floor coverings
- Ceiling treatments
- Window treatments
- Lighting (e.g., light sources, fixtures, calculations, distribution color rendering)
- Furniture and equipment (e.g., types, uses, space needs)
Content Area 4. Product and Material Coordination 21 Items – 14%
- Cost estimating
- Product components (e.g., types, assembly, methods)
- Material detail drawings (e.g., custom products)
- Lead time (e.g., manufacturing time, delivery)
- Life safety (e.g., flammability, toxicity, slip resistance)
- Technical specifications
- Maintenance documents (e.g., warranties, manuals)
- Existing FF&E inventory documentation
- Procurement procedures (e.g., purchase orders, prepayment requirements)
Researching and sourcing FF&E information
When most people think about FF&E, they think of selecting furniture and materials. Selecting appropriate materials and finishes for a project requires considering more than aesthetics. Specifications should be durable, functional, and meet the sustainability, budgetary and life safety needs of the project. It all starts with research.
Researching and sourcing FF&E information can be a long process or quite simple, like finding a dealer who sells a particular model of table or a chair that meets a certain requirement, such as a flammability rating.
Researching requirements can include:
- Making an initial selection —Selections that meets the budgetary and design requirements is a good place to start.
- Industry standards — The designer should consider whether an item conforms to industry standards, and whether requirments are mandatory or optional, depending on the location of the project. One of the most widely recognized industry standard is BIFMA the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Association.
- Codes / regulations — There may be federal, state or local governance related to FF&E, such as flammability requirements.
- Sustainability — Many sustainable certifications such as LEED require that FF&E conform to minimum environmental standards.
- Samples / mock-ups — Actual samples or mock-ups may be provided by a vendor for final approval by the designer and client.
Information sources for FF&E are varied and include:
- Library at design firm
- Trade magazines
- Trade fairs
- Manufacturers, dealers & sales representatives
- Internet research
- Trade associations
Some of the FF&E types that you need to be most familiar with for the exam include:
Some of the criteria you'll need to consider when researching textiles include:
- Natural vs. synthetic fibers and their positive / negative attributes and applications
- Specialty fibers and their applications
- Abrasion resistance and the Wyzenbeek and Martindale tests
- Fade-Ometer test
- Crocking resistance test
- Familiarity with dimensional stability, pattern match, breathability, cushion types, and shrinking
Some of the criteria you'll need to consider when researching wall treatments include:
- Shades, blinds, soft window coverings and fixed window coverings; characteristics and operation
- Different types of drapery pleats
- Drapery fullness and stack back
Some of the FF&E specifications you'll need to know and look for when researching wall treatments include:
- Paint types and applications
- Commercial vinyl wallcovering types, standard widths and performing quantity calculations
- Fabric wallcovering
- Upholstered panels and appropriate materials
- Chemical resistance
- Cold-cracking and heat-aging resistance
Here are the components of flooring FF&E specifications you need to be familiar with:
- Flooring types including carpet, vinyl, stone, wood, tile
- Carpet quantity calculations
- Abrasion resistance and the Taber test
- Tile vitreosity and coefficient of friction
Life Safety and Flammability Testing
Flammability tests are vital to know for the exam. You'll need to know the material application, how tested and what results mean for each. Here are a few of the more important tests:
- Vertical ignition test
- Steiner tunnel test
- Cigarette ignition tests of furniture components and composites
- Full seating test
- Flooring Radiant Panel Test
- Methenamine pill test
- Standard Test Method for Specific Optical Density of Smoke Generated by Solid Materials
- Room Corner Test
- Woodwork flame-spread ratings
Some of the FF&E specifications you'll need to know and look for when researching architectural woodwork include:
- Millwork vs. finish carpentry
- Types of lumber and veneer cuts
- Identify different veneer cuts
- Types of laminate and substrates
- Standing vs. running trim
- Nominal versus actual dimensions
- Finish types
Drawings convey an interior designer's design intent. On larger projects, the drawing package includes furniture plans and design details for fabrication.
One example might be illustrating the design of each piece of custom casegoods or other FF&E for a hospitality project.
Furniture drawings or furniture plans show furniture locations. Depending on the complexity of the project, furniture may be indicated on its own plan or two plans.
One plan may show existing furniture being re-used and another shows new furniture. Sometimes furniture is shown on the power plan, to show the location of furniture as compared to outlets.
Furniture tags on the plan reference the furniture schedule or the furniture specifications.
Labeling may be added manually using AutoCAD or as part of the furniture object or block as in Revit.
For the NCIDQ Exam, know the difference between types of specifications. Know when each type is appropriate, based on the project requirements and bid process:
- Prescriptive specifications
- Performance specifications
- Proprietary specifications
- Base-bid / equal specifications
- Descriptive specifications
- Reference standard specifications
Cost estimating / budgeting
The FF&E budget is typically separate from the construction budget. The primary reason is the interior designer, not the contractor, handles the FF&E portion of the project.
There are some items that may overlap between the FF&E and construction budget. One example is appliances included in the FF&E budget, which are purchased by the contractor.
Deciding who purchases which items is critical to determine early-on in the project. Besides avoiding confusion, it will affect the budget pricing.
For example, a stove purchased by a contractor may be bought at wholesale cost, but charged as retail plus overhead and profit to the client. However, if a client intends on purchasing it themselves and coordinating delivery, the cost will obviously be lower.
FF&E items typically include:
- Free-standing equipment, such as copiers
- Window treatments
- Area rugs and entrance mats
- Floor and table lamps
- Plants and planters
- Decorative accessories
FF&E budgets include not only the cost of the items being purchased, but can also include:
- Professional fees (interior designer's services and consultation fees by other trades)
- Taxes, when applicable
- Moving costs
- Data/communication work
- Financing costs and cost of inflation
Cost estimating methods
There are several ways to approach estimating costs. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of accuracy and time involved. Some are better used during the beginning, middle, and end of a project. Here's some methods you'll need to be familiar with:
- Set fee — Client has a set budget for project, so the designer has to work “backwards” to fulfill the project requirements.
- Square footage — This is good for preliminary estimates only and relies on the designer's experience. The square footage of the project is multiplied by a identifier created by the designer that includes all the design elements condensed into a square foot cost.
- Parameter — An itemized budget that lists each component with a quantity, unit price and total price.
- Detailed quantity take-offs — Similar to the parameter method, but is a more precise budget determined by measuring the actual built space and multiplying that quantity by a unit price.
The Procurement Process
From PO's to prepayment requirements
You probably know that PO stands for purchase order. Depending on the client-designer agreement, goods are typically purchased in three different scenarios.
- Interior designer acts as a reseller of goods because he/she creates the PO, accepts delivery, coordinates the installation, collects money from the client, and pays the vendor.
- Interior designer acts as a purchasing agent on behalf of the client. He/she writes and submits the PO to the vendor, follows up on the order and coordinates delivery and installation.
- Interior designer acts as the owner's representative and gives the product specifications directly to a dealer or manufacturing rep, who then creates the PO, arranges delivery, and bills the client directly for payment.
Here are the basic procurement steps. You'll need to know the details of each.
- Before a PO is issued, the client is issued a sales agreement (sometimes called a contract proposal).
- After the sales agreement is signed a PO is issued to the vendor
- The vendor issues an acknowledgement (or confirmation) of the PO back to the designer. The designer must check all information on the acknowledgement for accuracy. It will show the quantity, description, stock status (or lead/production time), estimated shipping date, method of shipment and cost.
- After the goods ship, an invoice is sent to the designer (or person who ordered goods) for payment. Sometimes, goods are required to be paid in full prior to ordering. This is usually for designers who haven't established a long-standing credit line or history with a vendor.
Some additional terms you should be familiar with are: packing list, bill of lading, freight bill
UCC stands for the Uniform Commercial Code, and it sets rules for commerce within the US for items that are considered tangible and movable. The UCC code covers sales contracts, product liability, warranties, ownership of goods and risk. While the UCC is a federal governance, designers should also be aware of the state laws in his/her area.
The delivery of goods is regulated by both the UCC and the ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission). Here are some key points to know about delivery of goods:
- Common carriers — Offer delivery services to the public. Responsibility of goods is with title holder.
- Contract carriers — Have contracted delivery services only with particular companies.
- Private carriers — Own and operate their own trucks to move their own products. Responsibility of goods lies with the private carrier.
FOB stands for free on board. FOB is followed with another term denoting a location, like “factory” or a destination city or port, such as “Chicago terminal”. This means that the vendor loads it onto the mode of transportation (truck, train, etc.). The title, or ownership, of the goods will transfer to the buyer at the same location.
So, FOB factory means the title of the goods transfers to the buyer at the factory. What's important to know is the shipping costs and risks also transfer at that location. So, the buyer needs to be prepared to pay for the transportation and have the goods insured.
Some other related terms you'll need to know are: FOB factory freight prepaid and FOB destination
Production time and installation / product assembly
Production time is often referred to as lead time. It's the time it the vendor or manufacturer estimates it will take to make the product.
When a product isn't in stock, the PO should indicate the anticipated production / lead time. It's the designer's responsibility to ask whether the lead time estimate includes shipping time to the destination or not and also check periodically check on the order's status.
It is important to know whether products ordered for a project includes installation labor (not just delivery) in the cost – or if set-up is an additional paid service.
For example, if a designer anticipated the systems furniture ordered for a office project included assembly, and the furniture was found sitting in boxes on the job site, the entire project will jeopardized. Not only would additional funds need to be paid for assembly, the project schedule will likely be affected, not to mention a unhappy client.
For larger commercial interior design projects, there are usually specific responsibilities for the owner, vendor and interior designer, unless spelled out differently in the client-designer agreement.
Here's a common scenario of the responsibility delineations for a commercial furniture installation:
- Preliminary inspection of goods at job site.
- Perform an acceptance inspection after completion of installation. If defects are found, the owner must notify the vendor in writing.
- Prepare purchase orders based on designer's specifications
- Prepares order acknowledgements
- Supervise and pay for materials/labor associated with completion of work
- Warehouses goods between completion and installation (*if agreed on in contract documents)
- Accepts risk and loss of goods until owner acceptance or full payment received from buyer
- Delivery and installation, and testing of goods (if applicable)
- Rectifying any non-conforming or defective goods within 30 days
Interior designer's responsibilities:
Responsibilities can vary in specific contracts, but these are frequently acknowledged and used for both FF&E and construction contracts. These points are based on AIA Document A201 and include but aren't limited to:
- Acts as the owner's representative
- Assists owner in coordinating schedules for delivery and installation
- Can recommend the owner rejects non-conforming work
- Reviews shop drawings and submittals for conformance
- Prepares change orders for the owner to authorize and approve small change orders if they don't affect cost or delivery delay
Warranties / manuals
Operation and maintenance manuals with product warranties are delivered to the client. The interior designer is responsible for submitting them to the client as part of the project close-out phase.