New Standards for Architectural Woodwork (AWI)

By Julia Hall, CSI, Member Emeritus, CCCA, CDT posted 07-26-2019 13:52


The familiar Architectural Woodwork Standard, published by the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI) has been a valued resource for designers for decades. Why would they decide to change a good thing? 

The original AWS standard was generally based on the combined experience of fabricators, but without any objective criteria.  In contrast, the AWI technical committee has been re-evaluating the material, eliminating prescriptive requirements where possible in favor of performance standards.  The approval process of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provides another layer of assessment, with input from diverse stakeholders, including fabricators, designers, and users.

In order to test the structural integrity of casework, AWI built its own ISO 17025 accredited laboratory and developed a set of protocols for evaluating the durability of casework.

AWI is transitioning to a “suite” of related ANSI standards to replace the old AWS book. The following ANSI standards took effect on March 15 of this year, replacing the corresponding sections of the AWS.

  • ANSI/AWI 100 – Submittals
  • ANSI/AWI 200 – Care and Storage
  • ANSI/AWI 300 – Materials
  • ANSI/AWI 0620 – Finish Carpentry/Installation

ANSI/AWI 0641 Architectural Wood Casework has not yet been approved.  A draft is currently available for public comment at  The standard will give the fabricator more flexibility to use new techniques and devices while assuring the consumer that the cabinets will perform as well, or better, than the older prescribed methods.

The most significant change, in terms of specification writing, is the creation of two metrics, an aesthetic grade and a performance duty level. Aesthetics grades will continue to be defined as economy, custom, or premium.  Performance duty levels are defined as levels 1 through 4, with 4 as the strongest.  If not specified, custom grade, duty level 3 will be provided.  Fabricators may choose to have their cabinet joinery, materials, and component details tested in accordance with AWI defined methodology or defer to established AWI tested methods and materials. It should be noted that the loads used in testing are not recommended as normal in-service loading.

Also, there is a wealth of material in the AWS that is not actually a standard, per se.  AWI intends to move that information to a web-based platform, which will be able to take advantage of links, search functions, interactive display, and video.