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« ASHRAE Funds Research to Improve Building Maintenance, Operation Through Performance Data | Main | Design Master Unveils 3D-BIM Versions of HVAC, Electrical, Plumbing Programs »

03/24/2011

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"Specification" starts out with the word 'specific'. There's no substitute for taking a fresh look, even when the project is "just like the last one".

I've seen roofing specs listing as the sole manufacturer a company which has been out of roofing for 5 or more years.

Actually, it is not surprising. Many architects do not take the time to properly prepare specifications, with even fewer knowing how to properly prepare specifications.

As a specifications consultant, I was asked by a local architect to prepare specifications for an assisted living facility--no problem. As a "sample" of what they were looking for, they gave me a copy of the specifications from another of the developer's assisted living projects. It was probably one of the worst set of specifications I had ever seen.

- References to outdated standards.
- Poor specification language.
- Format was all over the board (I don't think there were more than two sections formatted the same).
- Paragraph numbering was horrendous. Articles within one of the 3 parts had the same number and paragraphs within the same article had the same letter.

etc. etc.

It was an owner/builder type delivery method, so the owner (i.e. developer) didn't really care about the specifications, but, in order to get the Federal funding, he needed them because HUD required it.

As an Architectural and Construction firm, we see both sides of the coin. The first thing any contractor should do is request clarification on the specification. If they draw attention to the issue, it should be clarified BEFORE their pricing is submitted.

We've seen all too often "specialists" writing technical specs that call for items that have no baring on what an Owner wants, thus increasing costs on projects inadvertently.

The problem with a copied set of specs, is only a problem if it was copied and not edited (by the designer who prepared the basis of design) to reflect the intended scope.

There's nothing more problematic than renovation work, and roofing has to be one of the most complicated to get right. Most of us use Masterspec, which tries to be all things to all projects. It takes the focus and time of an experienced specifier to make sure that office master specs and previous specs are edited correctly to reflect the what has to be constructed. There's a real temptation to use the last project's spec in the rush to get things done, but resist it at all costs. We often use the spec writing portion of the project as a quality control mechanism where the spec writer reviews the cd's and marks them up as the specs are written. As we like to say, you can solve construction and design problems in a nice warm office, or spend your time out on that hot/cold/windy roof trying to solve for something that shouldn't have been built.

As independent specifiers, we sometimes tell our clients that we would be willing to reuse specifications without changes from previous projects if they are willing to reuse drawings without changes from previous projects (of course there are architects who will try that).

Although we do a good deal of electronic cut-n-paste, almost every project has some little twist. And if the "original" spec is more than a couple of years old, we will most likely start from scratch. Even with some diligence, there will always be instances where a product was specified carefully, but when the contractor went to buy it out, it was no longer available or the warranty changes, or there have been changes in product fabrication/formula that make it no longer a viable product.

Owners don't understand that when they put projects on the shelf and pull them out 4 to 5 years latter, a careful review of the drawings and specifications will have to be performed. This sometimes results in significant changes being required. "But it's the same building!" OK, but the wind load increased, the energy code changed, and more restrictive VOC requirements are now in place. After all, you can't get a new car manufactured to the same specs in effect 5 years ago.

There is nothing worse than an Architect that is too arrogant to admit there is a problem with the specs they put out. Most of them don't even read them until there is a problem on the job. In prebid questions, the answer is more times than not, bid as specified or written.
Design teams like that do a dis- service to the Owner and if the Owner is the Government, a dis-service to the public.

Actually what is worse than "an Architect that is too arrogant to admit there is a problem with the specs" is the Contractor who didn't read the spec before getting a price and then wanting a change order to provide the specified item or insisting that the specified item is not available or available in time.

It's truly awing I like it for the better. It will truly aids me more. Great. Fantastic job.

As a designer whom works for a public agency and makes wide use of consultants, I deal with both sides of the coin. I don't know what irritates me more, consultants whom include voluminous copies of standard specifications that don't pertain to the job at all or the contractor whom apparently doesn't bother to read them. In either case jobs become more drawn out, more contentious and more of a cost in time and money to all involved, especially for the public. For a job we are working on right now, we have reviewed the consultant's specifications four times in attempts to have the specs tailored to the project. I have had architects include brick masonry specs in a job were there is no brick on the pretext "Well if we need to use brick, we have a spec for it." Go figure. Maybe contractors would read the specs if they were specific to the job.
My understnading is specs rule over details, which rules over plans. The reasoning being that specs what the designer (used
to) spend the most time on. Sadly this is not the case with the ease of electronic cut and paste.

The owner establishes the tone of the contract through the structure of the contract and the contract administration. When a poor specification is used, this encourages poor performance of all parties, and it generally proves difficult to hold the contractor to a high standard, even where it is attempted.

Quite often a contractor is incentivized to perform poorly, and then blamed for doing so.

Any owner that doesn't make every effort to incentivize good performance and disincentivize poor performance just may deserve what it gets.

Maybe we will begin to look at the incentive structures of construction contracts one day, but there is little sign of this in many parts of the industry today.

The standard design professional response is that the contractor is somehow obligated to vet their specifications for them.

However during the bidding process the bidding contractors have received no compensation and have no guarantee of such. To place the final responsibility for specification review on a contractor who most likely will not even be awarded a contract is ludicrous.

A design professional is paid to provide a buildable set of plans and specifications. A contractor is most times not compensated to bid said set of plans.

In a design assist method of delivery, I would agree that the contractor is responsible for the documents as well. However in a publicly bid plan spec environment it is not reasonable or appropriate to essentially expect the bidding contractors to insure the constructability of the bidding documents. That responsibility lies solely with the design professional who was compensated to produce the documents.

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There are indeed some companies that make use of a previously signed contract by just copying all the text including all the clauses in the contract and pasting them into a new document for a contract with another company. The necessary adjustments are then passed through the document, but there is a high risk that something can skip the attention of the preparer. It is not the first time that a contract goes out to Company X in the name of previous Company Y. This would show unprofessional behaviour by the issuer and may lead to serious consequences.

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