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Posts Tagged ‘writing specifications’

The Specification Writer: An Indispensable Part of Construction Document Quality Control

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

   

Thursday, May 10, 2012

By: Scott Mize, CSI, CCS

The overwhelming majority of architects are visual people, so they naturally tend to focus on the visual aspect of construction documents: the drawings. It’s also entirely possible to create a beautiful, well-organized and internally consistent set of drawings that still omit crucial information.

Drawings show shape, form, location, dimensions, relationships, connections, and quantities. Drawings seldom – if ever – contain adequate information about material characteristics, product features, component parts, reference standards, performance requirements, testing, inspection, storage, handling, installation, sequencing, warranties, payment arrangements, resolution of conflicts, etc. Even if the specification writer has an excellent working relationship with his or her colleagues and even if the channels of communication are wide open with a high signal-to-noise ratio, the specification writer has to look at the drawings. The AIA “General Conditions of the Contract for Construction” states that the drawings and specifications are “complementary”; information should not be repeated between them, but each should reflect the other. The specification writer can refer to meeting minutes, emails, telephone records, in-house checklists and other documents, but in the end, he or she also has to go through the drawings and determine two things: (1) Is every specifiable material, product, system or work result shown on the drawings specified correctly in the project manual? (2) Is everything specified in the project manual appropriately and adequately shown on the drawings? While those decisions are part of the specification writer and architect’s professional judgment, BSD products like SpecLink-E and LinkMan-E can make the process and recordkeeping easier. SpecLink-E also makes storing your firm’s “corporate intelligence” easier and makes accessing it more user-friendly. SpecLink-E’s embedded intelligence helps guide the inexperienced specification writer through the process with optional checklists, notes, and links that activate necessary content and suggest related items. Those same features make the experienced specification writer much more productive and allow him or her to spend more time on research and decision-making and less time on formats, documenting decisions and coordination within the project manual. LinkMan-E allows the architect or specification writer to view and manage coordination between the Revit building information model and the SpecLink-E database in a single window and allows the selection of objects in the Revit model to automatically activate or suggest content in the SpecLink-E database. In many practices, the specifier’s drawing review becomes a kind of scavenger hunt. Working his or her way through a checklist or table of contents that becomes the skeleton of the project manual, the specifier thinks, “The meeting minutes indicate that the basement walls and foundations need below-grade waterproofing. Is the waterproofing shown in the basement wall sections? Do the drawings indicate what kind? Is it appropriate for the indicated use? Is it shown in the foundation details? Is it drawn and noted correctly? Are the accessory materials (drainage board, gravel, geotextile, perforated pipe, etc.) also shown?” If the answer to any of these questions is “no” or the question cannot be answered by―or reasonably inferred from―the information in the drawings, this should prompt a conversation between the specifier and the architect responsible for the drawings. The specifier just wants the information that is needed to write a clear, concise, correct and complete specification. If that information is not available or is not clear to the specifier, whom one assumes is familiar with the project, it definitely won’t be clear to a bidder, general contractor or subcontractor. So many times, the specifications writer is treated as an ‘outsider’ to the project team. Put that to work for you. If you’re preparing construction drawings, think of the specification writer as

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another layer of quality control. If you’re writing specifications, don’t hesitate to point out ALL the ways you contribute to the project team. And, if you wear both “hats,” be thankful for the opportunity to keep yourself honest.  

G. Scott Mize, CSI, CCS

Specifications Writer

Building Systems Design, Inc.

smize@bsdsoftlink.com

The Importance of the Conditions of the Contract

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

By: Scott Mize, CSI, CCS

Jerry Seinfeld used to do a standup routine where he talks about the board games we played as children.

He asks us to remember that the rules to the game were often printed on the inside of the box lid. He then asks us to recall that there always seemed to be one kid that knew the rules better than everyone else and to whom everyone turned to resolve the inevitable disputes.

Then, the punchline: “Those kids were the ones who became lawyers. Lawyers are the only ones who’ve read the inside of the box lid!”

I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve spent twenty years writing the technical and administrative parts of architectural/engineering construction documents and administering construction contracts. It amazed me how regularly design professionals signed contracts committing them to specific deliverables, to considerable administrative obligations and exposing them to significant liability without reading the entire “inside of the box lid.”

Design professionals are like doctors in the sense that they usually receive little or no training in the business side of their profession. Many don’t want to be bothered with (or have an active dislike for) the business aspect of their practice. As long as there is money coming in, they want to focus on design or diagnosis or whatever problem-solving activity drew them to the profession in the first place.

Also, in design firms of a certain size, the people who sign the contracts are not the people who do the designing and the designers are not the people who write the specifications or

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administer the contract once the documents are complete.

Since I had to understand the conditions of the contract in order to write legally enforceable documents that would be appended to said contract, it often fell to me to explain the finer (and sometimes not-so-fine) points of the architect’s obligations to them after the fact. I also found myself explaining some of the other parties’ obligations as well.

It’s hard to fulfill one’s obligations without giving away free work or assuming unnecessary risk if one doesn’t know exactly what those obligations are. One also can’t hold another party’s feet to the fire if one doesn’t know exactly what they owe you.

It also often fell to me to find the metaphorical hook upon which the design professional could hang his metaphorical hat when an error, omission or dispute arose and it was time to assign responsibility for the resulting claims of additional time and expense.

Knowing what’s in the contract is key to the success of the project team. The specifier is often in a unique position to know these things because writing clear, concise, correct and complete specifications requires it.

Writing technical specifications for materials, products, systems and work results is only part of the specifier’s job. The specifier has to make sure that all the technical information meshes with the contractual and administrative information. (The “tower of power” diagram on p. 220 of the current CSI Project Delivery Practice Guide shows the relationships between these documents in easily-understood visual form.)

So, read the “inside of the box lid” and know it well. Your project delivery team depends on it!

 

G. Scott Mize, CSI, CCS

Specifications Writer

Building Systems Design, Inc.

smize@bsdsoftlink.com

 

 

Stop by our booth #2015 at the 2012 AIA trade show

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

AIA 2012 National Convention and Design Exposition

May 17 – May 19, 2012

 

Walter E. Washington Convention Center

801 Mt Vernon Pl NW

Washington, D.C.

Booth #2015


The AIA Convention is the preeminent education and networking gathering in the design and construction industry. As the largest single gathering of architects in America, the AIA Convention will provide indispensable world-class education, peer recognition, and ready access to the most comprehensive assembly of design and construction products and services in the world. BSD will be there demonstrating our full line of software products, all designed to share information with each other. Click here to read about BSD at the 2011 AIA Convention.

When the exhibits open on May 17, be sure to stop by the BSD booth #2015 where you can see a demonstration of our innovative software products or chat with a product consultant about how our automation tools can help you. For more information on AIA 2012 National Convention and Design Exposition, click here.

How will BIM and the trend toward interoperability affect independent spec writers?

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
By: Rob Dean, AIA, CSI, CCS

 

 

 

New tools now make it possible for an outside spec writer to prepare better coordinated specifications for multiple clients who are using Autodesk’s Revit software.

BSD SpecLink-E and its interoperability add-on, BSD LinkMan-E, can be used in-house, but these software tools can also be used by outside specifications consultants. BSD LinkMan-E connects Revit projects with corresponding specifications in BSD SpecLink-E and can even “drive” the specifications automatically by selecting appropriate spec sections and individual product paragraphs, based on the elements included in the Revit model.

If independent spec writers install a free, demo copy of Revit, they can connect a copy of the architect client’s Revit model and the corresponding BSD SpecLink-E specifications to BSD LinkMan-E, to achieve better, more automated coordination. They can easily find discrepancies between the Revit model and the specifications and can automatically “turn on” any missing product information in the specifications.

If the architect client makes use of keynotes, the independent spec writer can also use BSD LinkMan-E to produce a coordinated set of keynotes that match the Revit elements with the appropriate specification sections. This file can easily be sent to the client via email for the architect’s use in keynoting the Revit project.

By taking advantage of the many productivity features of BSD SpecLink-E and BSD LinkMan-E, it is now possible for independent specifications experts to participate actively in the BIM revolution and to benefit from it. Their architect clients also benefit from specifications that are better coordinated with their drawings and produced in less time.

Rob Dean, AIA, CSI, CCS
President
Building Systems Design, Inc.

Why become a specification writer?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
By: Scott Mize, CSI, CCS

 


Specifications are an integral – and required! – part of every set of construction contract documents.  The specifier plays an essential role in the selection of building materials and systems as well as an essential role in documenting the architect’s design intent.

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