Thursday, May 10, 2012
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
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.