Answers for architects... from a spec writer

What ARE specifications?
Specifications are “that portion of the Contract Documents consisting of the written requirements for materials, equipment, systems, standards and workmanship for the Work, and performance of related services,” according to AIA Document A201-2007, the General Conditions of the Contract for Construction.  The technical specifications sections (Divisions 02 through 49) are a written description of the materials, products, and workmanship used to construct a building. The General Requirements, Division 01, are the requirements for administering and performing the work of constructing the building.

What is the Project Manual?
Divisions 01 through 49 plus Division 00 (the Procurement Requirements, such as Instructions to Bidders and Bid Form, and the Contracting Requirements, such as the Agreement, Bond Forms, General Conditions, Supplementary Conditions) make up the Project Manual.   

What is Division 01?
Division 01 expands upon the requirements in the Agreement and the Conditions of the Contract (General Conditions and Supplementary Conditions.) It specifies administrative requirements, procedural requirements, temporary facilities and controls, and performance requirements. Division 01 applies to all the technical sections in Divisions 02 through 49.   

What are the most important things for architects to remember about the specs?
Per AIA Document A201-2007, the Contract Documents “consist of the Agreement, Conditions of the Contract (General, Supplementary and other Conditions), Drawings, Specifications, Addenda issued prior to execution of the Contract, other documents listed in the Agreement and Modifications issued after execution of the Contract.” Specifications are part of the contract. 

AIA Document A201-2007 also says that “The intent of the Contract Documents is to include all items necessary for the proper execution and completion of the Work by the Contractor. The Contract Documents are complementary, and what is required by one shall be as binding as if required by all...” In other words, if it’s in the specs, it’s in the contract, just as much as it’s in the contract if it’s in the drawings.  

Unless the design team intends for something to be included by the contractor in the project, it shouldn’t be in the specs (or drawings). There shouldn't be a bunch of things in the specs “in case we need them” if we don’t actually intend for them to be in the project, because by doing that, we’ve taken the first step to our documents' not being taken seriously by the Contractor. If there is extra information in the specifications, the contractor will assume that the specifications are boilerplate specifications that are reused on all projects, and are not specific to the project, and will ignore all the specifications.

Also, the architect should enforce the provisions of the specs and the agreement and the conditions of the contract, or else these documents won’t be taken seriously. We have to say what we mean, and prove that we mean what we say.

Liz O'Sullivan Architecture, LLC - Architectural Specifications 

Check out the blog Comments from a Spec Writer for a spec writer's and architect's thoughts on current issues.

For general info on specifications, and info about CSI National, check out the Construction Specifications Institute.

Check out the Denver Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute.

For info on architecture, check out the American Institute of Architects.

For info on specifications consultants, check out Specifications Consultants in Independent Practice

Answers from a Spec Writer