Understanding Specifications

Residential construction is the business of building and selling individual and multi-family dwellings. The market fragments into single unit, manufactured, duplex, quadplex, and apartments and condominiums. Manufactured housing further divides into mobile homes and pre-built houses. And tiny homes are coming into popularity.

Construction Industry communicators such as Project Owners and Service Providers such as architects, and designers must be specific about the work needed on a project. Poor communication results in huge delays, change orders, and increased costs. We are currently aware of three types of construction specifications to communicate project needs efficiently.

What are Construction Specifications (Specs)?

A detailed, exact statement of particulars, especially statements prescribing materials and methods; and quality of work for a specific project. The most common arrangement for specifications substantially parallels the CSI (Construction Specification Institute) format. The three types of construction specifications are prescriptive, performance, and proprietary.

Please let us know of any other types by contacting us

 Prescriptive Specifications

 Prescription Specs focus on the details for the types of materials used and the installation of said materials and give a better image of what the final product will look like compared to other specs. Prescriptive specs can be broken up into three separate parts: general, products, and execution.

General consists of information such as national quality standards, product handling, design requirements, and keeping quality control.

The Products phase will go over the different products necessary for each task as well as the individual performance levels of each product.

The Execution phase will go over how to prepare materials and installing them. This process also involves testing the quality of the materials and checking if they were installed correctly.

Performance Specifications

Performance Specifications set a means of measuring the final functionality and desired aesthetic values of the completed project.

The specifications include the operational requirements of the final installed materials and components for the projects outcome.

Basically, trusting the trade contractor’s experience to deliver an acceptable project.

For example, Performance Specifications for an office building may include the intended height and foot print of the building, the expected locations for utility connections, ceiling heights, desired interior and exterior finishes, and conceptual aesthetic values.

There are no directions on how to build the office building. It is up to the contractor to figure it out based on the performance specifications. But a General Contractor may want to prepare Prescriptive Specifications for their Sub Contractors.

This type of project requires more extensive inspections and testing to make sure the project meets operational and standards of the industry. And requiring shop drawings for various materials, equipment, and fixtures are recommended.

Since the contractor has to figure out what to do, decisions about materials and strategy move away from the architect and engineers and shift towards the contractor. And such projects can limit or eliminate change orders because the contractor has the lead.

Proprietary Specifications

Proprietary Specifications are used when you need to use a single type of product for any kind of installation.

These specs are the least commonly used of the three types of construction specifications because they are for jobs involving existing equipment and already completed installations. Project Owners use Proprietary Specs when they want consistency with their materials.

And Contractors use Proprietary specs when their section of the project is dependent upon the performance of a specific product.

Architects and engineers tend to avoid using Proprietary Specifications because they can lead to promoting a specific manufacturer. And favoring a manufacturer can discourage competition during the bid phase of the project, which may increase the total cost of the project.

Architects and engineers will generally give the contractor a list of reliable suppliers to prevent such favoritism.

Be as Specific as Possible:

Planning and composing specifications can be very time consuming and the more detail the better. It may seem overwhelming and tedious, but specs are an essential step/part of the construction documents. Without specs, you waste time and money trying to understand the project. The more time you spend detailing each step of the project, the more likely your vision for the project will be executed accurately.

You can upload your specs when posting projects on Constructionplace.com.


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