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Definition of Specifications

It is part of a design application, the specification is where the inventor specifies,

describes, illustrates, and discloses the invention in so much detail that an experienced* person
could understand and use that invention.

The description, together with the claims, is often referred to as the specification. As this word
suggests, these are the sections of the patent application where you specify what your
construction or process is and how it differs from previous designs and technology.

A specification is an important part of the design application and (later if granted) part of the
legal definition of your design. The specification must be described using clear details with full
disclosures about the invention. Drawings are included in the specification or be part of the
document as specification when required.

Drawings or technical drawings are visual diagrams of a design. Technical drawings are there to
offer understanding of how the design works and to point out what is novel or new about a
design. Special rules or regulation apply to the carried out the construction.

How to Write Specifications

Specifications are the written requirements for a material, product, or service for a
proposed project, like a building, bridge or machine. For architectural projects, the
specifications are part of the Contract Documents included with the bidding and construction
requirements and the drawings. This guide will cover what how to organize specifications, the
types of specification methods and specific type of language used for writing specifications.

Purpose of Specifications

Q Specifications should describe the type and quality of every product required for the
Q The specifications should describe the requirements for fabrication, erection,
application, installation and finishing.
Q Specifications should describe the quality of workmanship necessary for the project.
This includes all phases of creation and installation starting with manufacturing,
fabrication, and application, through installation, finishing and adjustment.
Q Specifications should include any necessary codes and standards applicable to the
Q The specifications should also include descriptions and procedures for alternate
materials, products or services if necessary.

Organization of the Project Manual

Contract Documents contain the bidding and construction requirements, drawings
and specifications. The project manual is the bound written portion of the Contract
Documents. The project manual is typically organized according to MasterFormat
. The
project manual contains the following elements:

Introductory Information
Title Page
Certifications Page
Table of Contents
Guide to Use of the Project Manual (used by many specifiers)

Bidding Requirements
Bid Solicitation: Advertisement/Invitation to Bid
Instructions to Bidders
Information Available to Bidders
Bid Forms and Supplements

Contracting Requirements
General Conditions of the Contract
Supplementary Conditions of the Contract
Bonds and Certificates

Division 01 General Requirements
Divisions 02 through 49 Technical Specifications

Appendices are not included in MasterFormat but they are useful for
including copies of information, reference documents, existing conditions
photographs or example forms for use in administration.

Organization of Specifications

It is important for the specifications section of the project manual to be arranged
in an orderly and comprehensive format. If the section is organized clearly and follows a
defined procedure it is less likely that the specifier will overlook or forget something. It
will also help the contractor, estimator, inspector, or other reviews find information more
SectionFormat is a nationally approved, industry-accepted standard that provides
a defined procedure for organization of the specifications section. It provides guidelines
for the arrangement of information within the technical section of specifications. The
concise orderly method reduces the chance for omissions or duplication of information

For more information about MasterFormat see Construction Specifications Writing Principles and Procedures by Harold J. Rosen.
and it assists users of the document by consistently locating similar information in the
same place in each Section. SectionFormat has three separate parts:

Part 1 General: This section describes administrative, procedural and
temporary requirements specific to this section of specifications.

Part 2 Products: This section describes, in detail, the materials,
products, equipment, systems or assemblies to be used in the project.

Part 3 Execution: This section describes, in detail, any preparatory
actions and how the products shall be incorporated into the project.

To go along with SectionFormat is PageFormat. PageFormat is a standardized
presentation of text for each page of a specification Section. It provides a concise and
orderly arrangement of Articles, Paragraphs and Subparagraphs and it addresses the
physical arrangement on the page, such as margins, indents, headers and footers. The
following list is the levels of organization for PageFormat:

PageFormat Levels

1.01 ARTICLE (Second Level)
A. Paragraph (Third Level)
1. Subparagraph (Fourth Level)
a. Subparagraph (Fifth Level)
1) Subparagraph (Sixth Level)

Types of Specifications

There are four methods of specifying. There is no defined rule for using one
method over another or about combining methods, but care should be taken to avoid
redundancy or contradictions. The four methods are:
Q Descriptive
Q Performance
Q Reference Standard
Q Proprietary

Descriptive Specifications

Under this method of specifying the exact properties of the materials and
methods of installation are described in detail without using proprietary or
manufacturer's names. Descriptive specifications are commonly used for
products for which no standards exist, on projects where using proprietary names
is restricted, and in situations where the Architect/Engineer want to exercise tight
control over the specified work. There are five steps for preparing descriptive

1. Research available products

2. Research the important features required for the product.

3. Determine which features to describe in the specification and
which features to show in the drawings.

4. Describe the important features.

5. Specify quality assurance measures (i.e. submittals, certifications,
testing or inspection activities)

Advantages to using descriptive specifications:
Q Descriptive specifications specify exactly what the design intends.
Q They are applicable to all conditions, methods or situations of a
Q They are applicable to all sizes and types of projects.
Q They permit free competition because they do not restrict the use
of specific products or manufacturers.

Disadvantages of descriptive specifications:
Q They require the specifier to take special care in describing the
design intent in order to achieve the desired results.
Q Descriptive specifications tend to take up more space because they
require more verbiage than other methods.
Q They may be more time consuming than other methods to create
and write.
Q They are being used less often as more complete reference
standards are being developed and implemented.

Performance Specifications

Under this method the required end results are specified along with the
criteria by which the performance will be judged and the method by which it can
be verified. The contractor is free to choose the materials and methods that
comply with the performance specification. They are generally used to encourage
the use of new and innovative techniques that may lead to more economical
construction. They are also used to supplement other specification methods.

Advantages to using performance specifications:
Q Only the end result or design intent is specified, this gives the
Contractor flexibility in selecting and applying products.
Q They permit free competition.
Q They can be applicable in all types and sizes of projects.
Q Performance specifications delegate the technical responsibilities
to the construction industry, where the Contractor instead of the
Architecture/Engineering firm is responsible for the results.

Disadvantages to using performance specifications:
Q They can be time consuming to produce and may result in long,
detailed specifications.
Q They are more difficult to enforce than other methods of
Q They may be too elaborate for simple or minor projects.
Q Performance specifications delegate the technical responsibilities
to the construction industry, where the Contractor instead of the
Architecture/Engineering firm is responsible for the results. (This
is both an advantage and disadvantage because it depends who
wants certain responsibilities and control.)

Reference Standard Specifications

Under this method reference is made to an established standard defined by
associations very knowledgeable about a certain part or phase of construction.
Reference standard specifications are used for "commodity" products in the
marketplace, where brand names are not important. Steps for preparing reference
standard specifications are:

1. The standard must be recognized as authoritative by the industry.

2. The standard must be available to all parties involved in the

3. The specifier must know the standard. Assure that the standard
relates to the current project and does not present duplicate or
conflicting information.

4. Establish a date of the standard.

5. Incorporate the standard correctly into the specifications.

6. Enforce the requirements of the standard.

Advantages to using reference standard specifications:
Q The standard is usually widely known and accepted by the
Q They do not limit competition.
Q They dramatically shorten the length of specifications.

Disadvantages to using reference standard specifications:
Q There may be no appropriate standard to reference, because
standards are written for the most commonly used and generally
available products.
Q Standards generally refer to the minimum requirements.
Q The standard may become obsolete or out-of-date, because of
advances and changes in technology and the creation of new
Q They require a lot of research and care in use.
Q They must be incorporated properly, including all supplementary

Proprietary Specifications

Under this method the actual brand names, model numbers and other
proprietary information is specified. They are primarily used for private
commercial projects where the Owner knows what products they want. There are
two types of proprietary specifications, closed and open. The primary difference
between the two types concerns substitutions.


Closed specifications generally prohibit substitutions. One or
more products are specified, and no substitutions will be considered.


Open specifications permit substitutions. One or more products
are specified, but other manufacturers will be considered. It is necessary
to specify the process and criteria the alternate manufacturers will be
judged by.

Advantages to using proprietary specifications:
Q They allow for close control of product selection.
Q The drawings can be more complete and more detailed because
they can be prepared based on precise information from the
selected manufacturer.
Q The specification can be shorter.
Q They simplify the bidding by narrowing competition and
eliminating product pricing as a major variable.

Disadvantages to using proprietary specifications:
Q They reduce the competition.
Q They may specify products the Contractor is not familiar with or
has had little experience with.
Q Care should be taken to assure no error is made when specifying
model numbers or product designations.

Nonrestrictive Specifications

Nonrestrictive specifications are used when public authorities restrict the
use of proprietary specifications. Either a different method needs to be used that
can be met by several manufacturers, or 2 to 3 manufacturers must listed as
additional possibilities in a proprietary specification.

Selecting a Method of Specifying

The following questions are helpful to consider when trying to decide which
method of specifying is most appropriate.
Q What does the Owner require?
Q What method best describes the design intent?
Q What method is most appropriate for the project size and complexity?
Q What method will result in the best quality of work?
Q What method will result in the best price for the work?

Specification Language

Specification language should be precise. Vague and ambiguous text can be open
to multiple interpretations. This section covers how to be precise and clear when writing
specifications and it includes a few things to avoid and how to be concise and save space.

Four important Cs for specification writing

Q Be Clear: Avoid ambiguity, use proper grammar and chose precise words to
convey the message.
Q Be Correct: Present information accurately and precisely using proper
Q Be Complete: Do not out important or necessary information. Brevity at the
expense of completeness should be avoided.
Q Be Concise: Eliminate unnecessary words but at the expense of clarity,
correctness, completeness or grammar.

Sentence Structure

Imperative Mood

Imperative mood puts the verb that defines the action as the first word in
the sentence. It is the recommended method for specifications covering
installation of products and equipment. It is easily understandable and concise.

Examples: Spread adhesive with notched trowel.
Install equipment plumb and level.
Apply two coats of paint to each exposed surface.

Indicative Mood

Indicative mood uses the passive voice with the use of the word shall in
nearly every sentence. Sometimes this can create unnecessary wordiness and

Examples: Adhesive shall be spread with notched trowel.
Equipment shall be installed plumb and level.
Two coats of paint shall be applied to each exposed

Streamlined Writing

This technique uses a colon (:) to mean shall or shall be. Streamlined
specifications are very concise and clear to read. The subject before the colon is helpful
when scanning the specifications for keywords.

Examples: Adhesive: Spread with notched trowel.
Equipment: Install plumb and level.
Portland Cement: ASTM C 150, Type 1

Words to Avoid

Typically the articles a, an and the are not necessary and can be deleted where
clarity is not diminished. Avoid making an article or pronoun out of the following words;
such, said, and same. The use of the word all is usually unnecessary.

Avoid: Install the equipment plumb and level.
Such accessories shall be silver plated.
Polish said floor with wax.
Polish same floor with wax.
Store all millwork under shelter.


The Construction Specifications Institute. The Project Resource Manual, CSI Manual of
Practice. 5
ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.

Pilus, Jeffrey M. "Specifications Mini-Course Part 2." Class lecture notes reviewing The Project Manual.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, 2009.

Rosen, Harold J. Construction Specifications Writing Principles and Procedures. 5
Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005.