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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 organie specifications, the t!pes of specification methods and
specific t!pe of language used for writing specifications.
Purpose of Specifications
Q Specifications should describe the t!pe and qualit! of ever! product required for the
Q The specifications should describe the requirements for fabrication, erection,
application, installation and finishing.
Q Specifications should describe the qualit! of workmanship necessar! 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 an! necessar! codes and standards applicable to the
Q The specifications should also include descriptions and procedures for alternate
materials, products or services if necessar!.
Or$ani%ation of t&e Pro'ect "anua(
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 t!picall! organied according to MasterFormat
. The
project manual contains the following elements"
Introductory Information
Title #age
Certifications #age
Table of Contents
Guide to Use of the Project Manual $used b! man! specifiers%
Bidding Requirements
&id Solicitation" 'dvertisement()nvitation to &id
)nstructions to &idders
)nformation 'vailable to &idders
&id Forms and Supplements
Contracting Requirements
*eneral Conditions of the Contract
Supplementar! Conditions of the Contract
&onds and Certificates
Division +, - *eneral .equirements
Divisions +/ through 01 - Technical Specifications
'ppendices are not included in MasterFormat but the! are useful for
including copies of information, reference documents, e2isting conditions
photographs or e2ample forms for use in administration.
COSS Lifecycle
Every specification has an independent lifecycle that documents clearly its current status.
A specification has six possible states that reflect its maturity and contractual weight:
C&apter -)
Or$ani%ation of Specifications
3rganiation of Specifications
)t is important for the specifications section of the project manual to be arranged
in an orderl! and comprehensive format. )f the section is organied clearl! and follows a
defined procedure it is less likel! that the specifier will overlook or forget something. )t
will also help the contractor, estimator, inspector, or other reviews find information more
SectionFormat is a nationall! approved, industr!4accepted standard that provides
a defined procedure for organiation of the specifications section. )t provides guidelines
for the arrangement of information within the technical section of specifications. The
concise orderl! method reduces the chance for omissions or duplication of information
and it assists users of the document b! consistentl! locating similar information in the
same place in each Section. SectionFormat has three separate parts"
Part 1 " General# This section describes administrative, procedural and
temporar! requirements specific to this section of specifications.
Part $ " Products# This section describes, in detail, the materials,
products, equipment, s!stems or assemblies to be used in the project.
Part % " &'ecution# This section describes, in detail, an! preparator!
actions and how the products shall be incorporated into the project.
To go along with SectionFormat is PageFormat. PageFormat is a standardied
presentation of te2t for each page of a specification Section. )t provides a concise and
orderl! arrangement of 'rticles, #aragraphs and Subparagraphs and it addresses the
ph!sical arrangement on the page, such as margins, indents, headers and footers. The
following list is the levels of organiation for PageFormat"
PageFormat 5evels
#'.T , - *676.'5 56865 $First 5evel%
,.+, '.T)C56 $Second 5evel%
'. #aragraph $Third 5evel%
,. Subparagraph $Fourth 5evel%
a. Subparagraph $Fifth 5evel%
,% Subparagraph $Si2th 5evel%
C&apter -*
T+pes of Specifications
T+pes of Specifications
There are four methods of specif!ing. There is no defined rule for using one
method over another or about combining methods, but care should be taken to avoid
redundanc! or contradictions. The four methods are"
Q Descriptive
Q #erformance
Q .eference Standard
Q #roprietar!
C&apter -,
Descripti-e Specifications
Descripti-e Specifications
9nder this method of specif!ing the e2act properties of the materials and methods of installation
are described in detail without using proprietar! or manufacturer:s names. Descriptive
specifications are commonl! used for products for which no standards e2ist, on projects where
using proprietar! names is restricted, and in situations where the 'rchitect(6ngineer want to
e2ercise tight control over the specified work. There are five steps for preparing descriptive
,. .esearch available products
/. .esearch the important features required for the product.
;. Determine which features to describe in the specification and
which features to show in the drawings.
0. Describe the important features.
<. Specif! qualit! assurance measures $i.e. submittals, certifications,
testing or inspection activities%
'dvantages to using descriptive specifications"
Q Descriptive specifications specif! e2actl! what the design intends.
Q The! are applicable to all conditions, methods or situations of a
Q The! are applicable to all sies and t!pes of projects.
Q The! permit free competition because the! do not restrict the use
of specific products or manufacturers.
Disadvantages of descriptive specifications"
Q The! 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 the!
require more verbiage than other methods.
Q The! ma! be more time consuming than other methods to create
and write.
Q The! are being used less often as more complete reference
standards are being developed and implemented.
Chapter 4=
Perfor.ance Specifications
Perfor.ance Specifications
9nder this method the required end results are specified along with the criteria b! which the
performance will be judged and the method b! which it can be verified. The contractor is free to
choose the materials and methods that compl! with the performance specification. The! are
generall! used to encourage the use of new and innovative techniques that ma! lead to more
economical construction. The! are also used to supplement other specification methods.
'dvantages to using performance specifications"
Q 3nl! the end result or design intent is specified, this gives the
Contractor fle2ibilit! in selecting and appl!ing products.
Q The! permit free competition.
Q The! can be applicable in all t!pes and sies of projects.
Q #erformance specifications delegate the technical responsibilities
to the construction industr!, where the Contractor instead of the
'rchitecture(6ngineering firm is responsible for the results.
Disadvantages to using performance specifications"
Q The! can be time consuming to produce and ma! result in long,
detailed specifications.
Q The! are more difficult to enforce than other methods of
Q The! ma! be too elaborate for simple or minor projects.
Q #erformance specifications delegate the technical responsibilities
to the construction industr!, where the Contractor instead of the
'rchitecture(6ngineering firm is responsible for the results. $This
is both an advantage and disadvantage because it depends who
wants certain responsibilities and control.%
Reference Stan/ar/ Specifications
9nder this method reference is made to an established standard defined b!
associations ver! knowledgeable about a certain part or phase of construction.
.eference standard specifications are used for >commodit!> products in the
marketplace, where brand names are not important. Steps for preparing reference
standard specifications are"
,. The standard must be recognied as authoritative b! the industr!.
/. The standard must be available to all parties involved in the
;. The specifier must know the standard. 'ssure that the standard
relates to the current project and does not present duplicate or
conflicting information.
0. 6stablish a date of the standard.
<. )ncorporate the standard correctl! into the specifications.
?. 6nforce the requirements of the standard.
'dvantages to using reference standard specifications"
Q The standard is usuall! widel! known and accepted b! the
Q The! do not limit competition.
Q The! dramaticall! shorten the length of specifications.
Disadvantages to using reference standard specifications"
Q There ma! be no appropriate standard to reference, because
standards are written for the most commonl! used and generall!
available products.
Q Standards generall! refer to the minimum requirements.
Q The standard ma! become obsolete or out4of4date, because of
advances and changes in technolog! and the creation of new
Q The! require a lot of research and care in use.
Q The! must be incorporated properl!, including all supplementar!
Proprietar+ Specifications
9nder this method the actual brand names, model numbers and other
proprietar! information is specified. The! are primaril! used for private
commercial projects where the 3wner knows what products the! want. There are
two t!pes of proprietar! specifications, closed and open. The primar! difference
between the two t!pes concerns substitutions.
Closed specifications generall! prohibit substitutions. 3ne or
more products are specified, and no substitutions will be considered.
3pen specifications permit substitutions. 3ne or more products
are specified, but other manufacturers will be considered. )t is necessar!
to specif! the process and criteria the alternate manufacturers will be
judged b!.
'dvantages to using proprietar! specifications"
Q The! allow for close control of product selection.
Q The drawings can be more complete and more detailed because
the! can be prepared based on precise information from the
selected manufacturer.
Q The specification can be shorter.
Q The! simplif! the bidding b! narrowing competition and
eliminating product pricing as a major variable.
Disadvantages to using proprietar! specifications"
Q The! reduce the competition.
Q The! ma! specif! products the Contractor is not familiar with or
has had little e2perience with.
Q Care should be taken to assure no error is made when specif!ing
model numbers or product designations.
Nonrestricti-e Specifications
7onrestrictive specifications are used when public authorities restrict the
use of proprietar! specifications. 6ither a different method needs to be used that
can be met b! several manufacturers, or / to ; manufacturers must listed as
additional possibilities in a proprietar! specification.
Se(ectin$ a "et&o/ of Specif+in$
The following questions are helpful to consider when tr!ing to decide which
method of specif!ing is most appropriate.
Q @hat does the 3wner requireA
Q @hat method best describes the design intentA
Q @hat method is most appropriate for the project sie and comple2it!A
Q @hat method will result in the best qualit! of workA
Q @hat method will result in the best price for the workA
Specification #an$ua$e
Specification language should be precise. 8ague and ambiguous te2t 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 i.portant Cs for specification 0ritin$
Q &e Clear" 'void ambiguit!, use proper grammar and chose precise words to
conve! the message.
Q &e Correct" #resent information accuratel! and precisel! using proper
Q &e Complete" Do not out important or necessar! information. &revit! at the
e2pense of completeness should be avoided.
Q &e Concise" 6liminate unnecessar! words but at the e2pense of clarit!,
correctness, completeness or grammar.
Sentence Structure
)mperative Bood
)mperative mood puts the verb that defines the action as the first word in
the sentence. )t is the recommended method for specifications covering
installation of products and equipment. )t is easil! understandable and concise.
62amples" Sread adhesive with notched trowel.
Install equipment plumb and level.
!ly two coats of paint to each e2posed surface.
)ndicative Bood
)ndicative mood uses the passive voice with the use of the word shall in
nearl! ever! sentence. Sometimes this can create unnecessar! wordiness and
62amples" 'dhesive shall be spread with notched trowel.
6quipment shall be installed plumb and level.
Two coats of paint shall be applied to each e2posed
Strea.(ine/ 1ritin$
This technique uses a colon $"% to mean shall or shall (e. Streamlined
specifications are ver! concise and clear to read. The subject before the colon is helpful
when scanning the specifications for ke!words.
62amples" 'dhesive" Spread with notched trowel.
6quipment# )nstall plumb and level.
#ortland Cement" 'STB C ,<+, T!pe ,
1or/s to A-oi/
T!picall! the articles a) an and the are not necessar! and can be deleted where
clarit! is not diminished. 'void making an article or pronoun out of the following wordsC
such, said, and same. The use of the word all is usuall! unnecessar!.
'void" )nstall the equipment plumb and level.
Such accessories shall be silver plated.
#olish said floor with wa2.
#olish same floor with wa2.
Store all millwork under shelter.
C&apter -2
The Construction Specifications )nstitute. *he Project Resource Manual) CSI Manual of
Practice+ <
ed. 7ew Dork" Bc*raw4Eill, /++<.
#ilus, Feffre! B. >Specifications Bini4Course #art /.> Class lecture notes reviewing The #roject Banual.
9niversit! of 7ebraska45incoln, 5incoln, /++1.
.osen, Earold F. Construction Secifications ,riting Princiles and Procedures+ <
Eoboken, 7ew Ferse!" Fohn @ile! G Sons, )nc., /++<.