Chapter 14 | Specification (Technical Standard) | General Contractor

Source: HVAC Systems Design Handbook

Chapter

14
Design Documentation: Drawings and Specifications
14.1 Introduction

Design documents evolve from and include the designer’s calculations, equipment selections, and sketches and are usually presented through formal drawings and specifications. These construction documents are the legal means by which the designer conveys the owner’s expectations to the contractor. The importance of good documentation cannot be overemphasized. An old adage says, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In construction, the drawings are the picture, and specifications are the thousand words. For all projects where the work is accomplished by contract between the owner and the builder it is essential that there be good specifications in addition to the drawings to define the relationship between the parties. The purpose of this chapter is to review the nature of contracts and to define drawing preparation, specification writing, and organization well enough that the reader will have an understanding of and be prepared to implement the basic techniques. Since drawings and specifications become a part of a construction contract, they become legal documents. As such, they must define the work to be done clearly, completely, and unambiguously. Although this ideal is seldom achieved, designers must do their best to meet these criteria. Lawsuits involving millions of dollars have been filed based on the interpretation of a few sentences in the specifications or a lack of clear detail on the drawings.
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Remember that document preparation has a cost that must be reasonable and a schedule that must be met. No project has an infinite amount of time or resources that can be allocated to the design effort. The result is that documents should be adequate but not overdone, should be prepared in an organized fashion and arranged to fully reflect the owner’s desires and the designer’s intent. 14.2 The Nature of Contracts

In the United States, the law allows two or more individuals, companies, or institutions to contract with each other for an exchange of goods or services. In HVAC work a building owner, called the owner, will typically arrange with a vendor or installer, called the contractor, to furnish and install equipment and related material in a system. Often the HVAC work is performed in conjunction with the full complement of building construction. The agreement between the owner and contractor contains the basis of elements of any legal contract—i.e., there is a work or service of value committed to deliver; there is compensation for the work performed; and there is a time period of performance. All three elements are required to establish a valid contract. Most construction is undertaken by contract; the specifications and drawings define the work to be done, and the contract includes a description of the compensation and date of completion. There are often penalties for failure to perform the work in a timely manner and sometimes bonuses for early completion. Persons signing the contract must be authorized to do so. This is selfevident in the case of a private individual, a proprietorship, or a partnership. In the case of a corporation, the board of directors must have given authority to the signer for his or her signature to be valid and binding on the company. Signatures are often witnessed or notarized. 14.3 Drawings

As we have noted, contract drawings are legal documents and should avoid ambiguity. This consideration leads to several criteria that are typical of good drawings. The efforts take time. The alternative—providing inadequate or erroneous information, neglecting details, careless checking— can take a great deal of time later on, cost money for extras, and lose the confidence of the client in the designer’s competence.
14.3.1 Drawing Size and Scale

Drawing size and scale should be appropriate for the work being described. Typical drawing sheet sizes are described by both letter and sheet dimension:

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Design Documentation: Drawings and Specifications

Design Documentation: Drawings and Specifications Size A B C D E F Dimension 8½ 11 11 17 18 24 36 (22 34) 30 42 36 48

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Special sizes may be custom ordered. Smaller sheets can be included in a book of specifications. Larger sheets are almost always presented as a set, except in the case of one or two sheets, when they may be folded and placed in pockets in the specifications book. The drawing scale is determined by the amount of detail to be presented for the dominant aspects of the work. For building construction, 1⁄8 or ¼ inch 1 foot. A very large building may have a plan view at 1⁄16 inch 1 foot for an overview relating the larger-scale details. Note that doubling the scale uses four times the drawing area. Many mechanical room layouts are presented at ¼-inch scale. It is important that all members of the design team use common scales. This helps avoid errors and makes the overall drawing set easier to read and interpret.
14.3.2 Drawing Character

Line work, whether hand-drawn or computer- or plotter-generated, should be clear, sharp, and accurate. Lettering should be neat, uniform, and legible. That seems obvious but is not always true, even for computer generated material. The appearance of the drawings can go far toward establishing the credibility of the design. Early in the development of computer-aided design (CAD) techniques, it was felt that computer-generated drawings lacked the character of well-presented hand-drawn work. With improved software and increased CAD drafter skills, one sees very little hand-drafted work today. As one who started his career as a drafter, this writer feels some nostalgia but recognizes that times change. Nevertheless, a competent designer should be able to describe his ideas with legible freehand sketches.
14.3.3 Adequate Information

Enough views, both plan and section, should be drawn to fully present the work. Details should be numerous and explicit. Standard details are often useful and save time, so long as the application is really standard. Failure to tailor standards to specific applications can be embarrassing and costly.
14.3.4 Drawing Legends

Symbols and abbreviations should be defined in a legend. There are many regional or office-specific legends, but no universally accepted in-

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dustry standards. ASHRAE, among others, has suggested a set of symbols in the ASHRAE Handbook, Fundamentals.1 Several government agencies have standards of their own, which they require to be used on their projects.
14.3.5 Schematic Drawings

Schematic drawings for system flow and control are very helpful to both the installer and the user. A complete and detailed schematic will answer most questions about concept and performance. Such drawings are commonly referred to as flow diagrams, isometrics, or P&I (process and instrumentation) diagrams.
14.3.6 Schedules

Equipment schedules with tabular equipment performance information should be on the drawings rather than in the specifications. Experience shows that the installer usually does not have or does not refer to the specifications. After the job is completed, the drawings are almost always available, while the specifications have a way of disappearing. Equipment schedules then become a valuable resource for the owner. Some design offices include full equipment specifications on the drawings, but this seems to take more document preparation time and may make it difficult to coordinate drawings and specifications if changes are needed.
14.3.7 Minimize Sources of Information

A good rule for presentation of quantitative information is to show it only once on the drawings and not to call out on the drawings information that is covered by the specifications or vice versa. This reduces the potential for error as well as the amount of information that must be updated when changes are made.
14.3.8 Quality Control

Drawings should, of course, be carefully checked for errors and omissions, preferably by the system designer. Some offices use an independent checker to take a fresh look at the near-final product. 14.4 Specifications

Much of the construction industry now uses a specification format2 developed by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). This is a standardized outline with forms for the contract work and section and subsection numbers for each topic. The system includes flexibility for adding information unique to the project. (See Figure 14.1.)

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Figure 14.1

MasterFormat™

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Figure 14.1

(Continued)

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Design Documentation: Drawings and Specifications

Design Documentation: Drawings and Specifications 14.4.1 Contractual Matters, Boilerplate

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Preceding the technical specifications, which, with the drawings, define the actual work to be accomplished, there is usually additional documentation that establishes the contractual relationship between the contractor and the owner. Such documentation may include the following: 1. Invitation to bid (instructions to bidders): A section that describes the nature of the project, establishes the time and place for submitting bids, and includes any other qualification or action required of potential bidders. 2. Bid form: A formal document for the contractor to fill out to propose a price for completing the work described by the contract documents. The proposal may call for a lump-sum price, unit price, hourly cost (time and material), or cost-plus-fee basis. Sometimes there is a base bid with additive or deductive alternates. The alternates allow the owner to adjust the cost of the project to meet available funding. 3. Bonds: Insurance policies. Since contractors sometimes fail to complete the work as contracted, some projects require a payment bond, which guarantees to the owner that the contract will be completed, even by a third party if necessary. 4. General conditions: Often a lengthy document spelling out in great detail the behaviors required of the owner and the contractor in the conduct of the work. Standard industry forms of this document are available from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) or the Engineering Joint Documents Council (EJDC). The general conditions may be modified with job-specific supplemental general conditions. In preparing elements of the contractual papers or boilerplate it is helpful to use standard document forms, which have a common origin and have been checked for legal consistency. Other entities, such as federal and state institutions as well as corporations, may have their own forms and formats. In our litigious American society, it is imperative that these documents be clear and consistent.
14.4.2 Technical Specifications

Following the information that describes the legal characteristics of the contract, the technical specifications describe in more or less detail which materials are to be used and how they are to be installed. The drawings indicate the form of the installation and complement the specifications. Drawings usually indicate quantity; specifications describe quality. There is no legally prescribed format for technical specifications. Any presentation of information that allows the contractor to do what the owner wants in a timely and cost-effective manner can be considered a good specification. In times past, virtually every office had its own format for

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Figure 14.2

Technical specification format with 16 divisions.

specifications. As of today there is a more generally accepted format, probably due to the federal government with its thousands of projects. Recognize that many different trades may work on a single project. For clarity and ease of bidding it is helpful to group work for each trade in a separate section of the specifications. This also helps the general contractor to apportion the work appropriately by trade. The CSI MasterFormat™, which has gained general construction industry acceptance, has 16 divisions for major categories of work (Figure 14.2). Each division is broken down into sections as required to convey the criteria for the work (Figure 14.3). Each section has a format containing three parts (Figure 14.4). Specifications can be written in more or less detail as desired, and as appropriate for the extent and complexity of the project. Where many small items and work descriptions are involved, they may be lumped together in a single section. A major component, such as a large boiler or chiller, may need its own section. Experience and time lead to a file full of specifications for many different products and construction methods. To some extent they become generic and can be used over and over again from one project to another. Experience will also show the need to modify the specification “next time.” And equipment details will change as new product developments occur.
14.4.3 Specification Language

While allowing every specification writer the latitude to be an individual in drafting specifications, here are a few suggestions that can be helpful: 1. Use good English, good grammar, and a good vocabulary. Do not use slang or colloquialisms.
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Figure 14.3

Division 15 specification outline.

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Figure 14.3

(Continued)

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Figure 14.3

(Continued)

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Figure 14.3

(Continued)

2. Use as few words as possible without losing the meaning. 3. Use a direct rather than an indirect form of expression. “Do it!” is more effective than “The contractor shall do it.” Many specifications have been written using “shall” as the imperative. This is now seen as an awkward way of giving directions. 4. As with report writing, keep the sentence structure simple and clear. Avoid overly long or complex sentences and phrases.
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Figure 14.4

Basic format for a specification section.

5. Organize and present the writing in a consistent manner. Present similar material in the same ordered place in each section. This helps to avoid the sin of omission and helps contractors and vendors become comfortable with the specification. 6. Do not duplicate information. If a change or correction is necessary, make it in the affected location only. 7. Be knowledgeable about every aspect of the written specification. Do not refer to other works without a clear understanding that the referenced material is germane to the discussion at hand. 8. One sure way to create ambiguity in a specification is to use terms such as “common industry practice,” “good workmanship,” “qualified mechanics,” and the like, which lack explicit definition. A good way to minimize both detail and ambiguity is to refer to the various codes and standards published by government agencies and trade associations.3 Local building codes automatically apply. Specifications may exceed these requirements but must avoid conflict with them. Industry standards only apply if the specification so states. Such references should be used only if the designer, vendor, and installer know exactly what the code or standard says about the product or operation in question.
14.4.4 Types of Specifications

There are two kinds of specifications: the performance specification, which is based on performance criteria only, and the or-equal specification, which has vendor-specific identification of what is wanted. A performance specification describes quality, materials, accuracy, and performance in specific terms but without reference to a specific manufacturer

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or model number. A list of acceptable products might be included. An or-equal specification may also describe the product in more or less specific terms but primarily states that the product is to be equal to a specific manufacturer’s model number. The or-equal specification is considered somewhat easier to write. However, when a substitute product is submitted, it may be difficult to evaluate because no two products are equal. The designer who rejects a submittal must be prepared to defend his or her position and to demonstrate that the proposed substitute is in fact unsatisfactory. This kind of specification may lead to higher project costs, particularly if the product is proprietary. On the other hand, if the market has only one vendor, there is a broad variation in quality among vendors, or if the designer needs to match an existing piece of equipment, there may be no substitute for a tight or proprietary selection. Even though it is harder to write, a well-written performance specification may make it easier to evaluate subsequent submittals and can provide a clear basis for acceptance or rejection. Well-written means that the specification is explicit and as unambiguous as possible. Government agencies often require that specifications be performance style, generic, nonproprietary, and open to any product that can meet the criteria. This approach requires a very tight description to control quality and must avoid listing proprietary singularities of given vendors. In writing generic specifications the designer must be careful not to be an inventor—to specify something that nobody makes. This can happen when the designer lists his or her favorite aspects of several different sources of a product. This can only result in disputations and higher costs. Vendor specific or-equal specifications are easier to write because the product defines itself. If semi-open bidding is required, the specifications should include three or more vendors of acceptable products. The generic description, “with a listed vendor but wide-open bidding,” is used by some design offices to establish a known level of quality while leaving room for substitutions.
14.4.5 Automated Word Processing

The computer now allows us to make the specification writer’s work much simpler. Standard formats and paragraphs can be recalled with ease and pieced together for a new project with little effort. Changes to the standard paragraphs can be made at any time to keep up with technical or code developments. The specification writer must not let this simplicity allow him or her to become careless with the product. The specification must still be tailored to the specific product. In HVAC work there is no such thing as a totally standard specification. The adaptability provided by computer allows us to make each specification appropriate to the work for which it is intended,

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but it is also easy to forget to remove those items that are not needed for a specific project and can confuse the bidders. The best attitude is to approach each project as a new experience. “Standard” specifications are fine but may need to be changed from time to time. If there is more than one computer in the office, make sure that all changes are made to all computers. Remember that computers may not make mistakes but that the people who operate them often do. 14.5 Summary

Valid contracts require a scope of work, a time of delivery, and a compensation for service. The best system designs will be unsatisfactory if they are not communicated properly to the contractor through the design documents, drawings, and specifications. Document preparation is both an art and a science. It can and must be mastered by HVAC system designers. The drawings and specifications complement each other and are part of the legally binding commitment of the contractor or vender to the owner. Good drawings and specifications make a clear directive to the contractor for the required work. References
1. ASHRAE Handbook, 2005 Fundamentals, Chapter 37, “Abbreviations and Symbols.” 2. Construction Specifications Institute, MasterFormat™. 3. ASHRAE Handbook, 2004 HVAC Systems and Equipment, Chapter 48, “Codes and Standards.”

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