What are construction specifications and what is their role in an architectural project’s success.
Specifications are generally how architects, engineers and designers communicate with contractors. They provide everything required to build the building based on the drawings. The drawings provide a graphic representation of what is needed. Specifications provide items such as approved manufacturer list, quality requirements, submittal requirements, warranty info, etc. Both drawings and specifications are required to complete a construction project.
Looking at a compilation of spec sections can be daunting. The specifications are a part of a project manual, which can include contracting documents, bidder instructions and other supplementary information. There are 49 divisions of specifications, broken into 6 subgroups. They include everything from bidding or procurement requirements through equipment. Architects typically specify items within the Facility Construction subgroup, but often are involved in the development of Division 00 and 01. Other subgroups cover things like site and infrastructure, process equipment and facility services for the HVAC divisions. When you start to break the building down by its divisions, the specifications are easier to tackle and maintain.
For a project to be built to the intended design of the architects and engineers, specifications must be included with the drawings. The specifications impact things like quality of materials which impacts a buildings ability to meet code, or the longevity of the systems desired by the architect and engineer.
Advancement of Specifications at Etica Group
Ed Brown, a project architect at Etica Group, has been a long-time member of the Indianapolis Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). He is a past president of the Indianapolis chapter and the Great Lakes Region (one of 14 regions in the US). He has also served as a Director-at-Large on the CSI National Board of Directors.
He was invited to attend the CSI Master Specifiers Retreat, in Arizona in January 2022 to network with other architects and specifiers, learn more about specifications and most importantly interact with product representatives.
Ed described the conference as being a bit like ‘speed dating’. He filled out a form in advance of the retreat, with his profile and type of products he was interested in. His schedule was set, rotating between representatives of those product types to talk one on one about their product and what is new on the market.
Ed specifically focused the products based on one project he is working on right now so he would have a network of people to use as a reference for assistance. It was a great chance to learn about new products but market the firm and what Etica Group is doing.
Ed had a chance to learn about new products such as encapsulated insulation. Roof insulation is like a blanket. Depending on the type of insulation, the product can achieve an average R-value of 5 per inch. In this application, R-value refers to resistance to heat flow. The higher the number, the less heat flow potential. The encapsulated insulation product is wrapped in foil and provides an R value of up to 30 per inch. Products such as this for enhanced building performance allowed Ed to learn about how to apply them to our projects resulting in improved building performance.
What about specifications fascinates Ed?
As he said, you don’t learn anything about specifications in school. You learn by doing it and developing the skills over time. Ed is very intrigued by the building process and how materials go together. His involvement in CSI allows him to network with other like-minded designers and problem solvers. As a technical minded person, it provides an educational environment for highly specific elements. He has often said that he is an architect that can write specifications, but he is not a specification writer. There is a difference. He’s always learning something new through his involvement with CSI and fellow specification writers.