How to tie drawing and specs together?


I come from a custom residential background and am working on some commercial finish out projects. All of our Specs have been written in the drawings sheets via general notes, schedules, and call-outs. This has worked so far, but I want to improve the quality of our contract docs by creating a project book that contains the General Requirements, full (3-part) specs, partial specs, and even cutsheets. The thing is, I can't find a crash course on how large firms and CSI intned for the industry to implement proper specs... In other words, how do you tie all this stuff together? Does anyone know of a resource that can help? Thanks for any help!

P.S., I've been practicing since 2005, so I need something that gets straight to the point rather than a general overview.

May 13, 19 7:48 pm

we keynote our drawings.  Instead of a note saying "gyp bd" it's a little oval that says "09.29"

May 13, 19 9:13 pm

As a guy who does a lot of renovation work, I absolutely hate getting a building that has some version of this. Inevitably, I only get drawings. There's no specbook and nothing that the oval references included in the set.


We keynote drawings as well, but include the legend for the keynotes on each sheet where keynotes appear. It is so annoying to flip back and forth between the main legend sheet and the sheet I am looking at to figure out the notes; I just end up writing them in anyway. Additionally, using condoc numbers, we change the formatting so the condoc number appears along with the note. ex: "08000-01 - Provide door."


Keynotes are for lazy drafters.


This is really a good idea to go for justify sheet, why don't you try online tool?

May 14, 19 1:13 am

Here are some resources that can help:

  • CSI’s Project Delivery Practice Guide
  • CSI’s Specifications Practice Guide
  • CSI’s MasterFormat, SectionFormat, and PageFormat
  • US National CAD Standard
  • AIA’s Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice

If you can’t find the answers you’re looking for there, you probably aren’t asking the right questions.

For a crash course, I’d recommend seeking out a consultant with some time on their hands. 

May 14, 19 2:10 am

Masterspec SpecBuilder is easy enough to use.  It has editors notes and various other hints for your use.  It's not terribly difficult to use.  Once you've gone through the question/answer stuff, you just pare out whatever else isn't needed.  

I'm a firm believer in the idea that specifications should always be done in a subtractive manner, not in an additive way.  There are a few spec programs that are more additive.  I always feel like I'm going to miss something with those. 

May 14, 19 8:39 am

I've done specs for all kinds of offices. What separates really good teams from bad ones is level of internal organization. This will vary from office to office but also from team to team within same firm.

Better ones do rely on some kind of a keynoting system to keep everything organized. But it is possible to go overboard with them and get completely lost in a list that has thousands of entries. Good rule of thumb is it should be keynoted if assembly has an associated basis of design product. FibreC rainscreen wall panels? Kemper green roof? Pella double hung unit windows? Epoxy terrazzo in the lobby? Have a keynote for all of these that shows up in drawings and specs. Should you keynote joint sealants and tile grout? Probably not. These can live as schedules in specs in a well specified project. Should you keynote drywall? If you have 3 types of drywall in the project, then probably not. 

Biggest challenge for large commercial projects is sheer level of information that needs to be communicated. Once you have lost track it is really hard to recover. Be as organized as possible and drawings and specs will come together. There is no 1 correct way of doing it. 

May 14, 19 10:05 am

Important to use the exact same language in your notes and your specs so that there's no ambiguity which could lead to costly change orders. Putting the spec number into the note alongside the general language is a great hybrid so the specs can be relied upon when there's not enough information in the drawings.

Front end usually says some version of: Specs and Drawings are complementary, one does not take precedence over the other. When there's a question, ask the Architect.

May 14, 19 12:46 pm
Non Sequitur

A nice rug really ties drawings together.

May 14, 19 1:11 pm

I think a nice piece of ribbon or a bow is a great way to deliver the drawings and specs together to the contractor. I've also seen more artisinal approaches with picnic baskets, or the classic corporate one of the enormous three ring binder.

May 14, 19 11:09 pm

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