Short and Sweet Specifications?


Has anyone found success using short and concise specifications (maybe 20 pages maximum) for a project?

I am working on a 3000 square foot office renovation and debating whether I should hire someone to help with specifications or just tackle it on my own - trying to fit it all within 10 - 20 pages if possible.

Jul 3, 22 8:32 pm

Specifications can be as short or as long as you like. It's all about your threshold for pain and where you want the pain to occur. 

If EA is around, they can speak a lot more about specs. 

Jul 3, 22 10:20 pm  · 
3  · 

For an office remodel, you can probably get away with having the drawings convey most of the information. Where I'd get really specific is with the finishes, lighting, door hardware, fixtures, and power and communications.

Jul 4, 22 11:20 am  · 
3  · 

If the project is going to be built by an experienced contractor you know and trust,  A 3000 sf remodel can certainly be done with an abbreviated "sheet spec" on 2-3 pages of the drawing set and very specific product info showing what you want noted on the drawings and schedules.

Jul 4, 22 11:34 am  · 
4  · 

Try using short form specs on the drawing sheets.  We've done this successfully for projects similar to what you're describing.  

Jul 5, 22 11:22 am  · 
3  · 

Thank you Chad!

Jul 12, 22 1:44 pm  · 

Are you still following the Master Spec format in three major parts?  As this is a small job, I can see that you'd want to make it concise as possible.  As others said, I've seen specs included in the drawing sets.  if you put letter pages in a full size sheet (Arch E1?), I bet you can fit about 10-12 pages per sheet, so 2-3 full size sheets?  I wouldn't include those for a permit set.  I don't think a plan checker would care, but I also wouldn't want them to make a fuss. 

As for the content for spec sections, I would like to treat them with utmost caution as this can cause so many disputes and pain down the road with the GC.  I'd review it over and over and make it as comprehensive as possible.  I got into many disputes around 'Delegated Design by GC' as the specs didn't clearly state in details what it is AOR/EOR are delegating to the GC.  

Since I manage multi-discipline team, I find it more beneficial to hire a spec writer.  There are lot of things I don't understand about disciplines outside of Architecture, even with the help of engineers who wrote them.  I also learned some architects/engineers are good at coming up with the details in the specs, but not particularly good at delineating responsibilities.  

Jul 5, 22 3:04 pm  · 
3  · 

I hope one day my profit margins will be big enough to hire a spec writer!

Jul 12, 22 1:44 pm  · 

Just make sure you are covered. You never know what will go wrong, but you always know something will go wrong...and guess who gets to eat it?

Jul 6, 22 12:07 am  · 
1  · 

Mostly good advice above. I typically caution teams against doing really abbreviated specs unless they have the ability to go through them carefully and understand the implications of editing out a lot of the "extra" stuff. It's simple enough with someone knowledgeable, but the problem usually is that the people working on these types of smaller projects don't have the necessary knowledge or experience (that's a general statement and yes there are exceptions). 

It's also dependent on the starting point you have for specification content. I don't know of a good set of specification masters for really short specs. MasterSpec's short form specs are a good starting point, but even they are usually too wordy for people looking at doing this. You can absolutely edit them down and clean up the language, but it takes time and effort and someone knowledgeable. I've also looked at starting with MasterSpec's outline specs and filling in content where needed. That might be easier to manage for some, but might require some extra knowledge to know what is "missing" from the outline that might need to be added to get to a spec you can trust during CA.

The other thing I caution teams with (especially for those trying to avoid using specs altogether) is to think about the stuff you'll likely not be able to show on the drawings, or in a schedule, etc. Part 2 of the typical 3-part spec is pretty easily put on the drawings (a schedule here, an annotation there, etc.). It's harder to communicate what submittals you want, quality assurance, warranties, field-quality control testing, and any particular execution requirements like slab moisture testing. Or perhaps it would be better to state that it's easier to get people to look at the Part 2 information on the drawings and harder to get them to read the Part 1 and 3 information you might jam in there in blocks of text. On top of that, you've still got all the administrative Div 01 stuff that no one thinks about until you realize you didn't add anything to 

All of it can be done, but at what level of effort (i.e. fee) and at what level of risk? Those typically don't work out well on small projects where something like this comes up. If you're working for a client that is going to be doing lots of these types of projects, it might start to make sense. Good luck. 

Jul 14, 22 2:12 pm  · 
1  · 

Great advice as usual EA. 

I would also add that when our firm uses short form specs on drawings we have language in our contract that the owner is responsible for interpreting them. This is because we only use short form sheet specs when the owner is doing their own CA.  

Jul 14, 22 3:02 pm  · 

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: