13 July 2016

Developing a good specification should save you a lot of time and effort when it comes to delivering a construction project. By making your requirements clear there's no room for confusion or doubt which can only make for a more efficient and effective process.

Our video explores 10 reasons why you really shouldn't scrimp when it comes to writing a specification... and the multitude of benefits that having one offers...


The 10 reasons you need a specification - at-a-glance

1. A clear definition

As a supporting document, the specification is your opportunity to make your requirements on a project clear. A good specification should give a clear indication of the levels of quality you expect, the types of materials you want to be used on the job and how they should be installed, finished or tested. The specification also serves as an opportunity to make reference to specific local standards that are applicable to the job leaving nobody in any doubt as to what kind of compliance is required.

2. Support for your drawings

Drawings alone can't convey all of your requirements. Supporting drawings (whether hand-drawn or developed as 3D CAD) with a comprehensive and detailed specification will save you time and effort in the long run. Even on BIM projects, where a fully-rendered building may contain lots of additional information within the individual objects that make up the model, there's still lots of other details that need to be captured - not least the quality of materials you expect to be used, workmanship and any relevant standards that need to be met.

While it may have been possible in the past to write a specification on the drawings themselves, today, that's just not possible - with so much information required a specification really is the only way to properly capture this information.

Specifications developed using NBS services draw on a classification system that can be used to precisely reference sections, systems and clauses in the specification on drawings or models.

3. Information to ensure accurate pricing

While the specification itself won't include cost information if it is well-composed and suitably detailed, it should make it easy for a contractor to price the job quickly and accurately. Ensuring you provide detailed information about project requirements, perhaps even specific products, but certainly expectations on performance and minimum operating standards that need to be achieved will result in more accurate pricing down the line.

4. The ability to minimise risk

By codifying requirements in a specification it is harder, down the line, to dispute things. A specification that draws on relevant and up-to-date standards and accurately references the drawings should, therefore, help you minimise risks of dispute and legal action on a project. If you did ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation where there was a dispute on your project, if you have your specification to hand, you are in a far safer position (assuming it is accurate).

5. The ability to improve compliance

Timely and efficient statutory compliance helps you avoid legal implications and penalties on a project and reduces the risk of prosecution. By defining requirements on a project when it comes to meeting specific standards, sustainability benchmarks and compliance with health and safety requirements, a project manager can easily determine and verify that these documented requirements have been met.

6. Clear instructions for those delivering your project

A good specification should serve as an 'on-site instruction manual'. In stating clearly the standards that you expect the workmanship to be completed to you are effectively providing instruction to those working on the job to follow. It's important to remember that your specification should not be unduly prescriptive when it comes to delivery - the focus should clearly be on outcomes rather than the process by which the outcomes are achieved. By way of example, a dirt-free carpet would be an outcome, vacuuming the floor a stipulation on how the outcome should be achieved which would not be detailed in the specification.

As a document at the heart of the project, the specification should be available on-site as a reference guide for contractors detailing the types and quality of materials, products and workmanship you require on the project.

7. The security that comes from being legally binding

We've touched on how you are better protected from risk already, but it is worth remembering that the specification forms part of the contract documentation and therefore becomes legally binding in the event of any dispute or litigation.

8. An assurance of client satisfaction

The specification is an interpretation of the initial brief provided by your client. It serves as a written interpretation of that brief and by ensuring that you have fully understood the client's wishes and the assets that they require, it serves as a key check on performance criteria.

9. A resource for facilities management

The specification will not stay as a static document - it will develop and evolve across the project timeline as you eventually end up with an "as built" version that represents the final asset. The specification will prove invaluable for facilities managers and maintenance teams to provide vital information about the building or asset when it transitions into use, re-use and even through to demolition.

10. Saves you time and money

Taking the time to collate accurate information, clear instruction and minimal repetition will allow the contractor to proceed with little distruption, with a reduced need for questioning and clarification, all of which add time and costs to a project.


We've plans to explore specification in more detail in the coming months - why not sign up to the NBS eWeekly newsletter to ensure you don't miss out?

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NBS offer a range of tools for specification and collaboration - including NBS Create, NBS Building, NBS Landscape and NBS Scheduler, not to mention the free-to-use NBS BIM Toolkit.

Find out more about NBS tools

Related reading

RIBAJ - Six steps to sustainability success
The team at RIBAJ look at how sustainability can be ensured at the specification phase and right through to construction.