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.

How to Write a Specification

1.  Create 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. This includes 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 reference specific local standards that are applicable to the job - leaving nobody in any doubt as to what kind of compliance is required.

2. Detail to support drawings

Drawings alone can't convey all 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 are still lots of other details that need to be captured - not least the quality of materials you expect to be used. This includes 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 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, will result in more accurate pricing down the line.

4. 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 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. Focus on 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. Give clear instructions

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 follow for those working on the job.

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.

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. Make it 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. Ensure 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. Create a useful 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. Save time and money

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

Enjoy reading our article on how to write a specification? Make sure you visit our building specifications template and specification software pages too.

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 Chorus is our leading specification writing platform. It helps to you to work more efficiently and collaboratively and reduces risk on projects.

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