30 March 2017

Last amended on
15 October 2019

Why create specifications, and how do FaulknerBrowns approach this?

For a practice, the main purpose of producing a building specification is to define the quality of the materials, systems and workmanship to be used on the project. Whereas drawings can be used to show the extent of materials and how the building fits together, the specification contains the majority of the technical content, conveying the designer’s choice of product or alternatively performance requirements.

Providing a comprehensive specification is of critical importance, especially if an alternative product is proposed. When this happens, the specification can be used as a basis for comparing that proposal and assessing its equivalence.

Time must be given so that the drawings and specifications complement each other as far as is reasonably possible. Our approach is to use simple annotation on drawings that refer to the specification clause, which contains all the technical content.

We try to avoid duplicating information on both drawings and specifications as far as possible to avoid contradictions between them. Specifications require the design team to agree upon the critical materials and performance characteristics of the building in a timely manner to ensure there is sufficient time remaining to complete the project documentation, which includes the specification. Where possible, we try to complete the specification as part of the package, therefore avoiding leaving the entire specification to be completed at the end. This allows the specification to become refined in line with that particular work package – so that drawings and specifications are completed simultaneously. Once you understand how important producing a comprehensive specification is, then you understand the value that this brings to a project. Therefore, it is critical that the production of the specification is well programmed by the project team.

Specifications require the design team to agree upon the critical materials and performance characteristics of the building in a timely manner to ensure there is sufficient time remaining to complete the project documentation, which includes the specification.

How do specifications help you achieve design intent? 

Every building development will be different in some way, shape or form. Client expectations are becoming more challenging, and designers are constantly looking for innovative solutions. Therefore, to deliver the architectural intent, a significant amount of time and research will be invested during the design stage, before the scheme is tendered.

It is essential that designers liaise with manufacturers and suppliers during the design stage to progress the critical and innovative areas of the project that are required to deliver the architectural intent. This provides the design team and client with the confidence that the scheme is robust, deliverable, buildable and affordable.

The majority of our buildings are delivered through design and build contracts. This form of contract can potentially lead to contractors suggesting alternative solutions. If an alternative proposal is demonstrated to be of true equivalence whilst providing some form of commercial advantage, then it needs to be considered, for the benefit of the project and its entire team. This is where the content within the specification is of most importance. If the specification is incomplete or has key technical items missing then comparing alternative products can become difficult.

The Word - National Centre for the Written Word, designed by Faulkner Browns

What support do you need from manufacturers?

Depending upon the complexity of the building, it is often necessary to resolve the key project challenges with potential manufacturers during the design stage. Transferring this into the project documents via the specification is essential to provide a robust design solution that can be tendered accurately and procured in line with the contractor’s programme.

Receiving key specification material from manufacturers and suppliers is essential. Although we often re-write and/or re-format a manufacturer’s specification, they contain key technical information that could be overlooked if we complete the specification in isolation by ourselves. If the manufacturer can provide us with the specification in the most up-to-date software format, such as NBS Building or NBS Create and the like, then this can save us a lot of time and make it easier to incorporate. Therefore, manufacturers who are familiar with specification software can be of great benefit to us.

Specifications in the future

We have produced many draft template-type specifications within NBS Create. Our next step is to fully understand how intelligent the link is between NBS Create and our typical modelling software, which is Revit. We are not sure how specifications will evolve over time in terms of their format, but it is essential that we maintain the opportunity to fully describe the technical content of a system or product, therefore being able to protect the overall quality of a building.

This article is taken from What Specifiers Want 2017. Find out more and download the full free report including comprehensive analysis of our survey results.

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