The Importance of Specifications in Construction Projects
The specification is a fundamental part of the documentation set provided for the delivery of a construction project. The Building Act 2004 states that a building consent application must be accompanied by plans and specifications. While plans effectively display the general arrangements, the specification provides the detailed written description of the build and its component elements. It is an essential quality and risk control document for projects of any size. Plans and specifications are both important and when coordinated and effectively used together, support the delivery of enduring built outcomes.
Evolving Compliance Demands: Necessity for Detailed Specifications
A specification that lacks detail and project specific customisation, runs the risk of being vague and ambiguous, irrelevant, and often inadequate for the project and providing an environment for contractual dispute. In addition, there is now a greater onus on designers to clearly display through the specification how their project meets the requirements of the Building Code and accordingly cautious Building Consent Authorities (BCAs) are demanding an increased level of detail to demonstrate compliance pathways.
Roles of Different Parties in Utilizing Specifications
The Building Act 2004 states that a specification defines how a building is to be constructed, altered, demolished or removed. For a new project, it must define the intended use of the building, detail all the systems and materials used and provide procedures for installation, inspection, and maintenance during and after construction for the life of the building.
Elements of a Comprehensive Specification
A good specification should provide clear detailed information to support each stage of the project works and to mitigate risks of time delays, additional costs, and disputes.
The various parties to a build use the specification in a slightly different way. The designer uses it to accurately describe the components and expected standard of the build, the BCA uses it to be reasonably satisfied that Building Code compliance has been demonstrated, the builder uses it to carry out the construction and the owner uses it as part of their agreement with the builder. Lawyers focus on each and every word in the specification and their meaning, but are less inclined to look at or understand the drawings.
Principles of Effective Specification Writing
The specification needs to clearly describe each aspect of the construction project. It must be specific and not simply present a range of options or generic statements. It is unacceptable to simply reference a standard or Acceptable Solution or cite the manufacturer’s recommendations in a non-specific way, as all these sources contain options for construction. The specification should clearly define:
- the extent of work to be carried out.
- quality of the materials.
- how materials should be placed and fixed.
- details about particular products required for compliance.
- acceptable standards for each trade or aspect of the construction.
- complete schedules eg windows, linings, and finishes.
The writing of a specification requires, in addition to necessary technical knowledge, a high degree of skill in the use of language and a clarity of intent.
Simplifying Specification Preparation with Masterspec NextGen2
A great specification not only accurately describes the work to be done, the materials and products to be used – by product name and manufacturer identification number or reference – and the acceptable standards of workmanship, it also provides sufficient detail for the main contractor and subtrades to complete the construction without having to guess what is actually required. This is where the quality of the information and its delivery becomes critical.
When preparing specifications, the principles of the “five C’s” need to be followed, effectively communicating requirements- clear, concise, complete, correct and consistent.
Information should be presented in an easy to follow and logical sequence, free from repetition or irrelevant information. Importantly, information should be consistent and coordinated, both between sections of the specification and with the accompanying drawings, including those from other disciplines.
If supporting material from other sources, such as manufacturers’ literature or producer statements is included, make absolutely certain that the material and the specification agree, the material is relevant to the project and drawings from different sources work together.
Writing a specification using the online cloud based Masterspec NextGen2 system could not be any easier! Products and systems are thoroughly researched and documented by the Masterspec technical team with compliance pathways with the New Zealand Building Code demonstrated.
Leveraging the Power of Masterspec's Dedicated Libraries
Masterspec's eight dedicated libraries allow you to specify almost any construction or engineering project, from the smallest to the largest scale and budget. The libraries of work sections are written by industry experts specifically for the New Zealand construction environment. Sections are often reviewed by leading consultants in specialist fields. Work sections are regularly reviewed and updated as required to remain current. We invest a significant amount of our technical editor’s time, each month on section maintenance and updates. For professionals not using Masterspec, this task is often overlooked, and specifications quickly fall behind. Poorly maintained and incorrect specifications translate to increased professional risk.
Customization and Importance of Updating Specifications
There are both generic and branded work sections for most areas of work, providing the option of using brand specific sections with applicable product detail included. Specifiers can build up a specification relatively quickly from a library of pre-prepared clauses and product profiles, while the Q+A subtractive tool helps the user remove unneeded clauses from a series of pre-written sections.
Finally, and most importantly the specifier needs to customise the proforma specification to reflect the project specific requirements. This work takes time, but with this investment can mean the difference between a poor and great documentation set and often the ultimate success of the project.
Bonus: Pro Tip
Always run “Update Manager” on any new specifications prior to issue. This will ensure that the most recent changes from Masterspec are incorporated.