A construction specification or, architectural specification, is a document that states how a building is to be constructed, demolished, altered, or removed.
A construction specification, if concise, should articulate design decisions and apply them to the construction sequence. The specification defines the products used and quality standards of a projects design. In New Zealand the specification is typically included in the contract and completes the documentation set alongside the drawings and schedules.
The process of specification writing, conducted in parallel with design and drawing work, helps create the balance between client, statutory, technical, and aesthetic requirements.
Who writes building specifications?
Specifications are most commonly written by architects, designers, and engineers. The industry normally labels the author a ‘specifier’.
However, in larger organisations, specifications can be completed by specialist specification writers, project managers, or members of the project design group. The principal qualifications needed are:
- Familiarity with the project, including the design philosophy
- Expertise in editorial, technical and contractual matters
- Familiarity with NZ Building codes and standards
Why do we write specifications?
Specifications are very important for the construction of a building, landscape, or site. They assist in reducing the chance of miscommunication, delays, over-runs, changes to your design and much more. The specification document is important because it articulates important details that cannot be written on the drawing set.
Specifications also allow professionals to keep a record of their design intent in the unlikely case of a dispute.
When do you write a specification?
Best practice is to develop your construction specification alongside the drawings or model. Completing your documentation set all at the same time will ensure your building is consistent, and your constructor can follow your instructions without confusion or complication.
How do you write a specification?
Specification writing is imperative for every design and can be very time-consuming. Most design professionals subscribe to online specification platforms to manage their risk, obtain up to date content and minimise their time writing specifications. This allows them to efficiently build specifications with pre-populated templates and information and update the specification information if there are changes throughout their project life.
Construction specifications must be:
- Technically accurate
- Up to date
- Simple to use
- Easy to coordinate with the project drawings
- Have a logical relationship with other related documents, including schedules of quantities
- Standard conditions of contract and tender
Achieving this is not an easy task, especially for the smaller design practice, which may not have access to the wide range of information sources and support structures maintained by larger organisations.
Drawings convey information in a graphic form and are usually the preferred means for providing information on “where” and “how.” Qualitative or “what” information is often best described in writing. When this qualitative information is gathered together the document is called a specification.
A project specification should collect design decisions and allocate them according to the required construction sequence. Information must also be easy to locate and simple to co-ordinate with project drawings and related documents.
Not sure where to start? Masterspec is New Zealand’s largest online construction library that is relied on for up-to-date information and maintained specification content. Whether you are designing a kitchen, large commercial building, or a civil engineering project, Masterspec has the latest NZ codes and standards to specify from. Start your free 30 day trial today.