To properly complete deferred design, a solid understanding of the regulations surrounding shop drawings, specifications, and submittals is necessary. However, guidance governing best practice expectations for treatment of various types of submittals is fractured between several engineering and architectural associations.
Design professionals have deferred aspects of design responsibility to contractors as long as there have been architects, engineers, and contractors. This approach works best when final design of specific elements is resolved as a component of construction deliverables, rather than a detailed portion of the construction document set.
Recent changes to professional design services and construction procurement have led to deferring design responsibility to the construction phase of the work. The design community can take leadership on this issue and act on necessary improvements to communication with the constructor.
A basic tenet of a good set of construction documents is “Mention it once and in the right place.” The contract is between the owner and the contractor, and the specifications communicate to the latter what is required (without telling the contractor how to construct). This second article in a three-part series on architects, specifiers, and construction documentation focuses on language and specification format.
In more than one instance, this author has heard an architect tell a specifier something along the lines of “You want 250 hours for specifications? I have only budgeted 70 hours.” A project manager once told me, “We provide specifications only because the client requires us to do it—the contractor does not look at the specifications until there is a legal issue.” This is a dangerous line of thinking because it eventually has negative impact on the architectural firm and its reputation.
You may have ‘typical’ specs to use as the basis of your next project specifications, but how helpful are they if not continuously renewed and updated? It is easy to keep older construction documents, using them over and over again for projects of the same nature. However, this is exactly what I strongly advise against, even if for a consecutive phase for the same building. Things change, and what seemed right for yesterday’s project may not be suitable for today’s one.
The creation of drawings and specifications for any construction project is a complicated business. First, the general conditions must be outlined, all appropriate references identified, and contractual obligations listed
English is complicated, and misinterpretation of written communication is pervasive. Without the added layer of subtleties of speech tone, body language, and context, many written sentences can be easily misinterpreted. This is especially true when it comes to specifications.
When manufacturers provide technical documentation for their products, they are giving a tool to the specification writer for specifying those same materials. The two main documents on which specifiers rely are technical product data sheets and master guide specifications sections.