CSI's specifying practice group discussed the concept of outline specs and came to the conclusion that traditional outline specs will be replaced. Most of the group members admitted they seldom produced or used outline specs. When they do write outline specs, most are not using traditional methods. Surprisingly, the overwhelming majority favored replacing outline specs with preliminary project descriptions. So what do you think? Leave a comment by signing in at the end of this posting.
So what do you think? Leave a comment by signing in at the end of this posting. Then join the group to receive notices of future meetings. It is FREE and it is not just for specifiers! Visit the CSI blog for more information on this and previous practice group discussions.
Here is the presentation that prompted the discussion. The rationale for the poll results follows. Scroll through the presentation using the arrow button below.
It is often difficult to produce outline specifications that are consistent. All design team members do not use outlines based on the same system and engineers prefer to use narratives rather than outlines to describe the building systems. Tom Gilmore of Torti Gallas and Partners, Inc. in Denver, CO, has solved this problem by creating a single spreadsheet with all the standard text for all disciplines. Each paragraph is a separate row. The text is selected for the particular project by using Excel's Auto Filter function and then the text is modified as needed.
Beware that your design contract may require outline specs as a Design Development deliverable. AIA B101 - Owner Architect Agreement §3.3.1 explicitly requires outline specs as one of the phase services. B101 does not define what constitutes an outline spec. So there may be some latitude for architects within the bounds of accepted practice.
The group explored several examples of outline specs. CSI's Project Resource Manual provides guidance on the format for producing the outlines and shows an example illustrating some of the concepts. Masterspec and SPECTEXT, two of the commercial spec systems available do not follow the same format of the PRM example. This has caused confusion about what form an outline spec should take.
Steve Lawrey of Vitetta in Philadelphia, PA reported that outline specs are normally throw-away documents. After they are produced, they are little used and the content must be recreated when the construction specifications are written. Creating information once and sharing the result should be the goal rather than duplicating efforts.
Two alternatives to traditional outline specifications were discussed: Multi-Purposed Specifications and Preliminary Project Descriptions (PPD). Multi-purposed specifications rely on using a single document to produce outline specifications and construction specifications. For outlines, most of the document text is hidden, showing only text that is relevant to the current design stage. As more information is developed, more of the specification text is revealed, until the final construction spec is issued.
Preliminary project descriptions offer an entirely different approach. Using UniFormat, the project description is arranged by system and assembly instead of the MasterFormat divisions and sections used for construction specifications. PPDs offer flexibility to describe multiple options for the same assembly and the ability to document the reason for selecting one of the options as the design solution. PPDs can be used throughout the entire design process to capture the result of the process. Then they can be used as a quality control checklist against the resulting construction documents.
The consensus was clear. The group favored PPDs as the preferred method to document projects during the early design stages. Clifford Marvin of KPB Architects in Anchorage, AK, a member of CSI's PPD Task Team pointed out that a PPD Guideline is in progress and wholeheartedly recommended PPDs in place of outline specs. Download the draft guideline from the CSI website.