Editing Master Specifications - Part 1

The CSI Specifying Practice Group met to discuss editing master specifications for construction projects. Listen to the recoded session when you log into the CSI website or view the presentation below.

To understand how to edit the master specs, be sure to know how these specs are developed. Each master spec is written to be nearly all things, to nearly all specifiers, for nearly every project. So why "nearly?" Well, it is impossible for master spec writers to conceive every possible scenario and include it in the masters. They do attempt to capture about 80 percent of what may be required for most construction projects. Master specs try to be inclusive. Project specs result from judicious deletion and thoughtful addition.

Masters are written to accommodate varying degrees of project complexity and different methods of specifying. A single spec document will be the starting point for writing a two story wood framed townhouse and a 800,000 sf state of the art medical facility. Not all the requirements in the master should reasonably apply to both projects. And if the specifier chooses to use a proprietary instead of performance specifying method, most of Part 2 of the spec could be eliminated.

The scale, quality, and approach to writing specs differ for every project. These differences are responsible for the major pitfall in using master specifications: If in Doubt - Take It Out. Excesses in specifications will add unnecessary costs and may injure your reputation, especially when the excess becomes apparent by a busted budget.

Excessive testing, submittals, meetings, and mockups are commonly specified by not removing a master requirement. After all, it is master written by highly qualified specifiers, so it must be appropriate to include. Well, not always. Remember scale. Including a mockup for a material with a small installed quantity will greatly inflate the cost of the material.

Deciding what to retain or delete from a master spec can be decided more easily by editing the product information in Part 2 first. Once the products are defined, then the administrative and execution requirements in Part 1 and Part 3 can be tailored to fit the products. Editing the spec beginning in Part 1, may result in more excesses, just because the scope of the section will not be understood until Part 2 is completed.

To specify products, determine what is important to the project. Just because a product has specific performance, it may not be relevant to the project. Acoustic ceiling panels may be selected for light reflectance and surface texture, without consideration of the acoustic properties. Just because the master spec lists noise reduction coefficient (NRC) for the ceiling panel, does not mean it must be specified.

Carefully consider those delegated design requirements that are passed along to the contractor. When specifying standard products, designed and tested for a purpose and supported by published test data, delegated design is probably not required. Storefront for example is usually installed within a defined opening that is designed by the architect or engineer.

Manufacturers typically publish span and load tables for storefront, so designers can select the appropriate system for the project. Delegated design should not be required. Master specs include delegated design requirements for virtually every exterior envelope component. Be careful to remove delegated design when not required.

When using a proprietary method to specify products, then descriptions, performance, and reference standards may be deleted. However, some description other then the model number and manufacturer's name may be necessary if alternative products will be considered. There must be enough information to base a decision for accepting alternative products.

With all the great conversation, there was no time to review the Part 1 and Part 3 considerations or the ways to adapt a master to a design practice. This discussion topic will be continued at the September meeting.  See https://www.conspectusinc.com/blog/2011/09/editing_master_specifications_-_part_2 for Part 2.

Join the group and listen to the finale to this session.

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