It's just like the last one, except...

In my career, I have heard this phrase many times. Architects begin to describe a new project in terms of a previous project. It may be an attempt:

  • To promote a better instant understanding.
  • To reduce the specifications fee.
  • To reduce the time required to produce the specifications.
  • To avoid repeating product and system decisions.

The Dangers
Regardless the intention, trying to apply previous project specifications to a current project is fraught with danger - even if for the same owner, in the same facility, immediately after completing the first project. No two projects are ever the same, similar, but never the same. If the architects fail to mention all the exceptions, the specifications may never be accurate.

The Realities
Specifications are, well, specific - specific to an individual project's particular circumstances. Project nuances discovered during data gathering and product research are captured in the final specifications. So will those original nuances:

  • Be equally applicable to a new project? Probably not.
  • Be completely removed for the new project? Unlikely.

These embedded nuances may be right, not quite right, or absolutely wrong for the new project. Unless each one is appropriate and right, there is potential for misunderstanding between the architect and contractor. Those misunderstandings can be costly, depending on when they are discovered.

The Best Practices
The best approach is always to begin a new project with the office master specifications. These documents contain the knowledge, as instructional or cautionary notes documenting firm experience, gained over years of professional practice. That knowledge does not exist in project specifications. Those notes are removed as the specifications are tailored to a project. Editing a project specification to document a new project deprives the specifier the opportunity to carefully customize the specifications based on the complete firm experience.

The Potential Results
The time "saved" by trying to use specifications from the previous project will seem a pittance compared to the time required to correct a misunderstanding discovered after it was too late to be corrected, easily. Even if corrections can be made to the documents, will your reputation survive the potential embarrassment?

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