Seek the Boundary
Specifiers collect data about product selections and system descriptions - products so each can be properly specified, systems so all required components will be included. We gather the pieces of the gigantic jigsaw puzzle and begin assembling without any border pieces to define the boundary. We try to coax timely design decisions from the architects and engineers to help define their intent.
Fill the Gaps
We begin organizing data by UniFormat, MasterFormat, and BIM objects. We try to bring a sense of order to the data. For without order, the data are useless because they convey no meaning. We attach pieces of information to Elements, Spec Sections, and Revit Families to begin the comprehension. Organizing the data begins discovery and questioning to fill the gaps where no data exists.
Specifiers need not have all information at once. Not all data will exist when specifications are started. Seek essential data first. Gather the good to know items next. And finish with the decoration, those final selections for color, texture, and appearance - the options for the specified products and materials. Ask nicely for current drawings, once, twice, thrice, and more times if needed. Drawings would be NICE to understand the products and systems in context to ensure proper coordination.
Means and Methods
There are differences between in-house and consulting specifiers, physical presence mostly. For the in-house specifier, Louis would say, get up, walk over, kick the project architect in the shin to get his attention, and then ask your question. I would add: camp out at the PA's desk until you get an answer. Don't' walk away and expect you will get an answer eventually. The question will be forgotten soon after you leave. Specifiers must be persistent, unrelenting, to be sure all the questions are answered.
For specification consultants, diplomacy is normally required to cordially extract the information from the design team's collective brain. Although I have resorted to coercion and begging when needed.
Design is a process. Data gathering occurs throughout the process. Review design information as it is developed: drawings, sketches, meeting minutes and what ever else is available. Determine what discussions DO and what discussions MAY affect the spec. Track the discussions and record the final decision to include in the spec.
Use multiple tools if needed to generate meaningful data. New technological tools are available to enhance or replace traditional tools. A variety of electronic, web enabled, note taking tools exist today that did not exist just last year. Explore the available tools that work for you and most importantly get results from the architects and engineers. See Kevin Purdy's blog for a summary of some of the electronic tools.
What to Use
Specifiers may use multiple tools to gather and organize data depending on personal preference, computer savvy, design team acceptance, and response value. Here are the primary weapons in the specifier's arsenal:
- Specification Notes
- To Do Lists
- Tables of Contents
- Preliminary Project Descriptions
Beware the Bombshells
Hidden or unavailable data can be the greatest threat to completing specifications to accurately reflect the project, especially when discovered late in the process. Be sure to learn if any owner, landlord, or other standards apply to the project. These standards can drastically affect product and system selections.
Determine if the project will be publicly funded, in whole or even in part. Public funding is never without strings attached - strings that may affect the specifications. Some agencies dictate the required spec format, still hanging on to earlier editions of MasterFormat using 16 Divisions and 5-digit section numbers.
Be always aware of the project schedule. Get the planned delivery dates. Mark them on your calendar. Confirm the dates often. They can change during design team meetings without the specifier's knowledge. Schedules do not always slip, sometimes they accelerate.
Check the Samples
Review the end of the presentation above to see the sample documents used for gathering and organizing data. The samples were provided by Louis Medcalf, Bruno Cadorini, and me. If you would like to share your samples, email them to me at email@example.com and I will add them to this posting.
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