Where Is the Right Place?

Be careful! Often project specifications are not written by one individual. The final project manual may have contributions by the architect, specifier, engineers (usually plural), and specialty consultants. Coordination problems must be eliminated before the documents are issued for bidding or construction. Otherwise correcting the problem may cost the owner time or money.

Hidden Requirements
Recently we received a consultant's food service equipment specification to include in the project manual. The Section 11 40 00 specification included the following passage:

General conditions of the AIA Document A201-2007, current edition of the American Institute of Architects, is hereby made a part of these specifications to the same extent as if bound herein. The General Conditions, including Modifications and Supplementary Conditions contained herein, shall become a part of the contract and shall apply to all Contractors and Subcontractors.

Perhaps there is no harm, no foul in most instances because architects tend to rely on AIA documents for the agreements and general conditions. But what if this project is for an institutional or corporate owner that uses their own general conditions rather than AIA documents? Then there may be significant conflict. And what will this mean for the other subcontractors that never see this provision? I have no idea, but the courts may.

Best Practice
Specifying a general conditions document in a technical section is not appropriate. Even referencing the general conditions from a technical section is not recommended by CSI Specifying Practice Guide. When in doubt about where to put specification requirements, consult the Uniform Location of Subject Matter. This document is published jointly by EJCDC, AIA, and CSI. Download the document free of charge and follow its recommendations.

Improve Coordination
Require each specification contributor to furnish drafts of each section early enough to read and find coordination issues that must be addressed. Actually read the documents furnished and look for potential problems. Common coordination problems include:

  • Referencing sections that do not exist
  • Referencing sections ambiguously such as "as specified by structural engineer" or "as specified in Division 23"
  • Assigning work to "others"
  • Referencing other sections for spec requirements without checking to be sure the referenced section actually addresses the work
  • Specifying Division 00 procurement and contracting requirements in technical sections
  • Specifying Division 01 requirements in technical sections
  • Specifying paint and sealant products and colors in multiple sections
  • Specifying firestopping products and installation in multiple sections
  • Misplaced or incorrect sustainable design requirements

Most of these coordination issues can be averted by creating a master table of contents for the entire project before the specifications are written. Be sure to list the major items that will be specified in each section so the design team knows what to expect. Distribute the contents to the entire design team and keep the contents up to date as the design progresses.

What other common issues do you see that should be added to the list? Please share your thoughts.

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