Where is the next crop of Specifiers?

Perhaps the first question should be: Do we need another crop of Specifiers? After all, we should be able to push the BIM spec button and generate a project spec. Right? Well, not yet. And even if we could, who will be responsible to be certain the spec is right?

Specifiers and Academia
Specifiers are not the product of architectural and engineering schools. My own architectural schooling included only one professional practice class, meeting a total of 30 hours. This class was supposed to teach everything needed to run an architectural practice. I'm not making this up folks. I remember specs being mentioned once, but not discussed, not taught. Granted my schooling happened a few years ago. But the academic approach to specs remains the same.

So if schools are not teaching the art of specifying as part of design practice, then how will the specifying profession be perpetuated?

Identify Attitude and Aptitude
Not every architect will be a designer, nor should they be. The profession needs technically grounded individuals creating construction documents capable of realizing the designer's dream. I am happy to leave design to those that are much more creative than I. Although, I will control, or at least influence, many design decisions through the specifications. I am content creating documents that respect and manifest the design. I delight in well executed details that allow designers to revel in the result.

Pay attention to students, interns, and emerging professionals. Watch for those with a specifier's attitude and aptitude. Observe those who think three dimensionally, envisioning assembly intersections and transitions before the condition is modeled or detailed. Listen for those who are inquisitive about materials and products. Note those who volunteer for site visits to see construction in progress.

These individuals are our future Specifiers.

Making a Specifier
Expose potential specifiers to the profession, slowly. Show them a specification. Help them appreciate the importance. Ask them to write a "simple" section for a project. I like to use flush wood doors. Give them a corner sample, some manufacturer's literature, the AWI Architectural Woodwork Standard, and a door schedule. Review the items to explain the content of each.

Leave them alone to work their way through the spec. That simple section turns into hundreds of decisions to finish the spec. The key is not finishing the spec. I know I have a potential specifier when they stop writing and start asking questions.

Help them finish, explaining the process and decisions as you do. Then, use their work and be sure they know it.

  • Repeat monthly.
  • Introduce helpful resources along the way.
  • Repeat weekly.
  • Assign selected project specs.
  • Repeat daily!
  • Assign entire project spec.
  • Repeat often.
  • Change business card title to SPECIFIER.

It takes commitment. It takes time. Until academia takes construction documents seriously, this is the only method to ensure a specifier will be available to make certain the future automated BIM specs are right.

Remind good prospects that being a designer and a competent specifier will expand job opportunities.

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