How can architects ensure their specifications are consistent from one project to the next or one project architect to the next? How can architects ensure that their specifications will deliver the intended quality for every project?
Commercial Master Guide Specifications
Master guide specifications are the repository for company experience and knowledge gained from every completed design project. Guide specifications are usually written using one of the available commercial master systems such as MasterSpec, SpecText, or Speclink as the basis.
Relying on a commercial master system provides a ready starting point that is well researched technical requirements prepared by industry experts. These masters also ensure the specifications meet CSI formatting standards and CSI specifications writing principles. These masters are written to include the majority of what the majority of projects may require. So the specifications will include many products, systems, and technical requirements for many different building types.
Office Master Guide Specifications
To be really useful, commercial master specifications must be tailored to suit a particular practice. Many architectural firms specialize in designing a limited set of building types. Using the out-of-the-box master guide specification to write the requirements for every design project requires repetitious editing. Extensive amounts of information must be culled to ensure only the necessary requirements remain to suit the firm and the particular project.
Editing the commercial guide specification to remove the requirements that will never apply and to add requirements to suit a particular practice should be one of the first steps to complete. This initial effort will eliminate repetitious editing and will build a resource that accurately reflects the firm's preferences and experience.
Once Written They Must be Maintained
Office guide specifications, to be truly useful, must be maintained. Specifications cannot be static. The industry changes, almost daily. Every time a project specification is written, the master guides may be updated from the results of new research. Every RFI, Change Order and construction site field visit may suggest updates too.
When reading the specifications, others may not see the same intent as the writer. Carefully evaluating contractors' questions to determine where the text may not be clear - and then fixing the master spec, not just the project spec - is critical. This step ensures the same uncertainty is not unknowingly repeated. Record the revision and the reason for it right in the master specification. This will form the company record, the memory for future reference.
The ultimate step to ensuring specification consistency is to add automation. There is no magic button to press to automatically generate a project spec. Even if the BIM is linked to the spec, automation still requires human intervention to produce the final construction documents.
Automating specifications editing is possible. The automation allows preliminary, or gross, editing to be accomplished very quickly. The specifications expert can setup the automation to make the correct edits throughout a specification section based on a single decision. For example, if a project does not require LEED certification, automated specifications can remove LEED requirements from the entire project in a matter of seconds.
Automation ensures that edits are predictable and repeatable, regardless who edits the spec and makes that single decision. Gross editing can be accomplished in minutes, regardless the length of the master guide specification.
The Real Benefit
The real benefit of developing office master guide specifications - and especially automated specifications - is the high quality service perceived by your client, the consistent requirements perceived by contractors, and the inevitable great reputation that perception builds.