What's a Specifier?

A spec writer? Of course you know what a spec writer is. Spec writers produce the project manual. They create all the project requirements for the materials, products and systems the design team selects. That's right.

But do you know what a Specifier is?

I make a distinction between spec writer and specifier. A spec writer turns design team selections into text to describe the project sufficiently to be built meeting the design intent.

A specifier advises the entire project team, not just the design team. Specifiers coach teams about materials and product selections, applications, and integration required to make the project work.

A specifier is a trusted technical adviser and part of the project team - start to finish.

Specifiers Are Proactive
First, I must relay a story of a project kick off meeting with the architect this past week. "I see the interior design chose maple and poplar for interior transparent finished woodwork. The color variation is likely to be pretty extreme. Knowing what interior designers typically expect, I suggest you check the species selections with the designer."

After making the comment, I explained that poplar usually has both yellow sapwood and green heartwood in the same board. That was all they needed to hear. Now we are looking for a wood species that will provide a uniform ebony stained appearance. We are still waiting to hear what type of surface the designer wants: coarse (open grained) or smooth (closed grain). So far we guessed right and are guiding the final wood selection.

Specifiers make certain that products are used appropriately.

Specifiers are Resources
Because specifiers are generalists, we tend to know a little about a lot. Sometimes we know a lot about a little. We will never admit knowing nothing about anything. We will advise when expert advice is needed, and specifiers will always will always lend their own opinion.

Though not omnipotent, specifiers will know who to call for advice. We tend to have a large network of technical experts because of our association with manufacturers and product representatives. Specifiers also have a small network of peers that are always willing to share their experience and knowledge.

Specifiers bring expert guidance to solve project design problems.

Specifiers are Curmudgeons
Specifiers are moderately to severely skeptical and cynical, constantly searching for facts. (We didn't earn the curmudgeon label for no reason.)

We ask many pointed questions rather than simply accepting what we see on drawings and in design reports as absolute. Once asked, specifiers become pit bulls - not letting the question go until answered.

We want to know why a decision was made. What was the overriding concern that led to a specific decision? Knowing all the project parameters allows specifiers to examine alternatives for the best solution rather than simply a good solution.

Specifiers challenge the design team to make decisions.

Specifiers Are Reviewers
Specifiers work using a well defined process. It is quite simple really.

  • Investigate: Review the drawings, make notes about what is required.
  • Research: Verify selected products are appropriate and identify special concerns.
  • Question: Interrogate the project team to fill in the missing information.
  • Document: Draft the specifications to capture the project qualitative requirements.
  • Coordinate: Ensure the drawings and specifications remain consistent.

The specifier's questions reflect the same level of understanding that can be expected of the contractor. Questions should trigger further investigation to explore how to better convey the intent. The questions can be answered during design or later during construction as RFIs. It is much less work and aggravation to answer during design.

Specifiers ensure construction documents are well coordinated.

So What's a Specifier?
Specifiers are technical advisers who challenge project teams to ensure appropriate products are properly integrated into the project through well coordinated construction documents.

Other Resources
So, you want to be a specifier?

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