Contract Documents are Related

It's a debate. The debate is evidenced in all the commercial guide specifications and even CSI's SectionFormat™. Related Requirements is an article heading near the beginning of specification sections. This article gives specifiers an opportunity to list other specifications sections affected by or affecting each particular spec section.

MasterSpec® guide specifications includes an additional article at the beginning of every section: Related Documents. The sole purpose of this article is to alert the specification reader that the drawings, Division 00, and Division 01 apply to work specified in each section.

AIA Document A201™ General Conditions of the Contract for Construction© §1.2.1 states "The Contract Documents are complementary, and what is required by one shall be as binding as if required by all…" By definition in A201, Contract Documents include the Agreement, Conditions of Contract, Drawings, and Specifications.

So why the need for Related Documents and Related Requirements within each specification section?

Related Requirements References

The rationale is that the Specifier is helping direct the Contractor's attention to other sections that contain information that might normally be specified in the section making the reference. The interpretation of "normally" is left to the discretion of each Specifier. What is normal for one Specifier will not be normal for another.

Another rationale is that Specifier will coordinate specification sections required for complete construction assemblies, especially when performance requirements are necessary for the entire assembly. However, MasterFormat® provides 01 80 00 Performance Requirements as a location to specify requirements for complete assemblies. The titles under 01 80 00 follow a UniFormat™ arrangement for building systems and assemblies as functional elements.

The difficulty with specifying related requirements is striking a balance between what is referenced and what is not. SectionFormat states the list should be brief - limited to sections directly affecting or affected by work in the section.

Division 01 References

The argument for Division 01 references in technical specifications is to ensure the subcontractors realize that Division 01 exists and applies to the work. The common belief is that Contractors parse the Project Manual and distribute individual specifications sections for bidding without including Division 01 requirements. Consequently, if the specification does not identify the existence of Division 01, the subcontractors will not accommodate the cost of the project general requirements. SectionFormat specifically cautions against including references to Division 01 sections for procedural matters.

The same rationale for and against Division 01 references also applies to Division 00 references for procurement and contracting requirements.

Are References Contractual or Informational?

The specifications are a contract document. The text of specifications is contractual and enforceable by both the A/E and the Contractor. SectionFormat states that Related Requirements are informational, only. Unless explicitly  stated, how is the Contractor to know that portions of the specifications are not contractual and not enforceable?

The Specifier must be acutely aware of the contractual nature of the specifications when listing related requirements. If a related section is omitted from the list, the Contractor may argue that the omitted section is not applicable. If an unrelated section remains in the list, there may be an unnecessary burden and cost added to the project.

If references are informational, only, why should this information be embedded within contractual requirements?

Our Approach

We do not include Related Documents nor Related Requirements lists in specifications we write. Our rationale is that the conditions of the contract state that all contract documents are complementary, so there is no need to insert additional reminders.

One caveat though. We do make specific reference to Division 01 sections within the Summary Article when a specification section is affected by Alternates, Unit Prices, Allowances, or Owner Furnished Products because of the direct cost impact to the specification.  Division 01 in these cases contains specific requirements for individual specifications in addition to general requirements for all specifications.

A Proposed Solution

Much of the debate stems from a bygone era - an era when document distribution was by paper copy, only. Reproducing and distributing drawings and specifications was a time consuming and costly task. So Contractors did limit what was provided to subcontractors to minimize time and expense.

Today, document distribution is primarily electronic. The time and cost are negligible. The specifier can ensure that every entity on the construction team receives the complete Project Manuals. Just create the Project Manual as a single PDF file - bookmarked by specification section, of course. The Contractor will not spend the time extracting single specification sections for distribution when, with the click of a button, the entire Project Manual can be sent to the entire construction team.

A Bonus

There is a truly amazing feature available for Project Manuals delivered as a single PDF file. The feature? Search! Not "Find," but rather "Search." Search will provide a list of every instance of a word or phrase. The list is linked to the document. Click the list and move to the document location. Search allows speedy navigation to view each instance of the search results.

With the PDF Search function, there should be little or no need for the design team to answer questions about where to find information the Contractor requires. Instead, attention can be turned to interpreting the documents when there is a question about intent.

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