It's Just a Spec

Yes it is a spec, and it deserves attention - the proper attention to be certain the contractor delivers what is required by the contract. The design team created the drawings and specifications defining the project to meet the owner's requirements and budget. Presumably, the contractor only need comply with the contract to satisfy the owner.

Specifications are requirements. They are not suggestions. They are not optional. Specifications must be written, thoughtfully, as enforceable contract requirements.

Specifications must be clear and direct so the contractor can actually bid with a high degree of certainty. Otherwise prices will be inflated with contingencies covering the ambiguities. Even when bids are close in dollar value, the bid scopes may not be comparable.

A single 12-page specification section was the basis for this blog. Each phrase for the examples below was taken directly from the specification, without modification. The guilty shall remain anonymous.

will always include: Yes that is the point of the specifications. When something is written into the specification, it is included and compliance is mandatory. The phrase "will always" is superfluous and should be deleted. Besides, the phrase puts the requirement at some indeterminate point in the future.

may include: Okay. Who decides if any of the 12 listed items prefaced by this phrase are actually part of the contract? Perhaps more importantly, when will the decision be made - during bidding or after contract award? The specification did not answer these questions. State the requirement definitively. It is part of the work, or it is not.

may not require: This invokes the same questions as above, and the spec does not provide an answer.

other ad hoc methods: As used, the specification permitted the contractor to ignore the specified requirements, provided the methods employed are "accepted." There is no procedure specified for requesting and obtaining acceptance of other methods. Besides "ad hoc methods" would be for a specific rather than general application. The specification gives no hint about what application may employ ad hoc methods.

may or may not include: The phrase is simply redundant. If the specification "may include" some requirements, it is easily understood that these requirements may be excluded as well. State what is required.

touch-up or full repainting: Aha, the contractor has a choice. If the contractor wishes to keep his price competitive, it is obvious what he will bid. If the owner is expecting full repainting, he will be faced with a change order for additional cost and time during construction.

Thus ends "Section Includes," the first third of the first page. That's right! All of these confounding phrases were found in the very first article of the specification. As written, what will the bids include? It's anybody's guess because the specifications are anything but clear.

Hopefully, the contractors will submit many RFIs during the bidding process asking for clarification of the scope of this specification. As a result, the design team will be forced to make decisions that should have been made before the specification was written. This one specification section may cause the first project delay before construction starts. Bidders will likely request additional time to complete their bids after all their questions are answered.

"May" is not biddable with predictable results. Optional work will likely be excluded from the bid to ensure the lowest bid price possible. Oh? You wanted all 12 "may include" items? Well, they are not included in MY price. Can you hear the construction trailer discussion too?

That'll be an extra! Rest assured, the owner will be thrilled to hear that.

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