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          4 min read

          Spec Math - Time vs Efficiency



          Let's talk about the reality of 'time-saving' in research and specification writing tools. Transitioning to a new software can often cause business disruptions, with a learning curve to get everyone up to speed. Transitioning to an entirely new process can cause unnecessary, and in many cases substantial, disruptions. Are the implied time savings really there, and worth the risk?

          In the realm of construction and engineering, specification writing stands as a cornerstone of project success. Yet, in the pursuit of expediency, the tension between saving time and maximizing efficiency can profoundly impact the quality and effectiveness of specifications. Today we will explore the various factors that influence specification writing, from the pitfalls of time-wasting practices to the critical importance of efficiency in ensuring clarity, accuracy, compliance, and coordination.


          ➡️The Time-Wasting Traps


          1. Multiple Architects, One Project

          Problem: Have you ever heard the phrase "Too many cooks, spoils the broth"?   I'd like to say that "too many architects, spoils the design."   Large projects can sometimes have a design architect, an architect of record, an interior architect, a quality review architect, and a construction administration architect. If scopes and responsibilities are not clearly defined, the result can create an increasing magnitude of delays and inconsistencies for all involved. The more complex a task, the more important that priorities and decisions are clear and understood.

          Solution: Outline responsibilities and expectations for each design professional and transparently make decisions.  Each can inform each other, but it needs to be clear who is making each decision.


           2. Adjacent Related Specs

          Problem: How long does it take you to figure what section a construction product goes into?  Do you need to change all your spec references if the countertops change from stone to solid surfacing?   What if your roofing changes from TPO to PVC?   Revising specifications entirely due to slight change in product type can be costly and a huge time-waster.

          Solution: Combine adjacent related specs into a single firm master.   This will give architects and owners the added benefit of seeing what options they have in addition to saving you, the specifier, a lot of time when things change on a project


          3. Changing MASTERFORMAT® Numbers

          Problem: Have you ever had to totally re-write a specification because MASTERFORMAT decided to re-organize their numbering system or re-classify a work result?  This can be confusing not only to architects and specifiers, but often to contractors, estimators, and owners.

          Solution: Think more broadly about what numbers will apply to your projects and which contractors will be performing the work.   Make sure that it follow a logical and universally understood organizational system for your local bidders.


          4. Abundance of Content

          Problem: Some specification platforms boast quantity of sections and length of content as a badge of significance and quality.  Heavily worded, choice abundant sections can lead to an incredible amount of time reviewing and editing the spec. Do all those words really add value to the specification? Or do they add to confusion and misinterpretation of what is really desired.

          Solution: Be CONCISE, Clear, Correct, and Complete.  Less words means less room for error and greater readability.  Few directions and requirements lead to easier enforcement of each listed requirement.

          (Quality and Clarity) > (Quantity and Confusion)


          5. Misunderstanding of Sustainable Documentation

          Problem: When a problem includes sustainable requirements, what is really required and who decides?   Is sustainability desired as a contractual requirement, or simply an aspiration?  Often the owner and architect cannot decide until late in the design process which often causes confusion and wastes a lot of time for specifiers.

          Solution: Often this comes down to requirements for submittals and performance.  By including language similar to the following and referring to a single sustainable requirements section (018113), much of the confusion can be avoided and all requirements can be shown in a single section for reference by each subcontractor.


          image (1)


          ➡️The Critical Role of Efficiency


          1. Knowledge on Specs, Systems, and Terminology

          Efficiency in specification writing hinges on a deep understanding of industry standards, best practices, and terminology, as well as familiarity with relevant building systems, materials, and technologies. Equipped with comprehensive knowledge and resources, specification writers can streamline the writing process, ensure consistency, and anticipate potential challenges or opportunities for optimization, enhancing overall project efficiency and effectiveness.

          "The misunderstood scope for building insulation is common in specifications. For example...

          Section 072100 Thermal Insulation typically only includes exterior insulation that isn't part of another system; yet many look there for roof insulation, or board for EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finish System). If it is part of a warranted system, ideally it gets specified together, and typically it is the same subctonractor installing it. Acoustic insulation is specified in Div 09 Gypsum Board Assemblies, because it is for interior sound transmission, rather than part of the thermal envelope.

          ...lots of terminology disconnects, teams not communicating well...
          or not talking to each other at all, it seems?"


          2. Streamlined Processes and Tools

          Efficient specification writing relies on streamlined processes, standardized templates, and user-friendly tools which facilitate collaboration, automation, and quality control. Leveraging technology, such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, specification management platforms, and cloud-based collaboration tools, empowers teams to centralize information, track changes and project decisions, and expedite document review and approval cycles, accelerating project delivery without compromising accuracy or compliance.


          3. Continuous Improvement and Feedback

          Efficiency is not a static achievement but rather a continuous journey of refinement and adaptation. By soliciting feedback from project stakeholders, monitoring performance metrics, and embracing lessons learned from past projects, specification writers can identify opportunities for process optimization, knowledge sharing, and skills development, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and innovation that drives long-term success and competitive advantage. So much time is lost due to 'firm knowledge' information living in one person's head, with a lack of transition. Finding a transparent way to share information and generate feedback is key to this continuous improvement.



          In the intricate dance of specification writing, the balance between saving time and maximizing efficiency is not merely a matter of expediency but rather a strategic imperative for achieving project objectives, mitigating risks, and delivering value to clients and end-users. By recognizing the time-wasting traps and embracing efficiency-enhancing practices outlined above, specification writers can navigate the complexities of project documentation with confidence, clarity, and purpose, ensuring that specifications serve as a catalyst for success rather than a stumbling block to progress.

          When it comes to time saving in research and specification writing tools, is your software helpful or a hindrance? Writing clear, concise, correct, and complete specifications with a platform that vastly reduces the billable project hours or 'automates it all' does not yet exist.  Writing good specifications and creating trust in the documents comes from the process of being efficient and collaborative throughout the project.  Waste is reduced with better decision management and proactive teams more than any software can hope to achieve.  



          At Conspectus Cloud, we respect and appreciate your workflow because we are also specification writers. Our team of established, professional specification writers in locations coast to coast created Conspectus Cloud, and in the past nine years of use, it has provided more internal efficiency and a higher quality deliverable for our clients.

          Conspectus Cloud, a SaaS tool created by specifiers for specifiers, is now available to any firm that requires project specifications for their business. Join the rapidly growing, non-disruptive, and copyright-free revolution in open seat licensing, and ask for a demonstration today.