Redefining Outline Specifications

In an attempt to innovate and prepare for the future we have been spending a lot of time thinking about new ways of producing specifications and becoming familiar again with the ‘why’ of Specifications. Why are they needed? When are they needed? What are they being used for at key stages? All good questions.

We feel that the thinking behind specifications has been lost a touch. Today’s world focusses on automation, BIM, standardisation of content, and the bottom line.

Whilst all these things are useful in one way or another there is nothing standard about Architectural design, and we are thinking about every aspect of the specification consultancy service and looking for ways to be more efficient, more useful, and better than the rest. This means reviewing everything we have done in the past, questioning it, keeping what is good, rediscovering what has been lost, and changing what doesn’t work.

For the purposes of this post we will focus on the Outline Specification, a document that is often misunderstood and misused.

We always have to remember that people define specifications very differently, but to our mind a real outline specification is one that is delivered at the Schematic Design stage as part of the Stage D Report (which is usually prepared in A3 format), for two main purposes, those being:

  1. For the QS to carry out a cost check, and 
  2. For client sign off in preparation for Stage E design.

In addition to the above, when working internationally the purpose is to provide the local Architect of Record with information to prepare detailed drawings and specifications for tender.

Rarely is an outline specification used as a tender or contract document. This means that we can begin to think differently about the Outline Specification.

Our starting point has been our own outline specifications that for years we have simply seen as “slimmed down” versions of our main specifications created mainly by omitting workmanship clauses etc. We have asked ourselves why do we do it like this and begun the process of change.

We have recently been engaged by Architects with the specific instructions to find a better format for outline specifications that is clear, concise and includes all the relevant data. We have therefore come up with a new ‘Outline Specification’ that responds to these requests. The response so far has been hugely positive.

Our Outline Specification is in A3 format so that it can be slotted into the Stage D Report.  It covers the critical A Section issues that are necessary at this stage on one page and splits the design into simple categories (e.g. walls, floors, ceilings, etc.) that apply to every building in any location in the world, so it can be used for any international or national format.

We continue to develop this new style of Outline Specification, and we are excited to yet again be pushing the boundaries in the field of Specifications. If you would like to learn more about our Outline Specifications then please get in touch.

Mark Schumann

Mark Schumann

Mark Schumann is the Founder and Director of Schumann Consult.
Mark Schumann

Posted on July 9, 2013 in Specifications

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