Specifications

A well prepared and coordinated specification communicates what the project client is buying from the contractor. It deals with scope, quality, activity, and responsibility, and as such complements the contract conditions and other documentation. During construction the specification is used to check the adequacy of the contractor's work on site, as well as providing a reference point for the determination of variations.

Our Specifications

One size does not fit all when it comes to specifications. Every project is different as is its project location. Because of this we offer a range of different specifications to suit the specifics of your project. We are able to produce specifications in CAWS, CSi and various other local specification formats. We want to be able to service all types of project as we know how important each one is to you, no matter what it’s scale. We have re-focused our Specification service and looked at how to achieve our vision and as a result, we have created a suite of specifications that cater for these different project sizes:

  • Minor Works Specifications – For use on smaller scale projects such as small houses, conversions etc.
  • Intermediate Specifications – For medium sized projects. This is a slimmed down version of our full specification.
  • Full Specifications – For the big projects.

As part of the process, we will always sit down with you and discuss which specification is appropriate. We do not believe in a one size fits all approach.

Our Service

Our service is tailored around improving the construction industry and standard of design documentation. We prepare specifications that protect the designer and the Client through the following means:

  • Starting every project specification from our up-to-date and managed baseline
  • Becoming part of the design team and developing the specification as the design develops
  • Aligning the specification to the contract and procurement method
  • Understanding each form of contract and correctly aligning risk
  • Providing quality control and quality assurance procedures.
  • Defining the contractor’s responsibilities.
  • Keeping a full audit trail of all changes and issued specifications through our advanced online system
  • The experience and knowledge of our team

Specification Formats

Through our many years of writing specifications on projects around the world we have learnt and understood the complexities and intricacies of what is required. We have gained the experience of writing in a number of different specification formats, such as the ones below:

  • CAWS – Common Arrangement
  • CSi Masterformat
  • NATSPEC
  • QCS – Qatar Construction Specification

For each of these different specification types we have developed our own baseline documents and style of writing which we believe gives the best protection to our Clients.

Outline Specifications

Specifications are defined very differently by people, but to SCL a real outline specification is one that is delivered at Schematic Design stage as part of the Stage D Report (which is usually prepared in A3 format), for two 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.

There is a third reason when working internationally and that 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.

Our Outline Specification is in A3 format (so that it can be slotted into the Stage D Report) and covers the critical A Section issues 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.

Dealing with Sustainability

Sustainability is the most important issue facing our and other industries at present, and we are reminded of situations in the recent past when we seem to take an age to, firstly recognise the need and then implement solutions which attract additional fees or costs. Rarely do we lead the way, but when it comes to sustainability we have a unique opportunity to do just that – the question is, are we up to the challenge?

Specifications, as key contract documents, have an important role to play and need as always to stipulate targets and solutions as appropriate. Specifications reflect design and cannot make a design “sustainable” simply by the use of clever words. Sustainable specifications are therefore not an add on or optional extra, should not require an expert or attract additional fees. Every specification has to be as “green” as possible, with clauses embedded as standard practice and become the norm.

How We Work

Our preference is to get involved with projects as early in the process as possible. A typical project will require an outline specification at Schematic Design, followed by a detailed draft at Detail Design and then finally a full tender/contract specification.

You will often find us in your office gathering information, from which we produce your specifications and we are always available to respond to your telephone calls, e-mails and problems.

We work as part of the architectural team; ensuring regular meetings are held with the design team to ascertain a complete understanding of the project, contract and procurement status, so that the appropriate specification can be produced.

We start by working with individuals to produce a Product Reference Sheet (PRS) for the project which scopes out the elements and materials required. We instill good habits from day one, assigning a code to each element that provides a link between annotated drawings and the specification. As the design progresses we work with each architect and provide iterations for review. Through regular meetings and contact each team member contributes and gains a full understanding of what the specification contains and most importantly why.

Our Approach To BIM

BIM (Building Information Modelling) is the future of our industry, bringing together numerous aspects of the costruction industry into a single model to be shared and collaborated on. Specifications are a vital component of this and as such we have been working hard to ensure that our specifications and service fits nicely within this environment.

Specifications are relatively easy to link within a BIM model, but there are options for intelligent use. You can read more about what we are up to on our blog here.

We are not focusing on trying to be too smart with BIM. We want our specifications and our service to fit seamlessly into a BIM environment in a way that makes the lives of designers simpler, not completely change the way we deliver specifications for our clients.

Company Wide Specification Baselines

We have the experience of setting up specification baseline documents and systems throughout the World. This process has been proven to:

  • Reduce time spent on the review process.
  • Provide a company-wide common language.
  • Provide consistency and control of documents.
  • Reduce time spent reinventing the wheel.
  • Incorporate ‘best of’ examples and knowledge into one location.
  • Provide cost benefits

This approach would be suitable for the likes of architectural practices; specific sectors; institutions; large sites; building chains, etc.

Some Basic Tips

Not sure you need support? That’s fine – some architectural practices like to prepare specifications themselves and feel that having their own architects preparing the specifications is important – we agree, although we think that even the best architects and practices could benefit from some support because specifications are very important contractual documents and require focus to get them right.

If you are preparing specifications yourself ensure that you have considered the following issues:

  • Use a format recognised by the local market (CAWS/CSI etc.).
  • Include local and international Standards and Codes of Practice as appropriate.
  • Incorporate defined terms defined by the main contract conditions.
  • Prepare the specification to reflect the selected procurement route (D&B, Construction Management, Two-stage, etc.).
  • Use tried and tested baseline specifications containing the latest Standards and Codes.
  • Appropriately reflect the design intent, performance requirements, product selection and quality targets.
  • Adopt detailed nomenclature for ease of reference in use.
  • Utilise a product reference system to create a link between the drawings and the specification.
  • Pay particular attention to document identification and issue control.
  • Avoid conflict with Preliminaries as produced by a quantity surveyor.
  • Ensure that the specification is of the best technical quality and is fully coordinated with other consultants’ documents, preventing duplication and/or conflict.
  • Identify potential bulk purchasing opportunities on multi-site projects by ensuring common material palettes are adhered to.
  • Focus on elements that require post-contract design input from the contractor or specialists.
  • Liaise with industry to ensure that design is practically achievable.

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