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Re: Why you need a Robust Specification

Hi <<First Name>>

I recently met a representative promoting products at a conference, we discussed the product and I asked to see his specification, I was shocked by his response.  "what is one of those?" so I explained. "I had no idea I needed one" as he pointed to all the information in his leaflet.  Hence this email.
Education and Training
  • It is exceptional for architects to get training in specification writing at university
  • The industry standard specification company offers training, in the use of their software, to complete their own competent clauses or work sections, but this does not provide learning on the art of writing specifications
  • Specification writing is not taught in the office, there is rarely anybody available with the skills to teach it
  • Consequently very few architects feel confident about writing specifications
  • In this context product specifications are best prepared by the manufacturer for designers/specifiers to adopt
Architects generally don't like Specification Writing
  • They are carried out infrequently at long time intervals
  • It takes time getting up to speed each time they are carried out
  • There is a need for essential information to be at hand or on line to work smartly
  • Specification writing needs clear concentration time to be able to do them well
  • Getting away from distractions like CAD, telephone and meetings is difficult whilst the project progresses apace
  • Architects need as much help as possible from manufacturers to make specification as painless as possible
  • If your competitor has a specification and you do not, the other company is an easy choice to make 
Time available for Specification Writing
  • Architects are always under time pressures and specifications are often left until late and carried out in a hurry
  • In GBE experience architects do not like specification writing in a hurry like this.
  • Specifications are also created off the back of the last similar project rebadging the cover and tweaking the previous specification content to suit the new project; this only really works if you are doing 2 outlets one after another for the same chain store.
  • This approach leaves the specification in a potentially dangerous state
  • If your product was poorly specified in one, it is wrong in both and ad infinitum in future copied specifications
If you do not have a readymade specification:
  • You could offer a copy of your literature,
  • This requires time to find the essence and copy it out of the literature to create a specification
  • It requires all the important points to be found, extracted and then added in the specifications, once the right location has been determined
  • Literature is usually written as guidance and this needs to be rewritten into instructions
  • Every architectural practice has to go through this process with varying degrees of success
  • Putting the final installation quality at risk
  • Creating a spec from your literature is too slow, inconsistent and a potential problem waiting to happen 
Your literature may already include a short specification clause
  • You make it available to copy or download and paste into specifications
  • Examples include:
    • “The product shall be ‘Wonder Product’ as supplied by ‘Wonderful Company’ (with contact details).
    • Follow the manufacturers written recommendations and requirements”
  • This is probably the worst thing that could be offered as a specification and included in a contract specification
  • This short clause contains insufficient information to help defend the specification against substitution by probably cheaper and ‘not-equivalent’ competitor’s products
  • This short clause does not include the reasons why the designer/specifier chose the product in the first place, its unique characteristics that are worth defending, but absent when the substitution process happens
Competent Specification > Competent Installation
  • The short specification does not include everything that is needed for a competent installation, without reference to the literature, that may not be readily available on site
  • Contractors are known to say “If its not in the spec, I’m not doing it” and sometimes when the designer is not confident of their grounds, they get away with it, even leading to claims for extras for a competent installation!
Your literature is often full of ‘golden nuggets’ of information including:
  • Standards and codes of practice, certification, accreditations, warranties and guarantees
  • Preceding trades, substrate requirements, preparation requirements
  • Recipes, build ups, products, accessories, systems
  • Application requirements, workmanship, tolerances, testing, etc.
  • These may include all information for all parties at all stages of the demand and supply chain
  • These can avoid lack of information at the point of action
  • They are essential in the specification, potentially avoid site problems
  • These ‘golden nuggets’ can help defend against substitution of your product, if included in the specification 
If these ‘golden nuggets’ of information are missing from the specification:
  • Things can go wrong when somebody makes it up as they go along, based on past experience with another’s similar looking but different products.
  • It may take days to arrange a representative visit, site inspection, fault diagnosis, decision making, corrective action written instructions to be created, delivered and instructed,
  • All this could all have been avoided if the information had been in the specification from the outset.
  • Any bad experience with a product is likely to lead to the boycotting of the product from future projects
How can you help Architects needing your specifications?
  • You could provide guidance notes
    • To help designers to choose the right product and accessories to make a competent systems
    • To help them write or edit the specification
    • But this is still a slow process for the designer/specifier
  • You could have a product specific specification prepared that you have ready to use
    • If your systems are complex that need thorough face to face briefing of the designer to ensure good choices are made
    • You edit it for and with the designer
    • Then hand over a complete project specific specification to the designer to include in theirs
  • You could provide a specification work section with accompanying guidance notes
    • to help the specifiers to make all the decisions needed to create a competent installation
    • All of those ‘golden nuggets’ can be turned into:
    • An A4 page clause
    • A number of pages for a full work section (specification chapter),
    • And accompanying general guidance and clause guidance notes
    • Make them available from your website or in literature or on a CD
If writing your own specification feels intimidating GBE offer a service to help you through this process:
  • Working with your guidance to determine the right approach, for your products and systems, from the three options above, and any others that come to mind and make sense
  • Extract the essence from your information, reorganize it, rewrite it, complete it or write in options
  • Create clauses and/or number then to fit into projects based on industry standard specifications
  • Create stand alone work sections not previously created in industry standard specifications
  • Write guidance notes to enable completion of the project specification by the designer/specifier
  • Prepare for publication in various formats on different platforms
GBE can also promote you products and these specifications
  • On Green Building Encyclopaedia website
  • With Green Building Specification being developed and published there
  • Via social media and Pinterest
  • In Special editions of GBE Members Newsletter or GBE Solution Provider News
Speak with Brian Murphy about Specifications, Pages and Advertising in GBE Encyclopaedia and GBE Newsletters
T 01733 238148  M 07973 281024 (UK GMT 09:00 - 18:00)

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Members Newsletter No 3 January 2016 G#9384
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