What Are Specifications in Construction?

February 13, 2024

Construction specifications are detailed descriptions of materials, products, and workmanship that must be implemented to complete a project. They are a central communication tool that bridge gaps between all project stakeholders and ensure that the final construction aligns with design intent. They also provide legal protection if disputes arise.

Typically, architects or engineers lead the drafting process for construction specs but they also involve input from a wide range of other project stakeholders, including contractors and suppliers. This helps ensure that the resulting specifications are comprehensive and realistic, aligned with practical construction techniques and practices, and are informed by a variety of industry standards.

Specifications contain information that cannot be clearly described in drawings and models, such as site requirements, contract information, client requests, quality criteria to be achieved, referencing of relevant codes, standards, and regulations, as well as work package breakdowns, quantities, schedules, and a standard classification system like Uniclass. They may also include a description of how the work will be performed, testing and inspection requirements, mock-ups or samples, documentation such as manufacturer’s certificates, and so on.

Specs are often structured according to work packages to make it easier for contractors to price their bids and also enable them to deliver the finished work with the highest level of quality and safety. They can be prescriptive, performance, or proprietary. Prescriptive construction specifications describe what the completed work must look and feel like, which may include installation methods. Performance construction specifications focus on how the finished work will essentially function and impose liability on contractors for how well the final product matches the designed expectation, while proprietary specification identifies the only approved product type.

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