Edu-tecture: n. the process and struggle of learning architecture from an undergraduate/intern’s point of view

Architectural Specifications:
Specifications are the written documents that spell everything out for the contractor and cover any complications that might arise. They should be used in conjunction with architectural drawings but are often overlooked until something goes wrong. The spec books will include detailed information of everything from how to apply the 3 layer stucco exterior to the suitable brand of screws to mount a light switch face plate.

Specifications are broken up into divisions defined by the Construction Specifications Institute Masterformat. The bulk of the architect’s spec writing comes in the first 14 divisions. Each division is divided further into sections designated by the different products that they’ll use for the project. In the spec book each section contains basic info about what it is, what type/brand of hardware to use and which company is certified to supply it, and how to install/protect it during construction. These categories are titled: General, Products and Execution.

Here is a sample excerpt from a specifications index. It is based on a set of typical specs that the firm I work at might use for a school project:

Division 08 – Openings
08 1113 Hollow Metal Doors and Frames
08 1416 Flush Wood Doors
08 3323 Overhead Coiling Door
08 4113 Aluminum Framed Entrances and Storefronts
08 4423 Aluminum Curtain Wall
08 5113 Aluminum Windows
08 8000 Glazing

If an architect fails to include a certain product, building material or level of standard a client might not get what he expected or paid for. And it will be on the architect to pay damages. Because they can play such an important role in how smoothly a project gets built, some firms employ dedicated specification writers to focus on compiling these documents. At the firm we’ve recently had to lay off our specwriter because of the tough economy which in turn has put extra responsibility on the lead architect or project manager to finish these documents.

From my perspective I’ve only had to proofread a 90% specifications set so I can’t say I know very much about how to choose and spec products yet. I’m sure I have a lot to learn.

References and more info: