Contributed by Michael Chambers
In my 25-plus years as a specifier I have been an independent consultant and in-house project specifier. I have had the privilege of working with a wide variety of designers, project architects, and interior designers. I have developed specifications for projects ranging from room additions to a billion-dollar hospital.
Recently on 4Specs.com, someone asked the question, “How to work effectively with Specification Writer?
In my opinion and experience, the more knowledgeable a design professional is about specification processes, the more effectively they can work with specifiers. Probably the best project architect I have ever worked with was a gentleman at Ellerbe Becket in Minneapolis. He was incredibly knowledgeable about specification processes and how they integrated with drawings. He also hated writing specs. He would ask me the most insightful questions about what he was drawing and how it should be specified. He understood the process and how to make it work for his projects.
In explaining to design professionals what they need to understand about specifications, I would ask them to consider the following issues and concepts.
Every design professional has expectations for a certain level of quality in their projects. One key element that is often overlooked or underestimated in projects is quality. How do you accomplish the design concept and protect your design intent? How do you indicate the levels of quality that are appropriate for your client’s needs and budget?
Specifications, that’s how. Drawings have no qualitative aspects; they indicate size, shape, and relationship but not quality. Specifications are all about quality. They contain critical procedures and product information that allow the design professional to stay in control of the review and approval processes that affect the design concept.
Also, the boring bit about formats and standardized places for information are critical in limiting omissions by acting as checklists and highly effective coordination tools.
Contributed by Michael Chambers
Recently, a national trade association contacted education presenters to provide them with the evaluation results for their programs. This is a large association with a very strong focus on technology and its applications in business, education, worship, and industry. Their national convention offers hundreds of hours of educational opportunities for the attendees.
In general the education programs were very well received and evaluated. Attendees rated 90% of the programs at 4 (out of 5) or above for “overall quality and interest”. However, it is interesting to note that the same attendees indicated that less than 10% of the programs were rated 4 or above for “applicability to daily practice”. In other words, attendees thought the programs were very interesting but came away with nothing they could use in day-to-day practice.
In my experience this is true of most of the continuing education that I receive from product manufacturers’ box lunches, AIA continuing education programs, and CSI Chapter presentations. The majority of them are interesting and provide USEFUL information but rarely do they ever provide USABLE information. The concept here is much like searching the web on Google™ or Yahoo™, you end up with hundreds of USEFUL items but only a tiny fraction are truly USABLE. If continuing education is to have a positive impact on the construction industry, developers and presenters are going to have to put real, applicable content into the programs.
To effectively use continuing education as a marketing and communication tool, the content presented must be directly applicable to the day-to-day operations of the audience. Information about a product’s features and benefits is quite useful, as marketing hype, but it is rarely usable since design professionals need industry information, technical data, design guidelines, and details to effectively integrate a product or system into a building project.
In any type of presentation to design professionals, the focus must be on providing USABLE rather than USEFUL information. I guaranty it will transform your relationships with design professionals and enhance your professional credibility. It is critical to provide continuing education information on how to specify the product and to provide examples and details of how to appropriately incorporate the product into the drawings. I am constantly amazed how few educational presentations even discuss specifying and even less, how to detail and coordinate the drawings.
The best and most effective presentations are extremely simple, no PowerPoint™ or flim flam, just product installation examples, guide specifications, and example construction drawings of successful installations. That is truly USABLE information and HIGHLY EFFECTIVE continuing education.
(Editor's Note: Michael D. Chambers, FCSI, FAIA, CCS is Associate Vice President and Senior Project Specifier for HGA and is responsible for the specifications in the four California offices and is principal of MCA Specifications. Michael also sits on the CONSTRUCT Education Advisory Council with Let's Fix Construction Co-Founders, Cherise Lakeside and Eric D. Lussier.
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Contributed by Brent Williams
Recently I had the pleasure of networking with a rising leader of one of the largest CSI Chapters in the country. He, like many rising professionals, is trying to juggle the varied elements of a career, family and the responsibilities of leading a group of professionals in an increasingly demanding business world. Just like a lot of the leaders that I speak with, he’s suffering a significant amount of burnout. He wants to succeed at everything, he cares and he’s trying, but he feels like he’s fighting a losing battle. And while he’s a member of my professional association, he could be a member of just about any member-based association in today’s economy.
This particular leader is burning out for a number of reasons. He’s stressed, overworked, and because the team that surrounds him isn’t engaged and involved, he’s trying to do all the heavy lifting himself. Some of his team are on the way out early - they just can’t balance the demands. His team isn’t engaged because the previous leaders weren’t engaged and enrolled in the vision, primarily because leaders before them hadn’t created or clearly defined the long-term plan. Those leaders were likely failed because of the changes that were brought on by the economic downturn, such as fewer training opportunities, less availability from national staff and less guidance from more experienced members, because they, like many of us, struggle with the very same time demand issues.
In offering him some experience sharing, I explained that the two best tool sets that a Chapter leader can deploy are credit reversal and long-term strategy. While these two tools are powerful in an association setting, they also are impactful in business and parenting, where the ability to help others learn to lead is paramount.
Let me explain.
We all, know as leaders, that running a chapter is tough, but not the hardest thing that we’ve ever done. Things can go wrong, but those things are rarely “big and hairy”. Experience comes in really handy here, for newer folks are afraid to take initiative and lead out of the fear that “something might go wrong”. This isn’t just a problem for association groups, businesses are struggling under the weight of younger hires who are terrified to “make a mistake” in the eyes of the boss. There is no single more powerful business leadership technique than the following simple skill.
Contributed by Liz O'Sullivan
I’m going to say it again: If something is required by the Specifications, it’s required by the Contract.
A procedure or item specified in the Specifications is part of the Contract, just as much as if the procedure or item were specified in the Agreement. (The Agreement is what many people usually think of as the “Contract,” because it’s the particular document that gets signed by the Owner and the Contractor, and it has the Contract Sum indicated in it. But the Agreement is only ONE PART of the Contract.)
The Contract is made up of the Agreement, the Conditions of the Contract, the Drawings, the Specifications, etc. AIA Documents state this requirement most clearly; Owner-generated Agreements and Conditions of the Contract sometimes fall short of being explicit about this. (This is one of many good reasons to use AIA Documents instead of Owner-generated documents.)
This requirement is SO IMPORTANT that it makes up ARTICLE ONE of AIA Document A101-2017 (Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Contractor where the basis of payment is a Stipulated Sum), a very commonly used Agreement.
“The Contract Documents consist of this Agreement, Conditions of the Contract (General, Supplementary and other Conditions), Drawings, Specifications, Addenda issued prior to execution of this Agreement, other documents listed in this Agreement and Modifications issued after execution of this Agreement, all of which form the Contract, and are as fully a part of the Contract as if attached to this Agreement or repeated herein.” – from Article 1 of AIA Document A101-2017
I don’t think I can say this any more clearly.
But somehow, there are a number of Contractors out there who don’t seem to realize that the Specifications are part of the Contract, and there are even a few Architects out there who don’t seem to realize that the Specifications are part of the Contract that they are supposed to be administering during construction. An Owner agrees to pay a Contractor a certain sum, the Contractor agrees to provide the Owner with certain things indicated by the Drawings and Specifications and other Contract Documents, and, in a separate Agreement, the Architect and the Owner agree that the Owner will pay the Architect a certain sum, and the Architect will administer the Contract between the Owner and the Contractor. We all have contractual obligations during construction, and we all need to understand, and follow through on, all of those obligations.
Remember, if it’s in the Specs, it’s in the Contract.
This post originally appeared on Liz O'Sullivan's website as "If It’s in the Specs, It’s in the Contract"
(Editor's Note: The CSI (Construction Specifications Institute) Construction Document Technologist (CDT) Certification is an ideal resource for this core knowledge of project delivery. Want to learn more about the CDT and the Study Groups offered for the Spring Testing window? Please visit here.
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
With 2018 behind us, and with that another great year of articles, podcasts and many workshops across the nation (and even one in Canada), Let’s Fix Construction looks forward to 2019, as do many others. A new year starts with fresh energy, renewed spirit, a hopeful change of habits and a positive outlook.
With 2019 facing us and 2018 in the rearview mirror, Let’s Fix Construction is using this post for a Call to Arms. A challenge, if you will. Hopefully you can identify your role, or more than one, in this list. Don’t see a challenge that calls to you? Identify your own. Step out of your comfort zone and move yourself and the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry forward.
Educate yourself before you proceed with your project, especially if it is your first one! Take the time to learn the roles of the major players in a building project. Vet your architect, construction manager, general contractor and any other major contractor or consultant that you are going to be contractually obligated to. You don’t have to be best friends, but it will go a long way if you know who you will be working with and get along with them. What makes them tick? What sets them off? What are their expectations? What are their expectations of you? And in the end, if you really want to educate yourself about a project, get a copy of the Construction Specifications Institute’s ‘Project Delivery Practice Guide’. It could just be the best $129 you’ve ever spent. AND save you a thousand-fold in the long run.
Projects are getting increasingly complex and the demands on you, your supporting staff and ultimately, your entire office are growing as well. The world we live in changes rapidly and with that the demands that are put on all the major players in a project. You’re being asked to do much more in much less time for the same amount of money. Practice saying no. Don’t be afraid to lose a client that expects more from you without understanding your point of view. Make sure you and your staff are compensated appropriately for your time. Track all costs and analyze your data. If you are able to reference a completed project that is similar in size and scope of a new project you are working on, you will be able to substantiate to the Owner why you have the requests, both financial and otherwise, that you do.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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