Contributed by Cherise Lakeside
I have one goal with this blog. One crazy idea that if I can get some people to read this, they will change the way they work.
That goal? READ the DIVISION 01 GENERAL REQUIREMENTS in the specifications of your project.
I know what some of my friendly compatriots are going to say when they see that sentence. They are going to say “Cherise, that’s a no brainer!” I mean, really, am I writing a blog about something so simple? Damned right I am.
A few years ago, I wrapped up almost six years of working for an MEP engineering firm. This was a very unique opportunity to work on yet another side of the fence in AEC: to see how the other half lives. It was an opportunity to see why some of the breakdowns I saw were happening between the Architect and the Consultants.
It was both an eye opening experience and a wake-up call. Many of the things that I had complained about during my previous 23 years at an architectural firm, when it came to communicating and coordinating with consultants, were actually my fault. I got to look in the mirror and admit that I had been wrong. It was my job to coordinate the appropriate information with consultants, but because I didn’t understand how they worked and what knowledge they had, I did not do that coordination thoroughly or effectively.
Once I realized that there was a much more limited exposure to the entirety of the documents for consultants, no education in contract documents and almost no appropriate sharing of knowledge from the Architect to the consultants, I knew I had to change something.
That was when I created my first “Specs 101” class. The very first one was geared toward consultants and engineers. A 50,000 foot view to understanding all the pieces and parts of the Specifications that were not being shared with them, the common places that need coordination and just general education on where the information belongs and who is responsible for that information. It also covered how that information will sometimes clash. Can you say, “Access Panels”?!?!
The class was very well received and I took it even further in developing an Architect/Consultant Coordination checklist for the most common things that created conflict, missing information or repeated information.
The class was so well received that I decided to take it on the road. I started with my own CSI Chapter. We put it up as an education program outside of our chapter meeting and it sold out before the event. What I was not prepared for was some of the other disciplines that showed up for the class - the product reps, the designers, the interiors people, consultants, engineers, subcontractors and more. It was very clear that there were a whole lot of people who wanted better understanding of the documents. It also became crystal clear that many people see very little of the documents at all.
It almost scared me when I asked how many people had read Division 01 of a project specification so they understood the ‘rules of the road’. Far too many of them didn’t even know what Division 01 was, let alone what kind of information it contained.
Some of the questions that I was getting were literally blowing my mind.
In one of my classes, a young designer who was a co-worker at my previous firm, told me that she was doing construction administration on her first project. She had processed 40 substitution requests in the first month of construction and shared that her project budget was taking a heavy hit due to all the extra time and research to process these requests. She wanted to know how she could mitigate this and felt like the Contractor was taking advantage of her inexperience.
My first question to her was: ‘Have you read Division 01 of your Specification?’ Her answer: No. My next question was to ask her what the reason was for these substitution requests. Her answer: The Contractor said they were better products. My next question was ‘Is the Owner getting a cost savings?’ Her answer: No.
The bottom line here is that this very young designer was not being mentored and had never seen or understood the importance of the specifications. All you need are the drawings right? I proceeded to explain to her that our specs had different rules for substitutions before a bid vs. substitutions after a bid and that she did not have to review, research or approve even one of those requests. We had a long conversation about all the pieces and parts of this and everybody in the room learned from the experience.
Her question was but one among many that I have received in the numerous times that I have now led this program. These questions keep me going.
The fact is that we have a lot of young professionals entering our market. We also have a lot of experienced professionals who I see getting involved in specifications and construction administration for the first time. If this is an issue in architectural firms, who are the hub of the wheel, imagine the lack of exposure for disciplines who are only involved in one piece. Some of them never even see a full copy of the documents.
What kinds of things are you going to understand from reviewing and understanding Division 01 on every project?
The Division 01 requirements are the rules for the project for everybody involved. Somebody please help me understand why so many in our industry know little to nothing about them?
Change starts at home kids!
I have now taught Specs 101 more times than I can count: at my last two firms, CSI Chapters and events, ASHRAE, Irrigation Consultants, Manufacturers, Product Reps, Engineers, Consultants, Architecture Firms, World of Concrete, an Electrical Union Workers group and at CONSTRUCT. I will be teaching it again three different times in the next 60 days.
I choose to take my time to do this because it is that important. It is that needed. It makes that much of a difference. It also gives me the opportunity to expose those I meet to the CSI Construction Document Technologist (CDT) certificate (soon to be certification) and share how much more there is to learn that will change the way they work, make their jobs easier, more efficient and reduce risk.
Some of us who have been around awhile tend to forget that the entry level knowledge never stops being important, not only to our architecture brethren, but to all that we are empowered to facilitate and coordinate on a project. A lot of people are hungry for this knowledge, but how do you ask for something you don’t know you need? It is up to us to share this knowledge!
So – to my fellow specifiers, architects and those that are already well versed in these requirements – I challenge you to get out there and start teaching. Start with the folks in your own firm, your consultants, your industry association or even better, someone else’s industry association.
To everybody else – I challenge you to at least skim Division 01 on every single project and better understand the documents for which you are bound. At least start getting familiar with what you don’t know.
It’s time to knock this long time issue that is easy to fix right off the list. Let me know how it goes.
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