Where are the specifiers?
Contributed by Cherise Lakeside
With the ever increasing speed and change in projects and products every day, this blog could have been about anything. I chose to write about something that I am not hearing much about but that I am seeing with increased frequency. Something that really concerns me:
Where are the trained Specifiers? Am I the only one noticing a major shortage?
Please understand that when I say “trained” specifier, I am referring to the folks that have had contract document, project delivery and specifications education. I am talking about the folks who are well versed in the latest and greatest in the products worlds and know exactly how to incorporate that information into the Contract Documents for the best possible project outcome. I am not talking about all the folks out there who write specs but do not have this very special and specific training.
I am aware of a number of firms, in different locations around the country, who are having a very difficult time finding a specifier with this kind of training.
Why is that? I will tell you what I think (which anyone who knows me would expect).
Please note that there is no scientific research or analytics behind this blog. It is merely my observations in my local area and other parts of the country as a result of my involvement and connections in CSI.
I think we dropped the ball and I think two recessions have taken a huge toll on Generation X. Trained specifiers are a rare breed as it is. I see tons of (untrained) people in our industry writing or editing specs and creating risk and potential conflicts in the process because they do not know what they are doing. The hard cold truth is that it is common in our industry to discriminate against the specs. It is common to treat them as less important than the drawings. It is common to see only cursory attention given to this CONTRACT document. This document that carries equal weight with the drawings in the eyes of the law. As a result, many firms will let anyone in the office dump information into the specs. That is a critical mistake and I have seen the fallout of this decision first hand. More than once.
On the flip side of that coin, the firms that are smart enough to hire trained spec writers can’t find them. Finding a trained spec writer to hire these days is like looking for Bigfoot.
Why are we so short in this valuable, absolutely necessary resource in Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC)? Here is my take:
So where does that leave us? That leaves us without qualified, trained spec writers to fill the shoes of the exiting Baby Boomer spec writers (which, honestly, is the majority of them). What is the consequence? Firms are letting anybody with a pen in their hand write specs and the conflicts on projects are increasing.
What can we do about it? It’s not like we can close our eyes, twinkle our nose and have a boatload of trained Generation X specifiers appear out of nowhere.
We have to change the way we think about our Contract Documents and their importance. We have to change the way we educate our staff. We have to give the millennials the skills they need, far earlier than we have ever done before, so they can step into these empty shoes and incorporate spec education and knowledge into their design experience.
WE HAVE TO CHANGE!
How do we do this? There are many ways.
We have two choices here:
Seems like the answer is simple. It’s time to do a better job.
9/23/2016 09:58:16 am
It also appears that many people who are interested in specification writing as a career are becoming independent spec consultants. I predict the industry will trend to add more of these types of businesses because they allow the greatest number of architecture firms to all access the most talented specifiers.
9/23/2016 11:17:42 am
Truth Elias! Baby Boomer spec writers (which is a lot of them) are retiring or headed that direction. Gen X specifiers are few and far between and many that I know are going independent which makes an even bigger struggle for smaller firms who may not be able to afford an independent spec writer and need someone in house.
9/23/2016 12:36:37 pm
Software and spec master subscription services have been selling the dream for years that project architects can write specs. It's true to a point, but a trained specifier needs to oversee that work and resolve problems that result from less-experienced people who are pressed for time. And it takes an incredible amount of setup to get those systems to work as advertised. And, of course, it takes spec-literate design professionals, people who already know how to use and coordinate specs.
9/26/2016 08:54:15 am
I would have to agree with all of the previous comments. I came from an environment where dedicated specification writers prepared project manuals for each project with the assistance of administrative assistants and now find that most project manuals are produced by project teams and/or outside independent specification consultants. As fees for design work have shrunk over the last 6-7 years, firms are looking everywhere to minimize their staffing requirements. At the end of the day, most find that having a full time or even part time dedicated specification writer just isn't a good expenditure of their limited fees. So they are defaulting more and more often to having in-house project teams and/or outside consultants prepare the project manuals on a project-by-project basis. I am also seeing a rising interest in specifications produced through the use of software connected to Revit although I am not convinced this is a magic bullet to the problem. Another problem is that finding someone who has an interest in learning to write specifications and do it on a full time basis is very difficult. It takes a person who understands how a building goes together, understands the relationship between the different components, and who can work as a team player. Not many younger people entering the profession have those qualities or are interested in writing as opposed to designing. This is where we need to devote our energies, in my opinion. Developing an interest in the profession of specification writing while future members of the profession are still in high school and college. CSI is certainly the organization best equipped through history and its membership to do the job.
9/28/2016 02:01:57 pm
I agree that CSI is a great institution for our profession, and think you are spot-on that firms cannot find qualified specifiers since the Great Recession. I worked for a large firm, and the older specifiers were let go first, and I was left more and more alone to handle the specifications by myself.
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