THE SPECIFICATION PROCESS
A specification can range in scope from a short, generic description, possibly including reference to a British Standard, to a complete, named and detailed description of a particular manufacturer’s product. Naturally, we would all prefer the latter, although preferably without the over-used ‘…or similar approved’ caveat. For some, particularly in the public sector, there is concern about actually naming a manufacturer. In certain situations, a performance specification is used which simply describes what is to be achieved without giving any detail of how: for example, setting room temperatures without naming or sizing radiators. Products can be selected at different stages and described in various documents and drawings. Specification clauses themselves can be written by the architect, adapted from office standards, derived from manufacturer’s information or worked-up from the National Building Specification - NBS - which is particularly popular with architects.
Architects vary in just which products within a building they actually specify and in how much detail. Some practices are particular about controlling as many products as possible while others rely more on the input of a cost consultant, contractor or specialist. In general terms, more control is sought over items which are clearly visible, form a major part of the design, have critical performance criteria or involve liability implications. Hidden or minor items are often not included and these might be dealt left to contractors or sub-contractors.
Encouraging and helping architects to produce a correct, detailed specification and providing good arguments against allowing this to be changed must be central to the successful marketing of building products.