Specification for construction
Specifications describe the materials and workmanship required for a development. They do not include cost, quantity or drawn information, and so need to be read alongside other information such as quantities, schedules and drawings.
Specifications vary considerably depending on the stage to which the design has been developed, ranging from performance specifications (open specifications) that require further design work to be carried out, to prescriptive specifications (closed specifications) where the design is already complete.
Having a prescriptive specification when a contract is tendered gives the client more certainty about the end product, whereas a performance specification gives suppliers more scope to innovate and adopt cost effective methods of work, potentially offering better value for money.
Typically, performance specifications are written on projects that are straight-forward and are well-known building types, whereas prescriptive specifications are written for more complex buildings, or buildings where the client has requirements that might not be familiar to suppliers and where certainty regarding the exact nature of the completed development is more important to the client. An exception to this might be a repeat client such as a large retailer, where a specific, branded end result is required and so whilst the building type is well known, the specification is likely to be prescriptive.
Most projects will involve a combination of performance and prescriptive specifications. Items crucial to the design will be specified prescriptively (such as external cladding) whilst less critical items are specified only by performance (such as service lifts).
- Large clients may be able to procure certain products at competitive rates themselves (for example the government).
- Some designers may have particular experience of using a specific product (although some clients may not allow designers to specify particular products as they believe it restricts competition and innovation and may relieve the contractor of their liability for 'fitness for purpose').
- The contractor may be best placed to specify products that affect buildability.
Specifications should be developed alongside the design, increasing in level of detail as the design progresses.They should not be left until the preparation of production information. By tender they should describe every aspect of the building in such a way that there is no uncertainty about what the contractor is pricing.
Aspects of the works are generally specified by:
- Products (by standard, a description of attributes, naming (perhaps allowing equivalent alternatives) or by nominating suppliers).
- Workmanship (by compliance with manufacturers requirements, reference to a code of practice or standards, or by approval of samples or by testing).
Specifications should be structured according to work packages mirroring the separation of the works into sub-contracts. This makes it easier for the contractor to price and so may result in a more accurate tender.
A standard classification system should be followed such as Uniclass.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Building information modelling.
- Bill of quantities.
- Common Arrangement of Work Sections (CAWS).
- Concept drawing.
- Contract documents.
- Form of tender.
- Insulation specification.
- Model Format for Building Services Specifications BG56 2016.
- New Rules of Measurement (NRM).
- Output-based specification.
- Outline specification.
- Performance specification.
- Service level specification.
- Specification basics.
- Standard Method of Measurement (SMM7).
- Technical specification.
- Uniclass 2015.
- Value management techniques.
Featured articles and news
Why is this American teapot-shaped gas station historically significant? Find out here.
Plans for the first phase of Vastint’s 16.5-acre Tetley Brewery development project get the green light.
This article explores the question, how should we regulate the real estate industry?
Specialist regeneration and investment developer UandI announces ambitions with new Manchester office.
Concrete will have to be demolished and replaced in Hinkley Point tunnels.
Do you have a great idea for how tomorrow's challenges can be met by today's buildings? Enter our ideas competition today.
A new exhibition on humanitarian shelter design will open on BRE's Innovation Park next month.
ICE London Air Quality Taskforce launches plan to help clean up London’s polluted air.
From neolithic to neo-modernism, have a read of our summary of the main architectural styles.
In the heritage sector, sustainable development should be discussed in the wider context of place and planning.
The cost efficiency of sprinklers compared to other fire protection measures.
Lord Adonis warns the UK faces gridlock on the roads, railways and in the skies.
The Government sets out its blueprint for hitting the fifth carbon budget.