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Last edited 05 Feb 2021
Specification for construction
Specifications describe the products, materials and work required by a construction contract. 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.
They can also be used in combination. Items crucial to the design may be specified prescriptively (such as external cladding) whilst less critical items may be 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.
- 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
- Bill of quantities BOQ
- Construction Specifications Canada CSC.
- Construction Specifications Institute CSI.
- Final specifications.
- NBS Chorus.
- NBS Source.
- Performance specification.
- Prescriptive specification.
- Specification guidance for construction
- Tender documentation for construction projects
- Schedule of work for construction
- Technical specification
- Outline specification
- Output-based specification.
- Green Guide to Specification.
- Common Arrangement of Work Sections.
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