Last edited 29 Jan 2021

Main author

Mounir Kronful Other Consultant

Specifications, Why?

Problems often occur during the execution of a project becuase architects and engineers have neglected specifications or consider them to be “copy and paste” documents. It is essential that the importance of specification documents is fully understood.

Specification documents are a description of the material properties and installation required for a project. Every project requires its customised specification document which cannot be copied from other projects. Each project has its own style, design and materials and so its own properties and specifications.

So what happens if we do copy specifications from another project? What is the harm?

Designers often have their own style and concept underpinning each project. They develop this design to deliver the client approved project and they expect the project to be executed based on their intentions.

When we copy a specification document developed for another project, we are actually copying a specification customised for a specific design intent that will be different from this project’s design intent.

Let’s take stone cladding as a simple example. Stone cladding can be marble, granite, limestone, slate, sandstone etc… In a certain project, the stone cladding might be granite, in another it might be marble. If we “copy and paste” specifications from one project to another, we might end up specifying granite instead of the marble that was intended.

The effect is not only design intent, there are more consequences. Due to the inconsistencies that will arise from the discrepancies between design intent and the specifications, the contractor will try either to downgrade the works or will ask for more money to cover the “unexpected changes”. Even if we try to mitigate these scenarios, variations remain a huge risk.

Inadequate performance is another consequence. Copying from project to project is very risky and will lead to downgrading the performance of the specifications. Let’s look at curtain wall thermal performance criteria as an example. If we have a project in a hot humid climate, its thermal performance specification will be very different to that of a moderate dry climate or a cold humid climate. Copying the specifications in this case, will lead to performance problems in HVAC, thermal comfort, and probably condensation.

Customising specifications based on individual project and design criteria is crucial for a successful development. Specifications should not be taken lightly and proper consideration should be given to the technical performance of materials. Specifications should be prepared by a well versed-professional, fully coordinated the design.

--Mounir Kronful 09:52, 14 April 2015 (BST)

Designing Buildings Anywhere

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