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How Digital Applications Add Value to Specification Writing

Specification writing exists to simplify building specifications themselves, which can be confusing, overwhelming, and vague. Subpar specifications can lead to problems down the line, causing delays, consuming resources, and increasing the cost of the project.

There are a variety of MasterFormat® tools architects, designers, and engineers can refer to in specification management and writing.

Why Specification Writing Matters

Even in commercial construction, specifications can be overwhelming for architects, designers, and engineers. Specifications are not renderings of what the project will look like, but a step-by-step guidelines of how to bring the project to life.

For many, this can get muddied and confusing to the point where it seems easier to rely on experience than guidance. Yet if something goes amiss, the answer can often be found in the specifications.  What was specified versus what did the contractor furnish? Were the specifications followed, or was a substitute implemented?

Engineers and architects provide specifications to complement drawings and renderings and clarify the exact building products the design requires to function exactly as it should. Without specifications, generic products have a higher likelihood of being used.

Additionally, specifications help guarantee submittal requirements, warranties, quality control, field testing, and other factors that are vital to a successful project completion. Following the defined specifications enables contractors and architects to confidently stand by the quality of their work.

Good Specs and Bad Specs

While specifications are integral to a project’s success or failure, not just any specs will do. If the specs are not thorough, there is a greater chance for error, project delays, and potentially the installation of inferior building products.

However, specification creation and management has often been of “secondary or tertiary concern in the typical BIM process,” according to a whitepaper published by SpecLink.

The BIM (Building Information Modeling) operates as the “digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility,” according to the National BIM Standard.

SpecLink posits that BIM is the “foundation of specification writing for organizational, project-based design and construction,” and identifies an industry-wide need to unite model data and specification data.

This can be easily seen by contrasting good specifications with substandard specifications. Bad specifications are often too broad. For example, the specification may cite the need for a corner guard but not specify beyond that reference thereby leaving that up to the contractor.

To help ensure specifications are thorough and accurate, many rely on a MasterFormat application as designed by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). Typically referred to as a CSI 3-Part Specifications which is considered the standard for organizing and presenting construction project information.

CSI 3-Part Specifications are a format for organizing written construction requirements into three distinct parts: General, Products, and Execution. This is broken down as follows:

  • General: Project requirements, quality control, and general construction procedures
  • Products: Outlines the specific materials and products that are required for the project
  • Execution: Provides information about how the work should be performed

CSI also publishes MasterFormat, a standardized system for organizing information about construction projects. Information is organized by divisions and sections. Each division represents a major construction category; each section represents a specific component of the category.

Ultimately, MasterFormat allows construction professionals to easily locate and organize information related to a specific aspect of a project. Good specifications will leave little room for doubt or guesswork on the part of the contractor. Bad specifications can lead to confusion and delays as contractors are forced to search for accurate information or potentially redo work. Particularly, work that would have been done correctly with more detailed specifications.

How RIB SpecLink® Streamlines the Specification Process

SpecLink is a cloud-based specification writing software originally developed by Building Systems Design (BSD), a leading provider of innovative software tools. It is noted for decreasing the time to create a specification by up to 70%.

SpecLink enables designers, builders, and architects to easily create and customize specifications for their projects, from concept to completion. It is more than simply a database of products and materials but a comprehensive tool that enables users to build and edit specifications quickly and accurately.

With its powerful search engine, users can quickly find the products they need, compare different options, and add them to their specifications with just a few clicks.

SpecLink is fee-based for users. Likewise, manufacturers pay to create ease of access for architects and spec writers. Some manufacturers may even pay a premium to have their products featured. SpecLink is a valuable investment as it enables users to:

  • gain access to current information
  • optimize the specification writing process
  • create and edit CSI 3-Part Specification with ease
  • enhance visibility and coordination by integrating Office Masters and Project Specifications with Revit models
  • collaborate with a project’s entire team in real-time
  • experience automated coordination, real-time updates, and version control

How ARCAT® Makes Research and Spec Writing Easy

ARCAT is a free online resource for architects, engineers, and other members of the building team to gain ease of access to thousands of building product manufacturers’ data from catalogs and CAD drawings to BIM objects.

With ARCAT, users can easily find the information they need for their projects, including technical data, specifications, and installation instructions. ARCAT is not just a product library, but a comprehensive resource that enables users to compare products, research new materials, and collaborate with other professionals in the industry.

As it is a free resource for users, architects are not required to create an account or to share project information. This may be shared on a voluntary basis but is not a requirement for use. Building product manufacturers can submit their information for inclusion, yet all specifications are fully editable.

Benefits of ARCAT:

  • It is free for all users
  • No login is required
  • Ease of use to create and edit CSI 3-Part Specifications
  • Ease of access to research building products by CSI Division
  • One profile for ease of access to the manufacturer’s content, including Green data, videos, data sheets, CAD, BIM, etc.

Why Professionals Rely on Specification Technology

The manufacturers who are listed with SpecLink and ARCAT have worked to integrate product information into the application. Designers and engineers can see the exact properties of the products they are considering and make accurate determinations as to what would best support their project.

SpecLink and ARCAT are powerful tools that make specification writing easier and more efficient for architects, engineers, and builders. By partnering with industry leaders like RBI SpecLink and ARCAT, Fire-Trol is committed to providing the resources and support needed to the building industry.

We want to make the design process as seamless and efficient as possible. If you have questions or need design assistance, please call us at 860.610.4084 or send us an email at info@fire-trol.com.