September 2020 Newsletter
Raising the Bar for Manufacturer Specifications
Phil Kabza, FCSI CCS AIA
SpecGuy Specifications Consultants
It is typical to have over 200 specification documents in a modest sized construction project. Your specification section is very important to specifiers. So are the other 199 sections. Manufacturer specifications are playing an increasing role in construction contracts. A well prepared manufacturer specification should be directly usable in construction contract documents.
We are often asked to comment on existing manufacturer specifications as a prelude to upgrading a manufacturer's specification library. Here are some of the recurring issues we find:
- Naming and Numbering: Specifiers know where your product should be classified in CSI MasterFormat and will look for it with the proper classification. You want to get this right.
- MasterFormat: 5-digit versus 6-digit section numbering. Really? Get with the 6-digit program!
- Marketing Language: Specifications are technical and legal documents; marketing and sales language belongs in other types of documents, not here. We avoid terms such as "heavy-duty" or "high-performance" that have no generally accepted definitions.
- Manufacturer-Specific Names: Specifiers avoid using documents with proprietary product names scattered throughout the document.
- Wrong Location for Specification Information: Specifiers use CSI SectionFormat to arrange requirements within their 3-Part specification sections. The manufacturer should do the same.
- Salient Characteristics: Specifications are not meant to be a guide to how a product is manufactured nor are they detailed installation instructions. They need to include just enough information to identify the proper product and install it properly.
- Lockouts: Don't get your products locked out of a project because you have written your specifications to lock out your competitors. Specifiers hate this and will avoid your specifications. If your product has superior characteristics that are an advantage to the project owner, prove it by including their test characteristics.
Our best practice advice for manufacturer specifications:
Part 1 GENERAL
- Product names do not belong in this Part.
- Related Sections: This area is used sparingly to point the user to work that might be expected to be in this section but is specified in another section. Should be used sparingly if at all.
- References: We encourage providing the full name of those references (and only those references) cited in the section text. This can be a helpful education tool for the younger design professional. Including a reference in this list does not by itself create a contract requirement – it must appear elsewhere in the section.
- Sustainable Design Requirements: Very few manufacturer guide specifications are helpful in this area. Have a knowledgeable consultant help with this or leave it out.
- Quality Requirements: Writing an unreasonable experience requirement such as 15 years is a loud signal that you are trying to unfairly limit competition. Specifiers can smell this.
- Warranty: Construction warranties start at substantial completion of the project, not when your product is shipped or installed, with very few exceptions; adjust your terms and conditions accordingly.
Part 2 PRODUCTS
- Manufacturer and Product Names: They belong here, stated once.
- Specification and Data Sheet Coordination: Do the product characteristics on your data sheets match the characteristics listed in your specifications? They'd better!
- Manufacturer's Recommended: Minor installation items such as fasteners are best simply specified with "manufacturer's recommended corrosion-resistant fasteners identical to those used in tested assemblies." I know a roofing manufacturer spec with over 20 fasteners to choose from, all with proprietary descriptions. Don't do that!
Part 3 EXECUTION
- Product names do not belong in this Part.
- Detailed Installation Instructions: These belong in your separately published installation instructions.
- Do spell out succinctly: 1) the process of examining the substrate; 2) correcting the substrate if necessary; 3) preparing the substrate; 4) installing/applying the product(s) in the order called for; 5) inspecting or testing the completed work result; and 5) protecting the work until project completion. The installation portion is a summary only – it is there to provide contractually-enforceable provisions on the job site, such as acceptable tolerances.
- For Some Products: Include testing and inspection options, manufacturer field inspection, correction of work, demonstration and training, and similar provisions, all of which vary greatly across product types.
Questions, comments and suggestions are always appreciated.
Publisher - 4specs