Project Specifications – The Basics, in Five Minutes

Aug 30, 2023 | Engineering, Learning Aid, Lessons, Management, Travel

First of all, apologies, the recording is just over eight (8) minutes!

Executive Summary. Project specifications are comprised of three main parts. Learn each of the three here and know what’s in each section.

Two types of documents guide the construction. First of all, there are two main types of documents which guide the construction of a project: drawings and specifications. The drawings show pictorially how things are constructed. Drawings may or may not list material types, and certainly only show a portion of those material details. For example, a drawing may show a sidewalk from here to there, and may say the concrete is 3,000 psi; however, what is not shown are the details of the concrete’s slump, water/cement ratio, allowable additives, required weather during placement, and the many other components of the concrete mixture. This is where the specifications come into play.

Ok, what’s in a specification? A Project Specification package identifies each technical aspect of the work and separates it by type of work or material type. A Division 3 – Concrete section of a specification is shown below:

Although the numbering immediately above is typical across the country from project to project (because it follows the Construction Specifications Institute numbering system) whether or not this is included in your project is:

 Part 1 – General – this part defines, in general, what this specification covers. The most important section here is the “Submittals” section. The submittals listed must be made in order to allow construction to commence.
 Part 2 – Products – this defines the materials that are required to build whatever is described in Part 1 above.
 Part 3 – Execution – this describes how the item(s) is to be built. Yes, there is a permissible “means and methods” component of the construction, but ultimately there may be hard rules associated with the installation. This will be defined here.

Here’s a sample of a full three page specification for a bike rack and shelter:

My story. In my career I’ve written/prepared thousands of documents related to specifications: submittals, RFIs, and letters. Here’s a secret, they’re not always clear. And this is why you prepare submittals, RFIs, and letters. However, even before the construction begins, the estimator must prepare the project cost. It is in the estimate phase when the specifications are first read and analyzed. Jobs can be won and lost on interpretation of these documents. Read them carefully!

Work safe!

Recent Articles

Forensic Reporting 101

Forensic Reporting 101

Executive Summary. In any formal forensic investigation, there’s going to be some sort of report. Knowing how to write this report is important in...

read more

Leave A Comment