You’ve probably heard of blueprints when it comes to commercial design. However, blueprints don’t represent the full picture. No commercial construction or design project can be completed without the help of specifications. Blueprints show a visual representation of how the finished project should look, but specifications provide the process for making it all happen.
These specifications and the selections made within them can dramatically impact commercial design in a variety of ways.
What Are Specifications?
According to the definition in the Dictionary of Architecture and Construction, a specification is:
“a written document describing in detail the scope of work, materials to be used, methods of installation, and quality of workmanship for a parcel of work to be placed under contract; usually utilized in conjunction with working (contract) drawings in building construction.”
Simply put, the specifications are the “how-to” in the architectural, design, and construction would. Specifications go into the materials needed, the process, and more. Specs aren’t supposed to dictate every single part of the process.
They shouldn’t go into the placement of each nail. However, they should cover the significant parts of a building’s construction, like the frame construction, the metal components, HVAC systems, roofing, and more.
In the construction world, there are three primary types of specifications:
- Prescriptive Specifications: These provide information on materials, installations, and details on how to measure installations for quality.
- Performance Specifications: These go into the operational side of projects. It’s a guideline for how the final product should function once it’s done.
- Proprietary Specifications: These specifications are the rarest because they only apply if only one specific product or material can be used to complete a project.
Now, all of this is pretty straightforward, but in the world of specifications and product selection, things are not always as they seem.
Issues Can Arise in Specifications
Talk to any contractor or construction worker, and they’ll tell you that they’ve seen their fair share of inadequate specifications. If specifications fail to be specific enough, then things can become problematic very quickly.
If instructions aren’t clear, workers are forced to figure it out, which can lead to costly and time-consuming mistakes. However, the problem doesn’t start there, especially when it comes to product selection.
An American Institute of Architect study revealed that product and material selection isn’t always based on going with the best products. In fact, 60% of the time, the architect knows what materials they’re going to use before they even begin a project. 70% of the time, architects recommend materials from suppliers who they already know.
What does this mean for commercial design? Well, if the architects are the first stop in the chain when it comes to specifications, and they’re showing favoritism to specific suppliers, this means that you might not be getting the best materials. The materials and techniques that are most common might only be popular because the people writing the initial specifications are less likely to take risks or promote new suppliers.
Look at an example as simple as roofing. Asphalt shingles have dominated the roofing world for decades. However, they have an array of performance and environmental pitfalls. The market now has a variety of alternatives to asphalt shingles that are cost-effective and boast a slew of additional benefits. Yet asphalt shingles remain a dominant roofing material.
This sort of issue goes beyond roofing materials, though, because product specifications and selections can dramatically impact the final product.
Impact of Poor Product Specification and Selection
Aside from potentially missing out on more innovative products, selecting the wrong materials for the job can have more devastating consequences.
Choosing the wrong materials and products can result in:
- Increased Construction and Remodeling Time
- Additional Costs
- Wasted Money
- Lower Building Performance
- Durability and Longevity Issues
- And More
Therefore product specifications need to be thorough, well-researched, and flexible.
Ensuring Your Products Selections Are Right
It all begins with choosing a team you trust. If you trust your architect, designers, and contractors, then you know that they won’t steer you wrong. They’ll consider your preferences when recommending materials.
Often, product specifications will give several options. So, you have several products that could work to do the job, and you choose the materials based on your needs. The most critical component to a successful end product is selecting high-quality materials from the start. Do a little bit of research and ensure that you’re truly getting the best materials on the market for your job.
If you opt for better materials with contractors you trust, you’ll ultimately end up with exactly what you want for your next commercial project.
Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.