Just because we have been doing something a certain way for years / decades / forever, doesn’t mean we can’t change it. The art of specification writing, and yes it is an art, hasn’t changed much over time. I am not talking about the format, wording, placement of articles, etc, I am referring to the product information specified. Think about it. Have you changed your approach to how you specify product information in Part 2 over time? You probably have standard language you want for different products, and it all revolves around the “salient” properties. The “salient” properties…
“Salient” is defined per Google Dictionary as “most noticeable or important”. Specification Writers specify the MOST important product information, but who decided what was important? Was it the specification writer, the product manufacturer, or someone else? Deciding on what product information is important or “salient” seems subjective. I think we can all agree some information is important, like a material thickness, a fire rating, coating or finish, but what about other types of product information, like a list of ASTMs?
I’m not going to argue what specific product information is important and what is not, nor get into the different types of specifications related to product information specified. I am simply asking the question:
Are we specifying the right information that helps protect the established minimum quality and help protect the Owner?
When I specified products, the product information I included was what I DEEMED important, but was it really? We specify certain product information to protect the minimum quality set in the specification and protect the Owner. But… can we protect the minimum quality and the Owner a different way? Is the product information you specify the right information? These are important questions to ask because what if this is the wrong approach… or an inefficient and ineffective approach? Even though we have been doing it this way for decades…
What if the product information that should be specified is the information that the product manufacturer needs to provide a good estimate, therefore increasing their chance of winning the bid and protecting the established minimum quality and Owner. Think about it, why are we specifying information that is not important to the product manufacturer? Is it so we can justify the product quality, make a case for rejecting a substitution, having information handy in lieu of taking time to look for it? Wouldn’t the specification be better if the product information specified was applicable to the product manufacturer and allowed for a more competitive bid?
Manufacturers do not sell products to Architects. They sell an information service (the rep) and supply information. If they cannot provide that, my bet is they aren’t specified too often. So what if the approach specifiers took is by asking the product manufacturer what information should be specified in order for you to provide a competitive bid? In lieu of asking “I need a cut sheet, guide spec, etc that has this and that.” This question and approach (asking the product manufacturer what information should be specified) is a complete 180 approach to specifying. With thousands upon thousands of products specified, who are the specifiers to say what product information should be specified? We are far from product experts.
The manufacturer is the product expert, they presumably then should be the ones who determine the product information to specify by simply providing it upon request or make it know what needs to be specified. They know what information should be specified. I want to make this point again:
What if the product information that should be specified is the information that the product manufacturer needs to provide a good estimate, therefore increasing their chance of winning the bid and protecting the established minimum quality and Owner.
Specifiers, we should be able to rely on the true product experts to help protect the minimum quality specified and protect the Owner by allowing them to have a voice within the specification writing process. Not dictate what product information WE need.
Why do lesser quality products end up on projects? Cost. So why can we, the specifier, help out the manufacturer as I described above, by allowing them to provide us the “salient” product properties?
This was a very interesting thought exercise I put myself through and tried my best to put it down on paper. Again, I am not arguing one approach or another, but simply asking if there is a better approach to specifying by giving the product manufacturer a voice.
Building product manufacturers, I would love to here from you on this! Please feel free to reach out to me in the comments or email me at jeffrey.Potter90@gmail.com.