It’s been some time since I have done a blog post, with a growing family, adding a puppy, taking on a larger role at work, and oh yes, COVID. I have been thinking and processing for months now this question, “What does the future specifier role look like?”. So let’s dive right into this, 10 years into the future from today, this is what I think the future specifier role will look like.
The future specifier is still a person. It won’t be a computer or an application. Technology is progressing very fast, especially in this industry, but there will still be a need for a person to take on the role of a specifier. Someone will still have to put together the Project Manual, conduct the research, process brackets and red lines, and control the information coming in related to specs. I do think technology will make all of that much easier. Hopefully, specification writing software companies can incorporate AI to help control information and help make informed decisions, or simply, provide the evidence to make decisions that can be backed up data. Data will be a huge part of a Specifier’s role. I have written about this before in a past blog post, but to be able to track specified product usage, time spent editing specs, installation history and so on will be a part of the role. Having someone that can control this information and interpret the data will be key.
Some in the industry have moved towards this type of role, redefining the specifier as an information manager. To me, this makes sense for all the reasons I mentioned above. Just think for those Specifiers out there, how many times do you get information to revise a spec, but realize it just doesn’t change that one spec, it has a ripple effect to a bunch of others as well. The future specifier will need to be able to manage this information flow and think in terms of assemblies and how one decision can have a major impact on specifications. Take for example a revision from a traditional 3-coat plaster assembly with gyp sheathing, fluid applied WRB and steel studs to an exterior insulation finish system (EIFS) … that changes things quite a bit doesn’t it. Deletions and additions of new specifications, potential modifications of others. To a specified, this would take a good amount of time to process and complete. Hence the term, information manager.
We can’t discuss information management without discussing CSI MasterFormat. This organization format made sense when it was created decades ago. It made sense to separate based everything back in 1963 … 50 years later, I argue it doesn’t. Yes, it neatly organizes information to be found by the contractors, but does it make sense to specify the components of an interior gypsum board wall in at minimum 4 sections, not including wall finishes? We have the stud spec, joint sealants, gyp board and insulation. With the addition of paint and additional finishes, that one interior wall could be close to 10 specs. It is time to start thinking in terms of assemblies. This young generation does not. They don’t think that plaster is part of an exterior wall assembly and one small change on a detail can effect several specs, not just one. So, I think specifications should be written in an assembly type format, and no not Uniformat. An assembly specification that includes all Part 1 information, Part 2 components, and Part 3 installation requirements for the ASSEMBLY. This will help control the flow of information, make documents a bit more coordinated, and make the process much more efficient. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t make sense and it’s not efficient to go from spec to spec to make small revisions to one assembly. With that…
Most Specifier’s in ten years will not be Architects. They might have gone to Architecture school, but to be a great specifier, the way specifications are written, creation of firm masters, and the availability of digital information, you do not need to be an Architect with a complete understanding of it all. What you will need is competency and the willingness to ask questions and conduct research. Competency is huge because we must know something about everything, and if we don’t, we need to be able to find the information on it. No more are the product binders or Sweets Catalogs, all information is digital. We must be able to know how to access it and navigate it, taking a subjective approach to our findings. Specifiers and Architects are not scientists, so to understand all of the ASTMs and other testing standards, we must be able to at a minimum navigate through it and know where to find the information we need. Which leads me into a something different…
Relationship Building. Because Specifiers can’t know everything about everything and in ten years with advances in products and introductions of new products, Specifiers and really the industry, need to build relationships with product representatives. They are the experts on their products inside and out. They are able to provide the best solution for our questions. Previously, I don’t think this was a requirement for Specifiers, but it will need to be. Relationships are key, building trust is key, and with that, products can be specified correctly. A person who can control information, manage data and interpret data to work through a specification, and build relationships with outside reps will be a force in the industry.
Lastly, the specifier in 10 years will need to be a proactive team member within their own firm. Unfortunately, specifications have turned into an afterthought and are not actively taught to younger generations. The specifier will need to teach and spread the knowledge they have to other members on the team. I think of all the times I have heard “spec writers are the people in the basement or the corner or the lone person out” and know this can’t be the case in 10 years. The personality of a Specifiers will need to change. They will need to be proactive, upfront, and honest with their teams. Taking on a mentor role, which many already do, will be huge in continuing the role of a Specifiers in the future.
The role of specifier will look different in 10 years, probably 5, and technology will be by far the biggest impact to the role. I am excited for what the future brings and hopefully this post gets gears turning because the industry needs to find a solution to the decreasing specifier and understanding of specs. I am always available for discussions on this topic or other industry related topics, so please feel free to reach out!