Construction Product Specification Writing

Writing specification documents for your construction product

Well-written specification documents are very important tools in the sales and marketing of construction products. The role of a specification is to provide the construction product information which cannot easily be shown on a CAD drawing. Developing standard specification clauses provides a means of saving the specifier time, enabling easy inclusion and ensuring that a construction product is correctly described as to manufacturer’s original intention. With thought, these specification documents can also be written to minimise the opportunity for specifications to be value-engineered out of the project, by the quantity surveyor, or substituted by the contractor’s buying department.

A fact that most people involved in the specification process already know is that architects re-use their specifications. BIM is also changing the form of specifications and how the construction team works together. With this in mind it is important for the manufacturer to review their specification documents and have both a descriptive or prescriptive product specification and a generic performance specification available in BIM-ready formats.

The benefits of completing a specification review:

Reviewing each architect’s projects, or practice specification documents, allows you to become the trusted advisor and custodian to the specification. Tidying up old clauses, updating old information, and ensuring key clauses are retained or reinstated.

The benefits of regularly reviewing your architects’ specifications are that:

  • You are in control of keeping product information current and accurate
  • It is simpler for the construction design team to accurately specify your building products
  • It ensures that the Construction Decision Making Unit (DMU) is clear about the key attributes of your construction product.
  • It reduces the chances of your construction product being substituted, as the construction project progresses from design and specification to construction
  • It allows you to demonstrate how your product meets standards, sustainability, and health and wellbeing benchmarks, and is compliant with health and safety requirements.

The process:

A good specification gives a clear indication of the levels of quality expected – quality of materials, workmanship and any relevant standards to be met. A specification really is the only way to properly capture this information.

A typical specification document should contain most, if not all, of the following:

  • Manufacturer name with all contact details
  • Access to supplier network, if not direct
  • Product name and model numbers
  • Materials, ingredients, recycled % or composites, grades/alloys
  • Finish, colour, colour reference system (RAL BS), gloss level
  • Surface textures, direction, natural variation limits
  • Products, accessories and system assemblies/build-ups
  • Sizes, weights, density, other distinguishing properties
  • Technical performance (ISO, CEN, BS, BSI Kitemark, BBA, ETA)
  • Environmental and/or health performance
  • Test evidence, certificates, accreditations, labels
  • Workmanship, sequence, tolerances
  • Guarantee, scope, limits, years, provisos

Our expert specification writers collate relevant information from your construction product literature, test certificates, accreditations, guarantees and installation requirements. Converting this data and advice into requirements and instructions for a comprehensive, robust and well-written specification.

The specification is carefully crafted, highlighting where project specific choices can be made. Importantly much of the work focuses on ensuring that, when faced with cost cutting and substitution, all the reasons why a product was chosen in the first place are clear to all; providing the ammunition and incentive to defend the original decision, and significantly reducing the chances of product substitution.

Any doubt on the part of the tenderer, in the drawings or specification, invites safety-margin pricing, running the risk of post-tender evaluation rethinking and value engineering. Accuracy in specification descriptions allows the tenderer to sharpen their pencils and confidently price competitively, enabling products to remain specified. A robust specification serves all parties at all stages of the process. It reduces the need for lots of ‘Requests for Information’ and references to the manufacturer’s literature, which is never readily available when an urgent decision is required.

Robust specifications enable the design to be realised without one party increasing its short-term profit margin at the expense of creating a long-term building performance-gap and higher running costs for the client.

Thoughtful placing of specifications, in your own and other strategic websites, ensures unrestricted access to your specifications – 24/7/52 – so that hard-pressed specification writers can complete their work painlessly on Sunday night before Monday’s out-to-tender deadlines.