What the heck is a spec?


When new projects begin, you may often hear that a project has a specification, or a certain product was included in a specification. But what is a specification, and why is it important?

A specification is a document that outlines the requirements for a project. It defines the requirements for products, materials, and workmanship that the contract is based on and outlines the requirements for both the administration and performance of the project. Within a specification, particular quality and standards which should be applied can be noted, materials and certain manufacturer’s products can be defined, and install, testing, and handover requirements are identified. 

Why do you need a specification?

Specifications are important because they are the bridge between the architect’s ideas and the contractors understanding. While items such as drawings can show what the architect are thinking, specifications get into the details and express product and quality requirements that help the project come to life. Specifications help establish quality requirements and consider both the owners and contractors interests. 

The 4 C’s of Specifications

Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) outlines the 4 C’s of a specification document. Making sure your specification embodies these 4 C’s will speed up communication as well as help to avoid mistakes that can cost money and delay project completion. 

  • Clear: use proper grammar and simple sentences to avoid vagueness 
  • Concise: eliminate unnecessary words and make sure your writing is concise so it is easily understood 
  • Correct: make sure your information is accurate and precise and your words convey exact meanings
  • Complete: make sure the scope of the work is fully described and no important information is left out

 Breaking down a specification

Specifications follow CSI’s Master Format®. This format organizes construction specifications into 50 divisions, which are then broken down into section numbers and titles. A partial list of the divisions includes general requirements, concrete, masonry, metals, and finishes. 

Each specification section is divided into three parts: general, products, and execution. 

  • General: procedural requirements unique to each section that expands on subjects from Division 1 – General Requirements
  • Products:  specifies the systems, equipment, products, materials, etc. that are to be in the project 
  • Execution: requirements for site installation and application as well as any prep actions or post-installation cleaning 

While at first glance, specifications can seem a bit overwhelming or confusing, they are a very important part of any project. They help to ensure the customer and anyone involved in the project is aware of the scope of the project and exactly what products that are to, as well as help to keep the project on schedule. 

Our ASSA ABLOY Entrance Systems specification team is available to assist you with everything you need to meet the requirements of your project from planning to design, to construction and delivery. And of course, specification assistance and development. Contact your local architectural consultant today.