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Developing Specifications With a Partner Firm

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2018

By Bob Bailey, AIA, CCS


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Many firms find themselves at some point partnered with another firm on a project that might be a large project, an out-of-town project for one of the firms, or both. Often this partnership involves sharing of specification responsibilities. Here are points to keep in mind for this type of arrangement.

1. Establish a responsibility matrix. Who is going to produce which specification sections and why? You will want to discuss which firm is the most appropriate and/or most qualified to write each section.

2. Decide on the format to be used and basis of documents. If the owner has a prescribed format they like to see, this needs to be in the ground rules early. Will each firm be working from one firm’s master documents, working from separate/different masters, or other?

© iStock.com / Vasyl Dolmatov

Many firms find themselves at some point partnered with another firm on a project that might be a large project, an out-of-town project for one of the firms, or both. Often this partnership involves sharing of specification responsibilities.

3. Know each other’s method of production. You might not use the same means to get to the end, but you should each at least be aware of the methods the other is using. For instance, one firm might use a system wherein the BIM model drives the specifications while the other firm might not.

4. Agree on how the specs are going to interact with drawings. Firms have different standards for the way they produce a set of construction documents. It is important to determine what information will live on the drawings and what will live within the specifications and not duplicate information. Such items could be lost as the project evolves. For example, if one firm lists finish materials in a finish schedule on the drawings and provides generic material information in the specs, it is important for the other firm to know this process and not place detailed information in the incorrect location.

5. Determine the level of specification detail desired at each phase of the project. It is important to build the specs up consistently between the two firms, and meetings need to take place to ensure both are on the same page with the level of detail to add at various phases.

6. Coordinate spec sections you are authoring with related sections that others are authoring. This doesn’t just apply to your partner firm. The number of consultants often increases with the size of the project, so it’s important that you and your partner firm proactively coordinate the specification effort with these consultants.

© iStock.com / junce

It is important to build the specs up consistently between the two firms, and meetings need to take place to ensure both are on the same page with the level of detail to add at various phases.

7. Similarly, include necessary and appropriate cross references. For example, you might be authoring a section on radiation protection wherein you want to invoke the quality standards for lead-lined wood doors by reference to the Division 8 Section “Flush Wood Doors.” (This might, in turn, be being produced by your partner firm.)

8. Determine terminology to be used and ensure it is consistent throughout the documents. This can be more difficult with two firms authoring drawings. This also applies to abbreviations being used for materials.

9. Decide on any shared language, such as how substitutions or alternative products will be considered, or what the intent of naming a basis of design is.

10. Define material quality desired and/or appropriate for the project. Your practice may be geared toward a certain building type, while your partner firm might have a different building type as its focus. This can result in the mindset of the specifier from one firm having a different approach to materiality than the specifier from the other firm.

11. Define fabrication quality desired and/or appropriate. With the same comments as the previous rule, items such as millwork and welded metals are among those that require a stated fabrication quality.

Partnering with another firm can be tricky. You can spend a fair amount of time sizing each other up as you work through the development of the documents. If you’re fortunate, you’ll have a cordial and productive relationship. If the work-sharing is more strained, adhering to this list of points to consider and follow will help keep the relationship professional and on track.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Bob Bailey, AIA, CCS

A full-time specifier for more than 25 years, Bob Bailey, AIA, CCS, CSI, LEED AP, is Specifications and Constructability Specialist for IKM Inc. of Pittsburgh, PA. An award-winning specifications writer, Bob is the founder of the Pittsburgh Specifiers' Roundtable and immediate past president of CSI Pittsburgh. His professional passions: continuing education and internship development. Contact Bob.

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Tagged categories: Specification; Specification writing; Specifiers

Comment from Kevin Patterson, (9/7/2018, 7:34 AM)

Very well done Bob. Our firm uses keynotes. Coordinating which keynote is associated with a particular product/material is an important part of collaborating with another firm. Explaining and sharing your master keynote list is absolutely a necessity.


Comment from bob bailey, (9/9/2018, 9:32 AM)

thank you Kevin, and thanks for making a good point about keynotes. we use them, but not often.


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