In June's column, I discussed how to find your way around in a specification section by using SectionFormat, the ordered list of topics developed and published by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). Using this list and knowledge about a material or product, a designer can create a complete description of what is required, how and where it should be applied, and how it should be related to the administration of the construction contract. However, it's easier and leads to better decision making if the designer uses a set of guide specifications prepared in advance and edits them to suit the project.
There are reasons why this happens. Under the urgency typical of design projects, editing the specifications may be put off until the last minute, and done hastily. It can be difficult to decide about some of the choices described in the guide specification, or reading quickly, the specifier fails to observe that a choice has to be made. Sometimes it seems that a specification for another project was exactly what is needed on the current job, so the specifier copies it. The technician or subcontractor in the field will discover something that is different this time.