Construction Specifications
 
Specifications compliment a set of construction drawings as the written description of work to be performed on a project. The commercial construction industry has a standardized format for their specifications, but the residential construction does not. As a result, nearly every residential project has uniquely formatted written requirements if they exist at all.

Good specifications should provide all the information required by the builder, the trade contractors and suppliers working on the project. Concise information supports accurate bidding, enhances communication, improves quality, expedites the time schedule and prevents mistakes.
Dynamic Project Information
Information on a construction project is constantly changing. The processes for keeping everyone informed can enhance performance, or not. Information requirements range from summary to intricate details. An efficient information system through use of the Work Breakdown Schedule can provide information relevant to the needs of the responsible parties.
  • Specifications should not ever change. These are the original requirements agreed upon between the Builder and Owner, and included in the contract price of the home depending on the type of agreement.
  • Addendum are changes to the scope of the project during the bidding phase. Upon award of the contract to the Builder or subcontracts to the respective trade contractors, the preferred method would be to incorporate all the changes into the specifications.
  • Green certification requirements can result in necessary changes to the specifications and the trade contractors' scopes of work. Likewise, the most effective method would be to incorporate all of the proposed green elements into the specifications.
  • Changes will likely occur after the contract has been awarded to the Builder and they can be one of the most difficult aspects of a project to manage. Information processes need to ensure that changes are incorporated into the project scope as efficiently as possible to avoid omissions or mistakes.
  • Notes are added to each category as reminders or additional bits of information. During the project it seems like something always comes up that we don't want to forget or overlook.
  • Scopes of Work are the specific requirements of each of the trade contractors. These may be your own company standards included in the trade contractor agreement. While specifications may be unique to every project, the scope of work should remain constant.
  • Selections are the information received from the Owner. Selections like roofing or garage doors could be kept here, although it may not make sense to list all the appliances or tile selections. The status of the selection and where to find the information would be entered here.
A good routine to develop is to review the project information weekly as the schedule progresses. We hold our staff meetings on Thursdays each week. Support staff looks a couple weeks forward to make sure that the project supers have all the updated information. Meeting on Thursdays allow the supers to review unmatched invoices and give staff a day to make sure the next week's plan is in place.

In 2009 Groninger Custom Homes received national recognition with a Business Excellence Award from Residential Design & Build Magazine for its JobNotes system we developed. The techniques described above and additionally below were used long before smart phones and the cloud to manage the information and processes of a successful custom home building company.(more...)

Specifications Format Considerations
When developing a format to organize information for residential construction, how best should it be structured to support management of the project?
  • Support Integration - A format can be very powerful if it allows the various chores of project management to share the codes. Project management as a profession exists in many other industries besides just construction. Professional project managers use a Work Breakdown Schedule (WBS) and then break down all the tasks into the smallest unit of work or materials. The same codes are used in the estimate, specifications and time schedule and can also facilitate cost control and even the production of working drawings.
  • Chronological Order - Time phased coding makes perfect sense as it relates to a construction time schedule, but did you know that most estimators also compile their numbers in the same order as a project is built? If you have ever created an estimate, you already know this is natural. We've also found that the chronological format enhances a proposal when its presented to an Owner. In the near future CAD drawings will become 4-D with the 4th dimension being time. Keep an eye out for these future technology advances. It's going to be really cool!
  • Logical Breakdown Structure - Upper level categories break down into subgroups and further down into individual tasks. The upper level categories combine logical task groups that facilitate conceptual estimate comparisons with other projects; for instance, structural or mechanical units costs. Individual tasks should be broken down until each represents a line-item from the detailed estimate, the specifications and the construction schedule.
ResConServ Specifications
Before developing our own format, we reviewed others but didn't feel any facilitated the management of a residential construction project or provided the foundation for an integrated structure.
  • CSI - Founded in 1948, The Construction Specifiers Institute authors MasterFormat, the dominant resource of the commercial construction industry. CSI is a product-specific format used by architects and engineers to specify the materials and products used in their projects.
  • NAHB - The National Association of Home Builders has a chart of accounts developed by accountants to enable financial comparisons of the members.
  • ICC - The International Code Council developed the International Building Code (IBC) and additional performance standards as resources to be used by each state for the development of their own building code. The premise behind the code is safety and the best interest of the public.
  • USGBC - The United States Green Building Council is the parent of LEED, the green certifying organization. The LEED organizational format supports conservation, sustainability and environmental awareness.
The full ResConServ specifications format is available for free to anyone within the residential design and construction industry. Our format has evolved over nearly 25 years building custom homes. It has served us well, but may not work for everyone. We welcome comments and encourage collaboration in support of a format that facilitates the organization and management of residential projects.  The link to the left accesses a Google Doc with the entire expanded format. Note: You may need request permission and if you don't already have a Google account, will have to register one. Feel free to send me an email if you have any questions.  Keith Groninger 

Specifications Resources
Construction Specifications Institute
International Code Council
NAHB Chart of Accounts
ResConServ Specifications (recommended)

Construction Specifications


Florida and the Gulf Coast have climate and environmental conditions that are unique from anywhere else in the United States. With energy efficiency and a new green awareness on the minds of many in the industry, building systems and construction techniques are evolving quickly. 

ResConServ.com provides construction and green management services and resources to businesses and consumers that want to optimize the residential construction process.