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David Axt, AIA, CCS, CSI
Junior Member
Username: David_axt

Post Number: 16
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2002 - 09:03 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Lately some small projects have been dropped in my lap. How do I go about writing a "shortform" specification? All I know how to write is a "longform" spec. What do I leave out?
robin treston
Unregistered guest
Posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2002 - 09:57 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I have found that the Architect's idea of "shortform" really varies from a "outline spec" to a "full spec" with the spaces taken out to make it look shorter. Some of the major things I condense are the "accessories" and then refer to installation standards etc. without to much detail. I would be happy to email you some samples of sheet specs and shortforms that you could show your client to make sure you are on the same page and go from there.
John Regener, AIA, CCS, CCCA, CSI
New member
Username: John_regener

Post Number: 14
Registered: 04-2002
Posted on Wednesday, May 15, 2002 - 11:55 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


Herman Hoyer, PE, FCSI is an expert in shortform specifications. If you're at the CSI convention and SCIP meeting and if Herman attends, talk to him. He's thought this matter through in depth.

Herman has written master shortform specifications for a public utility and a rapid transit system. He has written shortform specifications for decades, for small projects and for multi-million dollar projects. He knows what can and cannot be done with shortform specifications.

The most significant issue, as you have noted, is determining what to leave out. Herman's challenge, based on one of the fundamental concepts in the CSI Manual of Practice, is specify ONLY what is necessary. This means avoiding over-specifying and under-specifying.

I believe this means that shortform specifications avoid one of the four methods of specifying: descriptive specifications. Product descriptions generate a great deal of text.

The reference standard method of specifying is suitable for shortform specifications because it saves a great deal of text, but the contractor must know and have available the reference standard.

The proprietary method of specifying is very suitable for shortform specifications because it saves a great deal of text, but may not be in the owner's best interest for price ... and there's a justifiable tendency to add descriptive text to assist in evaluating alternative and substitute products.

The performance method of specifying seems attractive for shortform specifications but rarely are the specifications truly performance-based. Reference standard and descriptive (that is, non-proprietary) methods are often confused with performance specifications. Performance specifications can require a great deal of descriptive text defining the required performance and the measures to be taken to evaluate whether the required performance has been achieved. Or, performance specifications can be short if they simply require compliance with a building code provision.

I think one of the best ways to do a shortform specification is to combine the proprietary method (identify real products in the marketplace) with reference to applicable ICBO Evaluation Service, Inc. Reports to save text describing attributes and installation methods. Then, leave out quality control provisions and other administrative requirements (if you dare).

One other thing that shortens up specifications is abandoning the 3-part Section format and follow the outline spec format. There's no Code requirement that says the specs have to be 3-part format.

At a SCIP meeting several years ago, comments were made that shortform specifications are about as much work to produce as "longform" specifications. It's difficult to sell that idea but it's true when you consider how word processing programs enable us to repeat text from project to project.

Mark Kalin markets shortform specifications. Herman Hoyer does not.

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