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John Regener
Posted on Wednesday, December 06, 2000 - 10:48 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I'm starting this thread of discussion based on talking with several specifications writers about our concerns and experiences with providing specifications to clients (architects/engineers), project owners, construction managers and contractors.

What are the issues in giving specifications to others in an electronic format?

What file formats are most suitable for transmitting and publishing (printing or placing on a website)?
Julie Brown
Posted on Tuesday, December 19, 2000 - 06:06 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

The issues about giving specifications electronically are liability and not having an informed client.

What I mean by "an informed client" -- Recently I had a new client call to say they wanted me to write the specs and they wanted them electronically because they would be writing the addenda.

In my opinion, if we do not take the time to educate our clients as to the assets of our services, not just producing a spec, then we are missing the point of this profession.

If we send the project manual electronically for the client to print and collate, what will stop them from making changes. I know people that this has happened to, and they were required to take the time to review each section and prove they did not produce it.

How do we protect ourselves, and stay in touch with the electronic changes?
David Lorenzini
Posted on Tuesday, December 19, 2000 - 07:02 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

If clients claim they do not intend to change the electronic files they are requesting, and that they only want an electronic archive that can be printed for future reference, then offer them a PDF file.

Acrobat PDF files can be created that only allow viewing and printing. They are digital images of the originals, and they can be printed on the client's system printer.

Acrobat Reader is a free application, so any client can obtain it from Adobe's website. However, the Acrobat program to create the PDF files will cost you between $230-250. Instead of printing your file to a hardcopy printer, you print to the Acrobat Distiller. It is that easy, and you can print multiplle files at one time. Note the use of the term "print". It is not the same as "converting" or "save as". There should be no loss of format if the settings are correct.

I'm not aware of any risks at this point, but I will let you know if any develop. I have already delivered four major projects entirely in PDF format (one of which was from a small hill town in Italy last month).

The other obvious benefits include a shorter delivery time, especially when working at a distance. In fact, I can send the PDF files at noon and get them to my client three time zones away at 9 am. Another benefit is lower shipping costs. This comes from agreeing to provide your services in only one format.

There are certain coordination issues because you have to educate your client how to assemble the final project manual, especially if you want double-sided pages in chapter format. With experience will come recommendations and standards.

In summary, there shouldn't be any electronic changes. However, if specifiers wants to stay in touch with the electronic age, they should try Acrobat.
Jo Drummond
Posted on Saturday, December 30, 2000 - 08:53 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I agree with John Regener. I just got Acrobat, the whole program and have been playing with it. I have one contract for a structural engineer to do the structural specs. for a fussy architect who has exact formatting requirements. I wrote in my contract that I would give them the files in PDF format - put that in small print,they will never see it, then they can't complain, you are just fulfilling your contract.

I have downloaded a fresh copy of Acrobat Reader, which I am going to include on every disk with the specs. so that the client can't say he (she) can't open it. The tool will be right there.
Gerard Sanchis
Posted on Tuesday, February 20, 2001 - 02:07 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

This is all fine and dandy, but we use the internet to interact with our clients, get them to READ the specs (quite a feat in itself as most of you know) and actually use the TRACK CHANGE feature of Word to all agree on the content of a Section. We find that this is why the internet was created and how it will be used in the future. You can do this in Acrobat but what's the point?

The Section is then finalized and printed. However in the interim there are incomplete versions of the document floating around and there's nothing we can do if a client wants to use them either "as is" or in a modified version.

I understand the liability issue, but I don't know how it can be resolved except by keeping every version of the "authorized" section if one has to go to court.
Anne Whitacre
Posted on Tuesday, March 27, 2001 - 06:05 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

We also have clients who want specs in disk format, (as well as drawings) and one way to handle the change issue is to have a set of disks run as the record copy and then have them sealed at the time of distribution. They can be professionally sealed and labled and kept as your archive copy. (or you can burn a CD that has the specs and drawings on it and archive that.) I have had clients change stuff once they get the set, but I've never had an argument about the content with them -- they have always acknowledged the change.
With another client, a major university, we provide specs in PDF format.
We also do the same as you with having the Owner and consultants use the "track changes" utility. I don't think we see this as a very big problem -- even hard copy can be scanned in now, or retyped.
gerard sanchis
Posted on Sunday, April 01, 2001 - 01:46 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


I agree with you. We decided to keep all the issues sent to the client and his/her consultants as "records copies." It uses a lot of disk space, which can be reduced by zipping the files, but at least we sleep nights.

The method we use is to create subdirectories, with the date of issue, in the main project directory. When we archive the project, we then have a complete history of what we've produced.

One problem we are encountering is that some consultants are reluctant to give us an electronic copy of their files, but even the reluctant ones are coming around.

Richard L. Hird
Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2001 - 09:59 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I have less concern about the liability issue than I do with the mechanics problem. I consider my client as being the party ultimately liable for the specifications and work hard to fully engage them in the decisions process. Why would I want to deny them the opportunity to change "their" specifications.

The mechanics of the issue is what drives me nuts. Every client has a different competency level. Some are way out in front of me and others way behind. This makes every project a problem of what they can handle; .PDF ,rtf .sec and .doc.

It is getting worse. With so many opting for the supposed universality of "Office" I find much less competency in dealing with the mechanics of data management, i.e. codes, extensions printer interface. More and nmore clients expect me to solve their "WORD" problems. Since I never made the switch I just can not help them.

Just have to use the hard copy I sent them. Another good reason to not send Bill Gates any more money.
Timothy E. Woerner, PE, CCS
Junior Member
Username: tewoerner

Post Number: 2
Registered: 03-2004
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 08:55 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

"If clients claim they do not intend to change the electronic files they are requesting, and that they only want an electronic archive that can be printed for future reference, then offer them a PDF file."

MASTERSPEC subscribers can get a free add-in for either MS Word or WordPerfect called MasterWorks which can perform a translation to PDF. New versions of WordPerfect include this feature, also.
Robin (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Monday, March 22, 2004 - 10:09 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

FYI: There is software now that converts from PDF to Word format.
Alan Mays, AIA
Senior Member
Username: amays

Post Number: 29
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 11:48 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I don't think that software will work if the PDF is saved as an encrypted file. I have had to fight with some PDF files from manufacturers that lock the spec file.
Jo Drummond
Senior Member
Username: jo_drummond

Post Number: 82
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Saturday, May 22, 2004 - 01:07 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

If you password protect the PDF files, the conversion software won't convert them. If you don't, anyone, even dumb me, can convert the PDF files to writeable format using the PDF program.
Password protecting is slow though, at least I have only figured out how to do one file at a time.
John McGrann
Senior Member
Username: jmcgrann

Post Number: 20
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Monday, May 24, 2004 - 08:11 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


The full version of Acrobat includes a feature called "batch processing." You can set up a sequence to set security parameters for all .pdf files within a directory.
Sheldon Wolfe
Senior Member
Username: sheldon_wolfe

Post Number: 145
Registered: 01-2003
Posted on Thursday, July 07, 2005 - 03:32 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Are there any written requirements that state what must be done in hardcopy? Specifically, are there any problems sending pdf addenda by e-mail?

Some say it's o.k., some say it's o.k. as long as it is followed by hardcopy, some say it must be hardcopy only.

Now that we're in the 21st century, it's about time we moved into the 20th.
Ralph Liebing
Senior Member
Username: rliebing

Post Number: 195
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Thursday, July 07, 2005 - 03:43 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

To me the primary issue is that ALL bidders receive ALL Addenda.

There can be claims that the electronic version was not received [how do you disprove that?]

But then one can claim that the snail-mail never arrived [how do you disprove that?]

Registered mail with return receipt, FedEx or other trackable delivery may show that at least delivery was made-- reading and understanding is yet another matter. Personal service and reading out loud to each bidder does seem a little difficult if not remote!

Bottom line, is the need [best advised, not mandated] that the bidding playing field be "dead level" for all.
Anne Whitacre, CCS CSI
Senior Member
Username: awhitacre

Post Number: 216
Registered: 07-2002
Posted on Thursday, July 07, 2005 - 04:27 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

your email program can be set up to register (ack to sender) and send a reply when it is read and opened -- at least the Outlook program has that as an option. that way, you have an electronic "receipt" for the document. for faxed addenda, I have typically included a cover sheet that requires a signed return faxed back -- and we keep those in the file as the receipt. I do... however... remember when last minute addenda were sent by telegram to all registered bidders..
William C. Pegues, FCSI, CCS
Senior Member
Username: wpegues

Post Number: 412
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Thursday, July 07, 2005 - 04:36 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


Addenda can be sent any way that it has been 'agreed upon' to send them. That is, technically it should be outlined in the Instructions to Bidders about how, when and why addenda will be issued.

Even if it is not defined well, the Owner can inform the contractors how he intends to issue addenda and that's that.

Now - that is per the private sector. Enter the public or the government sector, and then it still can be however it is defined, but, it has to be defined, and if not, an addenda issued in the traditional paper manner that then does define it.


That is the only issue that relates to things like addenda. However, publishing and distributing the book itself devolves to copyright rules and previous legal decisions.

There have been some advances in copyright, I think its about caught up to the 1950s now, maybe even the 70s.

Legal though, that goes by the rule that "its not legal until there has been a decision based on it, whether it is a law or not", and the corallary, "everything is legal until there has been a decision based on it."


Regarding Outlook and reply when read or received, that does not work if the system on the other end is not compatible. I used to send out all my emails that way, with other outlook users, I got the notification. And with some other systems I also got a notice. However, of all emails sent out of the office, less than 10 percent generated the reply when read. Someone can even have outlook and on the exchange server side disable that reply function, so an organization's IT person or group can kill that function.

Robert E. Woodburn
Senior Member
Username: bwoodburn

Post Number: 41
Registered: 01-2005
Posted on Thursday, July 07, 2005 - 07:31 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Virtually every bid form I recall seeing had a specific place for each bidder to acknowledge each addendum by number and date (with blanks to fill in on the form). That provides a record, but doesn't make sure everyone has received them all before its too late. What may be important is that, with any system used, some followup be done for anyone not acknowledging receipt before bid time, in time to make doubly sure it's received, and acknowledged in some recordable way, by all bidders.
(Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Friday, July 08, 2005 - 02:14 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Electronic communication has arrived and is here to stay. There is no stopping owners, consultants, contractors from taking full advantage of the technology. I remember a project on which I worked on in the mid 1980s where the contractor stole the Architect's seal off a set of permit drawings. This goes to show that if someone is determined, they will alter a document in virtually any format.

That said, we are making increasing use of FTP sites like Buzzsaw to post drawings and specs, especially for fast track projects and those with multiple bid packages. Sometimes the owner pays for the site, sometimes we do, depending on the project, the schedule and if there is an overall project coordinator. The specs are posted in PDF format. Each section of the manual is "printed" in the manner described by David Lorenzini. Administrators for the better maintained sites send an e-mail alerting me to changes and new posts.

One thing I have not had time to investigate is how to create electronic copies of AIA documents. I suppose one could scan a hard copies and name the files so they follow the order of the manual. There are also copyright issues here.
John Bunzick, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: bunzick

Post Number: 375
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Monday, July 11, 2005 - 08:38 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

If you use AIA's contract documents software, the output is in PDF format. However, without signatures.
Dave Wyatt, CSI, CCA, CCCA (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Monday, July 11, 2005 - 11:15 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

The unregistered guest's last sentence in his/her last post raises the important issue of copyright.

As participants in the knowledge economy, we often use and share information and documents to which we have very limited rights or none at all. Computers have made this very easy to do as the discussion here proves.

We should do our best to understand the basic principles of copyright and fair use and be aware of what use rights govern the information and documents we have at hand.

I expand on this in the Specifications column of the August 05 Construction Specifier. After it comes out, I welcome anyone to contribute their thoughts. I can be reached at info@wyattswords.com or djwyattsm@alltel.net.
Steven T. Lawrey, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: lawrey

Post Number: 25
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Monday, July 11, 2005 - 01:27 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I forgot to log in and therefore am the unregistered guest.
Wayne Yancey
Senior Member
Username: wyancey

Post Number: 28
Registered: 05-2005
Posted on Tuesday, July 12, 2005 - 12:27 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

We issue all documents (memos, reports, specifications and drawings) in PDF file format. Our audience includes lawyers, architects, contractors, internal customers, homeowners associations, etc.

If you are an AIA MasterSpec subscriber, MasterWorks includes a print utility to convert MS Word and WordPerfect files to PDF or locked PDF files for distribution.

All our bid and construction documents (specifications and drawings) include a copyright statement. It is located in the footer of specificaitons and in the titleblock of drawings. Some may say copyright statements have about the same power as the disclaimer on the back of a ski lift ticket.

For further reading on copyright infringement, the International Risk Management Institute is a good starting place. Look for the "Expert Commentary" section. Of particular interest is "Copyright Infringement of Design Documents" by J. Kent Holland Jr., November 2002. Using a recent case as an example, Kent Holland discusses the importance of preserving the copyright interest of the architect’s design documents.

I have a copy of this article to share. You may e-mail me at wyancey@morrisonhershfield.com

Kenneth C. Crocco
Senior Member
Username: kcrocco

Post Number: 25
Registered: 04-2003
Posted on Monday, July 18, 2005 - 11:01 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Electronic communication has not arrived. Rather, it is still arriving in pieces, it is here to stay, and I (we) use it all the time. We send pdf's and sometimes word if the client intends to modify. E-mail is used instead of meetings and FTP sites are used for distribution, etc. Yes there is no stopping the use of this stuff, but there are many problems, some of which go unnoticed until too late. Examples include pdf files that are only partly converted from word to pdf (but it appears to have completely converted; not all the text is present). In creating a group of pdf files sometimes the software skips a file. When clients modify their own specs in word there are software problems we sometimes can never explain. Electronic communication is here to stay and it is not perfect as we sometimes expect it to be. So, what to do?

One of my pet peeves is meetings through e-mail. It is really very confusing to have e-mails go out to a dozen people and have responses trickle in one by one and then responses go back out to responses. This is unerving. It works fine in a discussion forum like this one, but very poorly on a design meeting.

My point is, electronic may be here to stay, but it really isn't all here yet. And I really don't see the increase in quality of design or specifications.
Sheldon Wolfe
Senior Member
Username: sheldon_wolfe

Post Number: 203
Registered: 01-2003
Posted on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 - 10:35 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

It's been several months since the last post - anything new? Is anyone distributing bidding documents on CD/DVD or via website? If so, how is it working?

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