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Senior Member
Username: chris_grimm_ccs_scip

Post Number: 304
Registered: 02-2014

Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 09:35 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

An idea that was proposed at CONSTRUCT2014 in Baltimore - What if the owner or a design/build contractor were to hire a specifier directly as a consultant to the project?

How does this work for the designer of record to review, sign & seal specs as part of their instruments of service, that were not by someone they hired? Maybe one way is if the original agreement is written so that the specifier begins a new agreement with the Architect at beginning of CD phase?

Special contract provisions needed for the copyright of these specs?
Dave Metzger
Senior Member
Username: davemetzger

Post Number: 566
Registered: 07-2001
Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 10:14 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


As an analogy, we've had projects where for long lead items (eg a large quantity of stone quarrying and fabrication), the owner signed an early contract with the stone supplier. This contract was then assigned to the selected general contractor, who also was responsible for stone delivery and installation.

So one option is for the owner/specifier contract to be assigned to the selected architect of record. Another is as you suggest; the owner/specifier contract is for pre-CD consulting; the owner/architect of record contract includes a provision that the architect will hire the specifier as a consultant.
Jeffrey Wilson CSI CCS SCIP
Senior Member
Username: wilsonconsulting

Post Number: 169
Registered: 03-2006

Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 11:32 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

What would be the expected benefit of this approach? I don't see much potential up side, and it would complicate liability for all parties involved.

Imposing a requirement on the design professional to engage a particular specifier -- or a spec consultant at all -- seems like an unwise imposition. And the specifier would have greater exposure than normal.
Jeff Wilson
Wilson Consulting Inc
Narberth PA
Marc C Chavez
Senior Member
Username: mchavez

Post Number: 466
Registered: 07-2002

Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 12:11 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I see a huge upside.

short answer:

As a licensed architect I can stamp my own specs. If I work for the contractor or owner (with insurance of course) no problem; Risk can be managed (i.e. insured for.) Frankly most architects don't understand materials anyway. AND many architects already out source specifications the only difference is that I'm stamping my own spec...

Longer rant:

Especially for negotiated jobs, let me work closely with the estimator and field super and we can hone in on the best material for the time of year, crew or sub doing the work, that fits the schedule, to name a few. These are things that architects are not paid to do and as silo-ed as they are, cannot do . Let the architect label the vertical below grade walls with a nice generic term like "waterproofing" and I'll handle the rest. They don't know anything about it anyway....except its black (most of the time)

Architects have limited their scope so completely that they are being pushed out of the business of building into a napkin sketching, advisory role; let them be. In short the architect’s contract, attitude, workflow and product is still based upon a Design-Bid-Build model that at least for negotiated work is dead meat.

Certainly the specifier would have greater exposure...and it would be covered by insurance ....and with greater risk can come greater reward....ask for more money.
Specifiers provide a necessary and VERY worthy and valuable service. We understand products across many fields better than anyone except the subs and craftsmen and craftswomen who do the work. capitalize on that knowledge. See http://www.di.net/articles/what-are-you-worth/

We as both architects and specifiers have not been doing a good job of showing owners either, and so we are discounted. I can’t speak for designers, but as an architect and specifier I can give both to a project, and if we can to use the business phrase “show the value proposition” of specifying and the HUGE amounts of risk that we are removing from the job with every line we type…we can clearly get paid enough to handle the small cost of professional liability insurance AND make much more money.
Mark Gilligan SE,
Senior Member
Username: mark_gilligan

Post Number: 717
Registered: 10-2007
Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 02:44 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

What is being proposed is a power struggle between the architect and the specification consultant.

The architect's responsibility is for the system that was designed not for the format in which the information is presented. You cannot divide responsibility in the manner proposed.
Marc C Chavez
Senior Member
Username: mchavez

Post Number: 467
Registered: 07-2002

Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 02:57 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I beg to differ.

Most of the time -in house (as I am) it happens all the time. I select and specify the product and the architect has no idea....of course in a perfect world we all think about what is being designed and the system is, as you state a "designed system" and some items will remain so.

however for the most part it can and has been done regularly. and I am not talking about format.

You can divide responsibility. Every architect that has worked on a project with a "local" architect has divided this responsibility. the local takes some issues and the other architect (and all the engineers) take other parts ...and stamps them... this is a regular practice.

Now, any jurisdiction should require one design professional to lead the job (sometimes an engineer), but outside of that issue (which I am not discussing) everything can and has been sliced and diced. this is another potential.

I reiterate the creation and stamping of the information currently called "the spec" can be a separate entity from the architect, and has been for years. the only difference is applying your stamp to it.
Marc C Chavez
Senior Member
Username: mchavez

Post Number: 468
Registered: 07-2002

Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 03:03 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

As for power, the architect has already lost most of this and is losing more every year. It currently resides with the contractor

I'm saying that the Owner and Contractor don't know what we do either. and what we do is very important .....so let's sell what we do to the people who take the most risk, owner or contractor and consequently make most of the money.

Why tie ourselves to a sinking ship?

The only reason I'm here instead of on my own is that in 3-5 years I'm done and can retire.
ken hercenberg
Senior Member
Username: khercenberg

Post Number: 882
Registered: 12-2006

Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 04:11 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

For the most part I think that the concept of having the Owner or D/B-lead assigning the spec contract to the Architect of Record is very 'do-able' since I see this happen all the time with Civil/Structural/MEPT Engineers, food service consultants, signage consultants, ad nauseam. Many do not seal their own work (except hopefully the Engineers).

As to sealing specs separately by the spec writer, this was a heated discussion years ago at CSI. From what I understand (since I was not there), requiring a CCS certification to seal specifications was originally discussed as being something that CSI was going to lobby for. Since the CCS does not confirm that technical knowledge has been established, it was deemed inappropriate as a stand-alone criteria for sealing specs. Since many Specifiers were not, and are not, registered Architects or Engineers, the concern was that qualified individuals would not seek their CCS if it was perceived as being essentially meaningless.

I presume that any Architect or Engineer hired to generate specs or complete Project Manuals as a consultant can be hired to seal those documents with or without a CCS. Any Architect of Record can opt for that and that may be a good marketing plan for those who qualify and are willing to throw their liability in the ring. My guess is that there are Architects out there that will gladly share the liability, but what will you do when your specs conflict with the drawings? Go back to including the clause that the spec govern?
Marc C Chavez
Senior Member
Username: mchavez

Post Number: 469
Registered: 07-2002

Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 04:31 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

CCS aside.

Conflicts are conflicts and without an order of precedence (for which I do NOT advocate) they will be RFI'ed to death...the usual way.

AND remember that insurance is needed by anyone who sells "specialized knowledge" that another person "relies upon." Professional Liability Insurance is available to those without stamps...

Now if your state requires the spec to be stamped...and you are not "stamp-able" then you would need to be under an architect if writing architectural sections or an engineer for those sections.
Anon (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 11:50 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

As an idea I think it sounds compelling, but in all practicality it seems a little strange. CSI advocates for coordinated construction documents. Does taking the specifications and the drawings and separating them into different contracts seem slightly antithetical to that position? That's not to say it isn't possible to coordinate them properly, but any dispute could become problematic ... I'm feel I'm fulfilling my duty to the owner by telling the architect they need to change their drawings to coordinate with my specs. But the Architect also feels they are doing their duty to the owner by telling me to change my specifications to coordinate with their drawings.

What if the architect of record has a "reasonable objection" to working with the owner's specifier?

I was not in attendance at Construct 2014 so I do not know to what extent this was discussed. Was there any discussion of requiring licensure to practice specifying? Would this alleviate the issue of the architect stamping the specs? Probably not, you'd have to rewrite laws, and you'd start to really anger the AIA I'm sure.

What about the owner hiring the architect through DD and then turning the design over to the owner who then hires the specifier (and their team of construction document technologists) to create the construction documents; both specifications and drawings? The specifier of course would have to have a licensed architect on board. The specifier could be hired early in the design to act as an advisor to the design team in this scenario as well.

Wouldn't it be better for the owner to just hire an architect who also happens to be a good specifier? Contractually it is a lot less complicated. Are owners clamoring for better specs? If so, where can I meet them?

STRAW POLL: For the regular posters, how many of you are also licensed architects?
Robert E. Woodburn, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: bob_woodburn

Post Number: 147
Registered: 11-2010
Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 04:47 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

It's my understanding that the reason sealing is required is so one person in each design discipline is responsible for the "work product" (the built result, e.g., a building) in that discipline, not a particular construction document. If the drawings and specs describe the same work--which they do, for a project or a given portion of it, they must be sealed by the same designer of record. If this single responsibility could be divided on a document authorship basis as suggested, then each architect or engineer who produced a drawing or edited a spec section could be required to seal that document--dividing the responsibility to such a point that it's impossible to sort out liability. (And with BIM and guide specs, who can know how much any one person really contributed?)
Marc C Chavez
Senior Member
Username: mchavez

Post Number: 470
Registered: 07-2002

Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 05:09 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Good points and as much as I'm a CSI supporter. For arguments sake let's suppose I don't care what CSI or AIA care about...what is needed for the owner to get the best value AND a good quality project, which is the point of any project. and of course I believe all good architects should be at least competent spec writers (I'm often disappointed)

Mr, Woodburn,
Also good points laws are laws and if such separation is not allowed then it's not allowed.

let's think about when "spec" type information is embedded in various databases making up a BIM.

for example does the architect of record "specify" below grade waterproofing to something approaching "LOD 100" and I take it to "LOD 300" who is stamping what? where was enough information provided that liability for DESIGN can be established? when am I an architect and when am I a contractor suggesting a product "substitution" to satisfy weather conditions or construction process? these are all interesting to consider.
Robert E. Woodburn, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: bob_woodburn

Post Number: 148
Registered: 11-2010
Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 05:36 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

It's simple, actually. In each design discipline, for any given project or portion thereof, only one person can, and must, be responsible--the designer of record (DoR) for that discipline. Everyone else involved in producing construction documents for that discipline typically does so, by law, under the direct supervision and/or responsible charge of that DoR (the wording varies from state to state), and each DoR bears the ultimate responsibility for the work results of that discipline being appropriate for the purpose and consistent with the governing requirements. No other person, licensed or not (including hardware, food service, specifications and other consultants) who contribute documents for that discipline can relieve the DoR of any part of that overall responsibility, so they cannot seal portions of those documents.
anon (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 05:22 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Yes, indeed, where are all these Owners demanding specifiers be more involved earlier and that they be given more authority? I am told by the folks that are developing/proposing this approach/idea that such a thing exists, but I have never been introduced...

The idea that ALL specifiers have equal ability/skill/expertise is patently false. I have worked with many specifiers, and many of them are good, but there are quite a few that are really glorified word processors that could not and cannot offer much architectural expertise to anyone. Yes, they can Master/Section/Page-Format the crap out of anything per CSI rules, but they cannot tell me the importance of an electrolyte in evaluating galvanic reaction potential, for example. But I can. I am a specifier and I am an architect. I got my specification education preparing for and passing the CCS. I got my architectural education in college, graduating with a B.Arch. But, and this is VERY important, I got my applicable building systems/envelope/materials/products knowledge at my initiative - by reading everything and anything I could get my hands on to understand all of the stuff in those big, scary, unedited MasterSpec sections that I started using 20+ years ago.

Having a CCS or RA next to your name means very little - and is definitely not something that can be used to ascertain equal ability/skillset/knowledge among the professionals that have these credentials. Not by a long shot.

Second issue is that specifications and drawings go together - like peas and carrots. The idea that the Specifier can add some sort of value to an Owner independently of the professional contracted to produce the drawings is like selling a car without an engine - and allowing someone outside of the car manufacturer to just drop in any old engine by any manufacturer. Can't do it. Engine and car are intertwined. Specs and drawings are the same, and need to be produced under the same agreement by the same entity, in my opinion.
Marc C Chavez
Senior Member
Username: mchavez

Post Number: 471
Registered: 07-2002

Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 06:00 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

oh . ..this is fun.
dear anon. I do not disagree. at this time there is no clamber for this earlier involvement....but as I have heard many a spec writer whine about being left out of the process until it was almost too late to save their designers from themselves. perhaps there should be.

Mr woodburn. I see your point. but I'll have to go digging before I buy it lock stock and barrel. what about design build where all design entities are hired by one party where is the crisp delineation between parties? in fact I read a legal article on this issue and it can be a problem. are we all still separate then? Owner/Build? what about the structural steel that the SE designs but the architect specs (allowing the SE to review) is that spec the architects or the SE's? and whose responsibility is it.
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E.
Senior Member
Username: michael_heinsdorf_pe

Post Number: 26
Registered: 01-2014
Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 06:07 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

From an engineer's point of view, or an owner who has an engineer running projects, there seems like a lot of duplication of effort and potential for major mistakes. For instance, if I'm including a 500kW genset and associated distribution in my design, that means I have to research the products and illustrate them, and transmit that information on the genset, conductors, conduit, manufacturers, standards, installation methods, seismic criteria, etc. to a third party consultant, who may or may not be doing independent product research, or have a different design process. Something is going to get missed - it already does when it is in-house. At least in-house, there is QA/QC who can, theoretically, check the specs against the drawings.

There is also the stamp on the front page of the spec book that is going to be an issue.

Out of curiosity, any idea how many spec writers have an engineering background or work in engineering? From my (limited) time spent on 4specs, it seems like a lot of the participants have architectural backgrounds and are involved in primarily architectural projects. But it wouldn't be the first time that I'm wrong.
anon (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 06:30 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Marc, I submit to you that what you really want, and what makes so much more sense, is a separate and distinct professional discipline that I will call a Contract Documents Integrator (CDI). This would be a firm/entity contracted by the Owner, or the Architect, or the Contractor, or pick another of your choosing, with the responsibility to integrate all of the information produced by the design professionals - after the documents have been produced but prior to bidding/fee negotiation - The CDI would have a full time staff of architect(s), engineers, code experts, enclosure experts, cost estimators, and yes, SPECIFIERS! The CDI would review and point out all of the problems/coordination issues with the information in the documents and send that back to the design entity to get it right.

There are firms that offer a very similar service right now! Unfortunately, there is no consistency in what they do - and none (to my knowledge) have any specifiers on staff (sadly). But the model exists.

Someone would be smart to tap into this idea and develop a credential/society/association for this type of thing, yes? The National Association of Contract Documents Integration perhaps?
Robert E. Woodburn, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: bob_woodburn

Post Number: 149
Registered: 11-2010
Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 06:35 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Again, it's simple. Individual licensees (persons, not firms) seal the documents and bear all the responsibility (and liability) within their respective disciplines, regardless of who works for whom, who contracted to do what (or actually did what), or whether it's design-build, etc. Firms usually pay for the E&O insurance that covers their employees' liability, but professional responsibility is still individual and personal, not corporate. That's why we earn the big bucks... ;-)
Robert E. Woodburn, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: bob_woodburn

Post Number: 150
Registered: 11-2010
Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 07:04 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

anon, what you call a CDI is what we used to call an "Architect." Theoretically, I believe it still is, though I haven't read an Owner-Architect Agreement in a long time. Don't have a copy handy. Does it say the Architect is responsible for coordinating his or her work with the work of other consultants? Isn't that what it means to "integrate all that information"? Do we completely dismantle architecture as a profession into its components, and register building designers, BIM modelers, specifiers?

Perhaps what we ought to do instead is acknowledge the names and contributions of everyone on the project team--everyone. Ever read the credits on a major motion picture? Everyone is listed--companies, people (mostly, I think, because it's in everyone's union contract). It's comparable in scope to those it takes for a major construction project, especially if you include the Owner's personnel, the Contractor's and its subs and their employees, the caterers, the insurors, the portacan supplier and its drivers, etc. Still, only one person ultimately gets the credit or the blame. Sometimes it's the final line in the credits--literally, the bottom line: "A (director's name here) Film." In architecture, it's the architect. If every part of our role is eroded away, maybe all we'll have left is the naming rights--and the blame...
Senior Member
Username: chris_grimm_ccs_scip

Post Number: 305
Registered: 02-2014

Posted on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - 07:15 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

One interesting experience was a project where no one knew which of several architects was really "the Architect", and I was hired by the first Contractor as a separate contract he held with the Owner just for the purpose of specifications because no one had a clue what they were going to do for a biddable project. Finally in the end the Designer of Record was chosen and sealed the documents but it was not known until far too long what was going to happen though they were falling behind schedule, until this first Contractor (a design/build registered architect / CM / MBA who ultimately did just the SD and demolition for this project) and I worked with everybody to figure things out and get documents that could be bid on finally prepared, teaching other disciplines how to write specs along the way. Perhaps this was project information management or contract documents integration, I do not know, but it sure was, as I said, interesting.
Anon (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 01:12 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I tire sometimes of hearing that architects have lost hold on their profession and that they used to have more control, or were master builders, or something along those lines. Guess what? The profession has changed. I'm not trying to call out Mr. Woodburn specifically for his comment, just point out that I think the argument is tired, overused, and consequently has lost a lot of meaning.

I actually agree with Mr. Woodburn's comment that the Architect is supposed to be doing this work already. However, I think anon's submission is still valid. They noted that the CDI entity could be "contracted by the Owner, or the Architect, or the Contractor, or ... another ..." Wouldn't this take care of the responsibility the Architect has to coordinate the documents/disciplines? In that sense isn't the CDI just another consultant like an envelope consultant, or door hardware consultant? They are hired by the Architect to participate in producing documents, but they aren't taking away any of the professional responsibility the architect has to design the building and sign off or stamp their portions of the work. Should Architects complain that they aren't more involved in choosing door hardware? Perhaps I'm misunderstanding what the CDI would be and what their involvement would look like.
Anon (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 12:53 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I think before we can really make this discussion go anywhere meaningful in the practice of the profession, there needs to be a desire for our greater involvement from the parties involved in the contract.

I'm just not seeing Owners, Contractors, or Architects clamoring for better specs or more involvement from specifiers. It's sad really, but until we can convince these parties of our importance, and the real dollar value we bring to a project, no one is going to be willing to pay us more, or read and follow what we produce in any greater detail. So how do we achieve that? Is it by educating owners, lobbying architects to give us more control/liability, making contractors stop using project manuals as door stops?
Sheldon Wolfe
Senior Member
Username: sheldon_wolfe

Post Number: 843
Registered: 01-2003

Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 02:14 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Good question, Chris. Certifications usually say something about documents being "prepared by me or under my direct supervision", which might be hard to demonstrate if the specifier works for the owner. As noted, assignment of contracts is an option, but one I think most architects would not like, anymore than they would like being required to employ a specific engineer. It happens with engineers, but architects probably see them more as equals than they would a specifier. For a specifier who also is a licensed architect, there should be less concern, because the architect would not be responsible for the specifier's work.

Marc makes an interesting point. Perhaps specifiers should work for contractors rather than architects, because the contractors are doing most of the work and have most of the liability. Some of that is going on locally, and thus far, the results have been promising. The specifier doesn't write the specifications, but knows how they were written and is better able to interpret them. Which says something about the way specs are written, but that's another discussion.

Robert, when I worked for a public agency, I saw just what you describe. A given project would often have two or more certifications, each of which defined the work covered by each certification. I don't know what was on the drawings, but the project manual typically had certifications restricted to only some of the spec sections, and I recall one project that had two certifications for the same spec section. If I recall correctly, that one broke down responsibility by article. Michael, engineers are different, in many ways, starting with an education based on science rather than art.

Robert, you are correct about the CDI, though it goes further than integrating documents; at one time, architects were responsible for virtually everything. Anon, you also are correct; buildings are different now than they were a hundred years ago. The amusing thing is that those who complain about the poor state of the architect seem not to realize what has happened, or that much of the current situation is due to changes initiated by AIA in response to changes in buildings and construction.

So, how do you prove the value of good specifications and document coordination? How do you prove a negative? When something goes wrong, it's often easy to see how much an error can cost, but in the absence of problems, how do you show how much is saved when everything goes right? And rarely does everything go right! Despite our best efforts, there will be mistakes, and when a team works together, many problems will get fixed quickly and be all but forgotten. Complicating the analysis is the likelihood that some horsetrading goes on in every project, obscuring costs. "You cover this, and I won't make you do that."

What makes good documents? Go to your local builders exchange and look at the bidding documents. You will see things that make you cringe, and you will see things that look pretty good. The problem is, without studying all of the bidding documents, you won't know if the ugly one was great and the pretty one is garbage. Now consider the results. Lots of fat specs are not necessarily easier to understand (I would argue the opposite) nor do they guarantee a good project. Much depends on the players; a good contractor can take bad specs in stride and make an architect look good, and a bad contractor can screw up no matter how good the specs are and make an architect look bad. That also works the other way, and also applies to owners.

All of these things make it virtually impossible to make a convincing argument that good specs, or using a good specifier, will lead to a good project. Why would an owner look beyond the architect, who is licensed by a state, and, presumably, is eminently qualified to write the specifications, by virtue of education, examination, and experience? Let's be realistic; how do you compare a license that requires five or more years of college, an internship, and a multi-day exam with a certification that requires only two exams that take a total of four hours, and five years' experience?

Architects must be licensed because, about 150 years ago, AIA decided that licensing was a top priority. They didn't just tell each other how important a license is; they worked hard to convince states of the need for licensing architects. It was forty years later that Illinois became the first state to require licensing, and it took until 1951 for all states to fall in line. Today, according to AIA, there are about 106,000 licensed architects, 83,000 being AIA members.

USGBC, which is just over twenty years old, now boasts 181,000 with LEED credentials, which, if I understand correctly, are granted after passing a four-hour exam. Because LEED now has the force of law in many areas, and a point is awarded for having a LEED accredited person on a project, LEED APs, even though they are not licensed, are more important than certified specifiers. Isn't it interesting that firms boast how many LEED APs they have, but say little about the number of licensed professionals, and rarely say anything about their specifiers or construction administration people?

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