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Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Senior Member
Username: rliebing

Post Number: 1382
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 08:19 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Cincinnati, OH

You may not be used to it, but my wife is constantly asking me questions that start with “Why”, and for which I have no answers [and usually I am not aware if there is any answer!]. Maybe you know the kind-- “Why did he do that?”, she asks when another driver does something dumb. “I don’t know. Want me to get out and ask him?”

So, OK, here’s the question that is the real point of this piece-- Why are specifications afforded such disrespect? What is so contemptible or “icky” about them that many choose to ignore, obviate, demean, or pooh-pooh them?

Going back into ancient history-- the 1950s-- specification writers were held in something that strongly resembled “awe”. They were the seat of more knowledge than all in the rest of the office combined; they could talk fluently, coherently and insightfully to manufacturers' reps, and carried on meaningful conversations. they were really apart and held in high esteem-- well, cherished might be a bit strong, but they hade an extremely strong “presence” and voice in the office, and in the production of project documents.

Why [there’s that word again] has that changed? Why [yet again] have both the documents themselves and their authors somehow been relegated to a different—and apparently lower-- status ?

Why [!!!] has the production of appropriate specifications become a challenge [often a chore, really] and too often a “fight” within project work? What have they done adversely of late to any project? And, come on let’s be fair-- what have they not done lately to save your hide, or resolve a potential problem?

Why [whew!!!] in some circles [read, minds of the “others”] are specifications a necessary evil-- and contributing to, dealing with and writing tasks of almost repulsive stature? Why [or for goodness sake!] are they the very last things many principals, Project Architects, and young professionals [for sure] want to deal with? Is there a reason [ah, huh, avoided a “why” there] specs are virtually unseen, lack value and credibility and suffer other indignities, when they are still held as the third contract document?

Why [oh, no you don’t!!!]

WHAT can, or must we do to place specifications in their correct and proper context as inseparable partners with working drawings, major contributors of construction information available in no other location and the primary document utilized in the event of any trouble, problem, claim, dispute, mediation, arbitration, or litigation?

It is quite obvious that we can keep banging our heads against the wall, and let status be quo, but Why [he’s at it again!] aren’t we of a collective mind to break out-- to create new programs, new PR, new directions, new outreach, new meetings with academics, new paths to recognition for the documents, and maybe, just maybe, vehicles of exposure so there is wider and fuller understanding of the intent and value of the documents themselves.

After all, why [oh, for goodness sake!] can’t we make the point that people “specify” many times each day, unknowingly, but in construction it is an absolute necessity that communication of vital information be conveyed between design professional and contractors for the best interest of all involved-- including the general public.

Why not? [just had to get one more in]

Hey, watch it!!! Why’d [gotcha again!] you have to say that?
ken hercenberg
Senior Member
Username: khercenberg

Post Number: 485
Registered: 12-2006

Posted on Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 05:56 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Great piece Ralph.

Perhaps we're looking at this all wrong. Perhaps we need to hold back our specs; refuse to issue them until we know that the Drawings and Specs have been fully checked and coordinated by someone who truly knows the full intent of the project. I've (thankfully) known Architects who have done just that. They were bigger pains in the backside than I am, and that is saying something. Still, by the time the documents were issued they were stellar. Not perfect, but a darn sight better than what I was used to sending out.

To paraphrase Richard Nixon, when you've got them by the (expletive deleted), their hearts and minds will follow. Perhaps it's time for us to stand on our hind legs and start barking instead of begging.

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