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Colin Gilboy
Username: Colin

Post Number: 48
Registered: 05-2000
Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2003 - 01:59 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


Copyright 2001 by Herman R. Hoyer, PE, FCSI, CCS

Several people have approached me lately with questions about Outline Specifications - provocative and interesting questions. Questions like: "What exactly is the difference between Outline Specifications and Short-Form Specifications?" "Is there a prescribed or accepted format for Outline Specifications?" "What is the purpose of Outline Specifications and when are they used?" So, I decided this would be an ideal time to write an article about Outline Specifications to clear up some of the confusion by sharing my knowledge and experience with you.


o References: First of all, please be aware of the fact that the CSI Manual of Practice contains a fine document, No. FF/180, entitled: Preliminary Project Descriptions and Outline Specifications. I don't want to duplicate any of the information already presented in the MOP, so, instead, I'll give you my take and understanding of Outline Specifications. Note also that most government agencies, such as the Corps of Engineers, HUD, GSA, etc., have their own requirements and formats for Outline Specifications.

o Project Preliminaries: Design Analyses, schematics, outline specifications, and preliminary drawings are some of the terms that were used in the "old days" for what CSI has elected to call Preliminary Project Description. I have no argument with this choice. I think it is an appropriate title for this document. Understand that a Preliminary Project Description is not normally required. Schematic or preliminary drawings generally serve this purpose.

o Contract Requirement: Outline Specifications, along with Schematics and Design Analyses, are required by all government agencies for projects involving government financing. Unfortunately, most government agencies have different formats. The Corps of Engineers, for example, has a relatively simple format which requires listing the project section along with the number of the corresponding CE Guide Spec. Section to be used.

Almost all lending institutions, banks, insurance companies, etc., require Outline Specifications, along with Schematic or Preliminary Drawings, for projects involving their financing over certain dollar amounts, usually three to five million dollars.

o Purpose: The main purpose of Outline Specifications is budget control. Lending institutions require Outline Specifications because they are concerned about budget control. The project estimator cannot develop a decent project cost estimate without Outline Specifications.

Outline Specifications are an excellent aid in the design development process, just as outlines are useful in the organizing and developing of any major objective. They provide an added disciplinary measure, forcing project architects, designers, job captains, and consultants to make decisions and product selections early, thereby helping to keep projects within budget and on schedule.

o Format: Outline Specifications should be organized in accordance with the principles of CSI's "Masterformat." They should follow the same overall organization and section numbering and titling as the final specifications. The Outline Specification should form the skeletal outline for the final specification (Project Manual).

o Content: Outline Specifications should include all structural elements and building systems, as well as materials, equipment, appliances, and fixtures. Erection/installation/application of materials and equipment are not required in Outline Specifications, unless such work affects costs significantly. Outline Specifications should be as brief as possible, but should include as much information as necessary for the preparation of a complete and accurate cost estimate.

o Outline Specifications vs. Short-Form Specifications: Don't confuse Outline Specifications with Short-Form Specifications, which is often done. They serve two completely different purposes. Outline Specifications are not Contract Documents. Short-Form Specifications are. Outline Specifications would never suffice to obtain satisfactory construction. Outline Specifications do not include erection, installation, or application requirements. Division 1 Sections are explanatory only to the extent of explaining what will be the content of the Section in the final Project Manual.

That should do it for Outline Specifications. In my next column installment, I shall address the subject of Drawing Notes as Short-Form Specifications.

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