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David Axt, AIA, CCS, CSI
Senior Member
Username: david_axt

Post Number: 1243
Registered: 03-2002

Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 06:16 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I am currently working on a low income housing project for an Indian tribe. These houses will be your basic stick frame, slab on grade, single story units.

This is very different from public bid school projects.

Any tips on how to write a residential spec?
Gerard Sanchis
Senior Member
Username: gerard_sanchis

Post Number: 43
Registered: 10-2009

Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 07:44 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Just remember who the readers/users are. You have to tailor your specs to the level of subcontractors that will be bidding and building the project so keep things simple and direct.

For these projects, we streamline the sections and rely on manufacturer's instructions when it comes time to write Part 3. We also write broadscope sections. You may want to go easy on Part 1 remembering that the bidders usually build without specs - that's the case in California anyway.

Limit the size and complexity of field samples and mockups, if you ask for them. Allow both to remain on the building when accepted.

Streamline Division 1. We have a document that combines most of what's found on large projeccts and would be glad to share (my email address follows).
Ronald L. Geren, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA, SCIP
Senior Member
Username: specman

Post Number: 970
Registered: 03-2003

Posted on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 08:48 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I had a residential project recently and used the MasterSpec Small Project Library. It was well suited for that type of work.
Lynn Javoroski CSI CCS LEEDŽ AP SCIP Affiliate
Senior Member
Username: lynn_javoroski

Post Number: 1304
Registered: 07-2002

Posted on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 10:10 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Is there a local Native American/First Nation architect on the project? If so, you might want to check with that person to ascertain the abilities and capabilities of the contractors and subcontractors anticipated for the project. In Wisconsin, there are a number of Native American commercial contractors and subcontractors who are comfortable with complex project manuals/specifications. As Gerard stated, know who the users are.
Lisa Goodwin Robbins, RA, CCS, LEED ap
Senior Member
Username: lgoodrob

Post Number: 142
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 10:14 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I do a number of high end residential projects every year, so I finally wrote a short form master tailored to these projects. It's usually 40 sections at 1-2 pages each. Funny how the market for $10 million homes is recession proof. Many contractors won't read the specifications, but these homeowners are financially and legally sophisticated people who want full documentation.

I know when I had work done on my house (not $10 million), if I didn't tape the Drawings and Specification (Notes) to the wall in the room where they worked, then the subs wouldn't have known they existed.

My residential short form specification is very targeted and concise. I have a very short Division 01, usually one to three sections. In the technical sections, request very few submittals, but include one really good mock-up of the exterior envelope. Part 2 is what really matters. Most residential building products are either commodities (wood, GWB) or carefully selected by the Architect (windows). Execution should also be brief, but include special conditions where they matter.

Whether they ask for it or not, I always include no smoking in the house, construction waste management, low emitting interior products, hvac duct blower tests, blower door tests, and infrared testing in Div 01. Whether or not it gets enforced, I don't know. If there are suspected issues, then I've done my best to protect the Architect and Homeowner.
Jim Sliff
Senior Member
Username: jim_sliff

Post Number: 90
Registered: 08-2010

Posted on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 05:40 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

"I know when I had work done on my house (not $10 million), if I didn't tape the Drawings and Specification (Notes) to the wall in the room where they worked, then the subs wouldn't have known they existed."

Heck, seems like half the commercial and institutional projects I work on the subs' "worker-bees" wouldn't know a spec from a spoon.

On residential jobs - in the past 20 years I've only been involved with high-end ones...except, like Lisa, for mine (grin)... the general contractor didn't usually have a set of specs on site (when there was a set of specs or a real Project Manual separate from "specs on plans", which in my experience end up a problem even with the best of intentions). If subs didn't have a copies of sections pertaining to their work they were usually performing functions based on some written notes from their office (usually a copy of a proposal with the prices blacked out) and whatever skills they had.

When I worked for a specialty contractor we actually prepared packages for our foremen with specs, plans, proposal notes and contact names, and yet every residential project ended up a mess somehow related to the GC's lack of documentation. We finally refused ALL residential work unless it was for an executive of a firm or organization we performed work for, and then only under a prime contract.

I agree completely with "knowing your reader" and the K.I.S.S. system on residential work at any level - but the specs themselves won't be the biggest problem - getting anyone involved with the work to actually read and follow them will.
Anne Whitacre, FCSI CCS
Senior Member
Username: awhitacre

Post Number: 1199
Registered: 07-2002

Posted on Thursday, September 01, 2011 - 12:36 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I also did a fair amount of low income housing and public housing projects, and agree that the Small Projects library from Masterspec or the Short Form sections work very well for this work. They are concise enough to not be scary, but the language is enforceable.

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