Writing Specifications - Easy as Driving a Car
Having the right tools and resources can make anyone a good spec writer. Just as there are a variety of car makes and models to choose from, the same is true for spec editing and authoring tools. Having the right vehicle (tool) to get you to your desired destination is key to spec writing success. Deltek prides itself as an industry leader providing A/E project management and specification authoring tools. Helping firm's drive to produce professional, up-to-date specifications as easy and efficiently as possible are primary achievements of Deltek’s Specifications product suite.
Specs: You Can Do This
So, what's the first step in putting out a proper set of specs? Own the fact that you "can" be good at it. Really, take a minute or two and let go of any apprehensions you have ever had about spec writing. A lot has changed in the spec writing arena in the last decade. So cheer up and think positive because it's not as hard as you may have envisioned.
Second step? Pick a car. You can't drive if you don't have a car. Here are a few guidelines to aid in picking the spec car that's a good fit for your office.
Select editing software like Deltek's SpecBuilder Cloud and e-SPECS are reasonably priced, easy to use and has the flexibility you need as your firm grows. Couple your spec editing software with the most widely used master guide specifications resource used by A/E firms – AIA MasterSpec® and you have a nicely equipped spec car for product research, specification development and production of project manuals.
If you're feeling overwhelmed here's a simple reference guide:
- Novice in need of a product to help make choices throughout sections? Then SpecBuilder Cloud with built-in Q&A checklists is a good solid choice at a reasonable cost.
- Experienced A/E comfortable editing specs but limited time to make it happen? e-SPECS can be an optimal choice. Coupled with MasterSpec, it provides a drill down editing checklist to speed the editing process.
- In need of specs that help drive water, wastewater and infrastructure projects? Then SpecText is the best fit for you with its comprehensive library of specs specific to these projects.
- Seasoned spec writer in need of current masters to work from? MasterSpec is a good base option to have current standards, products and language on hand.
- Looking to lock in a government project or two (now or in the future)? e-SPECS with the UFGS master integration will be the “cruise control” to set your eyes on.
Get your Specs Started
- Don't Be Afraid to Get In and Start The Car:
Architects and Engineers often shy away from writing specs but like a car, you have to start it to actually get moving. This is where a spec solution like SpecBuilder Cloud can get you going. It's like having one of those cars that has a light that comes on when it's time to shift gears. Instead of a light, SpecBuilder Cloud asks you practical questions and pre-edits the spec section based on your choices. In the spec writing world, it doesn't get any easier than this.
Deltek's SpecBuilder Cloud is similar to a good mid-size sedan that can carry a family (firm) comfortably. However, if carrying a bigger load such as the entire soccer team (i.e. BIM integration, maintenance of office masters) is your preference then trade-up to the e-SPECS product suite to get the best solution for your demanding needs.
- The Car is Running…Now What:
Check your side and rear view mirrors by print previewing the spec section before you begin editing. This accomplishes two things. First, it allows you to check your header and footer to make sure you're going to get what you expect when it's time to print. Second, you can see that you've got a "section" already! Thanks to spec processing tools you're half way there.
Specification processing software is increasingly available with a variety of interactive spec editing tools. As selections are made within the section, content is simultaneously updated to reflect the choices made. This makes spec writing easier than ever before. Similar to the rear cameras on new cars. A little "different" at first, but definitely helpful once you get the hang of it.
Take your time in the beginning and use your blinkers. Keep in mind the purpose of a spec section is to clearly and concisely fill in the blanks of information not suitable for the drawings; to convey to the contractor the products you want, the required product standards, and any special installation requirements.
- Left blinkers (Specification Coordination List): Keep project team members in the loop by creating a simple checklist of relevant items. The checklist should be electronic and updated by members of the team at a frequency that makes sense for the projects complexity and timeline.
- Right blinkers (Collaborate): Having a central, technology based way to collaborate and update spec information is key to a set of well-delivered specs. SpecBuilder Cloud and e-SPECS offers mark up and spec editing capabilities to make collaborating with team members easy.
- Get an Oil Change Regularly:
Just as your car needs a routine oil change to keep it operating smoothly, the same is true for your specs. To keep your spec writing process smooth and efficient you should have a subscription to MasterSpec. Using a master guide specification resource, such as MasterSpec, will keep things in good working order and gives you the industry’s most trusted specifications content.
Office masters can be updated, without being overly burdensome, by simply keeping a running list of sections you notice which have standards or language that is different. Then quarterly, pull those office masters and update the applicable changes. Changes summarized in MasterSpec update notifications make a great reference document when completing a quarterly office master review.
- General Driving Tips:
Be systematic: Writing specifications is definitely an area where the more systematic you are the fewer errors you have. Process specifications in the same systematic order each time. It should be an order that you develop so it's comfortable for you, your workload, and how you process information. The habit of being systematic and having good processing tools allows you to get a project manual out fast without compromising accuracy.
Weed out first, edit next: When editing specifications it's helpful to get rid of products, processes and requirements in the section that do not apply to the project. If e-SPECS or SpecBuilder Cloud is your spec editing solution then the weeding process will be software assisted. If you also utilize Revit integration then not only is the editing process software assisted, a good portion of spec information needed, is pulled right off the drawings. The e-SPECS for Revit integration is a solid choice for any size firm leveraging BIM.
Learn to move on: When you run into language or a product that you're not sure how to handle do the following:
- Make a note of the section name, number and what you have a question about.
- Send one or two manufacturers of that product an email asking them the question you have. Include the section name and number along with a copy of the portion of the section that is in question.
- Move on to the next spec section. Go back to the problem sections once you have answers or have completed the other sections.
- Couldn't I just keep walking and forget about driving a car?
Yes, if at the end of the day you would prefer to focus on design and leave the specifications writing to others there are still viable options for you. Deltek’s Specification Writing Services team can handle authoring and complete manuals for projects of any size.
As you can see, regardless of your level of experience or preferred make/model of car (spec authoring tools) you want to drive or if you prefer to keep walking… Deltek has a variety of solutions to meet your spec writing needs that will elevate the quality and accuracy of your specs. Having the right vehicle (spec tools) to get you to your desired destination is key to spec writing success.
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About the Author
Jamier Hunt, MBA, CCS, GGP
Jamier Hunt is a certified specifications writer for Deltek, working with building product manufacturer's to incorporate their products into MasterSpec. Jamier joined Deltek following a ground-up career in AEC spanning over 20 years with responsibilities ranging from administrative support to business office management and including specifications writing from 1998 onward. Her spec writing experience covers a broad spectrum of project sizes and types including high-end residential, schools, military and health care facilities, mixed-use projects and more.