Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Spec-tacular stuff

First of all, I just realized that I forgot to include the link to MasterSpec (thanks for the catch, Chris Grimm!). The actual site for MasterFormat is here, a list of divisions and titles is here, and a link to a downloadable table of contents of spec sections is here. Knock yourselves out--having a list of the sections handy allows you to keep specs in mind as you draw. As you might notice from Chris' site, specs are hard enough to do that architects will hire spec writers, either as consultants or as part of their staff. They can tough to write well, but don't let that scare you away from learning about them.

Each spec section is broken into three subsections: General, Products, and Execution. Let's look at each one a little more closely, using the example of 084313 Aluminum Framed Storefronts as an example. (If you're not familiar with this product, it's the kind of windows you see on most retail and low-rise commercial buildings, about 4" or so deep, with a 1" insulated lite of glass in them.)

General: This section covers general, overall information, as you might guess. It mentions any spec sections that are related to this section. In our case, related sections would include 087000 Hardware and 088000 Glazing as well as any other sections involved in the project. (If we had skylights in our project, we'd mention 086300 Metal-Framed Skylights in this section, for example.) The General section also mentions any industry standards that need to be adhered to, any system or general product requirements (sometimes, this is described in the Products section instead), and the warranty that should be provided on the product as well as on its installation. Requirements for the submittals are indicated here:
  • will just product info work, or does the architect want shop drawings how many windows, what sizes, how the mullions are spaced, etc.?
  • will any physical samples be required, such as a 12" long piece of a window mullion finished just as the final product will be finished?
  • will a mock-up be required?
Directions for hiring an installer are also included here. It might be odd to see the architect telling the contractor what kind of installer to hire, but it makes sense if the system requires a certain amount of skill and experience to install. If we're installing aluminum-framed storefront windows in our project, it's probably a commercial project, so we don't want some guy who installs wood windows in houses to get hired to install this. Related to the installer qualifications is the delivery and storage instructions--if the windows need to be kept somewhere out of the weather or cannot be left on an uneven surface (because the mullions might warp or bend), that needs to be said (though a qualified installer might already know this).

Products: Just what it sounds like--here we describe all the products we want on our project. If we have a specific window system in mind, this is where we mention it (e.g., Kawneer 451T). If we have a specific product in mind but know that we might not be able to afford it, we might list the product we want as "product basis of design" and then list other manufacturers as "approved substitutes" (e.g., Alcoa, EFCO) If we have no preferences, we can simply list the acceptable manufacturers (Kawneer, Alcoa, EFCO, etc.). However, this section also describes more specific standards for the products--it may list various ASTM standards that the product is required to meet, and it will also list how these items are to be fabricated (extruded, welded, etc.). Product names and standards for closely-related products (such as gasketing, sealant, and flashing, in the case of our windows) may be described here as well.

Execution: Finally, we provide direction on examining the product before the contractor/installer accepts it from the manufacturer and/or before they install it. This section describes some more basic info on the product's installation (for example, with our windows, we may instruct them to make sure that they're well supported and attached per manufacturer's recommendations to adjacent structure). This section lists and/or describes any tests that need to be performed in the field prior to or after installation, and it also describes protection and cleaning practices. Our storefront windows might come with a thin plastic covering on them, and the spec might indicate not to remove this covering until the system is fully into place, for example.

Again, I encourage you to read through the specs on your project and think about how what you draw supports or works with what the spec describes. Are you even showing all the products that are being described? Are you repeating information (not always a good idea--if the spec changes but the drawings don't change to match, that's an RFI at best and an incorrectly-installed product at worst)?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lulu and Readers!

    My name is Leslie Schlesinger and I am a specifer for Hall Building Information Group, LLC out of Charlotte NC. As an emerging professional I can truly understand why some graduates are scared to jump into this specialized field of Architecture. I am part of an organization, the Construction Specifications Institute, who focuses on educating people about specifications. The three part format and Master Format number system, which are implemented in the basic spec, were both developed by CSI members. I found this organization a great resource for answers to even my most complex questions. Just wanted to pass along the link for others to check out!

    Leslie H. Schlesiner