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Project Specifications
6

Project Specifications

Project Specifications

(OP)
Hello everyone.
I have a general, industry standard question. On a typical (non-public) project, who is responsible for project specifications? Architects (the Prime) will compile the specifications, but do structural engineers produce specs for the structural sections? I am curious, because there are several sub-sections within the Masterspecs structural specs that are best formatted by an architect. For example, in the Cast In Place Concrete spec section (033000), criteria for level of slab flatness and levelness is provided which are not structural in nature. What do other structural engineers out there do when it comes to project specifications?
Thank you for your help in advance!

RE: Project Specifications

Collaborate. I usually write the structural portions and then send it back to the architect incomplete for him/her to fill in appearance requirements and the like. Which is worse? You accidentally specifying a broom finish where it should have been troweled, or you designing with 5000psi concrete and the arch accidentally writes 2500psi in for f'c?

RE: Project Specifications

I deal with floor flatness all the time in my specifications. I know a lot of architects that don't have a clue what FL and FF mean.

RE: Project Specifications

Engineers often provide 3 part specs for structural items, not architects. I try to avoid specs relying on comprehensive Project Notes (My project notes file is a 400K text document, so it's pretty big). Too often with old projects, the specs have disappeared...

As JAE noted, from my project notes:

SLAB FLATNESS

SLAB FLATNESS SHALL BE [ 20/15 | 25/20 | 35/25 | 45/35 | 65/40 | 100/50 | FM1 | FM2 | FM3 ]

U/N FLOORS SHALL HAVE A DEGREE OF FLATNESS DEFINED BY THE FACE FF/FL NUMBER THAT SHALL NOT BE LESS THAN:
-20/15 MECHANICAL ROOMS, PARKING STRUCTURES, ETC.
-25/20 CARPETED AREAS OF COMMERCIAL OFFICE BUILDINGS
-35/25 TYPICAL WAREHOUSE FOR MODERATE/HEAVY RANDOM TRAFFIC, FACTORY, ETC.
-45/35 CONSIDERED 'FLAT' TYPICAL WAREHOUSE WITH AIR PALLET USE, ICE RINKS, ETC.
-65/40 CONSIDERED 'VERY FLAT'
-100/50 CONSIDERED 'SUPER FLAT'

ALTERNATIVELY,

THE MAX VERTICAL DEVIATION OVER A [24" | 600MM] WIDTH SHALL NOT EXCEED
-2.5mm (quality FM1)
-3.5mm (quality FM2)
-5.0mm (quality FM3)

THE MAXIMUM VERTICAL DEVIATION OVER A [10FT | 3.0M] WIDTH SHALL NOT EXCEED
-3.0mm (quality FM1)
-6.0mm (quality FM2)
-8.0mm (quality FM3)

FLATNESS TESTING MAY COMMENCE 16 HOURS AFTER SLAB FINISHING. FLATNESS TESTING SHALL BE COMPLETED WITHIN 72 HOURS OF SLAB FINISHING

edited to suit the project. The data in the square brackets is to offer a choice.

Dik

RE: Project Specifications

My understanding is that the courts look to the specifications FIRST and the drawings SECOND.

We should probably spend more time on the specs than we do.

RE: Project Specifications

We state explicitly in our contracts that we design from the architects drawings to comply the local building standards, and any project specific requirements must be formally raised to our attention.

In my experience, specs are giant stacks of copy-paste nonsense that nobody has put any thought into. We only have so much time in a day. I prefer to spend it on the drawings rather than specs.

I've worked for years at an office where the policy was to always check the specs. In that time, I never once saw an intelligently written spec that pertained to our area of practice. It was always a copy paste, typically of code minimums. Whenever there was something unusual that we would flag to the architect, they would always reply with "not sure how that found its way in there".

We are living in the information overload age and there is no lack of useless information to get lost in. I firmly believe project specs fall into this category. This is further supported by the fact that unless I specifically ask for specs, I am never provided with them.

your mileage on this may vary by specialization and locale.

RE: Project Specifications

I tend to agree with phamENG, the looks, the feeling, the feel belong to architectural, let the architect decide it, it's his project.

RE: Project Specifications

Quote (JAE)

I deal with floor flatness all the time in my specifications. I know a lot of architects that don't have a clue what FL and FF mean.

I don't have a clue what FL and FF mean either. How often is it used? If a floor fails to meet the FF/FL number, what is the usual remedy? Rip out the floor and re-pour? That seems a bit extreme. Maybe grinding the high spots? And if flatness testing must be performed between 16 and 72 hours after finishing, what happens if the subsoil swells or settles long after the slab is poured?

The old 1/8" or 1/4" in a ten foot straightedge was understandable but, as I recall, was checked only if there were obvious discrepancies in floor level. I don't recall ever seeing a floor removed and replaced because it didn't meet flatness requirements, but I suppose it could happen in extreme cases.

BA

RE: Project Specifications

2
BAretired: Here is a link to an explanation of FF and FL for floors: https://www.concretenetwork.com/industrial-floors/...
Basically a method that is more rational and accurate than the more arbitrary 1/8" in 10 ft. rule.

RE: Project Specifications

JLNJ…

Not necessarily. When the specs include an Order of Precedence section and it places the specs ahead of the drawings, you would be correct. But, if the Order of Precedence section puts the drawings ahead of the specs (possible, though I have never seen this) or if no Order of Precedence section is included, then you would be incorrect. Many spec experts recommend NOT including an Order of Precedence section, and I agree with them.

I researched the heck out of this issue a couple years ago to resolve a conflict within my previous firm about this issue. What I discovered in my research is that the architectural community seems to generally favor Order of Precedence (even though the AIA apparently does not), while consulting engineers seem to generally favor not including Order of Precedence.

Regardless, the commentaries I read bolstered my opinion that we should not include Order of Precedence. One of the key reasons to not include an Order of Precedence section is that it can inadvertently cause a mistake in the specs to overrule something correct in the drawings. Better to assume no precedence and let reasoning dictate the final resolution of the discrepancy.

Please note that I didn't develop my opinion just on my own. My first employer back in the early 1980s was a mid-sized civil engineering firm with a very well-developed in-house specifications system, both on the legal/contractual side and on the technical side. We had no Order of Precedence section. Back in the day, one of our in-house corporate attorneys and our spec system director both gave me the pros and cons of Order of Precedence and I took the lessons to heart. In fact, the only times I have been saddled with an Order of Precedence section is when I was required to use the client's front-end documents.

Here are a couple excerpts from my research:

From the Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee (EJCDC), C-800, Guide to the Preparation of Supplementary Conditions -- "The practice of stating that any provision in one document that is inconsistent with another is superseded, or that one document always takes precedence over another in the event of a conflict in language or requirements, is sometimes necessary, but generally discouraged. The resulting legal consequences of such provisions are frequently difficult to decipher and may be very different from what was anticipated."

From a 2005 thread on 4spec.com -- "AIA's Commentary on AIA Document A201-1997 includes the following note at paragraph 1.2.1: Because the contract documents are a collaborative effort sometimes involving the owner, architect and numerous consultants, there is no inherent order of precedence among those documents. For instance, a plan may show a door, a door schedule will designate the type of door and hardware, one specification section may specify the quality of door and another specification section will specify the quality of hardware. Collectively, those contract documents are used to describe that particular work item. Moreover, a pre-selected order of precedence assumes that one item is more important than another. For instance, assuming that the plans are chosen to prevail over the specifications, if the plans did not show the hinges on the door even though the specifications required them, the owner might get a hingeless door. Under these circumstances, a pre-selected order of precedence may cause an absurd result. AIA A511-1998 - Guide for Supplementary Conditions also addresses this issue. A principle of the AIA General Conditions is not to establish a system of precedence among Contract Documents, but to provide that all Document are complementary. In the event of inconsistencies...the Architect is to interpret them in accordance with this principle... Establishing a fixed order of precedence is not recommended...
BTW, I don't have the quoted AIA document, so I'm having to rely on the person who wrote the thread post.

Fred

============
"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

RE: Project Specifications

NorthCivil; "In my experience, specs are giant stacks of copy-paste nonsense that nobody has put any thought into. We only have so much time in a day. I prefer to spend it on the drawings rather than specs."

I often encounter specs contain standards that are out of date, or even removed... One of the latest projects I was looking at had reference to the latest edition of CSA S16.1. I think the latest version was in '87 or thereabouts... for example, I currently use S16-14 (R19). My project notes make clear reference to the current edition or particular edition referenced.

Dik

RE: Project Specifications

Drawings and specifications are intended to be complementary to each other. In my experience with litigation, neither takes precedence...they are both used.

Lawyers argue that specifications are written words that are more easily understood by a jury; whereas drawings require a capability to visualize and understand.

Unless you do what dik does and include your specifications in your general notes on the drawings, both are important and both should be used. (I've read dik's notes and they are excellent)

As for who does what....I review a lot of architect generated structural specifications that are riddled with conflict, inaccuracies and improper references. The structural engineer should provide the structural specifications and provide to the architect to format and include in the package. as phamENG noted...collaborate.

RE: Project Specifications

Ron; "Unless you do what dik does and include your specifications in your general notes on the drawings..." The first two or three sheets of a set of drawings may be Project Notes, and generally with a text height of 5/64" and 6 full height columns per sheet (They can still be read when D sized sheet is reduced to 11x17). Lots of info contained on the drawing note sheets.

The slab flatness I listed above was last revised in 12-12-26 or Dec 26, 2012... I guess there hasn't been a significant change since...

I don't have a hierarchy, only that drawings are complimentary... and that the sections in my project notes are not to denote a separation of the Work. I also don't reference General Contractor, only the Contractor...

Dik

RE: Project Specifications

Thanks JAE and dik for your links. I have definitely learned something today about flat floors. It seems strange that I never ran into the issue when I was practising. Perhaps that was because I was usually working directly for the Contractor and not the Owner or Architect. In hindsight, I wonder how flat the floors actually were. No complaints so far and the last concrete floor I designed was twelve years ago. Whew!

BA

RE: Project Specifications

I have been part of just one lawsuit where the spec was the central issue (there really wasn’t a conflict with the drawings), so I have no first hand experience with case law. It may even vary from state to state.

That said, the links I’ve found seem to indicate that the courts look to the spec first, even if the AIA and others believe the specs and the drawings to be complimentary.

http://www.aiambajointcommittee.org/d4-precedence....

In the case I was involved in, the specs were dissected by the attorneys with a fine toothed comb. My attorney was not too pleased when I told him that much of the spec was copy and paste. He told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to offer that fact during deposition.

Regardless, the case made me start to look at specs more carefully. It might be 10 years down the road, but one day you might be asked exactly what was meant by the wording of a certain provision .

RE: Project Specifications

I'm not a lawyer, but, based on my experience the courts generally put a fair amount of weight on specs if they are included in a hierarchy. If not included then the courts may have a little more latitude. Contract law is generally pretty inflexible and the courts are reluctant to 'pierce the veil'... the repercussions can be far reaching. The case law for contracts is 'huge'. Ron's experience is possibly very similar.

Dik

RE: Project Specifications

What are the implications of the spec, if you as the engineer did not write the spec, and did not receive the spec?

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it ever really fall at all? (in court?)
 

RE: Project Specifications

I've frequently seen the CYA note on the drawings: "If conflicts exist between the drawings, specifications, or other contract documents, the strictest provision as determined by the Engineer of Record will govern."

It's always seemed a bit flimsy to me, and it probably couldn't save you from paying for a change order. But it may save you from liability if the contractor follows the wrong direction without coming back and asking the question? Probably a question for a lawyer.

RE: Project Specifications

This was from a posting of mine on the other site; this is better than PhamEng's:

I don’t like using specs… I’ve encountered too many projects that reference specs only to find out the specs haven’t survived over the decades…
Just came across a new note on someone else’s project that bears some consideration and was promptly discarded. It read as follows:

THE CONTRACTOR SHALL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY WORK NOT EXPLICITLY SET OUT IN THE CONTRACT DOCUMENTS BUT WHICH MAY BE REASONABLY IMPLIED FOR THE PROPER COMPLETION OF THE WORK.

I’ve done a bit of Contract Administration; the above note takes the cake. The courts do not look favourably on this type of note or other 'weasel' notes. This was on a mechanical engineering drawing, but, drawings being complimentary... I don't know what the impact would be... it could be interesting in the event there was an issue.

Dik

RE: Project Specifications

NorthCivil; "What are the implications of the spec, if you as the engineer did not write the spec, and did not receive the spec?"

I wouldn't hang my hat on that... maybe the person was negligent in not asking to review them?

Dik

RE: Project Specifications

I would think it would be preferable for the Arch. to write the spec. that covers everything, based in part on the structural requirements from your design. That way, the contractor has all the requirements together, but it doesn't require you to delve into aspects that aren't your concern or within your purview.

Rod Smith, P.E., The artist formerly known as HotRod10

RE: Project Specifications

Even if Architect prepared, I'd still review them; my experience is that most Architects are not up to it. I've encountered several extremely good spec writers... and, they still have engineers vet their works. Best not to rely on giving a monkey a typewriter in the chance he might get something right.

Dik

RE: Project Specifications

In regard to the hierarchy of specs and drawings. Our construction specifications book (for the DOT) lists an order of precedence. I'll list what I think are those that may be relevant to the discussion:

Contract Amendments (most recent first)
Special Provisions
Contract Plans
Standard Plans
Standard specifications (spec book)
Electronic CADD files


Rod Smith, P.E., The artist formerly known as HotRod10

RE: Project Specifications

In Canada for a Stipulated Sum Contract (Standard CCDC-2), the hierarchy is:
The Agreement (aka Contract),
The Definitions,
Supplementary Conditions,
General Conditions,
Division 1 of the Specifications,
Technical Specifications,
Material and Finishing schedules, and
The Drawings

You can see that the Drawings are at the bottom of the list... the least important. Must have been prepared by lawyers and not engineers.bigcheeks

Dik

RE: Project Specifications

Seems there are significant differences in the hierarchy depending on where you are. I guess that's why we define it for ourselves.

Rod Smith, P.E., The artist formerly known as HotRod10

RE: Project Specifications

I have, upon occasion seen the note "Drawings on this project will take precedence over specifications." or words to that effect. I wonder how much significance the courts would put on such a note.

BA

RE: Project Specifications

I think lawyers have seen more specs than engineers do. Only at two companies I had chances to practice spec writing skill, one was an AE firm, the other was a start-up office for a design-built contractor.

RE: Project Specifications

"I have, upon occasion seen the note "Drawings on this project will take precedence over specifications." or words to that effect. I wonder how much significance the courts would put on such a note."

With normal CCDC 2 Contracts... if the note is on the drawings, it may not mean anything... it would have to be covered by a Supplementary Condition, likely.

On a recent project I was looking at, the engineer spec'd CISC/CPMA 1-73a primer and a double coating in the crawlspace. I should have noted that the primer is a performance primer that has to last at least 6 months, and using a double coat doesn't improve very much...

Dik

RE: Project Specifications

The note is meant to guide the construction professionals and contractors shall minor technical conflict arise.

RE: Project Specifications

dik - The CCDC2 is a standard template agreement between an owner and general contractor. As one engineering company that forms part of the army of consultants typically involved on the job, I have never been party to a CCDC2. My contracts are always a service agreement that was drafted by our own office or the office of the client.

Not my contract, not my responsibility? I believe

RE: Project Specifications

I will backpedal on my words a bit - I do think it would be prudent to ask to review the spec for a hospital, aged care facility, school, prison. But for everyday residential and commercial design, I would not bother with reviewing project specs

RE: Project Specifications

Residential I don't often do, but for commercial, etc. I would normally review specs if there are any... I think the expression is, 'not my circus, not my monkeys'(from an old Polish expression, I understand). My understanding is that as a key technical professional on a project your feet can be held to the fire if you are the only one skilled in that particular area of expertise, even if you didn't have anything to do with it.

I don't think I've ever had a project where they have asked me not look at the specs... and if so instructed, I'd probably look at them anyway...(I'm aware of the liability involved) that's the way I am.

Dik

RE: Project Specifications

2
We always contribute to specs unless the architect goes rogue on us and submits something without our knowledge. Is about 50/50 on starting from our own version of Masterspec (or whatever spec system is being used) vs editing the architect's spec which is often also just plain Masterspec.

For items where we collaborate with architect, I just leave what they have if they've edited it unless I need something more stringent. If they haven't edited I leave the blanks/brackets from the default spec rather than take a guess. Would rather we look like idiots or have to answer an RFI than spec the wrong thing and end up with a problem.

I try to always do specs fresh and try not to copy over from previous jobs. Once you've done it a few times it really doesn't take that long. People above are correct that usually no one reads them. But when they do get read, it's usually because there's been a problem or a disagreement. So not doing specs because they're rarely used isn't really a great stance given the circumstances in which they tend to get used. I've been burned a few times by bad specs that were just copied from older jobs and missing key items (or had a lot of extra items we didn't need). I've also been saved or had my stance against a contractor strengthened many times by good specifications. I very much prefer being saved to being burned.

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