construction specifications

3 Types of Construction Specifications

Owners, architects, and designers must be specific about the work needed on a project. If you communicate what needs to be done poorly, it can result in huge delays, change orders, and rising costs. The construction industry created a process to ensure that construction specifications communicate project needs efficiently. This process consists of 3 types of construction specifications that help detail the workflow.


What are Construction Specifications?


Construction specifications, also called specs, are the details for the work that needs to be completed in a construction project. These details include information such as materials, the scope of work, installation process, and quality of work. Subcontractors and teams use these specs as a guide to choose the right materials for the specific project. The specs discussed between the project owner and the contractor become a part of the legal documents for the project.


Architects or designers create construction specifications before work actually starts. But many involve project engineers for technical help. In every construction project, there are three types of construction specifications. The three types of construction specifications are prescriptive, performance, and proprietary.

productivity banner


Prescriptive Specifications


Of the three types of construction specifications, prescriptive specs focus on the details for the types of materials used and the installation of said materials. Architects or engineers tend to take over the job of project design in prescriptive specs. Prescriptive specs give a better image of what the final product will look like compared to other specs.


Prescriptive specs can be broken up into three separate parts: general, products, and execution. General consists of information such as national quality standards, product handling, design requirements, and keeping quality control. The products phase will go over the different products necessary for each task as well as the individual performance levels of each product. The execution phase will go over how to prepare materials and go through with installing them. This process also involves testing the quality of the materials and checking if they were installed correctly.


Performance Specifications


After prescriptive specs come performance specs. Performance specs discuss the operational requirements of a project. It details what the final installed product has to be capable of doing.  In this phase, the owner or general contractor doesn’t give a subcontractor specs detailing how to finish the job. Instead, designers and architects give contractors details on how the final product has to work in this phase. For example, a contract asks the team to make a pump that pumps 300 gallons per minute. There are no directions on how to make the pumping system go that fast, so it is up to the contractor to figure it out.


Of the three types of construction specifications, this phase involves most of the testing to make sure a project meets all of its operational requirements. The architect or engineer describes the project outcome, and trusts the trade contractor’s experience to get there. Since the contractor has to figure out what to do, decisions about materials and strategy move away from the architect and engineers and shift towards the contractor.

productivity banner


Proprietary Specifications


Proprietary specs are used when you need to use a single type of product for any kind of installation. These are the least common of the three types of construction specifications, but they are for jobs involving existing equipment and already completed installations. When the owner or client wants to be consistent with their materials or just prefers a specific type of material, use proprietary specs. Contractors use proprietary specs when their section of the project is dependent upon the performance of a specific product.


Architects and engineers tend to try and avoid proprietary specs because it can lead to promoting a specific manufacturer. Favoring a manufacturer can discourage competition during the bid phase of the project, which may increase the total cost of the project. Architects and engineers will give the contractor a list of reliable suppliers to choose from to stop this.


Be as Specific as Possible


Planning out a construction project is very time consuming and requires a lot of detail. It may seem overwhelming and tedious, but it is an essential step in starting a construction project. Without it, you waste times and money trying to figure it out. The more time you spend detailing each step of the project, the more likely your vision for the project will be executed accurately. By using these tools for stellar construction specifications you benefit the project.