What are Construction Specifications?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Construction specifications, or construction specs for short, are documents that instruct contractors what needs to be done at a construction site. They are available for review before a contractor bids on a project, and are often relied upon by the contractor in order to provide an accurate quote. While the specifications may not address all issues that will come up, the goal is to cover as much as possible. In the event that unexpected issues arise, they may outline how to deal with them, either through change orders, or consultation with the owner or architect.

Construction specifications will usually provide a number of lists as well, including the materials that are to be used, where they are to be used, and how much should be used. Contractors who disagree with the specs need to consult with the architect before bidding. If the contractor does not feel the job can be done with the materials specified, the best option is to avoid bidding. The other option is to ask that the construction specifications be amended to allow the use of alternate materials.


Construction specifications will also usually provide a time by which the project should be completed. It will also on time, or at least finish by the deadline. This will likely be the major factor in determining whether an interested contractor bids on a project. Those without the staff to handle the time constraints, or who have other conflicting projects, may decide they cannot do the job.

The scope of the work will also be set forth by the construction specifications. If there is any demolition or excavation, for example, that may be handled in the main specifications, or possibly by a completely different set of construction documents. Any electrical or plumbing work needed will also be included in the specifications. In some cases, this may be bid on separately, depending on the type of project being done. In other cases, it may be the responsibility of the general contractor to hire subcontractors for this work.

To help formulate uniform construction standards, the Construction Specifications Institute was formed. This group works to come up with a single standard for style and format, depending on the type of specifications needed. It also offers certifications for those who write and manage such specifications. The Institutes's main goal is to improve the quality of the building life cycle, hopefully leading to higher quality projects.


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Post 2

The spec can be changed only by a formal change to the Contract for Construction. It could be a change by ASI, Architect's Supplemental Instructions (if there's no cost associated with the change), or by Change Order (if there is a cost associated with the change).

Post 1

How is it that a spec can be changed after a bid? An example would be the requirement of an AISC certified fabricator per specs and then after bid choosing a non certified fabricator.

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