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The Extinction of Paper-Based Specifications: Don’t Be Left in the Dust


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Pack up your things—we’re movin’ to the cloud.

We've Been Here Way Too Long

Many types of construction documents have experienced a slow migration. First from paper-based documentation and storage to digital organization, then cloud-based software, and more recently, open cloud-based platforms and mobile applications. But specification books—those hefty tomes that catalog every detail of a design and its subsequent execution in the field—have remained paper-based, or, at best, have been digitized in the form of isolated files. The data sets have been too large with too many information sources to make for an easy transition to the cloud.

But That is Finally Changing

More agile software applications, and state-of-the-art technologies like optical character recognition (OCR), are enabling even these massive compilations to move to the cloud. This means specifications, like other critical construction documents, are now available in real time on the job site—not to mention being more complete and accurate than ever before.

The Current State of Specifications

In The Very Beginning...

Along with design drawings and plans, specifications are a critical component of the contract document (CD) set that is presented to project owners for review and acceptance. They are also part of the bid documents that are given to contractors to facilitate competitive bidding.

Once Construction Commences...

Job site personnel need to have ready access to the specs in order to:

  • Prepare or review submittals
  • Check project details in real time, wherever they are
  • Answer questions
  • Ensure the right work is being done on site

As Project Build-Out Progresses...

Any changes to the original design intent that occurs in the field must be recorded. This results not only in frequent updating of the drawing set, but in frequent updating of specification sections and details.

And Eventually..

All of these as-built documents must be collected, organized, and submitted by the contractor to the designer and delivered to the owner at a project’s conclusion.

In The End...

Playing, as they do, such a critical function during every stage of construction, it is good news indeed that specifications are joining the ranks of other cloud-based documents.

What’s in a spec?

Typically created in the architect’s office, specifications are the instruction set for how every building component should come together.

Specifications may be performance-based, laying out requirements only for how an end system must function while leaving product selection and other details to the contractor. But, they often go into greater detail, spelling out the exact processes and products that are to be used for a given design element. They can cover everything from materials and processes for submittals to inspection procedures.

...if it needs to be manually printed and distributed, that hard copy documentation might already be out of date before it even makes it to the field.

Construction specifications are categorized according to divisions—such as plumbing and fire suppression—that represent the typical stages and types of work performed on the job site.

They can be as nuanced as stipulating the distance between nails in drywall or the position of a building component down to the millimeter; therefore, in addition to being separated into divisions, a hierarchical numbering system is employed, with the architect assigning a section number to each spec for efficient referencing.

Why paper-based spec books are a dying breed.

Page-Turning is Costing You a Pretty Penny

As with drawing sets, project managers and supers need to be able to quickly locate the information they need so they can distribute it to their subcontractors. Therefore, having an organized spec book at the job site trailer is vital.

Grab your free copy!

Click here to download the entire free “The Extinction of Paper-Based Specs” eBook

Download Here

Because of the breadth and depth of information, spec books can range in size from 100 to over 3,000 pages. Managing that paper load is no small feat! Ample time spent trying to access and track down the right information in these endless binders is not only costly in regards to the money spent on the physical search, but even more so on the potential cost associated with rework due to outdated specifications.

It's More Than Just a Page Number Problem...

Teams require the latest set of specs at all times to eliminate the potential for rework. If teams are not informed of the latest updates in real time, they will continue building off of the now-outdated information—resulting in rework and added cost.

Aside from inefficiency and disorganization, one of the biggest problems with paper-based spec management is the immediacy of outdated information. The instant an updated version is distributed, it may simultaneously become outdated because as soon as the next update is made, that version is now inaccurate.

In other words, as soon as an update is made, it needs to be distributed to all parties involved, especially teams in the field. But if it needs to be manually printed and distributed, that hard copy documentation might already be out of date before it even makes it to the field.

Want to read more? Click here to download the full eBook, "The Extinction of Paper-Based Specifications."

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