Spec Writing Changes

How will changes in construction specification writing affect building product manufacturers?

I had a conversation today with an architect developing what he calls the next-generation computerized system for researching products, preparing guide specs, and coordinating construction documentation.  When I asked him why he started work on the database-driven system, he said that, "young architects today don't seem to understand specs or want to write them." He went on to describe how the new system will help them "write specs more quickly." But when I asked him if the new system would help them write "better specifications," he paused and said, "probably not."

A leading specification authority and author, John Regener, AIA, CCS, CCCA, MAI, CSI, SCIP, recently expressed a similar concern about other new specification software:
Our Architect-clients don't understand specifications. They're being dazzled with marketing claims from computer-assisted spec programs that will supposedly link with the Revit 3D CAD program they so dearly love. The spec programs are being sold as the solution to all their problems, such as weak knowledge of building products and construction contract documents. Also, these programs are supposed to be lots cheaper than hiring a spec writer. With these spec-writing programs, somehow the BIM objects of Revit, with their preset or laboriously edited properties, will automagically link the drawings to the specs. Zip-zot, the computer selects the right products and out comes a beautiful looking speci-fiction with lots of ASTMs and clear concise-(compete?)-(correct?) text. No need for knowledge by the user as to building products, regional construction practices, Codes and appropriate levels of detail. That's my observation of 3 or 4 firms who are "Reviting" up spec-wise and asking for help. Maybe I should stop spitting into the wind and seize this opportunity to go back into the lucrative business of forensic architecture.
Based on these observations, I offer the following recommendations for your building product marketing programs:

1.  Learn about new design and construction software, and use it where appropriate.

2.  But don't get so caught-up in the glitz of the spiffy new technology that you ignore the fundamental value of your products or the clarity of your technical and marketing materials.

3.  Design professionals of all skill levels need your technical competence and help to use your products correctly.

4.  Continue to offer educational opportunities to design professionals. Whether you can award continuing education units or not, focus on helping the design professional acquire the knowledge and insight needed to use your product wisely.

The quote from John is edited from remarks in the August 2010 edition of Scipping Along, the newsletter of Specification Consultants in Independent Practice (SCIP).