Put Dates on Product Literature

Please put a date or version number on your sales literature, especially technical information. It will make it easier for your customers to use the most current literature, simplify communication between us, and help avoid conflicts due to reliance on out-of-date information.

Case-in-point: Two months ago, I carefully reviewed the data sheet from which this image was taken and made engineering decisions based upon it. Today, I received another copy of the data sheet. Even though it looks the same, has the data changed?

Neither the first or second data sheets are dated, so I can't tell if the manufacturer has published revised information unless I do a line-by-line comparison. And if I am going to do that, I might as well look at the competitor's information.

Really Short-Form Guide Specification.

A building product manufacturer wanted me to write a guide spec that said, "No substitutions allowed."

I replied that, if they REALLY think the architect will reject substitutions, their guide specification needs only three lines:

Part 1 - General: Submit manufacturer's product data and installation instructions.

Part 2 - Products: Provide: Model XYZ with options ABC and LMN as manufactured by YourNameHere, Inc.

Part 3 - Installation: Comply with manufacturer's instructions.



Specifications Consultant in Independent Practice

Specifications Consultants in Independent Practice (SCIP.com) is an international technical resource organization which assists design firms, owners, and manufacturers in acquiring professionally written construction specifications from qualified independent and employed specifiers, who:
  • advance excellence in preparing construction specifications. 
  • promote their special services and expertise to potential clients. 
  • share their knowledge, experience, and resources through discussions, conferences, and educational programs. 
  • network for mutual benefit.
Building product manufacturers will find this a good group with which to connect. The organization has opportunities for event sponsorship that can serve this purpose.

Many SCIP members are sole practitioners or have small firms, but they should not be overlooked by manufacturers or rep organizations. Make sure your folks in the field know of the SCIP members in their territories.

Most SCIP members, however, work as consultants to architectural firms;  their clients are the ones that make most of the major product decisions. This means that SCIP members want access to technically knowledgeable members of your team instead of "sales" calls.

I am a SCIP member, and personally endorse the organization.

Four Types of "Specifications"

The meaning of the term "specification" varies depending on how it is used:

Product Specification:
This describes a manufacturer's product and its performance without consideration for a particular building. A manufacturer publish this information as part of its sales literature.

Project Specification:
This describes an architect's design and performance requirements for a particular building. It might contain requirements for how a product should be used for a the building. Contractors and sub-contractors submit bids and supply products to meet a project specification.

Master Specification:
This is a template an architect can use to help him or her create a Project Specification. It may contain requirements for several products to help the architect select the one or ones best suited for a particular project. Some architects have their own library of master specification sections. Other architects subscribe to commercially published libraries of specifications such as "MasterSpec" by Arcom.  A manufacturer will try to encourage an architect or publisher to include its product in a master specification, but has little or no control over the document.

Guide Specification:
This is a type of master specification that is published by a building product manufacturer to help an architect write a project specification that is based on the manufacturer's products.  There are publishers that, for a fee, will write a guide specification for a manufacturer and publish the specification on the publisher's website. Being included in the publisher's database is a form of advertising. Each publisher has its own "style" of specifying, and having your spec written in the house style will be useful to specifiers that frequent the publisher's site. These benefits must be weighed against the costs and drawbacks. I frequently find it better for a manufacturer to write its own specification section (with the help of a consultant, if necessary) and publish the guide specification on the manufacturer's own website.

Guide Specifications for Public Works Projects


Readers of this blog know that I beat the drum for CSI specification writing format. Yet segments of the US construction market use other formats. In the public works sector, for example, many states, have their own standard specifications for department of transportation (DOT) work.  In the West, many municipalities rely on The "Greenbook" - Standard Specifications for Public Works Construction for paving, pipelines, and other civil engineering projects.

Specifications like these affect more than just the appearance and structure of a project specifications. For example, contractual and administrative requirements and the relationship between drawings (often called "plans" in engineering documents) and specifications may differ from typical "architectural" specifications. Public work specifications also shy away from reference to proprietary products.

If you compete for public works contracts, you may benefit from guide specs tailored to your market. For example, I have recently written guide specifications to help my clients break into Illinois DOT projects and to match Greenbook formats.  Call me to discuss your situation - +1 818 219 4937.

Inside Mind of Specifier: 8 Things Product Representatives Should Know

This webinar is a great tool for building product sales representatives.  The presenter is Liz O'Sullivan, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA, LEED AP BD+C, NCARB, SCIP, a Denver architectural specifications writer. Her firm, Liz O'Sullivan Architecture, LLC, provides architectural construction specifications consulting services to other architects. Her blog, lizosullivanaia.wordpress.com, offers many insights that building product manufacturers can use.

Court demands clear specification of a "2x4"

A Superior Court in Marin County California ordered Lowe’s, a nation-wide retailer and distributor of building products, to pay a $1.6 million settlement over a lawsuit alleging the inaccurate description of structural dimensional building products. Lowe's promoted lumber as 2x4 even though the wood measured less than 1.5 x 3.5 inches, the dimensional criteria established by industry standards. Click to see Order

The judge ordered that Lowe's state dimensions as follows:
  • "Common descriptions" must be followed by actual dimensions and labeled as such. For instance, a 2x4 must be followed with a disclaimer that the wood is actually 1.5-inches by 3.5-inches and include a phrase equal or similar to "actual dimensions."
  • "Popular or common product description," like the word 2x4, must be "clearly described as 'popular name,' 'popular description,' or 'commonly called.'"
  • Dimension descriptions are required to use the "inch-pound unit," meaning they must include abbreviations such as "in., ft., or yd.," and can't use symbols like ' or '' to denote measurements.
 These guidelines are compatible with good construction specification practices; measurements and criteria of any kind are only meaningful when the criteria is defined.  To say that a piece of wood is a 2x4 is an incomplete specification unless I reference NIST Voluntary Public Standard 20-10 - American Softwood Lumber Standards or another standard.

While the Superior Court's decision is applicable only in California retail trade, it puts building product manufacturers on notice that their sales literature, invoices, and product labels need to meet truth in advertising standards. In fact, the Court states that the retailer is can rely on manufacturer's claims.

Good News about Guide Specifications

The quality of guide specifications published by building product manufacturers has improved significantly. I made a survey of 200 guide specifications in the mid-1980s and found that more than half of them were not in compliance with formats and principles of the Construction Specifications Institute. Now, in contrast, the overwhelming majority of guide specs are in substantial compliance with CSI guidelines.

Several factors have contributed to the improvement, including:
  • More architects and engineers have been trained and even certified in CSI formats and principle, and they have demanded better specs for the products they want to use.
  • Better trained specifiers also means that manufacturers have more consultants they can turn to for assistance in writing specs.
  • There are now more specification publishers, including Arcat, Arcom, BSD, E-Spec and others, that encourage manufacturers to follow CSI formats and principles.
I am gratified to see the improvement, as I have been proselytizing manufacturers for over 30 years -- conducting specification training programs, writing articles, and writing specs for more manufacturers than I can remember.

There is still room for improvement, of course. I recently saw a guide spec that was so poorly written that the manufacturer's misspelled its own name!  This bad example, however, cause me to reflect on how much the industry has improved.  And that is good news for all of us.

Marketing Value of MasterSpec

A building product rep addressed a question to specifiers on the LinkedIn CSI group:
I am interested to hear how much MasterSpec is relied upon in creating your specifications. Some of the products I represent are listed in MasterSpec. I am trying to gage the importance of having the products that are not in MasterSpec added to the service.
My reply:

MasterSpec. Buiding System Design, and other subscription specification services affect building product marketing strategy in two ways:

1. Visibility at the "Point of Specification"
For many types of products, product selection is not considered until someone starts writing a spec. If your product is listed in the master specification, it may stimulate someone to include your product in the specification. It can also be considered a type of very targeted advertisement and part of your media buy. The companies you represent should contact the subscription services and "sell" them on including your product in their documents.

1. Can the Subscription Specification Service Present your Product Property?
Subscription specifications have to treat all manufacturers fairly. This makes it difficult for them to include language necessary to specify the unique requirements about your product. More, the subscription specification will also name your competitors and could, in fact, lead your customer to go astray. For these reasons, manufacturers of proprietary products should also consider offering their own guide specification. It will be a valuable part of your product literature and good content for your website.

You can read my posts about guide specifications at http://tinyurl.com/nqyzerf. Feel free to contact me directly if you want to discuss your unique situtaion.

Concrete Corrigendum

The integrity of a building product manufacturer (and of its consultants) requires setting the record straight when it makes an error. I have written numerous articles and pieces of product literature with statements similar to the following:
"When portland cement hydrates, it yields calcium silicate hydrate (CSH) crystals that interlock to give concrete strength." (Chusid, Structural Engineer)
This is incorrect. CSH is a gel, not a crystal.
"Illustration of various steps in the digital-image-based cement hydration model showing, from bottom to top, initial cement particles in water (black), highlighting (white) of all cement particle surfaces in contact with water, generation of one-pixel diffusing species, and hydrated images at ~32% and 76% hydration, respectively (C 32 is red, C2 S is blue, C3A is bright green, C4AF is orange, gypsum is pale green, C-S-H is yellow, CH is dark blue, and aluminate hydration products (ettringite, monosulfoaluminate, and C3 AH6) are green)." (Bentz, Journal of the American Ceramic Society)
While conducting research prior to writing the various publications, I have seen hydrated cement paste described as both crystalline and gelatinous. It was easier for me to visualize the former because I am familiar with hard, dense, and strong crystals such as quartz and table salt. My mental image of a gel, however, was gelatine -- a substance too insubstantial, I thought, to explain concrete.

I now appreciate that, with respect to cement hydration, "The C-S-H gel is not only the most abundant reaction product, occupying about 50% of the paste volume, but it is also responsible for most of the engineering properties of cement paste. This is not because it is an intrinsically strong or stable phase (it isn't!) but because it forms a continuous layer that binds together the original cement particles into a cohesive whole." (Thomas and Jennings) Cement paste's properties as a gel help explain phenomena such as concrete creep (deformation over time) and swelling that occurs when alkali-silica reaction causes concrete to crack.

Perhaps only petrologists can fully appreciate the difference between a crystal and a gel, yet it is key to understanding concrete's performance or failure. It is also a crucial distinction for specifiers trying to interpret competing claims by producers of admixtures, supplementary cementitious materials, and concreting processes.

I thank Ward Malisch, PE, PhD, FACI, technical director for American Society of Concrete Contractors, for explaining this to me during a conversation at the recent World of Concrete tradeshow.

By the way, "corrigendum" has a similar meaning to "erratum" except that the former is best applied to an error by an author while the latter is an error in the production of a publication.

Do the Math

Sheldon Wolfe, author of Constructive Thoughts, has given this blog the Liebster Award, a method of recognizing good blogs that do not get much traffic.

Like many social media campaigns, this one is based on the power of something going viral. Each receipient is supposed to give awards to five more blogs.  Here is a comment I left on Sheldon's site:
I appreciate the honor given to www.BuildingProductMarketing.com. {NOW: buildingproduct.guru}

I am concerned, however, that the concept behind the Liebster Blog is Award impractical. Consider the math:

If each award recipient honors the commitment to nominate 5 other blogs, and does so within 10 days of receiving the award, there would be, within the first year, 5 raised to the 36.5 power = 3.2539072e+25 awards given. This is a a quantity that exceeds by orders of magnitude a reasonable estimate of blogs around the world, 1.81e7, tracked by Nielsen/McKinsey. (http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/buzz-in-the-blogosphere-millions-more-bloggers-and-blog-readers/).

In addition to being clear, complete, and concise, I also aim for constructability. A decision to participate in a "chain letter" of any type can only be founded on the assumption that the instructions will not be followed by all the recipients.

And if I wanted my instructions to be ignored, I would write construction specifications. ;-(
Still, I will list some of the blogs I follow:

HearingShofar.blogspot.com -- I write it.

compositesandarchitecture.com -- the brave new world of digital fabrication and composite materials

Many science blogs: I don't remember their names because they automatically load to my home page.

While not blogs, I subscribe to many e-newsletters on topics of interest.

Beyond that, I love the surprise of wandering through the internet, with one idea leading to another.

Specification Obfusation

Too frequently, poorly written specifications make it difficult to bid construction projects. I saw another example of this today in a specification section for a large project designed by a major architectural firm. Here are some of the errors in the document:

1.  It specified a product that has not been manufactured in more than five years.

2.  While the product was identified by its manufacturer, the manufacturer was not among those named in the paragraph listing acceptable manufacturers.

3.  Accessories necessary for the installation of the product were specified to be by another manufacturer with incompatible accessories.

4.  The product was specified to be made with "FSC wood". While I assume "FSC" is an abbreviation for "Forest Stewardship Council", a wood rating agency, this was not stated by the specification, creating ambiguity.

5. Moreover, FSC has several standards for wood. Yet the required grade was not specified. While I assume the architect wants FSC-Certified wood to comply with LEED requirements, the vague spec could allow other firms to supply FSC-Controlled or FSC-Mixed woods that are less costly and contribute less value to LEED compliance.

6. While the section specifies submittal of data substantiating recycled content in compliance with LEED requirements, it does not require submittal of data substantiating the LEED value of the wood. This casts doubt on my assumption that the intent of the document is to require FSC-Certified wood.

These errors were found while skimming the specification; perhaps closer scrutiny would reveal further obfuscations.

If you have to bid a specification like this, the proper response -- at least according to typical instructions to bidders -- is to request a clarification from the architect.  As a material supplier, the instructions to bidders probably require you to submit your question through a prospective subcontractor who would, in turn, submit the question to a prospective general contractor to forward to the design firm. By the time the architect or engineer issues an addendum answering the inquiry, there may be little time left to prepare your bid.

The sloppiness in the specification is to the disadvantage of a responsible supplier that tries to ferret out the designer's intent and bid accordingly. Other contractors will exploit the vagueness of the spec to submit the lowest quality work they can get away with.


As an Architect, Certified Construction Specifier, and Fellow of the Construction Specifications institute, I am embarrassed by the prevalence of such substandard work by members of my profession.

In outrage, I imagine a website to which bidders could anonymously submit defective specs. Each week, a panel of reviewers would select one example as the "Defectification of the Week," posting the section and the name of the culpable design firm and notifying to the firm's client. Perhaps fear of such public shaming would motivate designers to give more attention to the quality of their construction documents.

Yet the better response is to expend my energy training and encouraging specifiers to raise the standard of care in the industry.

Here are some ways manufacturers can play a role in this campaign:

1. Train your team so they understand the principles of specifications. A great way to do this is by encouraging your sales reps, estimators, engineers, and customer service staff to study for and pass CSI's Construction Document Technologist (CDT) exam.

2. Publish well written guide specifications that architects and engineers can use as the basis for preparing project specifications. And,

3. Assist specifiers to prepare clear, complete, and concise project specifications by providing technical and sales support. If you develop a reputation of being a fair broker that knows your product category, many specifiers will let you review and provide feedback about their specs prior to putting them out to bid.

Excellence in Construction Information Award won by Chusid Associates

Davis Colors, has won the 2012 Excellence in Construction Information Award (EICI) for a set of five guide specification sections written by Chusid Associates. Davis Colors offers the specifications to architects and engineers as an aid in writing of accurate and complete project specifications.

EICI is awarded jointly by the Construction Specifications Institute and Specification Consultants in Independent Practice to recognize excellence, originality or creativity in processes, tools, or documents used in development or construction of the built environment. Davis Colors was recognized in the Award's Product Documentation category.

The nomination submittal explains that:
Integral colorants for concrete can be specified in a single sentence: "Use pigments complying with ASTM C979 to match concrete color to [INSERT COLOR DESCRIPTOR]." Indeed, many project specifications and even some commercial master specifications have no more than this to say about integral coloring. This terse instruction may be suitable for outline or short form specification, but is silent about colors of cementitious materials and aggregates, uniformity of water to cementitious material ratio, curing and finishing techniques, mock‐ups and other administrative concerns, and other criteria that affect appearance of integrally colored concrete.

In the decade since Davis Colors first published guide specifications for integrally colored concrete, their documents became obsolete due to changes in CSI formats, revisions to industry standards, increased environmental concerns, new concrete finishing and curing techniques, changes in the manufacturer’s product line, and the constant evolution of construction practices. When Davis Colors decided to update their guide specs in 2011, the documents required complete rewriting and not just revision.

The company and its specifications consultant [Chusid Associates] determined that a single guide specification section would be impractical due to the complexities of different concrete work results; each required an individually considered approach to be of most benefit to specifiers. The following five sections have now been written and will soon be downloadable in word processing format at www.DavisColors.com:

SECTION 03 35 19 – INTEGRALLY COLORED CONCRETE FINISHING: This document can be used as a narrowscope section in conjunction with other sections specifying site‐cast concrete work and paving, or as a source of provisions that can be copied into broadscope sections.

SECTION 03 45 00 – COLORED ARCHITECTURAL PRECAST CONCRETE: This document suggests modifications that can be copied into Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute’s (PCI) Guide Specification for Architectural Precast Concrete if necessary to augment PCI’s standard language.

SECTION 03 47 13 – COLORED TILT‐UP CONCRETE: This document suggests modifications that can be copied into Tilt‐Up Concrete Association (TCA) Guideline Specifications, TCA Document 04‐02 if necessary to augment TCA’s standard language.

SECTION 04 05 13 – COLORS FOR MASONRY MORTARING: Mortar has a pronounced effect on the appearance of masonry as it forms as much as 20% of the surface of brick walls. Provisions from this guide specification can be copied into a masonry section as required.

SECTION 04 20 00 – COLORED CONCRETE MASONRY UNITS: In addition to language about colorants and color selection, this guide specification section calls attention to cleaning techniques and other requirements that are different for colored CMU than for uncolored CMU.

In each guide specification section, an effort was made to comply with CSI formats and principles, and to include specifier notes to support the specifier’s decision‐making process. The guide specifications supplement and are coordinated with the manufacturer’s existing data sheets, color cards, installation instructions, and other technical literature.
The award will be presented during the CSI convention at CONSTRUCT 2012 Expo in Phoenix this September. This is the third EICI Award received by Chusid Associates. Click here to read about previous awards.

Strange Specs

I found the following text in a guide specification from a building product manufacturer.
A.     General Locations and Arrangements:  Drawing Plans and Details indicate general location and arrangement of underground storm and drainage piping systems.  Location and arrangement of Storm Water Systems is critical and design consideration should be taken into account.  Install Storm Water Systems as indicated herein and as directed by product manufacturer, to maximum extent practical.  Where specific installation procedure is not indicated, follow product manufacturer’s written instructions.
Rewritten to comply with CSI principles for specifications, here is what I think they are trying to say:
A.  Install in accordance with manufacturer's instructions.
The original language is self contradicting, vague, and redundant. More, the language about complying with drawings and specifications is assumed to be part of the Division 00 Contract Forms or Division 01 General Requirements.

Which version would you rather bid on or attempt to comply with?

B.  All products shall be inspected for defects and cracks before being lowered into excavation, piece by piece. 
I suppose this means that the product must be cracked before installation.

For tips on how to avoid making mistakes like these, I will be teaching a CSI Webinar on Guide Specifications on September 27. Watch for details.

Photo from Wikipedia

A New Language Can Help Your Business Grow

Getting more commercial construction business requires a keen understanding of how architects and product specifiers communicate.

By Chris Hurdleston

Imagine for a moment that you decide to expand your market share to a different country – say, Russia. You land in Stalingrad, armed with your sales binder and fancy brochures, thinking, "Everyone's going to love my products?' Just like back home, right?

You arrive at your first appointment and are confronted with a stark reality: You have no idea how to speak Russian, and you don't understand the nuances of how buying decisions are made in this new market. How well do you think you would do?

Wouldn't you have rather been armed with something beyond the binder, brochures and bravado – if you knew the language and felt completey comfortable approaching your new prospects?

That example might seem extreme, but it served as the eye-opening basis of an excellent presentation given during International Cast Polymer Association's (ICPA) Multi-Regional meeting held in October [2011] in Dallas. The gist of the session: Cast polymer manufacturers looking to expand their market share need to learn a new language, – the language of architects and product specifiers

Product specifiers are a well-organized group. They speak a common language that is unfamiliar to most of us. These people ultimately determine what type of products will be used in a commercial project and then identity the products using a specific format called MasterFormat. To do business with this contingent of potentially lucrative buyers, you have to learn their language and customs.

Here's the good news: it's not difficult to learn their language or rules, and companies in our industry have a largely untapped opportunity to properly work with architects and spec writers. The bad news is the majority of cast polymer manufacturers have never taken the time to learn how to work within the confines of their system. As an industry, we have virtually ignored selling and marketing to this group of buyers. Those who participated in the Multi-Regional event left with a better understanding of how this process works.

The presentation was delivered by Walter S. Poage, AIA, CSI, CDT, president of the Fort Worth, Texas, chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). CSI was founded in 1948 to address the specific need for a uniform system of presenting and organizing construction documents into a common language and format. This format is presented in the form of construction specifications, also called "guide specifications." In part, they define the requirements for products, materials and levels of workmanship upon which the construction contract is based. The specifications also detail the requirements for administration and performance of the project. Understanding this process is the key to entering or penetrating the commercial construction realm.

Many surface companies (firms selling engineered quartz, solid surface, laminate, etc.) have created very detailed specifications for their products. The specifications are written to be particular to their product line or brand name. These companies use specifications as both educational tools and marketing tools to obtain product placement into construction specification manuals. For example, the specifications for Company X's solid surface products are different than Company Y's specifications. But these two different specifications are all written in the same language and format, as required by CSI. It's this "commonality of format" that bridges the communication barrier between the manufacturer and the specifier. Once you understand how this format is structured, you’ll communicate in the same language as the specifiers and potentially sell more of your products.

Here is a glimpse of how the structure works, and the level of detail by which CSI operates: There are 49 “Divisions of Specifications” in CSI’s new MasterFormat. Divisions 02 through 16 include the specifications for construction materials, including material types and installation methods.

Cast polymer materials fall under Division 06, “Plastic Fabrications.” Within this category, engineered composites are listed under Subsection 61, "Simulated Stone Fabrications" and further defined into two specific categories: Section 13 for "Cultured Marble Fabrications" and Section 16 for "Solid Surfacing Fabrications." When written out in spec format, our industry should realize the importance of "[Section] 06 61 13" and "[Section] Division 06 61 16."


Well-crafted product specifications have these attributes:

1. Clear. Use proper grammar and simple sentence construction to avoid ambiguity, and no word can be misspelled. Remember, you're working with educated people who expect you to operate at the same level. Have your documents edited for accuracy of spelling and grammar.

2. Concise. Eliminate unnecessary words, but not at the expense of clarity, correctness or completeness. Specifications do not allow for overstatements, exaggerations or flowery descriptions of your product. Concise means clear and to-the-point, without boasts or claims of superiority

3. Correct. Present information accurately and precisely. Carefully select words that convey exact meanings. The word "surface" may be ambiguous. It's better to define the type of surface as "engineered composite surface" or "solid surface."

4. Complete. Do not forget important information. For example, if your product meets a Class I fire rating (ASTM E 84) for flame spread and smoke density, this is important information for an architect or specifier looking for products for a nursing home or high-rise hotel project. Also, the availability of edge treatments and other product attributes can be incorporated into your specifications to add valuable detail.

There is nothing better than seeing your company's brand name product specified into a project-it's a proud feeling to have the product of choice. When this occurs, anyone bidding on the project needs to contact you and obtain pricing for your materials for the scope of the project. Remember, if they're calling you, they're not calling your competition. Properly written specifications and products will help you attain this envious position. ICPA members who attended Poage's informative presentation at the Multi-Regional event learned how to capitalize on a specific way to grow their businesses.

Now, imagine making that sales call in Russia, but this time, envision speaking a common language with a better understanding of the new market's customs and operations. Your success would be the direct effect of your preparation. The same holds true with commercial construction and working with architects and specifiers – it can be a growth area for all ICPA manufacturers.

Chris Hurdleston is president of Marbleon, Inc., Leola, Pa. Article first appeared in MasterCast, published by ICPA, and is reprinted by permission of publisher.

Word Processing Format for Guide Specs

Guide specifications should be in a digital format that is easy for for potential users to read and edit.

Microsoft Word is the word processor most widely used architects and engineers. But there is a compatibility issue between versions of Word. Word 2007 and more recent versions create files with the .docx extension; prior versions use the .doc extension. While it is easy to convert from one format to the other, a document can become discombobulated.

To find out which file format is most useful for guide specification, I posted a question on Linked In's Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) group. Within hours, I had my answer, demonstrating the power of social networks.

Theodore Smith, a specifer in New York City, wrote:
With Word 2007 and later you can use either .doc or .docx formats. The problems happen when you go backward from Word 2007 .docx format to earlier versions of Word .doc format files. If you are preparing guide specifications you should use the .doc format; there are a good number of firms and people who are looking at your guide specifications who are still using older versions of Word and .doc files and who will go elsewhere if your files give them problems due to incompatibility with their word processing programs. 
This opinion was confirmed by other responses.

Several voices in the group also remind us that some specification writers prefer WordPerfect, a program that uses the .wpd extention. WordPerfect can open and convert .doc files.

If resources are unlimited, consider publishing your guide specification in multiple file formats for the convenience of users:
  • .html so it can be read in a browser.
  • .pdf so it can be readily printed without a word processor.
  • .doc for use in Word.
  • .wpd for WordPerfect fans.
In most instances, however, using the old Word .doc format will delight most, and be serviceable to the rest of, specifiers.

Why manufacturers need guide specifications.

"The writing of architects' specifications is a task approached by many with trepidation, by some with the careless confidence of ignorance and by a few with studious determination to succeed."
This quote is from "Ready Written Specifications" a series of 1918 lectures presented by Holland and Parker, quoted in the opening paragraph of Goldwin Goldsmith, AIA's 1940 book "Architectural Specifications How to Write Them." (A tip of the hat to David Stutzman for bringing this to my attention.)

Nearly a century later, it is equally true.

By offering architects a carefully crafted guide specification (a "ready written" specification in the parlance of a past era), building product manufacturers:
  • Reduce the trepidation of the many,
  • Inform the ignorant,
  • Caution the careless, and
  • Become partners with the studious.
Call 818-774-0003 and ask how a SpecAudit™can assure that your guide specs accomplish these noble goals.

Score 10 for 10 with MasterFormat

Do you know which sections apply to your products?
MasterFormat -- the filing system for organizing construction specifications and other construction information -- is updated annually to refine the system and meet newly identified needs in the construction industry. MasterFormat was developed and is maintained by the Construction Specifications Institute.

During the past year, members of the Chusid Associates team proposed ten revisions. We have just learned that all ten proposals received positive responses from the MasterFormat maintenance task team. 

Most of the proposals were made on behalf of building product manufacturers introducing new systems or trying to expand acceptance of existing products.

The revisions to MasterFormat are:
00 31 19.23 - Existing Structural Information
New section number and title.

03 30 00 - Cast-in-Place Concrete
Explanatory language added indicating that section includes “pigmented mix.”

03 35 19 - Colored Concrete Finishing
Explanatory language added indicating that section includes “dry shake colorants and hardeners applied during concrete finishing operations.”

09 61 19 - Concrete Staining
New section number and title.

09 78 00 - Interior Wall Paneling
09 78 13 - Metal Interior Wall Paneling
New section numbers and titles.

12 93 23 - Trash and Litter Receptacles
New section number and title.

28 41 00 - Electronic Structural Monitoring Systems
New section number and title.

33 49 22 - Storm Drainage Water Detention Structures
33 49 24 - Storm Drainage Water Storage Structures
New section numbers and titles.
The revisions were proposed by Michael Chusid, RA FCSI CCS and Vivian Volz, AIA CSI CCS. The 100 percent acceptance of their recommendations testies to their understanding of MasterFormat and construction specifications.

For more information on marketing with MasterFormat, see previous posts on this blog.

Proofread or Perish

Your 2nd grade teacher was right: proofreading your stuff is an absolute must.  Othawise, your risk having you’re busness appear solppy an unresponsible, or worse, even ignorent.

Which stuff am I talking about?  Every single thing you publish.  Your product literature, your ads, your catalogs, your website, even your material safety data sheet (MSDS).

I was recently reading a web page about a coloring product.  The manufacturer was boasting that the product “is available in a full pallet of pigments.”  Which is good, I suppose, if you’re a volume user who buys pigments by the pallet.

But if you’re an artist who likes many color choices, you might prefer a full palette of pigments.

I thought to myself, "the code monkey who put together this website isn’t very literate."  Then I pulled up the technical data sheet for the product, and found the same language there.  It wasn’t that feckless web designer after all, it was the manufacturer!

Another technical data sheet I recently downloaded was simply incomplete.  Two sections were blank except for notes in red, notes asking if this info should be a copied from the sheet for a related product.  Nobody had checked the file that went online.

To be fair, the file was dated several years ago and nobody had ever said a word about it, so we might conclude it wasn’t getting read very much anyway.  Maybe this slip-up hadn’t impacted their reputation heavily.  But it easily could have.

I see typos and grammatical mistakes every day on manufacturer’s websites and in their product literature.  It makes a bad impression on me, but it could have a more serious impact on architectural outreach.  Specifiers depend on the accuracy of product information when they select products for a project.   Do you really want to shake their confidence in your information?

Now that you’ve seen the light and are determined to proofread everything, a hint: it is very difficult for the writer of a piece to proofread it well.  She knows what it should say, which makes it easy for her to miss what is actually printed.  Somebody else should proof it.  Ideally, the writer should read it aloud to somebody else who follows on a printed copy and proofs it.

CSI-Compliant Specification Program

Michael Chusid has been designated a CSI‐approved Specification Reviewer. In this capacity, Michael will be assigned to review building product guide specifications from manufacturers participating in the Construction Specifications Institute's new CSI Compliant Document Program for Guide Specifications (CDP).

According to CSI, the Compliant Document Program,
"...is a structured program for reviewing manufacturer guide specifications for conformance with the CSI formats and guidelines. The guide specification should conform to the intent expressed in the application guidelines provided in MasterFormat, SectionFormat and PageFormat. Other good specification practices as identified in the CSI Project Resource Manual or CSI Practice Guides (Project Delivery, Construction Specifications, and Contract Administration) should be used for a specification to receive approval for receipt of the CSI compliance designation."
Manufacturers that pass muster and pay the fees can emblazon the CDP logo on their guide specifications, websites, and other marketing materials. Specifiers will, no doubt, find reassurance  and in this mark, giving it marketing appeal. CSI says the Institute plans to publish a directory of participating manufacturers, creating additional exposure opportunities for a brand.

It is critical, however, to note the program's significant limitation:
"The CSI Compliant Document program is not an evaluation of the technical merits, correctness of the material submitted, or the appropriate use of the work result being specified in a project." (emphasis added)
Put another way, a CSI Compliant Document can look like roses, but smell like manure. With or without CDP review, a guide specification can comply with CSI formats, language-usage guidelines, and other principles, but still be wrong, wrong, wrong!

Use the Compliant Document Program to catch a specifier's eye, but keep them in your pocket by making sure your document is clear, concise, complete, and correct.

Chusid Associates offers a free, 10-Point SpecAudit(tm) to help you understand how to improve your guide specifications. Contact us to learn how you can take advantage of this offer.  Call +1 818 774 0003.