Designers and architects have to document their fully resolved design in drawn and written form so that a contractor can build it as it was designed.

This documentation generally is comprised of the general conditions of contract (usually an industry standard form), drawings (showing arrangements with notes and dimensions), the schedules (simply lists of materials, equipment, colours and finishes), and the specification (a written booklet of the micro-detail). Ideally the documents should communicate what to build and to what standard without question.

Out of the four parts of documentation mentioned, the specification is the document most likely to have the most debate about what constitutes good content. One aspect of content of any of the four parts of documentation that most practitioners do agree on is not repeating what has successfully been documented elsewhere. Yet there is one thing that does get repeated, not only by designers writing the specification, but by some master specification producers (those that sell their master template for designers to use) themselves. This one thing is the repetition of publicized manufacturer installation detail.

I can’t think of any reason why a master specification producer would document publicized manufacturer installation detail, other than perhaps to get paid by the manufacturer to do so. If you asked a practitioner why they do it, they will likely tell you the building element’s importance demands it. In that case, we need to ask the obvious “isn’t every part of the building important?”

When we highlight the importance of one thing over others, it gives the impression that the other things don’t require the same level of attention. When a contractor asks “why does this thing have such an abundance of detail documented? Does it mean that the other things are not as important?” it means the documentation is at fault, simply because questions are being asked. The document reader sees inconsistency because of the differing levels of detail between the different building elements. Not only do documentation inconsistencies have the potential to cause construction mistakes, each one also causes an erosion in the confidence in the documents.

There are two ways we can go to correct this fault of inconsistent levels of documentation for different building elements. The first is to achieve consistency by providing full manufacturer detail for all building elements. This will never happen, because not only will the specification writer be spending many months collecting and documenting all the relevant detail, the resulting specification would consist of numerous large volumes.

So the only way to achieve consistency is to not provide any manufacturer detail, other than nominating the product and any options it may have. Of course you need to specify that with all proprietary products (proprietary needs be a defined word), the builder obtains the current supply and install detail from the manufacturer, and is to keep this detail on site. This puts responsibility on the builder and manufacturer to get the correct detail and the most up-to-date detail. You can specify also, that at the end of the contract the builder provides several hard copy binders with all the manufacturer detail in it, and also have it on a CD.

As well as providing consistent documentation, by not presenting any manufacturer detail and getting the builder to obtain it, you avoid the possibility of providing incorrect or out-of-date or detail which may happen when you provide the manufacturer detail. Furthermore, all your work goes to waste by providing this unnecessary manufacturer detail when the builder successfully applies during the contract to use an alternative product.

You want to get your documents done as competently and as fast as you can. By documenting manufacturer detail, you unnecessarily add to the volume of work you have to do and risk documentation inconsistency and error. Simply put, just don’t specify it. Specify that the builder must provide it.