Developing Specifications

Construction specifications, also known, as specs, detail the work and workmanship needed to complete a construction project. And there’s no way to get around them. As required documents during the design phase, they’re part of a formal process. According to the Dictionary of Architecture & Construction a specification is, “a written document describing in detail the scope of work, materials to be used, methods of installation, and quality of workmanship for a parcel of work to be placed under contract; usually utilized in conjunction with working (contract) drawings in building construction.”

Furthermore, according to The Construction Specifier, “specification sections are customized in order to accurately describe the intended materials, and then these sections are used by the team to identify the type of products that should be used onsite.”

As mentioned, construction specifications are prepared before construction begins, in the design phase as part of the contract documents. Although their structure varies project-by-project, typically they reflect packages to be given to subcontractors from contractors. Specifically, this is extremely helpful in the tender process.

Typically, specs are prepared by the architect or designers. Generally, architects will delegate them but oftentimes project engineers will be involved due to their breadth of technical knowledge. Sometimes, on large-scale projects, companies will even call for specialized and professional specification writers to ensure all details are covered.

Although they are separate from design drawings themselves, specs should be complementary to these documents and prepared in tandem. So, if the design advances, so should the specifications, with more and more details being added as plans get more complex.

Importance of Specifications

If you’ve been around the construction industry for more than a minute, you know the more details, the better. The clearer a description is, the more likely it will be executed correctly. Specifications can be considered a lot of like data. Without access to the right and an abundance of data, projects can easily fail. As construction projects become more complex and budgets become scrutinized, access to ample data is critical to making the right decisions when building. Most importantly, if specifications are done correctly, they reduce risk. In construction, controlling risk is essential to managing end-to-end project lifecycle.

Furthermore, specifications are particularly important during the tender process for pricing. With solid specs, the contractor should have no doubt about pricing during this process.

Main Types of
Construction Specifications

Each project is unique and will need a different set of specifications and most likely corresponding packages. However, there are three main types of construction specifications commonly used on projects


Provides details on the types of materials and installations needed to complete a project. Additionally, prescriptive specifications also describe how to measure installations to ensure that they were up to project quality and standards.


Describes the operational requirements. Fundamentally, the performance specifications should describe to the contractor what is needed for the final product and how it should essentially function once completed.


Although not as common as prescriptive and performance, proprietary specifications are used if only one specific product can be used for an installation.