Andrew Knightly Brown

Architectural Specification Writer

Working together

The Specification Schedule

The first task is to agree which work sections are required, when they are required, whether they are all required at the same time, or whether groups of works sections can be released as packages of related work.

A project-specific specification schedule is prepared as the the primary tool for monitoring progress and delivery.

For a complete list of all available Work Sections, refer to this page of the NBS website and select Scope & Contents.

Information required

For each individual package of related work, or each information release, or similar, I will require:

  • General arrangment drawings. These are helpful in understanding the overall scope of the project but are needed, primarily, to locate the detail drawings. Except for very small or very straightforward projects, general arrangement drawings are of little use without the additional information provided by the details.
  • Outline specification or similar. This is a key document. Some practices produce incredibly detailed "outline" documents, with virtually all the information required to advance the NBS-format specification well past a "first draft" stage. Others produce just enough information to agree the overall scope, preferring to develop the specification alongside the detailed design. But some form of written document, setting-out the systems, products, and materials to be used, is absolutely essential.
  • Detail drawings. These are always extremely helpful but, crucially, the key question (for me) is always whether a particular element is to be detailed, or not. I have, over the years, wasted a considerable amount of time waiting for details that were, in the end, never drawn or working to details that were substantially revised at the last minute.
  • Product literature and manufacturers' specifications. Of these, product literature is by far the more important and I will generally check anything provided to me against the latest information on the manufacturer's website. Manufacturers' specifications, especially those which purport to be "NBS Specifications", are helpful but almost always have to be substantially re-written to produce a coherent specification document for the complete project.
  • Decisions on options. This can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of specification writing and I cannot emphasise too strongly how important it is to the overall process of working together efficiently. For example: I might be told that "We're using Tile Type X from Manufacturer Y - see product literature attached", and that's it. But the product literature clearly shows four different tile sizes, three different tile finishes, and ten different colours (with a note that six colours are standard, and the other four are specials at extra cost and with longer delivery times). A decision on these three variables is crucial to a proper specification; a decision to leave the choice until a specific later date (post-tender or whenever) is equally valid; but indecision just wastes everyone's time.

The Deliverables

I generally provide specifications, both for discussion and contract use, in electronic format as PDF Files.

For those unfamiliar with the NBS system, please see the examples of the standard printed output below. Specifications can be printed as individual work sections, packages of related work, or complete documents containing all work sections for the project. Some aspects of the printed output can be further personalised to reflect your practice's corporate identity.

Delivering the Deliverables

I can upload the specification documents directly to your preferred online file sharing service or to a project extranet. If you do not have an existing system in place then I recommend the use of Dropbox as a file sharing service.

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