This section is from the book "Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building", by James C. et al. Also available from Amazon: Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry And Building.
It should be remembered that it is the province of the workmen to comprehend and not to originate; and so the statement of what is to be constructed should be made very clear, leaving nothing to the imagination of the Contractor; a statement in the specification of what could be better shown on the drawings, is apt to be poorly comprehended by the builders. On the other hand, the Owner of the building is apt to think more of the specification, as he can understand this more clearly than he can the drawings. There should be nothing, however, in the specification, or in any part of the work, to discourage originality, personal interest, and the exercise of judgment on the part of the workmen, where these will not act contrary to the general scheme or the rapid progress of the work.
It should be stated and understood that every Contractor is to report any defect or discrepancy as soon as observed, to the Architect, and to lend his personal interest and attention to the best possible execution of the whole work.
The sets of specifications, as well as the drawings which they accompany, both on receiving estimates and when signed with the contract, must be kept unchanged, for reference. Later changes must be shown by other drawings and by Addenda to the original specifications.
Interlineations in a specification should not be made if there is time for rewriting. If made at the last moment, they should be signed individually at the time of signing the contract.
All changes after the specification is completed and the contract let, involving extra charges, should each have a complete descriptive specification written, referring to the general specification. This can be done in the form of a triplicate letter, of which one copy is sent to the Contractor, one copy to the Owner, and the third remains as the office memorandum, or is attached to the office copy of the specification.
The specification is sometimes written on the drawings; but these easily become separated, so that the specification might not be considered for every part of the work on which it would have a bearing; moreover there is usually not sufficient room on the drawings for going sufficiently into detail.
Notes on drawings in the form of a specification, have these disadvantages: - They depart from the principle of employing:
Specifications For Verbal Drawings For Graphic presentation of requirements; they lead the Contractor to neglect to look at the specifications; they never can be complete verbal descriptions.
The advantages which lead many Architects to specify by notes on drawings, are: - They are directly before the Contractor; they can be easily and permanently put on when making drawings; they show the exact location of materials mentioned.
Specifications are usually typewritten, several copies being made, one copy for the owner; one to three for the Contractor; one office copy; and extra copies which may be used in securing estimates, for the inspection of Building Department, etc. The specifications are sometimes lithographed, printed, or mimeographed, where many copies are required. It is the custom, in some offices, to print in typewritten form, or to mimeograph the general conditions only, which remain the same in different specifications. Unless the general conditions are written in the same form as the general specifications, the Contractors are likely to overlook them and to neglect the directions stated therein.
Sometimes sketches are made in the margin of the specification, to indicate the use of materials or to show details that are required. This can be done easily if the specifications are printed or lithographed; but under the present system of duplicating by typewriting, it is difficult to do this. This sort of information can be shown more completely on the regular drawings, which can be reproduced in sufficient quantities to explain every item.
The writer of the specification must clearly bear in mind throughout his entire work, that the Architect is to occupy a unique position in carrying out the work - a position which, in almost no other line, is occupied by one individual. The Architect is the confidential professional adviser of his patron; and also, as the work progresses, he is to be the unbiased arbitrator, often between opposing interests, one of which is that of his patron or employer. The latter is a position not only difficult but generally impossible to occupy at all times to the satisfaction of both parties; and as the unconscious influence of the patron's interests is very apt to warp the judgment of the Architect in making interpretations which must govern, it is very necessary that in writing the specification the matter be stated so clearly that differences of interpretation will occur seldom, and that when they do occur the specification will give the Architect ample standing room so that his judgment may be accepted without either party feeling wronged.
There are certain data that it is advisable to obtain before writing the specification - such as the data obtained from test borings to determine the condition of the soil, also the location of sewers and water-supply pipes, etc.
Preliminary estimates are generally obtained from one "reliable Contractor," who can be called in before the specification is complete, to estimate the relative cost of certain parts of the building, where there is some doubt as to which of two methods or materials to use.
It is better, however, for the Architect to become familiar with the cost of different items, so that he can estimate for himself the cost of various schemes, unless the Owner has settled on one particular Contractor to whom the work is to be let. When the "reliable Contractor" is called in, he appreciates fully that the time he puts on the estimate will be in the nature of gratuitous services or nearly so, and therefore careful figures are not made, and often the Architect and Owner are both misled.