Specifying Practices Coordinated is the Fifth “C”, by Kevin O’Beirne

A mantra of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) is that construction specifications should be consistent with “the four C’s”: clear, concise, complete, and correct.  It is difficult to argue with any of those.  However, I believe a fifth C is also necessary: coordinated.

Perhaps the folks who came up with the four C’s intended that “coordinated” is a subset of “correct” but, in this writer’s experience, coordination of construction documents is so hugely important and is so often neglected, it merits a fifth C in CSI’s mantra.

Design professionals often draft construction specifications with tunnel vision and concentrate on only their “own” divisions or sections of the specifications without considering how they coordinate with other divisions and sections especially Division 00–Procurement and Contracting Requirements, and Division 01–General Requirements.

It is relatively common for Division 00 to be drafted by the owner’s employees, or an owner-hired construction manager or program manager.  Sometimes, the owner even refuses to furnish a copy of Division 00 to the design professional.  Even more incredibly, in such situations, many design professionals do not pursue the matter because they either consider Division 00 unimportant or do not want to “rock the boat” by pressing for a copy.

Overlooked in such situations is a very important concept: all the construction documents—drawings, Division 00, specifications, addenda, change orders, and so on—comprise a single contract.  For the greatest potential for achieving the owner’s goal of the project being on time, within budget, and with the fewest change orders and claims during construction, it is necessary that the construction documents be properly coordinated with each other before the final design is completed and all construction documents are issued for bidding or procurement. The following diagram graphically indicates how the construction contract’s general conditions are to coordinate with the Division 01 specifications, and how they, in turn, coordinate with “Part1 – General” of all the specifications in the contract. 

This concept is clearly demonstrated by Division 01 of CSI’s MasterFormat having the same organizational structure as “Part 1 – General” of CSI’s SectionFormat.

Failing to heed the need for coordinated construction documents has strong potential for repeated requirements, conflicting requirements, and omissions, all of which can result in undesired change proposals, change orders, claims, and disputes.

A good way to help ensure well-coordinated construction documents is to establish, budget for, and use the role of a specifications coordinator.  A specifications coordinator understands the basic content of and interrelationships among the various construction documents, and fosters appropriate communication among design team members to achieve the necessary coordination among the documents.  The specifications coordinator may be the design professional’s project manager, project engineer or project architect, or a dedicated “specifications coordinator” team member.

Other action necessary for developing well-coordinated construction documents is obtaiing from the ownern a near-final copy of the project’s Division 00 documents not later than approximately 60-percent design, assuming that most of the specifications are developed in detail between 60- and 90-percent complete design.  Division 00 should be the first part of the project manual developed, rather than the last, as is relatively common.  In addition to early development of Division 00, it is also important to develop Division 01 to a relatively mature level shortly after 60-percent design, so the Division 02-49 specifications can be properly coordinated with it with reasonable time and effort, without rework.

Thus, a person preparing construction specifications should not myopically concentrate on only their special area of expertise, but must also have sufficient knowledge of the content of the project’s Division 00 documents (especially the owner-contractor agreement, general conditions, and supplementary conditions), the Division 01 specifications, and other specifications of Divisions 02-49 that affect the work under “their” sections and divisions.


Copyright 2020 by Kevin O’Beirne

The content of this blog post is by the author alone and should not be attributed to any other individual or entity.Kevin O’Beirne, PE, FCSI, CCS, CCCA is a professional engineer licensed in NY and PA with over 30 years of experience designing and constructing water and wastewater infrastructure for public and private clients.  He is the engineering specifications manager for a global engineering and architecture design firm.  He is a member of various CSI national committees and is the certification chair of CSI’s Buffalo-Western New York Chapter.  He is an ACEC voting delegate in the Engineers Joint Contract Documents Committee (EJCDC) and lives and works in the Buffalo NY area. 

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