Weak in Faith, part 3 - Specifiers vs. the MOP

by Sheldon Wolfe, RA, CSI, CCS, CCCA

if the construction contract is enforceable, it is obvious that specifiers are weak in faith

part 1:  master guide specs vs. the MOP

part 2: specifiers vs. master guide specs

part 3: specifiers vs. the MOP

 part 4: specifiers vs. themselves


Construction contracts generally make the contractor responsible for means and methods. In other words, the design professional is not required to tell the contractor how to do the work. In turn, prime contractors generally make their subcontractors and suppliers responsible for the work that they do.

This assignment of responsibility makes sense. While architects may once have been the "master builders", knowing everything about every product, they can no longer understand the myriad details for the thousands of different products that go into the simplest of buildings. It is worth noting that even the largest prime contractors don't do all of the work with their own forces. Instead, they acknowledge their lack of knowledge in some areas, and employ others who are experts in those types of work.

If contractors need to hire specialists, and product representatives admit they have difficulty keeping up with a relatively small number of items, how is a design professional to know everything there is to know? Given the high degree of specialization we now have, it is a foolish architect, engineer, or specifier who claims to know more than all of the people who furnish or install building products, and work with them every day.

Once we realize that specifiers don't know everything, a number of questions come to mind. Assuming that the obligations of the construction contract are enforceable, it is obvious that specifiers are weak in faith; they don't trust the conditions of the contract, the construction documents they create, or the Manual of Practice they swear by.

  • Why do specifiers insist on lengthy descriptions of product installation?

  • Why do specifiers repeat requirements?

  • Why do we see needlessly complex language?

  • Why do we not see the simplicity possible when Division 1 is properly used?

  • Why are bidding requirements in specifications, and execution requirements in bidding procedures?

  • Why are supplementary conditions often littered with needless requirements, or with provisions that belong in the specifications?

  • Why is there so much inconsistency in use of defined terms within a set of construction documents?

A common defense to these questions is that "We have to make sure the contractor does it right" or "We're writing these specs for Bubba." Neither is adequate justification for violating the rules for preparing and interpreting construction documents. And, in many cases, it opens the design professional up to more liability. Next time we'll look at specific examples of non-conforming documents and see if they really add anything.

2000 Sheldon Wolfe, RA, CSI, CCS, CCCA, swolfe@bwbr.com
on the web at www.CSI.MSP.org 

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