CSI Report Card - Part 3

by Sheldon Wolfe, CSI, CCS


In the last two columns I gave CSI a B+ and a C- for performance on its first two goals. Those goals, expressed in 1947, were:

  • Better specification writing

  • Simpler specifications

  • Standardization of specifications for public works

  • Standardization of building codes

  • Greater efficiency and cost effectiveness throughout the industry

Goal No. 3 - Standardization of specifications for public works

The founding members were, according to CSI, primarily "architectural specifications chiefs from various government agencies" who "discussed problems that resulted from non-uniform construction document policies."

It really isn't surprising that, despite all of the improvements that have been made by CSI, government agencies remain the worst violators of the Manual of Practice and the four Cs.

In 1985, in an attempt to control its own specifications, the federal government introduced the six-volume Federal Acquisition Regulation System (FAR), an exhaustive work that addresses every conceivable aspect of procurement. Not for the light reader, it is unlikely that any single person understands the entire document.

Minnesota has generated relatively few rules to govern construction documents and procedures. Unfortunately, they are interpreted differently by each agency, resulting in needless confusion. I suspect other states have the same problem.

Typical government bidding requirements ignore the difference between bidding and contract documents, load the instructions to bidders and conditions of the contract with irrelevant policy statements, impose quotas on subcontracting, and throw in a variety of other non-biddable requirements, all for the sake of saving the poor taxpayer a few bucks - at least in initial cost.

Those that interpret the rules and the bids can't seem to understand the meaning of "responsive, responsible bidder" and quickly back away from any threat of legal action. It is interesting to note that courts have not required that bids be evaluated solely on the basis of initial cost, yet that is the easiest and therefore most common means of evaluation.

We must admire the audacity of setting standardization of public works specifications as a goal. Public sector documents do follow MasterFormat, but otherwise ignore good specifying practices. This is a goal that should be dusted off and made a priority.

Grade, Goal No. 3: F


Report Card, Part 1    Report Card, Part 2    Report Card, Part 4   

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