Please email Mark with your questions, and he'll answer them here.


For an exterior stair, is galvanizing worth the expense, or is paint sufficient?

Submitted by Ron in Philadelphia.

Rust is always a problem for an exterior stair in northern climates, and paint only protects the outside surface temporarily. Most stairs are constructed with steel pipe, which tends to rust from the inside out. Hot-dip galvanizing after fabrication puts a layer of zinc on both the interior and exterior surface to maximize corrosion resistance. A second-best effort is to use a zinc-rich primer.


Should we include the number of pages in each section in the table of contents for a spec?

In our opinion, no. The table of contents only needs to show the section number and name, and not the number of pages. Each spec section is numbered individually, and typically ends with 'End of Section.' Many specifications from consultants arrive just prior to printing, and adding the number of pages in each section is very cumbersome. In a recent survey of specs at a plan room, less than 5 percent of the specs had tables of contents with page numbers for each individual specification section.


Where should I look on the Internet for green info?

Submitted by RJ in Chicago.

Try these great sites: * US Green Building Council * Environmental Building News * Whole Building Design Guide * ARCAT Green * Building Detailing * Building Science * Air Barrier Association * CSI GreenFormat


As a product manufacturer, what do specifiers really want from our guide specs?

Submitted by KN in Los Angeles.

Here are twelve quick tips for manufacturers providing guide specs:

  1. Design firms and specifiers prefer specs in CSI format and in Microsoft Word.
  2. Having to register on your website before downloading a spec will lose you projects.
  3. Your spec needs to include what you really make, with editing by deletion.
  4. Include specifiers notes in the spec to make it easier for the specifier to get it right.
  5. Get the marketing language out of the body of the spec. That's for the website.
  6. If your product line is vast, your spec should include what you want to sell most.
  7. It doesn't matter whether your spec is in 5-digit or 6-digit format.
  8. Teaching your sales reps to edit your spec for a project helps designers enormously.
  9. Skip the "or equal" language in your guide spec; sole source is a terrific advantage.
  10. If you don't have a spec, the specifier will use your competitor's spec.
  11. If you mention LEED, remember products contribute to points, not earn them.
  12. Review your existing guide specs every six months; they’ll get better each time.

The ABCs of Architectural Specification

What is a specification writer?
A specification writer is a member of the architect’s project team who is responsible for preparing the specification manual that is issued with the drawings for construction. Most specification writers are registered architects with a special expertise in product evaluation, technical writing, and construction methods.

How are specs written?
In a face-to-face or on-line meeting, the architect describes the requirements of their project to the spec writer, including their design goals and the project schedule. The specification writer provides an outline specification during the design phase of the project, and complete specs for bidding during the construction documents phase. The specification writer will usually use a checklist to gather information, coordinate with the project engineers, and consult with building product representatives for technical review.

Why are specs important?
Specs are important to control the time, cost, and quality of the project. Most projects are competitively bid, and the spec needs to provide clear and concise information on acceptable products, submittal requirements, warrantees, even construction tolerances. Drawings alone do not provide sufficient information to construct the project.

What makes a complete spec?
A specification that contains enough information for the contractor to bid and construct the project within budget is a complete spec. A complete specification manual should give the owner the confidence that the project can be constructed to meet their goals and the architect the tools needed to enforce their product selections.

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