Introduction to Specification

This course provides a basic introduction to Specification. After completing this course you will understand:

  1. What is meant by "Specification"
  2. The specification process, and the roles of Client, Architect, Main contractor and subcontractor
  3. What tendering means
  4. What is meant by "procurement" and how procurement works within specification



Introduction to specification

Introduction to specification


Specification refers to the process through which materials are chosen or specified for a building project. A Specification is actually a document written by the project architect which precisely lists all of the materials and work required for construction. Very simply, it can be thought of like a shopping list which is presented by the architect to the main contractor tasked with delivering the project so they know exactly what they need to buy or to use the technical term, procure.

The basic specification process: Client, Architect, and Main contractor

Client, Architect and Main contractor

In the last slide, we saw that a specification can in simple terms be thought of as a shopping list, written by an architect and given to a main contractor so they know what to buy (both materials and labour) to construct the building. There is however a third even more important player involved in the specification at this stage: the client.

It's the client who starts the ball rolling when they hire - or commission - an architect to turn their idea or brief into a final design. In specification, we refer to this as the project:  A building or buildings (more often called developments or a scheme in Housebuild specification, or just Projects in commercial specification) funded by a client, and designed and specified by the architect. Although the architect writes the shopping list, the contractor will be using the client's money when they do the shopping so the client will always have the first and last word in term of what is specified. 

How much or how little the client is involved depends on the type of client and type of project, which we'll learn much more about later...

Graphic: Client, Architect, and Main contractor

Client, Architect and Main contractor overview

The above graphic gives an overview of the main roles within the specification process. We also introduce two more terms: the role of Subcontractors and the process of Tendering...

Subcontractors and Tendering

The Subcontractor and Tendering

So far we've discussed how a client commissions an architect to design and specify their development or project, then a main contractor is tasked with procurement. The way this is done is through a subcontractor  whom the main contractor chooses and appoints through a process known as tendering. Specifications have multiple sections covering everything from steel framework to floor tiling to painting the walls. During the tendering process, the main contractor will ask various subcontractors to price up relevant parts of the specification and submit a quote (know as pricing up a tender) for the work and materials specified. Based on the quotes submitted, the main contractor will appoint whichever subcontractors can offer the best value in terms of cost, experience and expertise.

A similar tendering process is also used by the architect and the client when are initially looking for their main contractor. 


How does specification work? Scenario...

We've covered the basics, so next we'll go through a scenario to test your knowledge so far! Before we do though, let's recap some of the main terms we've introduced in the last few screens. You'll need to remember what these are for the scenario...

Specification, Client, Architect, Main Contractor, Subcontractor, Tendering

Introduction to specification: Scenario


Course complete!

Congratulations, you have now completed the course "Introduction to Specification". Now finally let's review again our learning objectives from the first slide:

Review learning objectives

  • I can understand what is meant by "specification"
  • I understand the basic roles of the client, architect, main contractor and subcontractor within the specification process
  • I understand what "tendering" means
  • I understand what is meant by "procurement" and how procurement works within specification