Construction Specifications (Specs): Everything Businesses Need to Know

Construction specifications, more often referred to as construction specs, outline all the details you'll need for a build, from the placement of a building's walls to the safety standards on its job site. Without accurate and precise construction specs, a project may be riddled with mistakes or inconsistencies.

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Construction specifications, more often referred to as construction specs, outline all the details you'll need for a build, from the placement of a building's walls to the safety standards on its job site. Without accurate and precise construction specs, a project may be riddled with mistakes or inconsistencies.

More importantly, you can also risk having issues obtaining the permits needed to create a construction project without these essential documents. Permits ensure that the proposed construction will be safe. It is important to keep standard construction specs in mind when starting any building plan, both to outline your project and obtain the permits needed to build it.

In this guide, we're outlining what you need to know about construction specs, including their role in a build, the different types, and tips for creating them as a part of your permit application process. Let's dive in!

Key Role of Construction Specs

In the world of construction and development, the role of construction specs is key.

What Are Construction Specs?

Construction specs are detailed documents that provide a clear outline and description of a construction project. It acts as a road map for a project, giving all contractors, project managers, construction professionals, and local authorities involved a clear outline of your build design, design criteria, and construction standards met.

This includes information like:

  • Building blueprints
  • Build material lists
  • Workmanship standards
  • Relevant construction standards and codes
  • Quality control measures
  • Installation methods
  • Project schedule

In a building project, the construction specs are typically handled by construction companies' engineers and project managers. Or, they can be done by a certified construction specifier with a Construction Specifications Institute certification. These individuals will have the information needed to create precise and accurate construction specs and other construction documents.

Why Are Construction SSpecs Important?

Construction specs are important for many reasons, bringing big benefits to a project.

Gaining Project Permits 

Construction specs contain essential information needed for the permitting process. 

When applying for a construction permit, you will often need to either include copies of some of these construction specs (such as copies of building blueprints and schedules), or you’ll need this information ready to fill out your local permit application. 

For example, the standard building permit application form for Portland, Oregon requires a full breakdown of your building including the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, floors, and floors, including square footage. The kind of information that you will have outlined in your construction specs. 

Project Accuracy

Construction specs set clear standards and guidelines for a project, replacing guesswork with precise instructions and plans. In this way, they help set expectations for all involved in the project, telling them what they need to do and how to do it. This leads to higher quality work and fewer errors.

Accurate Cost Estimates

Most importantly for construction companies, construction specs can help a project manager easily predict project costs. With a specific outline of materials and methods needed, it is easier to control costs and approach project financing.

Main Types of Construction Specs

There are several different types of construction specs in the construction industry, with three main categories to consider. These are:

Prescriptive Specs

Prescriptive specs are the most common type of construction documentation, providing a specific outline of a building project. This can include things like materials used, construction methods, designs, and execution procedures.

Generally, we see three key components with prescriptive specs: 

  1. General project provisions: This will be an outline of the specific codes and standards you need to meet in order to build your project. This includes any local construction safety standards for both your work site and the build and required submittals for engineers/contractors.
  2. Products used: These specs are an outline of the materials and products you will be using in a construction project. For example, the types of drywall, lumber, brick, windows, electrical components, or plumbing pipes, are some of the many materials that can be outlined here. 
  3. Project execution: This is the outline of how you plan to complete a construction project. It should outline your construction plan, how you will install materials, a project timeline, and any testing procedures you will do to ensure your build is successful. 

Performance Specifications

The performance specs for your project work to describe how your project is intended to operate once it is complete. This will include the operational requirements needed for project completion, as well as operation standards for the project once it is finished. 

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you are working to add a freight elevator to a building to move heavy work vehicles from floor to floor. The performance specs for that elevator will need to outline what you need that elevator to do operationally. It would outline what the elevator is used for, the necessary elevator size to fit vehicles in it, the weight capacity needed for its daily use, security features it may need, etc. 

Proprietary Specs

Proprietary specs will outline the specific types of products and materials used in a project if very specific materials are needed. These are less common than other standard specification types, most often used when adding to or renovating an existing building where specific materials need to be used.

For example, let’s say you are building an add-on to an existing home, and the client wants the same roofing and exterior brick on the new addition. The proprietary specs would outline the exact type and color of brick and roofing tile used in the old build that is needed for the new one, to keep this new addition consistent with the existing build it is being added on to. 

Tips on Writing and Improving Construction Specs

As we've touched on above, writing a construction specification is a critical part of both the construction process and obtaining building permits. Here are our top tips to keep in mind so you can get a construction specification right.

Start Writing Early

With construction specs acting as the blueprint for a construction project, it is important you start working on it early in the build process.

Construction specs are the blueprint of your project, acting as a starting point for the rest of your work. Working on them early can help you paint a clear picture of your project from the start, allowing for comprehensive planning and coordination across your teams.

 It can also help to reduce risk, helping to identify potential issues in the planning phase. For example, outlining materials needed can help you determine material procurement timelines, set a schedule, and reduce potential delays.  

Stay Consistent with Format

Keeping a consistent format for your construction specs can be a huge help with project management and keeping communication clear. 

Many in the industry utilize MasterFormat from the Construction Specifications Institute as the starting point for their construction specs. This guidebook breaks down construction specs into specific categories and sections that you can fill out for your project. This makes it easy for all parties related to your project to find the specific information they need. It also makes it easier to build the construction specs, ensuring you are not missing key information or project categories needed in specs. 

By using standardized formatting like this, you can both ensure you are collecting all the information you need and avoid the guesswork of wondering what needs to be included in construction specs.  

Review and Revise Language Used

The writing specs in your documents will also make a big difference. Try to make your document as clear as possible, avoiding jargon and technical language that may confuse people on your project. Everyone, from the builders on the project to the city manager approving permit applications, needs to be able to read and understand this document.

Work With a Trusted Expert 

An easy way to avoid stress and errors in this process is to get the help of a trusted expert. 

When starting the process of writing construction specs, many builders will choose to work with experienced architects and engineers who have made specs like these before. With years of previous experience, these professionals can help to ensure you are meeting safety and quality standards, and that you are not missing any documentation or information needed. 

By working with a professional to get construction specs right the first time, you can make the rest of the project, from permit applications to starting the actual build, a much smoother process. 

Finished Construction Specs: What To Do Next 

When a construction specification is complete, submission is the next step! 

This will require getting all of your construction specs ready to fill out the permit application relevant to your build. Building permits are obtained from local government authorities, usually by a local city or county. The specific department can vary from location to location, either coming from a municipal zoning or building department. 

How you go about submitting these permits will also vary. In today's market, this could mean in-person paperwork, but it could also mean submitting documents like your specification or permit applications on online review platforms. This can work to make the submission and approval process much more efficient in different ways.

Digital Plan Submission

Digital plan submissions can work to streamline the permit application process, ensuring all construction documents are hosted for review in one place. This can enhance accessibility for your project stakeholders, including review board project managers and contractors.  

Submitting online usually means filling out online fillable paperwork. These digital forms will ask for information related to your build, such as the proprietary, prescriptive, and performance specs we broke down earlier.  They may also ask you to upload digital copies of some documentation like building blueprints. 

Getting Help With Submissions 

This submission process can be intimidating for some, but it doesn’t have to be! If you are confused about where to start with applying for permits or need help tracking the permit application process, there is help available. 

Private plan providers like GreenLite can be super beneficial for those looking to make the construction building permit process a breeze. GreenLite works to fast-track the permitting process, helping companies manage their application process more easily, and get their permits faster than before. 

Need Permit Help? GreenLite Has Your Back!

As you can see, construction specs are both important and useful when it comes to creating a new project! They work to outline key info, keep projects well-managed, and ensure your project can be built with ease and efficiency.

At GreenLite, we are all about helping new building projects happen as efficiently as possible. We can review your construction specs to ensure you have the information needed for the permit process. Then, our platform and team can work to help streamline the permitting process, managing permit applications to help you obtain them as fast as possible.  

If you are starting a new construction project and want to make the permitting process easy, GreenLite is ready to help. Want to learn more? Explore the GreenLite platform and learn more about the ways we can benefit your business.


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