The top challenges specifiers face
In its Clarity Architecture & Engineering Industry Report, AIA partner Deltek reveals the top concerns A&E firms face with construction specifications — and how they can be addressed.
For more than 40 years, Deltek has been surveying leaders in the architecture and engineering industry to identify benchmarks and trends and to gauge market outlook to help businesses identify their strengths and opportunities for improvement. The most recent edition of the Deltek Clarity Architecture & Engineering Industry Report explored one of the most critical, yet least recognized, steps in the design process — construction specifications. The survey results identified eight areas where the A&E industry is most challenged when it comes to construction specifications.
As part of the 41st Deltek Clarity A&E Industry Report, the study asked A&E leaders for their top construction specification challenges. Here’s a look at their top challenges — and the vision Deltek has for addressing those challenges.
Lack of spec writers and firm knowledge transfer
Typically, specification writers are some of the most experienced and seasoned professionals within an A&E firm, which means many are approaching retirement. The hard truth is, replacing a spec writer is difficult. What’s more, if your spec writer retires, all of the cumulative years of building materials knowledge walks out the door with them. What impact would that have on your firm? In addition to losing the human resource, many firms are struggling to capture and share this type of institutional knowledge and best practices.
Collaboration among project stakeholders
There are many moving parts and multiple stakeholders involved in a design project. Given the number of project participants, it’s easy to see how elements of the project can become silos. Each participant has their areas of expertise, and that can make collaboration among the team very challenging. As the Clarity Survey results show, there is a common understanding that there needs to be greater collaboration across the project team to create a complete project’s specs package.
Breaking down project silos and working collaboratively will provide better communication and understanding between the various disciplines throughout the project lifecycle while maximizing project quality, profitability, and owner satisfaction. Without collaboration on the specs front, it will take a long time for best practices to filter through the firm, which leads to the lack of firm knowledge transfer.
Limited time and staff resources for specs
Construction specifications are a necessary step in a successful building project. The process of researching and selecting appropriate building products to support the design, in addition to writing the specifications and producing a project manual, is a time-consuming process. Factor into this situation that spec writers are in short supply, and many firms just don’t have the personnel or bandwidth. When this happens, firms have no choice but to delegate spec duties to other team members, such as project managers and designers, in addition to their existing responsibilities. This scenario is a red flag for potential rework and RFIs, which can lead to budget overruns and schedule delays.
Access to reliable building products information
Architects and engineers are the design creators who need up-to-date and trusted building product information to compare and select products to ensure the design vision and intent are realized. Many firms repurpose office masters, subscribe to master guide specification resources, and search the internet as their “go to” methods for obtaining building products information. The problem becomes keeping these resources up-to-date and reliable — office masters can quickly become outdated, subscriptions to master guides don’t get renewed, and product manufacturer websites are not always current. This all adds up to potentially specifying products that may not actually meet your design requirements.
Lack of integrated technologies for specs and design
Technology moves fast, but building projects generally don’t. CAD and BIM are just two of the most revolutionary technologies to aid architects and engineers. But where are the technologies that integrate specifications with the design? There are a few solutions that integrate specs with Revit — Deltek’s e-SPECS for Revit is one such solution — but overall the industry is in dire need of technology that integrates the various disciplines of the project lifecycle to streamline and bring collaboration among all project stakeholders.
It’s time to address these challenges
There are four key elements that are part of a cyclical process when developing specifications. Resource and leverage your community of professional peers and building product industry experts to make the best product decisions for the design. Use the latest design automation tools that give you the power to write specs and produce project manuals using your firm’s best practices, and measure the execution of the products selected and their performance. By implementing protocols to repeatedly utilize these four grounding principles, your firm will save time, be more efficient, and increase project profitability potential.
What are AIA and Deltek doing to address these issues and lead industry change?
Deltek is a strategic partner with industry-leading organizations like the AIA to help us make informed decisions about the current and future needs of practitioners. Deltek is committed to delivering a change to the A&E industry for how specifications are viewed, and to bringing a revolutionary next-generation specification solution to the market.
With the foundational power of AIA MasterSpec, Deltek is developing a new cloud-based software solution to transform how building product manufacturers and A&E firms collaborate on one platform throughout the project lifecycle to address four critical areas needed for successful projects: Community, Best Practices, Design Automation, and Measure.
- Community: Build a community of collaboration to bridge the gap that’s existed for too long between project disciplines and building product experts and remove the silos of information to help one another and ensure the right building products are selected to achieve design goals.
- Best practices: Leverage the knowledge inherent at your firm by capturing firm and client preferences, based on project types while resourcing up-to-date peer-reviewed product content, to intelligently research and select products and efficiently write specs.
- Design automation: Streamline and bring ease of use to the process of writing specifications by taking your firm’s knowledge and best practices, deployed within a tool that brings efficiencies to product selection, spec writing, and producing project manuals.
- Measure: At the end of the day, it’s all about how well the products selected executed in the project and achieved design intent. It’s critical to document lessons learned so you can more effectively make decisions for the success of future projects by leveraging past project information.
In a world of constant change, there is no better time than now to identify your firm’s biggest specifications challenges. There is always room for improvement. Develop a strategy to overcome identified obstacles and put a plan in action to make needed changes. All project participants will benefit from implementing improved processes for delivering project specifications.
Together with AIA, Deltek is developing resources and educational programming to support architects who want to take a leading role in the specification process for their firms.
AIA and Deltek represent the strongest partnership in the industry regarding specifications. Working together, we are evolving the guide specifications in AIA MasterSpec to ensure architects, engineers, and specifiers have the most accurate information to build an informed, two-dimensional version of a building’s design.
Deltek empowers your firm to deliver the speed of design and the breadth of services that your clients demand. Our project-based solutions can be seamlessly and securely delivered on-premise or via the Cloud and can help A&E firms manage the complete project lifecycle, including business development, specification management, project management, talent management, document management, and financial management. Whether you’re a small growing firm, or a larger sophisticated organization, Deltek has the right solution for you. Visit deltek.com/aeresources to learn more.
AIA does not sponsor or endorse any enterprise, whether public or private, operated for profit. Further, no AIA officer, director, committee member, or employee, or any of its component organizations in his or her official capacity, is permitted to approve, sponsor, endorse, or do anything that may be deemed or construed to be an approval, sponsorship, or endorsement of any material of construction or any method or manner of handling, using, distributing, or dealing in any material or product.