Who Are the New Construction Specifiers?
by Holly A. Valentine, CSI-I, CCS
The majority of construction specifiers are registered architects who have been pressed into service by their firms to write construction specifications. When students study and decide that they want to become architects, writing specifications is the last thing on their minds. People who dream about becoming architects think about drawing and designing beautiful buildings. Not very many architectural students think about the written documents that go along with the drawings. Construction specifications are considered a “necessary evil,” and architects do everything they can to avoid writing them.
A technical communicator could easily become a construction specifier. According to the Construction Specifications Institute Manual of Practice, an accomplished specifier has:
- a thorough understanding of construction materials, systems, and methods
- excellent verbal and written communication skills
- good research methods
- knowledge of computers and word processing software
- an understanding of basic construction law, building codes and ordinances
- basic knowledge of insurance and bonds as they relate to the construction industry
A technical communicator has many of these skills and uses them daily.
Although there is no formal training for construction specifiers, the Construction Specifications Institute offers certification examinations. A person must first take the Construction Documents Technology (CDT) examination. After passing the CDT examination, a candidate for the Certified Construction Specifier (CCS) exam must have five years' experience in preparing construction documents. A person does not have to be a CCS to be a specification writer, but it is a recognized credential that says that a person has more than general knowledge about construction specifications and their application. Along with the certification exams, there are many resources for learning about writing construction specifications, such as the Construction Specifications Institute's Project Resource Manual or other books written by experienced construction specifiers.
According to the Construction Specifications Institute, “there is no single education program designed to train a professional specifier,” and some would say that the preparation of construction specifications is a technical service and not the practice of architecture. Some state that architectural licensing offices call specification writing a technical service (or technical writing) and not the practice of architecture and engineering. Almost all degree programs accredited by the National Architectural Accreditation Board say that some exposure to construction specifications is a required part of their programs, but this requirement is usually satisfied through no more than one week of lectures within a semester course on professional architectural practice, which is given by someone who may not be experienced in generating construction specifications.
Some of the best specifiers in Houston are technical writers who started their specification writing careers by editing and formatting specifications for architectural firms and gained knowledge and experience in this way. There are plenty of opportunities in the architectural and engineering industry for people who are interested in becoming construction specifiers. For more information about becoming a Certified Construction Specifier, contact the Construction Specifications Institute at www.csinet.org, or call 800-689-2900.
The Construction Specifications Institute Manual of Practice, 1995 Edition
Holly Valentine is a member of the Houston Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute and a Certified Construction Specifier. Holly is currently working on a bachelor's degree in English and Professional Writing at the University of Houston-Downtown.