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21 September 2015

Tell me again part 2

In "Tell me again part 1" we looked at how proper use of reference standards can reduce the amount of text required by making those standards part of the specifications. Going back to the "say it once" principal, proper use of Division 00 and Division 01 can go a long way toward eliminating needless text.

In the good old days, it was common to include at the beginning of every specification section a statement similar to this: "Drawings and General Provisions of the Contract, including General and Supplementary Conditions and Division - 1 Specification Sections, apply to this Section."

CSI's Manual of Practice, Product Resource Manual, and Construction Specifications Practice Guide explain how to eliminate this statement:
Although the Division 01 role in governing the work has been accepted in practice for many years, this authority is not explicitly stated in either the AIA or EJCDC general conditions. Until that change is made, the authority should be established by a provision in the supplementary conditions as follows: Sections of Division 01-General Requirements govern the work of all sections of the specifications.
Even though the A201 and other general conditions make it quite clear that the contractor is responsible for means and methods, I expand this statement to read, Sections of Division 01-General Requirements govern the work of all sections of the specifications. The Contractor shall ensure that all Subcontractors, Sub-subcontractors, and suppliers are aware of and comply with the provisions of Division 01.

Having established the role of Division 01, there is no need to restate it in every specification section. The A201 agrees with that position, stating "The Contract Documents are complementary, and what is required by one shall be as binding as if required by all." Other general conditions typically have similar statements.

Interestingly, while some specifications have followed CSI's advice and deleted the "Drawings and General Provisions…" paragraph, many specifications now have added several more needless references to Division 01 such as these:
  • Conduct pre-installation meeting in accordance with Division 01 Section 01 31 19.
  • Submit in accordance with Division 01, Section 01 33 00
  • Comply with requirements of Section 01 65 00 and Section 01 66 00.
  • Comply with provisions of Section 01 78 00.
  • Substitutions: Under provisions of Section 01 25 00
  • Examine conditions and proceed with work in accordance with Division 01, Section 01 71 00.
  • General: Comply with requirements of Division 01, Section 01 45 13.
"Well, I just want to help people find what they're looking for!" Following that logic, why stop there? Why not include references to information about taxes, or contract modifications, or final payment in every section?

Division 01 can save a lot more text than that found in the above references. Properly written, they can minimize or eliminate many statements commonly found in specifications. One of the most important requirements, with the widest applicability, is "Follow manufacturer's instructions and recommendations."

The drawback with relying on manufacturers' instructions is that they might miss something, or you might choose to specify more restrictive requirements. In those cases, Division 01 sections can reduce the need for many statements in the specification sections.

For example, consider the article for delivery, storage, and handling. Most materials should be protected from the elements until they are installed. A comprehensive Section 01-6000 - Product Requirements can include storage requirements such as temperature range, humidity, and protection from moisture, that are suitable for all but a few products. Add the basic requirement for complying with manufacturers' instructions, and there isn't much left to say. Do the same for packaging, labeling, and handling, then go on to other subjects of Division 01 sections, and you may find you can delete some of the standard articles in the specifications.

Another place to look for redundancies is the "Common Work Results" sections found in mechanical and electrical specifications. These sections often state requirements already found in the general conditions, in bidding requirements, and in Division 01 sections. The only time those subjects should be addressed is when mechanical and electrical specifications have additional or unique requirements, and even then I would try to take care of the differences in Division 00 and in Division 01.

I have looked at many of these sections at the beginning of mechanical and electrical Divisions, and rarely have I found anything not already specified in the front end of the project manual. At best they are merely redundant; most of the time they are contradictory.

We spend a lot of time talking about Division 01, but it's also worth taking a look at what's in the general conditions. I have seen many specifications that discuss payment for testing, for re-inspection, for concealing work before it was inspected, for unauthorized work, and for similar activities. These typically are covered in the general conditions; in the A201, they are found in Articles 12 and 13.

Why are we so concerned about redundancies? Perhaps the biggest problem is that when different people state the same thing they may do it differently. Another problem, which isn't so obvious, is that the longer the specifications are, the longer it takes to read them, and the more likely that things will be missed. Why add a lot of unnecessary text, making it harder for the contractor to understand?

Shorter specs are more likely to be read, will be easier to read, and will be easier to interpret.


  1. There is a lot of material in the General Conditions, at least in AIA A201, that gets repeated in Div 01 and elsewhere, too.

    I agree on the M&E "General Requirements" sections issue. Often it seems like the consultants are trying to write their own General Conditions, making up their own rules, stating which subcontractor is to perform what part of the work, etc. A pox on such. "Common Work Results" - well, if all conduit is supposed to be done the same way, no matter who will later pull wires through it, then at least there is something common to talk about. [However, one gypsum wallboard section is enough, whether it's going to be covered with paint, vinyl wallcovering, or boards.]

  2. You're right, Joel; it's common to find provisions of the general conditions repeated in Division 01 sections, as well as in other spec sections. It's OK for the specifications to expand on those provisions, but the basic requirements should not be repeated.

  3. "Say it once" is one of the golden rules of preparing Contract Documents. However, there are exceptions that are often needed due to past lessons learned, the delivery method, building official, or other reasons.

    Often, Owners may not necessarily share the Owner/Contractor agreement with the design team. To ensure that the rigor and intent of this agreement is enforceable from the design team, selected excerpts form the Owner/Contractor agreement may often be strategically placed in Division 01. Likewise, selected excerpts from AIA A503 for supplemental conditions may also have a place in Division 01.

    For those plan check agencies that review the project specifications along with the drawings, the building official may require language in the specs that is often repetitive. Often these include citations to the building code and/or ADA references.

    As with all means of communication, the intent is to be as clear and concise in the message to the recipients of the Contract Documents.

    1. 'No plan of battle survives contact with the enemy.' The enemy often is the owner, even more frequently, the government. Public sector owners, even those who require consultants to follow 'the CSI format', typically require redundancies. For example, the front end of one of our public sector clients states the bid opening date at least twice, and there are many excerpts from state statutes. And, as you note, building officials often require information to be stated in places other than where it normally would be found. In either case, there isn't much we can do about it except reason with those who want the redundancies.

      I don't think the first two examples you offer are a problem. Quoting excerpts from documents not available to bidders isn't a redundancy in the sense discussed here, but it raises the question, 'Why aren't those documents available?' I haven't looked at the A503 recently, but, properly used, I suspect it does not contain redundancies.

      Clear, concise, complete, and correct are indeed necessary. To paraphrase the old Ford commercial, 'Communication is Job 1!'

      Thanks for the comments!