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Specifiers' Library Terminology and Definitions
THE PATH TO SUCCESSFUL CONSTRUCTION SPECIFICATIONS
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Owner
Contractor
Design Professional
Design Builder

A B C D E G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

B

Bidding RequirementsWritten description of the procedures for submitting bids for construction of a project. Usually includes a very brief description of the project, where to get copies of the documents and the terms for doing so, how to fill out the bid form, what else to submit with the bid form, how long the bids must be good for, what qualifications the bidder must have, insurance and bonding requirements, conditions under which substitute products will be considered, and how to get answers to bidders' questions. The documents commonly prepared are Invitation to Bid (Advertisement for Bids), Instructions to Bidders, and Bid Form.

BIM

The acronym BIM is usually used to mean Building Information Model—the 3-D geometric model of a building made using software like Autodesk Revit, Graphisoft ArchiCad, or Bentley Architecture.

Bridging Project delivery method in which the owner hires a design professional to perform conceptual and preliminary design (usually up to 35 percent complete) after which a design-builder contracts to complete the design and perform the construction.


C

Code Authorities Governmental permits and inspections agencies who must approve the construction documents before construction may begin. Many building, fire, gas, mechanical, electrical, and other codes may have the force of law in the governmental jurisdiction where the project is located. All the laws and regulations that govern the project are collectively referred to as the "Applicable Code" and "Code Authorities" refers to all the agencies whose approval is required. Other terms commonly used are "regulatory agencies" and "authorities having jurisdiction."

Conceptual Documents The documents an owner or his design professional prepares to give instructions to a design-builder about how to design the project. In practice, this varies a lot but the essential information required before a contract between the owner and design-builder can be signed includes a Space Program, a document that defines the quality of the built elements (often referred to as whole-building performance requirements), and contractual requirements.

Construction Documents The documents describing what to build and how to build it. These usually are drawings and specifications. For small, simple projects, the specifications may actually be placed on the drawings.

Construction Manager There are two types of construction manager. One functions as the owner's agent, to coordinate and schedule the operations of multiple prime contractors. The other is a general contractor who provides pre-construction services to the owner for a project on which the same contractor will be the prime contractor.

Constructor Any entity performing construction. Can be a contractor or the owner's own forces. Constructor is not a widely used term but is less ambiguous than "contractor", which could mean any two parties that have a contract.

Contract Documents The documents describing the contractor's obligations. These include the construction documents and the contractual requirements.

Contractor Any entity who has a contractual relationship with another entity. In construction, the term contractor usually refers to a general contractor, who is the main contractor that the owner has a contract with (also known as a "prime" contractor). In situations where the owner has contracts with multiple contractors, they are referred to collectively as multiple prime contractors. Constructors whose contract is with a prime contractor are referred to as subcontractors. The term "builder" can refer to a contractor or to a developer, usually residential.

Contractual Requirements The agreement between the two parties and the conditions of the contract. These include how much will be paid and for what, procedures for payments, modifications, resolving disputes, and turning the project over, and other administrative requirements. Contractual requirements are usually based on a standard form of agreement and conditions that is published by an industry group (such as AIA, EJCDC, ConsensusDOCS, DBIA). Most are copyrighted documents. None are included in SpecLink-E.

CostLink/AE Building Systems Design, Inc.'s estimating system for design professionals. More information.


D

Descriptive Specifications Construction specifications written to require certain products with specific physical characteristics. The specifier has already decided that the specified product meets functional needs. Also refered to as prescriptive specifications. For an individual product, proprietary, performance, and descriptive specifying techniques may be used. Back to top

Design-Bid-Build Project delivery method in which the owner hires a design professional to design the project and prepare construction documents, which are then issued to solicit bids from constructors. The owner-constructor contract is usually based on a lump sum fixed price. This is the most common project delivery method in the U.S. Variations on design-bid-build relate to different methods of arriving at the contract sum or price, such as negotiation or cost-plus-a-fee, but the same general procedure is followed.

Design-Build Project delivery method in which the owner hires a single entity to perform both design and construction. Intermediate between design-build and design-bid-build is "bridging ."

Design-Builder Any single entity with which an owner or prospective owner contracts to perform both design and construction. A design-builder may be a construction management entity, a conventional general contractor, a design professional, a developer, or any other entity the owner is willing to enter into a contract with.

Design Criteria The requirements of the owner and any regulatory agencies having jurisdiction. For a building or other facility, design criteria cover a wide variety of requirements of different types, including the space program, performance requirements, and prescriptive specifications. BSD SpecLink-E includes an extensive set of Design Criteria documents for buildings of many types.

Designer A design professional appropriate to the type of work being designed. For building permits, construction documents usually need to be stamped and signed by a registered architect (R.A.) or licensed professional engineer (P.E.). Engineering disciplines include structural, civil, mechanical, and electrical. Design professionals also include landscape architects and interior designers.

Drawings Construction drawings show where to build the project, sizes, shapes, and which products to use where. Drawings are almost always prepared on large-size sheets (24 by 36 inches is common) and often are prepared using CAD, plotted (printed), and reduced in size before reproduction. The dividing line between what should be shown on drawings versus shown in the specifications is not absolute. Drawings are used for other purposes than construction, such as for owner review, for cost estimator information, and for approval by code authorities. In these cases, the type of drawing required is determined by the audience and the contractual relationships, if any, between the drawing preparer, the owner, and the audience.


F

Facility The preferred term for the result of a construction project. The term facility encompasses all the types of construction, including buildings, site work, roads and bridges, industrial plant, utilities, etc.


L

LinkMan-E BIM tool produced by Building Systems Design, Inc., to facilitate coordination between 3-D Building Information Modeling software and BSD SpecLink-E. More information.

O

Outline Specifications Very short product specifications, usually for purposes of owner review, estimator information, or financing agency approval. Very short means less than one page per "section" and often only one paragraph per product. Outline specifications are sometimes used for construction but since they typically do not include installation or submittal requirements they may not be adequate for any but the most simple small project. SpecLink-E accomplishes short form specs by means of a "switch" that quickly changes the specifier's view from long form to outline or short form, and back again, without deleting any text.

Owner The person or entity that owns the facility or will own the facility once it is completed.


P

Performance Requirements Statements regarding the performance of a facility, the built elements (parts) of a facility, or the products the built elements are made of. Performance requirements are ideally stated as functional characteristics, without assuming a specific design solution. Performance requirements are also often referred to as Design Criteria.

Performance Specifications Specifications written to require certain functional characteristics; applies to entire facilities, parts of facilities (built elements), and products (materials and equipment). Describes how the item is to perform, not its physical characteristics. Applies to early design phase documents as well as construction documents. For an individual product, proprietary, performance, and descriptive specifying techniques may be used.

PerSpective Automated design criteria documentation system, designed specifically for design-build and for early design stage documentation. Developed by the Construction Specifications Institute and the Design Build Institute of America. Now incorporated into BSD SpecLink-E as Design Criteria. More information.

Prescriptive Specifications Construction specifications written to require certain products with specific physical characteristics. Distinguished from performance specifications in that the specifier has already decided that the specified product meets functional needs. Also refered to as descriptive specifications. For an individual product, proprietary, performance, and descriptive specifying techniques may be used.

Project Record Documents Construction drawings annotated to show all changes made during construction. In some cases, construction specifications annotated to show changes, substitutions, and products actually installed. A full set of all submittals is sometimes required as one of the project record documents. Specifications prepared using SpecLink-E can be easily edited to form project record specs.

Proposal Documents In a design-build situation, the design-builder's proposal describing what he intends to construct for the owner. It includes scope, time, cost, and quality information. If the owner has prepared an RFP, the proposal documents incorporate the RFP by reference and add any other material necessary.

Proprietary Specifications Construction specifications written by referencing specific products by manufacturer and brand or model name; applies to materials and equipment. Distinguished from prescriptive specifications in that the physical characteristics are inferred, rather than explicitly stated. For an individual product, proprietary, performance, and descriptive specifying techniques may be used.


R

Regulatory Agencies Governmental jurisdictions or departments that issue laws, ordinances, and other regulations that design and construction must comply with. Also referred to as code authorities, authorities having jurisdiction, and permits and inspection offices. Permits and inspection offices tend to be local, rather than national, while regulatory agencies includes agencies at every level of jurisdiction that applies (i.e. global, national, state/province, county/parish, city/town, utility district, special taxation districts, etc.).

Request for Proposal (RFP) In a design-build situation, the RFP is the owner's document that explains what is required and how to make a proposal. An RFP usually includes:

  • Instructions to Proposers
  • Contract Requirements
  • Program Requirements
  • Performance Requirements
  • Essential product specifications

S

Short Form Specifications Specifications for construction that do not include a lot of detail about installation or quality assurance. Products are usually described in the same detail as in the most lengthy specifications. Short form specifications usually assume that there is a good set of conditions of the contract and Division 1 General Requirements to cover procedures and requirements that apply to most products. There is also a tacit assumption that the owner and the constructor have a good, on-going relationship and that the constructor will be able to make a good bid that does not force him to cut corners in order to make a profit. SpecLink-E accomplishes short form specs by means of a "switch" that quickly changes the specifier's view from long form to short form or outline, and back again, without deleting any text.

Space Program A description of the spaces (rooms) required, their sizes, who will occupy them, and any special requirements for environment, furnishings, or finishes. This is usually a document formatted in as a table or in a spreadsheet, so the square footage can be added up. The owner is responsible for the space program, although he may hire a consultant design professional to prepare it. BSD SpecLink-E does not include tools or information for preparing a space program. A spreadsheet application is recommended for ease of adding up floor area required.

Specifications Specifications for construction describe what products to build the project out of, how to install them, and what to submit to prove that the construction complies with the contract documents. Specifications are almost always accompanied by drawings and can be very detailed or very brief, or anywhere in between. Specifications are usually issued on paper (book size) but are sometimes printed on large size drawing sheets and bound with the other drawings. Specifications are usually divided into "sections" (essentially modular documents) that describe discrete portions of the work; in the U.S. and Canada Masterformat™ is used to organize sections within the project manual (specification book). Specifications are used for other purposes than construction, including for owner review, for cost estimator information, and for approval by code authorities. In these cases, the nature of the specification is determined by the audience and the contractual relationships, if any, between the specification preparer, the owner, and the audience. Since the term "specification" is used to mean different things by different players in the construction industry be sure you understand what is meant or expected in each situation. See also:

SpecLink-E Automated specification management system for production of construction specifications produced by Building Systems Design, Inc. Includes specification sections designed for use in construction documents, short form specifications, and design criteria documents. BSD SpecLink-E is the name of the current generation of the product; earlier names have been SpecLink and SpecLink+. More information.

Subcontractor Any constructor entity with which another constructor entity (prime, sub, or any level) contracts to perform part or all of the work the original constructor has already contracted to do. This relationship can exist in both design-bid-build and design-build.

Substantiation Proof or reasonable prediction or confidence that the design and construction will perform as expected. In design-build situations, the design-builder is responsible for the ultimate compliance of the project to the design criteria. The ultimate substantiation is the performance of the built project. However, both the owner and the design-builder prefer to have some intermediate or preliminary proof that the design and construction will ultimately comply. So it makes sense to ask for substantiation at each phase of the design and construction. Preliminary substantiation can include engineering calculations, evidence that products and systems have been used successfully on projects before (proven-in-use), mock-up testing (proven-by-mock-up), and certification or warranty by the design-builder. The Design Criteria sections of SpecLink-E include comprehensive substantiation options appropriate to each phase of design and construction.

The SpecLink Specifiers' Library is provided as a service to our customers by Building Systems Design, Inc.