WHAT SPECIFIERS WANT
NBS Research published its most recent specification and product information survey last year, with survey
participants including architects, architectural technologists and technicians, surveyors and engineers. Here,
research manager, David Bain, provides a summary of what the building product specifiers surveyed revealed.
While the proportion of design
and build projects has grown in
recent years, the vast majority
of specifiers (82%) told us that
they specify particular manufacturers and their
products, in at least some of their projects.
Deciding which product or system to specify is
not always easy. Unless the specifier has used
that component before, there can be quite a bit
of research and comparison of alternatives before
making a choice. The top factor influencing
the choice of product is performance criteria,
with 82% of specifiers saying so. And 76% said
conformity to standards is also critical.
Manufacturers often provide product
information in different ways, so it can take
specifiers some time to find the performance and
certification information they need to make an
Specifiers frequently tell us that they need
information to be structured, standardised,
reliable and technically accurate: ‘Standardisation
of information to enable materials and products
to be compared on a like for like basis’.
However, time is usually in short supply as
BUILDING PRODUCTS | SEPTEMBER 8
project deadlines are often tight. Fifty-nine percent
of survey respondents agreed that they often
rush the specification writing process. Resourcing
is further pressured by a shortage of expertise:
over half agreed that not enough people in their
practice know how to write specifications.
In view of this lack of time and knowledge,
sometimes the easiest option is to specify what
has been used before, or use a known, trusted
manufacturer. This is borne out in the research,
where 78% of respondents told us that the
relationship with, and previous experience of,
the manufacturer or product affects their choice
of product. This can be a good thing. If a positive
relationship has developed, the specifier will
be open to contacting a manufacturer, without
fear of the hard-sell, to get good, trustworthy
advice. This can save time and give confidence in
getting the right product to realise design intent.
If the manufacturer provides good support;
for instance, providing bespoke specifications,
then the specifier can also be confident that the
specification is correct.
Sometimes the easiest
option is to specify what
has been used before
However, if the product specification has simply
been copied from a previous, similar job without
seeking advice, this can sometimes lead to problems.
Sixty-percent of specifiers re-used previous
specifications and over half (52%) ‘copied and
pasted’ from previous specifications.
The last similar job may have been a couple
of years ago; the product may have been
discontinued, superseded or changed. Information
can be copied and pasted in error, resulting in an
Specifiers do highlight contradictions between
drawings and specifications (46%), inaccurate/
incomplete technical data (38%) and poor
specification writing (32%) as problems. While