For clients, one of the often overlooked and misunderstood steps in the design process is materials and specifications. This step in design gives the appearance of simplicity, when in actuality it is one of the most complex and research intensive portions of the project. Next to choosing the right designer and the right contractor, materials and specifications is one of the most important aspects of ensuring a project’s success. The main premise of this phase of design is that all materials that will be used in the project are included in the set of documents given to a contractor – spelled out to include everything from size, color and the manufacturer’s name and product numbers. This list of materials – known as specifications – is important for two reasons: quality and cost. First, it is used to tell the contractor what level of quality is expected throughout the project. A contractor can quickly see that a project is high end by noticing top-notch manufacturer names in the list. Second, in the same way it sets the bar for quality, it also points to the intended project cost by listing actual products, appliances and fixtures to be installed. Contractors use the specifications to determine the price of the project and establish their bid for the work. Those who select products must be knowledgeable of the current technologies, building methods and available products to be effective in their role.
Design 101: materials and specifications seems simple: choose a product, list the critical components for the contractor to locate and purchase it and wait to see your vision become a reality. Unfortunately, this misconception can lead to tension in a project if the client does not expect their designer or architect to spend an appropriate amount of time researching the products that end up on the specifications list and the finished product doesn’t measure up to what they thought it would be.
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