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HomeUncategorized“ARCHITERROR” Fears Every Architect Faces: The Drab of Specifying

“ARCHITERROR” Fears Every Architect Faces: The Drab of Specifying

It’s funny how in my six years of architecture school we were not taught how to specify. And more so to develop an innovative approach to this exercise. So, when the QS asks you, “ what material is this on the design? And how do you want it to be assembled and finished?” It can be terrifying!

Truth be told, in our local context the QS often does this job of specifying based on rates and descriptions from previous projects to develop the contract bills. Later on, the Architect comes in to either work within the budget, to look for an alternative material or work with what was initially specified in the contract BQ. I think this often happens because of the wild goose chase to prepare the tender BQ, bid the job and get the project on site in less than 3 months. So, most times the detailed design takes place while the project is on site and that’s when we begin to think about specifying. On the contrary, in large scale architectural firms abroad this is a specialised task assigned to one person prior to the bidding process: to solely specify. Can you imagine for a minute the amount of time, information and innovation used to specify facade finishes for a Frank Ghery building? Say for example the undulating waves on the facade of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. How the materials, systems and components come together to create such a beautiful master piece? That specifier must be a genius.

I’m learning that the art of specifying begins with the choice of material, its availability locally (i.e the product’s local manufacturers), the material components (to meet sustainable goals), how it is used, the method of installation, and quality of workmanship for that piece of work. Something they also don’t teach you in school, and that I learnt on the job is to fit those specifications within a budget. I’m also beginning to realise that maybe technology can make this an easier task for us. Probably we need a local version of the search engine on the Architizer website where architects can painlessly select materials and quickly connect with high-quality manufacturers who give them the information to specify the exact product. 

Check out this article: 

https://architizer.com/blog/practice/tools/how-to-specify-5-specifying-tips/ The writer, Naomi Wangari, is a Graduate Architect at Lexicon + Ion. She can be reached via email at naomi@lexicondesigns.co.ke