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Engineers and Specifications

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I suspect that specification writing is not drudgery to one who knows and
understands all the materials and processes involved and who has read with
understanding all the codes, ASTM's and other cited references.  For me it
is a nightmare and I constantly feel like I'm holding on for dear life.

Possibly 30 years ago, we had a second floor, cast-in-place concrete slab on
metal deck.  Pumping the concrete was not specified, but that's what they
did.  Whatever they put in the mix caused retardation of setting . . . in
fact, it was permanently retarded, never did set up.  They had to use grain
shovels to remove the stuff.  That experience convinced me that I should
write performance-type concrete specs, rather than try to control the
ingredients (This approach is recommended by ACI 301, I believe).  Of course
I spec strength, rebar, special finishes, etcetera, but leave the rest up to
ACI 301, supplier and installer.  

About 15 years ago, I worked at an engineering company that had a full-time
specification writer who said to me, "You write the worst concrete spec I've
ever seen."  I pointed out to him that I was following the procedure
recommended by ACI 301, but he was unaffected.  I think he thought it was a
poor spec because it was short, one or two pages.  Spec writers don't like

Compounding any technical problems I may have writing specs is the fact that
they are always a last minute thing.

Speaking only for myself,
John Riley
I would like to better understand why Structural Engineers are less than
excited regarding writing construction specifications.

Is it because:
--You have never been taught how to write specifications?
--This is something that Architects do?
--It does no good?
--You do not have the time?
--It is too hard?
--Why spend the time to learn when the next Architect has different rules?
--Specifications are written by the in-house specification writer?

I would appreciate it if you would share your reason either by posting in
on the web site or by e-mailing me direct at markkgilligan(--nospam--at)


Mark Gilligan

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