Specifications in North America form part of the contract documents that accompany and govern the construction of a building. Specifications are written descriptions of the materials and procedures that must be used in constructing a building or system.
These specifications translate working drawings into words to ensure that systems will be neither overdesigned nor underdesigned. They tell the contractor exactly which materials must be used.
Aside from serving as a manual on how to do the job, the book of specifications has another function: it is a legal document outlining each contractor’s obligations. These obligations may include the need to provide fire insurance, to pay for municipal inspections, or to complete the job by a certain deadline.
Specifications are divided into 50 divisions of construction information as defined by the Construction Specifications Institute’s (CSI’s) MasterFormat. Before 2004, MasterFormat consisted of 16 divisions. MasterFormat is the most widely used standard for organizing specifications and other written information for commercial and institutional building projects in the United States and Canada. It provides a master list of divisions, and section numbers and titles within each division, to follow in organizing information about a facility’s construction requirements and associated activities. Standardizing the presentation of such information improves communication among all parties involved in construction projects.