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- Luca Caruso View Luca’s profile of Perit Environmental Design Architect Architecture and Urban Planning
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I am currently working in Malta for a local governmental agency that prepares tenders for construction projects and also working on GPP criteria.
Since we often make reference to UK standards do you recommend any website/literature where to find specifications for BOQ (apart from manufacturer leaflet)?
Thanks in advance
You may need to be more specific GPP=Green Public Procurement
Product Specifications can be found in RIBA Product Selector Plus
However they produce specifications for any product (green or violet and do not distinguish between them)
In my opinion not very “Robust Specifications”, they often provide the very least of information.
This may result in the risk of substitution for products that are not ‘or equivalent’
Or it risks errors on site through lack of detailed instruction.
In 1992 when the construction industry joined the EU (Construction Products Directive (CPD) and subsequent Regulations (CPR) Building Regulations Approved Document Regulation 7’s Proper Materials, etc.) national standards were to be replaced by EU standards, but Status Quo prevails until they are in place.
Since then British Standard Institute (BSI’s) British Standards (BS) and Codes of Practice (CP) have progressively been replaced by CEN’s ENs EuroNorms and EuroCodes.
Since BSI and CEN are private enterprises and not strictly part of the EU legal framework, this arrangement may continue.
Stupid isolationist Britain may decide to revert to BSs and CPs, drop metric for Feet and Inches and head back to the dark ages or have aspirations for British Empire again whilst China’s Belt and Road Initiative suggests a Chinese Empire covering the whole globe not before long.
We write GBE Robust Specifications for manufacturers.
I write my own Robust Specifications for projects using the manufacturer’s specification as a starting point and improve them, often converting from guidance to instruction in the process.
I will also use ETA European Technical Assessments, Agrément Certificates or other certification as a starting point for Robust Specifications.
We create stand-alone specifications that are not part of the BoQ Bill of Quantities.
The drawings and the BoQ cross reference to the Specification to avoid repetition and avoid differences.
NBS National Building Specification had invented a new piece of software for specification writing and they have adopted my term ‘Robust Specification’.
I am not sure they are any more robust, but the name suggests they are claiming it.
So you recommend to start from these websites and then create the specs on a case by case fashion, being flexible enough to provide a tailor made description.
I am also interested in understanding if a listing hundreds of ISO/certification and so on in a spec it is correct (even on a legal basis) and ethical from the contractor’s point of view, whilst in reality the author may know just a few of them in detail.
Yes bespoke project specifications for the project requirements (nothing left in, if it is not required/relevant)
If the project changes then change the project specification by instruction.
PSA Property Services Agency (historic UK Government procurement specification template library) listed all standards related to each work section (chapter covering one trade or element) within one clause, and it was assumed the job specifier would edit the list; most specifiers were not capable or had no time.
NBS on the other hand refer to them in guidance notes, but only occasionally refer to them in the specification clauses.
I prefer to list all properties of a product with manufacturing or test standards and values in the product clauses.
I also list relevant standards, Codes, Agrément, ETA, Test certificates or green labels to set the basis for ‘or equivalent’ comparison.
European Procurement Rules insist on ‘Or equivalent’ included in the EU or Government Funded project contract; that is interpreted in a number of ways:
- by NBS to mean ‘or equivalent clause’ included in the preliminaries:
- If any clause contains the phrase, this is what it means…
- If the clause does not contain the phrase, assume it does.
- by some insurance boffins to mean at ends of every product Specification clause,
- by some Local Authorities legal eagles insist upon listing three equivalents (PSA throwback)
This does not mean you have to accept the contractors cheaper substitutions if they are not ‘Or equivalent’
Contractors used to substituting cheap ‘not-equivalent’ may not like tight project specifications but if we are to meet global targets we must close the ‘performance-gap’ between designed and built reality, meet the original specification and not let them pocket the profits at the expense of the building in use.
We must ‘Police’ the specification at Tender Evaluation Stage and during construction
Architects with no Supervision Role lends itself to allowing the Contractor free rain with substitutions and increasing the ‘performance gap’.
Ultimately costing the client more to run and maintain their building.
Writing a tight robust project specification is entirely ethical to your customer and competent to your professionalism.
EU Procurement Rules permit appropriate and applicable standards; but not applied retrospectively.
Then you have a basis for ‘or equivalent’ in every respect applicable;
- not ‘or similar’
- not ‘or worse’
- not ‘or cheap to install and more expensive for the client to run and maintain’
- and cheaper if the contractor can find it.
EU Procurement Rules do not like Specifications where technical barriers are created to exclude the contractor from finding cheaper solutions
There have been challenges to the EU PR and changes have been made
You can now include Social and Environmental Criteria in a Contract Specification if they are applicable, appropriate and not applied retrospectively.
We would argue that from a client’s perspective and ultimately the Government’s Purse that a degree of consistency is needed in materials installed so maintaining the building is as streamlined as possible.
If the contract is subdivided into parcels or packages, that we insist no substitution is permitted in certain circumstances; for example: the same powder coating with the same manufacturer, guarantee, maintenance requirements, warranty terms, are insisted upon.
Yes it creates a technical barrier but there is a good sound strong reason for it.
Very interesting. I hope you may think to have a webinar on writing specs at EU level and sharing in detail this approach.
Interesting thought, I would be happy to do it.
My fear is that there may not be enough delegates to attend?
Especially in UK now that we are no longer part of the EU gang.
I have of course written many CPD on these subjects. (See Right column for details)
But do you think that the approach to writing [project] specs is strictly related to the nation you are working on?
Because your approach tends to be “performance based” rather than listing standards
When you were doing your BOQ were you working for tenders to be awarded by UK companies or it should have been opened to EU bidders?
Inevitably my/our approach is focussed in UK procurement practices, but we have many variations of procurement options.
- Sometimes Design and Build or Performance based or Employer’s Requirements,
- Sometimes General Contract or prescriptive based
- Sometimes descriptive
In my world I use a mixtures of all to suit the project or the element, the trade, the product, the procurement method, the package or contract, the Contractors Design Portion.
I don’t think Performance v listing standards are true comparisons: (simplification of reality)
- to write a prescriptive project specification requires citing of many standards EN or norms, ETA or Agrément
- to write a performance project specification requires citing of many design standards, codes of practice or EuroCodes or Regulations.
Project BoQ are created by the Project Quantity Surveyor
Project Specification created by the respective Project Designer
Or in my case by the specification writer paid by the Designer
EU Procurement Rules require that EU or National and Local Government funded projects of a size above a minimum threshold must be open to OJEU rules and European-wide Contractors and advertised in OJEU news letter to EU.
The British Library was one where many trade contracts were let to EU based companies.
Example £12m (roughly £=Euro) for book shelving to Brunzeel (NL?)
The specification approach can therefore differ between private financed and public financed projects.
As a Specification consultant I will adopt good practices from anywhere I will use ‘Or Equivalent’ in any job no matter how financed.
But I will not now put ‘Or Equivalent’ at the end of every specification clause, by choice, it only encourages substitution or surreptitious substitution.
But where Equivalency is defined in the preliminaries I will add GBE’s Equivalency proving procedures clause.
What do you mean by OJEU?
OJEU stands for the Official Journal of the European Union (previously called OJEC – the Official Journal of the European Community).
This is the publication in which all tenders from the public sector which are valued above a certain financial threshold according to EU legislation, must be published.
- Statement No.: S1, S2, etc.
- Observation No.: O1, O2, etc.
- Question No.: Q1, Q2, etc.
- Answer No.: A1, A2, etc.
- Phased Barn Conversion Temporary Flooring (Q+A) G#2788
- Energy Saving and Noise Reduction (Q+A) G#3204
- Suspended timber floor retrofit insulation (Q+A) G#3870
- Thermal insulation existing timber stud external walls (Q+A) G#1803 N#1690
- Energy and Acoustics Measures (Q+A) G#1484 N#1444
- Platform Floors Levelling Screeds (Q+A) G#17008
- Primitive Materials Future Building (Q+A) G#16244
- Sustainable Design Manufacturer’s Information (Q+A) G#20468
- Fire Resistant Staircases (Q+A) G#20881
- Gas v Electricity (Q+A) G#22560
- Cycling (Q+A) G#25527
- Bird Box Back Panel (Q+A) G#26278
- Recycled Plastic Blockwork (Q+A) G#27567
- EU Specification (Q+A) G#38130 (this page)
- Decent Homes (Checklist) G#1571 N#1507
- Refurbishment Decent Homes (Checklist) G#1253 N#1252
- Green Deal Refurbishment (Checklist) G#730 N#752
- Other issues (Checklist) G#1570 N#1506
- GBE New Build Checklist (Navigation) G#606 N#627
- A90 Performance Specification (Checklist) G#1715 N#1617
- A91 Prescriptive Specification (Checklist)
- A93 Performance Testing Off-site Mock-up Test rigs (Checklist) G#1719 N#1621
- A94 Airtightness testing on-site (Checklist) G#1720 N#1622
- A95 Infra-Red Thermographic Surveys (Checklist) G#1721 N#1623
GBE CPD Topic
- About Specification (CPD Topic) G#560 N#580
- Or Equivalent (CPD) G#974 N#995
- Green Public Procurement (GPP) (Others) G#1602 N#1531
- GBS A90 Performance Specification (CPD) G#1377 N#1354
- Surveys Tests Analysis (CPD Lecture) G#389 N#390
- Refurbishment Decent Homes Checklist (CPD) G#644 N#666
- Retrofit PAS 2035 (CPD) G#21613
- Sustainable Refurbishment Materials Specification (CPD) G#38046
- Weather Protection (Defect) G#728 N#750
- Attic cistern thermal insulation enclosure (Defect) G#1041 N#1058
- Loft Insulation (Defect) G#14166