Who should write your CSI 3-part specs?

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Who should write your CSI 3-part specs?


When it comes to writing a specification for a building product manufacturer, who should write your CSI 3-part specs is often up for discussion.  After a decade of writing specifications for products, we continue to see manufacturers’ websites with no downloadable specs or badly written specs that don’t help the design professional.  I think this may be a reason to discuss who should write your CSI 3-part specs, to gain a better perspective.   


Now I know you may be thinking, I work for a big brand, and we have it all figured out. Or we already have a spec, so this doesn’t apply to our company.  Unfortunately, the size of your company, the number of engineers on staff, or experienced architectural reps don’t make you a pro at writing specs.


So with a little humor, we’re sharing who should not be writing your CSI 3-part guide specifications.  


What is a CSI 3-part guide specification?


Is a CSI 3-part guide specification specifically tailored to the needs of a building products? This type of guide specification is designed to help manufacturers provide detailed and accurate information about their products to architects, engineers, and other construction professionals who are specifying products for use in construction projects.


The 3-part format of a CSI guide specification for building product manufacturers is similar to the standard format, but with some modifications to better suit the needs of product manufacturers. The three parts are:


  • Part 1 – General: This section includes general information about the product, such as the product name, manufacturer, and intended use. This section may also include information about the manufacturer’s quality control procedures, warranty, and other relevant information.


  • Part 2 – Products: This section includes detailed information about the product, including its physical characteristics, performance data, and installation requirements. This section may also include information about product options, accessories, and related products.


  • Part 3 – Execution: This section includes instructions for the installation and use of the product, as well as requirements for testing and inspection. This section may also include information about maintenance and repair procedures.


Your website company


How skilled is your website company at writing a specification? Last year, we connected with a manufacturer that seemed reasonably interested in having a professional product guide specification developed by our team. However, the company’s Owner needed to check with his web development company to see if he needed a specification. 😬


We don’t recommend the website developer writing, being involved, or sharing advice on CSI 3-part product specifications. I am sure their very experienced in making things look nice on the company website, but construction specifications are technical documents used by design professionals. I am not able to make the connection on how this would be a good idea. 


The technical guy


Is your technical department or engineer the best person to write the company’s specifications? I enjoy talking with technical staff about products. They know how it’s built, how it’s installed, and just about everything about the product. What time is it can usually become a discussion on how the watch was created? 🤭  


When it comes to CSI 3-part specifications, all that detail is not essential. The more words and facts about installation just become, well, wordy requirements that aren’t important. If your specifications have a Part 3 Execution that goes on for more than a page, I’ll bet that a technical team or engineer was involved in specification writing. The product submittals will include all that detail during construction, so avoid writing it in your company specification. Plus, specifications shouldn’t cover means and methods of installation. That’s up to the contractor to determine the means and methods.  


The Owner of the company


Is the visionary of the company also the company spec writer? Running a company and guiding the daily operations gives you a good skill set as a building product manufacturer. As an owner, you’ve seen your share of construction specifications, and so when the team says we have a request for a specification, some owners jump into action to create some interesting specifications to fulfill the requirement. 


Now I have no objection to the Owner wanting to save a few bucks. But, there is a structure to writing a specification and specific content in different areas. So it’s a little more challenging to write a specification than to create a submittal or product data sheet. 


A common outcome of Owner written specifications is that they tend to fall in love with the specification. Unfortunately, the specification usually looks like a technical brochure, full of crafty words and way too long. Also, not following a format that is usable by design professionals.  It hits all of the common pitfalls at the end of this blog.   


The product manager


As a product manager, you become educated on, well, everything marketing-related about the product your company produces. You’re focused on website content, data sheets, submittals, testing, budgeting, and how to get ahead of requests from the sales team.


Do you have the time to write an adequate specification? Most marketing managers I’ve worked with have the best intentions, but writing specifications usually hit the middle of the list, with all of the above tasks coming first. For those who do get the time to write a product specification, it’s really a specification from a past project that offers little insight into all the options required to specify the product appropriately.  The worst attempts are a copied and pasted version of a competitor’s bad 3 part specification.  That’s not something I recommend or advise sharing with a design professional.  


The new architectural rep


Will the new architectural rep have the knowledge to write your company’s specifications? Reps have the best intentions but are not guide specification developers. Reps work on project requests and supply information to the design professional. Things like sustainability docs, data sheets, BIM files, CAD files, and an easy-to-edit specification. 


Scheduling a lunch presentation and meeting with the design professional to get specified is their primary goal.  Writing specifications for a brand’s entire product line is a challenge and requires a strategy.  That is something the new architectural rep doesn’t have the expertise or skill set for developing.  


The common pitfalls:  


  • Not following CSI 3-part format. 
  • Over-specifying products. 
  • Bad page formatting, and styles.  
  • No guide notes on options.  
  • Writing to many specifications. 
  • Specifying means and methods.  
  • Copying a competitor’s bad spec. 
  • Letting the specification go out of date. 
  • Being too wordy, resulting in way too many pages.


Would you like to learn more?


It all starts with a specification plan and how a design professional specifies the product on a project.  Hiring a professional specifier saves you time and valuable insight into your go-to-market strategy.