October 2017

Improve Your Project Specifications

Frank Fuller And Thad Goodman

Specification software is handy, but like any tool it has its drawbacks. When you are manipulating it, you will need to edit it for your specific project. Software programs can also be designed to highlight those who “pay to play,” so realize that not every manufacturer’s products are included. In addition, they are not always up to date, so you may be missing the latest, newly introduced product offerings. And some guide specifications require only the lowest common denominator of features and performance, resulting in “generalizations” rather than “specifications.”

Cross Reference Master and Standard Specs

According to Architect Frank Sorise, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, “When editing standard specifications, I find it essential to maintain the reference standards listed in the Quality Assurance section; I am extremely cautious with any deletions. This is the heart of a solid specification, and I rely on the standard spec service to have current, complete and relevant references. I then do a side-by-side reading of my office "master spec" and the standard spec, with the goal being a carefully tailored body of information that is an effective specification for that unique project. This involves the slow work of identifying, considering and deleting irrelevant descriptions of materials and workmanship – a tedious task, but one that just has no real shortcut.”

Consult with a Rep You Trust

Determine whether a product is the right fit and edit a guide specification to satisfy those project requirements. As David Wrigley, CSI, CCS, Director of Specifications for Spillman Farmer Architects, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, says, “It helps us to have an office standard spec that we automatically go to when we have a project. From that office master spec section, we determine what is appropriate for that project. Ideally, you’d like to send those spec sections to each product rep for their input and changes, but that usually doesn’t happen because of time constraints. If the project has special needs, or unusual conditions, then I make a definite point of sending that spec to a product rep that I trust, that I know deals with those special items.”

As Wrigley notes, your product or manufacturer’s representative is a valuable resource. These representatives are experts in their field and will verify ASTM standards, assess the proper products for each application, and help you tailor the specification to your specific project.

Ask Your Construction Design Manager for Assistance

To write better project specifications, help reduce change orders, addendums and RFIs, the two-pronged approach works well: Consult guide specifications along with your manufacturers’ representatives.

Your National Gypsum construction design managers are always just a phone call or email away, ready to assist you with your specifications. Do not hesitate to call on them for help or additional insight.

"Even the most senior architects I talk with understand the value of these electronic tools. They realize they are a solid addition for most offices. They can help create a good overview of what’s available for each division’s various product offerings as younger members of the design team get involved. Getting the right references in and the non-necessary products out requires an experienced eye. Using these electronic systems in conjunction with an office specifier creates a win-win in productivity for the office."
- Thad Goodman, FCSI

"The use of these tools can certainly help an office develop specifications. However, it can become too easy to rely on them as is and you may get a false sense of security. Due diligence is required to make sure the products listed are current and that they meet the criteria you need for your project, i.e., local building codes, reference standards and correct products. Use the tools and use your product reps to make sure you have a specification that will eliminate confusion and decrease RFIs. With the complexity of projects today and the number of products used, a trusted advisor along with a good specification can give you a true sense of security."
- Frank Fuller, FCSI

Product Overview

Enhance Your Designs with PermaBase® BRAND Cement Board

For exterior applications, combine the strength and durability of PermaBase® BRAND Cement Board with the popular beauty of stone and thin brick veneers. PermaBase® Cement Board installs quickly, cuts costs and elevates quality. It:

• Offers a complete, engineered solution for installation
• Allows you to speed up construction – enclose and finish a project in as little as two days
• Offers the ability to incorporate an effective water-management system (type and placement will vary based on local codes and/or warranties)
• Provides increased performance by utilizing polymer modified adhesive mortars

Use PermaBase® in residential and low-rise commercial applications.

For more information: permabase.com/exteriors.

Project Profile

Gladding Residence Center at VCU

Gladding Residence Center
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia
Clark Nexson

When it opens in August 2018, Gladding Residence Center is slated to be the largest college dormitory in Virginia. This 360,000-square-foot residence hall, which will house more than 1,500 freshmen students, also features a large landscaped courtyard. National Gypsum products will be integrated into this state-of-the-art building, including Gold Bond® BRAND XP® Gypsum Board (5/8”), Gold Bond® BRAND Hi-Abuse® XP® Gypsum Board, Gold Bond® BRAND High Strength Fire-Shield® LITE® (5/8”) and ProForm® BRAND Ready Mix Joint Compound.

Read More About The Project

Continuing Education

Fall is a good time to wrap up some CEU requirements. Consider taking:

Cement Board and Exterior Finishing Systems
1 hour/AIA HSW CE Hour
Finishing Gypsum Board: Appearance and Indoor Air Quality
1 hour/AIA HSW CE Hour

PermaBase® = Excellent Substrate for Exterior Applications

See how easy it is to install PermaBase® BRAND Cement Board in a commercial thin brick veneer wall system.

Watch Video


Amy Hockett
National Marketing Manager, Architectural Services & Sustainability

Pat Grotlisch

Frank Fuller

Alan Zeedyk
Gulf / Southeast

Thad Goodman
Central / Midwest

Scott Hughes
Northeast / Atlantic

Trang Schwartz
Architectural Specialist