Post 615 –by Gautam Shah



Primary instinct for a human effort is to create a Recipe or Process. We tend to perceive an item by hypothetically enacting its process. First step is compilation of a list of physical inputs (ingredients). Second step is forming lists of things to do, how to do and not to do (human interventions). Third step is planning the sequences in time. Fourth step is readying tools required for various processes. A fair mix of all FOUR steps can offer an object, but not a desired entity. The end result is conjectural. In real design work intentions are additionally transmitted through drawing documents and other forms of surrogates.



Oven Cooking > ART by Jean-Francois Miller (1814-1875)

Item or design specifications have been used for execution, manufacturing, fabricating, erecting, for procuring ready-made objects, and also for effecting various services. The term Design here means any scheme, as such orally conveyed, written, drawn, or otherwise implied.


A Design or Scheme specifies aspects like : constituents, processes of combining, synthesizing a coherent entity or system, method of care and handling the men, materials, tools, equipment and the entity itself as it is being created.


Elevator Design by German Engineer Konrad Kyeser (1405) Wikipedia image

When a design (recipe) is specified for a product, and once readied (with reasonable sincerity), a client has to pay even if it fails on acceptability count. As a result, writing Item or Design Requirements is not an assuring process, unless the specifiers have had recent experience, at designing nearly Identical Items, and fully comprehends all aspects of the design problem.


Design confusions > Image attribution: Wiki4des at English Wikipedia

Specifications for a Designed Object

A Designer prepares design specifications, (materials + procedures + conditions of origin), so that the contractor or vendor can provide the stated item. The contractor or vendor gets very exact data, but little freedom to use alternative materials or execute it differently. If there is an uncommon item, the contractor will invariably charge more for the extraordinary effort or customization. This process does not assure that in spite of a sincere execution and diligent supervision a functional product will be delivered. The Item specifications specify ‘physical adequacy of the item while seeking a hypothetical performance’.


A contractor or vendor is better aware of latest materials, processes, technologies and their costing as available in the market, In comparison to any specification formulator like a designer. A contractor or vendor, if allowed to provide, can offer an item that surpasses the one conceived in the ‘item or design specifications’. This cause was identified by US Air-force and made it mandatory to procure entities by PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS, through the ITEM or DESIGN SPECIFICATIONS. A performance specification states the exact requirements of performance of an entity, and no materials + procedures + conditions of origin are given. This is an appreciable method but very difficult to implement. Performance of some of entities cannot be checked-validated over a longer time span (e.g. Operative suitability of a submarine beyond 20 years).

Performance specifications are partially used in many works with item specifications. For example, 6/7 decades back many builders were asked to refer to Standards for Cement, Sand, Aggregates, Water, Mixing procedures and testing methods for quality to be achieved. This is now replaced by pre-mix cement concretes of assured quality. This a way of relying on the performance, than Materials+Processes methods.


Ready-mix Concrete > Wikipedia image by High Contrast

Specifications for acquiring some ready-made objects can be Performance specifications but tend to be even more restrictive. A specifier (buyer-acquirer) of a ready-made item of the market shelves has no way of verifying a product, so relies on average standards followed by the Industry, or match with some ‘super’ supplier’s (top product in the market) specifications. Failing either of the conditions, one, has to pay the extra cost of customizing a regular or standard item. In the later case the assurance nominally available for the regular or standard item are unlikely to be offered for the altered form.




Post 505 by Gautam Shah


Road Sign Standards Pic by geograph 5634336 David Dixon

A standard is a requirement by tradition, acceptance, confirmation or law for certain type of practices, behaviour or compulsions. Standards are relevant for specific time and space context, after which they become abhorrent and ignored or are redefined.

Stack Holders Wikipedia image by Author UNDP

A standard could be an informal understanding or a document. As document, it explains the circumstances of its need, how it can be adhered to and, what are the consequences of compliance or noncompliance. Standards relate to practices or processes, material inputs for it, services, energy consumption, quality of deliverable and other byproducts. It relates to human and environmental affectations. New standards define the stack holders for any engagement, degree of transparency and norms for accountability.

Standards are widely accepted or agreed upon means for what a thing, happening or service should be. Standards include details about sizes, relationships, proportions, in their own and relative to the user, perceiver, etc. It details quality parameters and modalities of using and storing, and processing of materials, objects and structures. It concerns about interests of all stack-holders. It links with other standards to form an all-inclusive definition of creations, natural things and environment. It offers a common set of meanings, terms used in standards and provides common ways of interpretations. It sometimes offers ways of arrangements for implementing or enforcing, and the management through continued observance, redefinition, corrections, for whatever that is being documented.

ISO and UTS Thread Dimensions

Standards emerge as the most widely acceptable strategy, set through specifications. Standards generate a controlled response. Standards relate to specifications for making, maintaining, using and disposing objects, and mechanics of creation, handling, operations and management. Standards emerge from empathy or as a strategic understanding between two or more persons. Standards’ formation is a raison d’être for (reason for being) members of clan or society. Governments gain political power and patronage by administering standards. Regional blocks and International communities achieve efficiency by preventing conflict and duplication of effort through standards. Standards, very effectively and economically raise the levels of quality, safety, reliability, efficiency and commutability. Standards are negatively used to reduce competition, for promoting few things, controlling the invention, or formation of new or different knowledge.

Pic from en.wikipedia to Commons. Author Nimur at English Wikipedia


Standards are expected to achieve predictable results, by voluntary concurrence, obligation, or through enforcement. Standards are very powerful means to cause a change or even maintain status quo. The nature of Application of Standards takes many different forms with varying levels of credibility. Acceptance of standards if voluntary ensues a social respect or some form of elite status. The enforcement also may occur with social boycott, penalty or punishment.

Railway couplers have evolved to standard product Image by Attelage_Henricot



DESIGN DOCUMENTS and Liabilities – Part II

Post 494  –by Gautam Shah



Design Documents generated by a design organization are of many different types and created for many levels of exposures. Exposure to employees of the organization, consultants, clients, contractors-vendors and public is well-measured, because the documents mean different things to different stack-holders. As a result, design documents can create liabilities of wrong promises. In spite of aspirations to make design process transparent for all stack-holders, some degree of design maturation is necessary before the design is made public. Design maturation process means only one final version becomes part of public to protect intellectual rights such as copyright or patents.


In an earlier article (DESIGN DOCUMENTS and Liabilities – Part -I) several types of design documents and resultant liabilities were discussed. These were: 1 Personal Documents, 2 In-house documents, 3 Documents for Clients.

Consultant interactions

4 DOCUMENTS FOR CONSULTANTS’ ASSIGNMENT are of two levels: 1 Advice, option seeking or exploratory, an informal level of consultation, and 2 Formal or Action level, for the actual finalization of the scheme, and to decide the modalities of execution. In the FIRST case, the interim design documents that are schematically complete, but lacking in finer details may serve the purpose. However, if any alternatives are sought then these must be self-evident and marked with an order of preferences. For the SECOND case the documents must be very definitive and complete. It must also unambiguously state the consultant’s responsibilities and liabilities.

Wright brothers patent plans 1908

5 DOCUMENTS FOR PERMISSIONS / APPROVALS are very much a condensed version of the scheme, as the authorities wish to check compliance with existing rules and regulations. Such drawings have prescribed format of presentation, including content, scale and manner of expression. A practical rule is to show information that is asked for or absolutely required for the purpose.

Presentation of scheme

6 DOCUMENTS FOR PRESENTATION / PUBLICATIONS are created for the design office, client and other public agencies to market, publicize, generate a debate and solicit funds for the project. Preparation of such documents is often handed over to professionals. Provisions (sizes, proportions, scale), facilities and amenities, indicated on such presentations are frequently considered promise. This happens when presentations are created before, or in the early part of the project.

Component Details from Wikipedia, Author: Thorsten Hartmann

7 DOCUMENTS FOR JOB AWARD OR EXECUTION are of many different types, but mainly of 1. Set of working or execution drawings, specifications and quantity schedules, and 2. Site communications and Reports. Even where a job is simple, known or traditional, these must be formally defined. Contract documents have one major problem and that is consistency across the documents. A write-up on drawing sheets may be interpreted differently from the drawing, unless it is properly linked. A detail and component drawings are sometimes at a variance. The trades or the jobs are not distinctly recognizable, generating many quarries from the main contractor or vendor.


1 Set of Working or Execution drawings consist of following:

Layout Drawings, as the name indicates, are used for laying out the work on a site and specifying the whole work. This is the main or starter drawing, and so it establishes links to other drawings and details. It is used for conveying methods of interpretation for this and other linked drawings. Measures (dimensions, tolerances, fitments, margins, and measures like weights /mass /speed /time), which cannot be graphically indicated or linked to any particular graphical view are presented as a common write-up or explanation. Being the basic drawing, it provides a common ground to indicate, when and how a part or parts of drawing become execution worthy. Limitations and responsibilities of various agencies’ work, time schedules and inter linkups for start and completion of various items, parts, etc., are all specified in the layout drawing.

Architectural Details : Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, WIS,28-WATO,1-

Detail Drawings are large scale (and so detailed) presentations of (vertical, horizontal or inclined) sections. Sections are recognized for the complete presentation of the building form, space entity, orientation and sequencing. Detailed sections often overlap at the edges, and care should be taken not to duplicate the details and dimension. These drawings are accessed by several trades’ persons or vendors, so delineate the work responsibilities for siting or laying their systems. The drawing also establishes the relationships (such as sequence of assembly) for various systems and component. The detail drawings include legends showing graphical vocabulary used for identifying various materials in sections and on their faces (elevations). It also includes graphical symbols to represent very small parts or standard components.

Component Drawings are accessed mainly by the specific vendor or contractor. The details consist of fitment conditions and operative parameters. Components’ details without siting specifications can mean that standard or the vendor’s conditions apply. Standardized components may also be indicated by referencing the recognized standards’.

Written details are of different types such as: 1. Within the drawings, 2. attached to the drawings, and 3. stand-alone documents that can be used independently, without reference to the drawings.

Written details within the drawings describe quality parameters of the parts or components such as finishes, procedures and schedules of assembly, required work precautions, etc. These are tabulated in terms of trade-job and scheduled in terms of start-end times.

As a separate document but attached or referenced through the Drawings: Where Specifications are not related to any particular drawing or a view, describe common materials and processes etc. relating to the entire work, and when are very lengthy; are supplied on separate sheets of paper accompanying the drawing. If necessary, mention of such sheets is made in the relevant drawing. Such sheets sometimes are bunched together as a catalogue of Specifications of Works.

■ As Memos and Short Messages: Site and Design Office continuously exchange messages of inquiries, clarifications, confirmations, rejections, acceptance, corrections, reporting, etc. Some such communications have an effect equal to a revision of a specification or initiation of a new specification. For this reason all messages, routed through whatever mode of communication must be Dated and Numbered with Author and Receiver’s Identity. It is often more prudent to separate out Communications that could have Consequential Effect, and reconfirm them in the weekly or periodical reports. Communications relating to a specification, must mention the relevant part, component, subsystem or section of the project and exact location (drawing, communication, tender etc.) where it was earlier referred to.

Haines Shoe House in Hallam, Pennsylvania



Post 380 –by Gautam Shah


A design office deals with, and also generates a variety of Documents that contain some or the other forms of Specifications. Such Specification related documents are of following main categories:

1. Drawings: graphical representations and specifications written with them.

2. Literary explanations: Memos, site notes, interim reports.

3. Linkages: cross references to graphical representations, literary explanations and external specifications, standards, etc.

4. Time schedules:

Categories of Specifications that concern a Design organization are

  1. Documents related,
  2. Design office practices and routines that a vendor must know,
  3. Formats of communication with the design office and its job consultants,
  4. Site and job specific cares and precautions,
  5. Re-use, recycling and ‘safe’ disposal related requirements.
  6. Bill checking, certification procedures.


These requirements can also be stated as

  • methods for interpretation of documents
  • records keeping of corrections, alterations, revisions, etc.
  • archiving methods for information, data and documents.
  • definitions of laying out a job, location facilities, resources (free, chargeable etc.), hazards, conditions of access and usage.
  • methods and means to achieve the quality standards for inputs and outputs.
  • definitions of risks, hazards, (due to natural causes, ignorance, carelessness, fraud, malicious acts) and ways to predict, manage, eliminate and compensate them. Definition of mandatory obligations and responsibilities.
  • work evaluation modes and methods.
  • responsibilities and extent of liabilities for desired level of functionality, of parts and whole, means to fulfill them.


In-house specifications that are flourishing within a design organization can be categorized like:


  • How to read (drawing sequencing) & co-ordinate other documents
  • Graphical signs and symbols, Abbreviations
  • References -upward, downward, sideways links
  • Dimensions, Units, Quantities, numbers, fitments and tolerances
  • Dates and schedules
  • Assumptions / presumptions of Estimating
  • How to request, revise and record changes in drawings and documents


  • Quality and Quantity of raw materials,
  • Delivery of goods,
  • Handling (unloading, weights), unpacking, and storage of raw materials
  • Raw material accounting -ordering, approvals, receipts & issue
  • Management of residual raw materials, waste goods, rejected goods, packing materials, debris due to breakage of existing structures, garbage, fumes, smokes, pollutants, etc.

Site and Staff Management

  • Chargeable services and free services on a site
  • Maintenance of site or work areas during multi vendor access.
  • Welfare, safety and security of people and goods on a site
  • Ownership of site, goods, plants, partly completed and fully completed items
  • Making good damages to surrounding environment and buildings

    P120909PS-0022Works Management

  • Process of manufacture – assembly – installation
  • During execution check ups/ precautions
  • Post execution checkups / follow ups
  • Operational parameters for the executed entity
  • Guarantees and warranties and transfer to the owners


  • Modules of measurement
  • Mode of measurement
  • Incidence of Taxes



Post 281 –by Gautam Shah




Following Types of SPECIFICATIONS are discussed here.



In Commerce, Industry and Government many different types of specifications are used for acquisition of products or assignments. The process depends on nature of relationship between the acquirer, or assigner on one side and the vendor, supplier, assembler or manufacturer on the other side. It depends on the traditions in the field. Format of specification is formed by the technology and quality of available public specifications used for the product or process.



These are restrictive kind of specification limiting the bidding to equivalent products of a given one or few brands. The brands chosen are presumed to be the best, adequate or representative one in the market. It is killing the competition. The supplier of unspecified brand is required to show that offered product is indeed equivalent. To supply goods of the named brand, various dealers of the same product will have to contest, a condition unlikely to be allowed by the main distributor. Such a restricted practice is employed by Government Departments and organizations who do not wish to spend time or effort to define-search for product specifications. The procuring agency automatically gets the right to determine equivalence. This process has doubtful legitimacy, but is none the less practiced.


Lists of qualified products are mainly formed by Government agencies as recommendation to their departments for purchase of commonly used items. In some countries Non governmental organizations (NGOs) set up filters to identify undesirable products and processes. Such lists often suggest uses and typical price range for such items. The criteria for formulating and updating a QPL are in a public domain, and periodically updated. A purchase mentions the code and calls for + or – over the standard price tag is usually in public domains.

In India, The Central Purchase Organization DGS&D (Directorate General of Supplies & Disposals) typically creates lists goods with approved rates. The term goods used in this manual apply generally to all articles, material, commodities, livestock, furniture, fixtures, raw material, spares, instruments, machinery, equipment, industrial plant etc. purchased or otherwise acquired for the use of Government but excluding books, publications, periodicals, etc. for a library.


Design specifications mention dimensional and other physical requirements of the item. Design here means a method or scheme of creating or putting together an item. It is the most traditional kind of specification. Design specifications are prescription of what an entity should be in its completed form. These are also called Item Specifications, as the design details are itemized in terms of the execution, material’s technology or mode of execution. Design specifications show how the item must be created, and often with the additional information (but, usually less effectively) what the final product is intended to be (goal, dreams, perception). Here the problems arise, because a manufacturer or supplier is emphatically told what and how to produce or deliver. In most cases this means a demand for a very customized Item. It leaves no chance for the manufacturer or supplier to offer, technologically or economically superior item, or one from their own standard range.

Indian Space Programme Design specification assembly


Performance specifications list the expectations how an entity should function or what it must deliver. Here the user communicates the requirements as to What will be an acceptable product, and How the adequacy of the product will be judged. The performance specification is more related to how a product performs or functions and at what cost, and less related to its dimensions, materials or configuration. The vendor gets substantial freedom in offering the most appropriate technology. For such specifications it is mandatory to explain in detail the results required and how these be will be checked. All performance requirements must be matched with tests for adequacy. There is a tendency to demand performance requirements that are very high in comparison to actual projections, which leads to cost escalation.

Screenshot 2021-06-18 at 09-10-11 NASA Navy V-22 Rotor testing in the NASA Ames 40x80ft Subsonic Wind Tunnel Test-568 with [...]

Problems arise when test methods for judging adequacy of a product could require a ‘Destructive Testing’ or a ‘Laboratory or Plant-based facility’. Full activation or critical testing of an atomic reactor may not be feasible, or a long term performance of material cannot be checked in any setup. The provision of assurance by the supplier becomes very important.

Performance requirements


Operational specifications have lesser bearing on how an item is created or procured, but relate to the working of a system. These relate to the functioning of the item, and for that reason product formation, delivery, installation processes must have built in strategy for operation or conduction with optimum efficiency. Operational specifications are not performance specifications, but details about mitigating risks arising out of operation of a system.



Post 232 – by Gautam Shah


A neat contract is one where things are delivered for consideration, and strictly in a one-way transaction. Contracts, however, are very complex documents, and the relationship sought in it even more complicated.


For a contract to be clean, it must have one-way transfer of compensation and another way of object deliverance. Yet certain jobs require clients to provide information, materials, equipments, facilities or services to the contractor (as per the terms of a contract or job specifications). Even if such things are offered with or without a consideration and, the contracting parties get tied up in a Reverse Transaction. A client, failing to deliver as promised, takes the blame for missed schedules and cost overruns. Specifications causing such Reverse Transactions are prone to enforcement difficulties.



A Contract is in force the moment it is signed, or dated to be effective. Once a contract comes into force, any thing that has been left-out, or not properly defined, can be only corrected through a Negotiated Supplementary Agreement. A Contract and Specifications must not leave out any aspect, as something to be agreed or determined later on (e.g. a clause like: paint of x quality, but colour shade to be approved later).

Specification Writing is a last moment compilation, and as a result it is common to see specifications of items that no longer exist, or have been eliminated from the project. Specifications of only intended items and required quantities of work should be provided to the contractor. Otherwise, the bids will reflect the necessity of being prepared to handle Intended items and Quantified work.



Avoid specifying a particular product, agency, tool, equipment, or a patent process. Favouring one, to the exclusion of others would mean Unfair Trade Practice. It is a good business sense to encourage competition to achieve better prices and quality. Competition also provides optional and reliable sources of supply. Mentioning a particular product, provides an unintentional warranty of its suitability for the purpose. It is better to confine Specifications to Requirement Statements.



When Writing Statements of Work, the Contractor must be told How to dispose of residual materials, garbage, sewage, emissions, etc. Such Disposal Procedures have to follow the local regulations, often at cost. The liabilities arising out of compliance and the cost operations need to be specified. If the residual materials are to be handed back to the client, then handling and storage must be specified. If disposal of such items is likely generate an income, who takes the money must be mentioned. The Tax liabilities of expenditure, income generated, or sales done for disposal, also requires clarification.FAA_O'Hare_Diagram.svg


A Designer and Client realize shortcomings of the work being executed, and request alterations or corrections. Such changes are not executed unless formally requested. The cost of such constructive changes is to be paid by the client and is considered a Valid Claim. Contractors also make mistakes. A contract specifies modalities for notifying mistakes and what is considered to be improper communication of information or reportage by the contractor. Contracts also list modalities for corrective action and settlement of costs.




Post 206 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 




Our experience about things around us is a continuously evolving process. The more we become familiar with a situation, greater revelations come to us. By remembering or recording the experiences, we hope to have greater understanding. Records of the experience help in recollection or re-enactment of the happening of the past. To record the experience we detail or specify it. Specifying our experiences is a process of continuous improvisation and rationalization. A specification is the ‘best possible definition or explanation at a given time, for a given situation’.

Trying to deal with Cannon Early Experience

Trying to deal with Cannon Early Experience

Specification at a very basic level could be a description of a thing or happening. The description of a thing lists the physical qualities such as size, weight, shape, colour, feel, etc. Whereas the description of a happening includes the changes occurring in the thing itself, as well its surroundings, both, of which are profiled or sequenced in ‘constant time’ (same time sections).

A description alone proves insufficient for reproducing a thing or happening. One needs to discover and define the process for occurrence. When a description consists of both, the physical characteristics and the processes, sequenced in time, it becomes a Specification.

A specification that has been tried for recollection or re-enactment, and with reasonable success for every attempt, becomes a standard specification. A standardised specification provides a satisfactory or assured result.



Fear about a thing unknown or less known, makes a person prudent, so specifications of novel creations or new experiences, tend to be minimal and negative. Gradually, with realization of all causes and effects, the initial Negative Specification becomes elaborate and affirmative statement or Positive Specifications.

Though for many neither of the processes is effective, as negative specifications are too thin and positive specifications too elaborate and technically complex. A reliable and secure way out of such a dilemma is to look for a Comparative Condition somewhere, and relate to it.



  • Negative
  • Affirmative or positive
  • Comparative


Negative specifications

When goods and materials are comparatively new and their effects are not fully known, ignorance and fear dominate. Negative specifications, therefore mention, undesirable aspects that must be avoided. Negative specifications relate to things that are harmful, unpredictable and debilitative for life. All specifications initially tend to be Negative, but gradually become Affirmative. Negative specification may, however, remains an ‘independent statement with insufficient corroboration’. Negative specifications are eliminating, and so allow a vast degree of openness. Results or creations, through negative specifications may prove to be unexpected and even detrimental.


Affirmative or Positive specifications

Affirmative Specifications come into being, when things are fairly well known, and their affective aspects are well documented. Affirmative specifications list out the desirable aspects that goods or materials are endowed with. Affirmative specifications also come into being when objects are beneficial and supportive of life. A specification becomes affirmative on being corroborated through detailing of all sub aspects or parts. Affirmative specifications gain their clarity through cross references or dependency on similar other specifications. Affirmative specifications are very strict, rigid, complete and positive, so allow little variations, alterations or improvisations. As a result these do not seem very innovative. However, results are better guaranteed in known situations.

Gillette razor patent Specifications

Gillette razor patent Specifications


Comparative specifications

Comparative Specifications are dependent specifications. An item is imitated or referenced because an assurance is available. Here the object is perceived to be like the original. People who are technically incompetent to define a problem or its context (a lay person trying to procure a technologically complex system, without any help), follow such a strategy. People tend to buy a branded or its equivalent thing, because there is an assurance of it being fail-safe. An original may be perfect in its own, but the same in a different context or environment may precipitate unseen problems. It is very difficult to search for a root cause of a fault, or a deficiency through such specifications. Comparative specifications are usually not innovative or creative.

Selecting by Brand assurance

Selecting by Brand assurance



Post -by Gautam Shah



Specifications are required for following purposes:

  • to create objects
  • to procure entities
  • to provide services
  • to verify the fulfillment of a purpose,
  • to operate a system, and also
  • to structure a set of specifications.


Specifications serve one or more of the following conditions.

  • If the needed object is available in the Market or Nature, one can define the conditions of procurement, including terms of purchase, delivery, quality parameters, etc.

  • A Routine object can be produced by prescribing the constituents and a process for production or fabrication. The process details, may exclude (for brevity) the particulars of the quality of raw materials (commonly known or available), and characteristics of the resultant product or service.

In pre-literate society, the distinctive shape of amphorae provided potential consumers with information about goods and quality.

  • Custom designed object will be produced with specific quality of raw materials, through set procedures. And the resultant product is expected to have the peculiar sensorial qualities and functionality.

  • A product or service to be delivered / procured with the assurance of quality (guarantee / warrantee) may have only performance parameters prescribed. The quality of raw materials and process become less relevant.


  • Operation of large and complex systems is an undertaking by itself. Here the specifications are operational strategies defining the duties of different system operators (traffic, risks management, emergencies, security, etc.). The scheme exploits the built-in capabilities, and is also sustained by planned external interventions. 
  • Composite systems that have very dependent sub systems flourish only under Specific Environment. Specifications here detail the contextual conditions for the subsystem to flourish effectively.
  • Critical and Hazardous systems cannot come into being unless appropriate routines for handling, storage, disposal, demolition, etc. are predefined.

    Katrina Disaster