Specification Brief—Overview

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Architectural and engineering consultants are provided with a Specification Brief as part of the request for proposals (RFP) documentation. The document provides reference information to assist the firm in developing project specifications and includes a Plans and Specifications Index and a Sample Addenda. These documents are used to enhance the quality of project specifications and must be used in conjunction with all components of the contract including General Conditions, Instructions to Bidders, Terms of Payment etc. Project managers must promote the use of this document and ensure that their consultants actually become familiar with the Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) frameworks, formats, reference information and processes related to specifications and drawings, and that they are held accountable to provide quality specifications and drawings.

Project managers are responsible to manage a final review of the specifications with appropriate resource discipline expertise knowledgeable with Canadian National Master Construction Specification (NMS) and the control of document definition and production, prior to the solicitation of tenders. Tender document checklists have been developed for mandatory use in National Capital Area (NCA) (optional in other regions). One checklist is for "Specifications" and the other for "Drawings and Addenda". They are to be utilized by project managers in the final review of the specifications and drawings before they are forwarded to Real Property Contracting Services to solicit construction tenders. The use of checklists will assist project managers and their consultants in the development and consistent application of quality project specifications which will improve the procurement process and enhance overall project delivery.

Specification Brief

1. Purpose

This document states specification policy and provides the framework, format and reference information, to assist the specification writer in developing the project specifications.

2. National Master Specification

The Canadian National Master Construction Specification (NMS) is a bilingual system of master construction specification sections, which are divided into 50 Divisions and used for a wide range of construction and/or renovation projects. In preparing project specifications, the consultant shall use the current edition of the NMS in accordance with the "NMS User's Guide". The consultant retains overriding responsibility for content and shall edit, amend and supplement the NMS as deemed necessary to produce an appropriate project specification free from conflict and ambiguity. It is required that all project specifications include "Section 01 35 30—Health and Safety Requirements" in accordance with project manager's specialized instructions to meet regional requirements.

3. Regional Guide Specifications

Some regions maintain abridged versions of the NMS Division 1 specifications which includes requirements peculiar to the federal, provincial or regional authorities having jurisdiction. The consultant should contact the project manager to obtain the region's requirements for Division 1 or other short form specifications as might be appropriate.

4. Specification Organization

Since its inception, the NMS structure has been based on "Masterformat", a List of Section titles and numbers which is jointly produced by the Construction Specifications Institution of the United States and Construction Specifications Canada. Narrowscope sections describing single units of work are preferred for more complex work, however, broadscope sections may be more suitable for less complex work. The consultant should consult with the project manager to determine if either the NMS 1/3 - 2/3 page format or the Construction Specifications Canada full page format will be utilized

5. Specifying Materials

The practice of specifying actual brand names, model numbers, etc., is against departmental policy except for special circumstances. The method of specifying materials and the use of trade names shall be as stated hereunder, and in the following order of preference:

Restrict the use of trade names to the following situations where:

List all trade names of materials acceptable for the purpose and make reference to the Instructions to Tenderers for the method of approving alternative materials. Set up trade name specifications as follows:

Acceptable Materials:

  1. ABC Co. Model [ ].
  2. DEF Co. Model [ ].
  3. GHI Co. Model [ ].
  4. Alternative Materials: Approved by addendum in accordance with Instructions to Tenderers.

Alternatively, include the following article in Part 1 of each Section in which trade names appear:

Acceptable Materials: Where materials are specified by trade name refer to the Instructions to Tenderers for a procedure to be followed in applying for approval of alternatives.

The reference to the Instructions to Tenderers in the above examples is necessary to remove any suggestion of partiality and to ensure that all suppliers are aware of the provision for alternative proposals during the tendering period. The onus will be on the consultant to review and evaluate all requests for approval of alternative materials.

Use of trade names on drawings is unacceptable, as are phrases such as "or equal" or "equivalent to" when providing for alternative materials. The term "Acceptable Manufacturers" should not be used, as this restricts competition and does not ensure the actual material or product will be acceptable. A list of words and phrases that should be avoided is included in the NMS User's Guide.

6. Standards

As references in the NMS may not be the most current, it is the responsibility of the consultant to ensure that the project specification uses the latest applicable edition. Following is a list of Internet Web sites which provide the most current publications of standards for reference in the construction specification document

7. Canadian Materials

Specify Canadian materials to the fullest extent practicable and consistent with implementing the work in an economical and expeditious manner.

8. Cash Allowances

Specifications and drawings should be complete and contain all of the requirements for the contractual work. Cash allowances are to be used only under exceptional circumstances, where no other method of specifying is appropriate. Senior project manager's approval should be obtained to incorporate cash allowances and "Section 01 21 00—Allowances" of the NMS should be used to specify the criteria.

9. Extended Warranties

It is the practice of PSPC to avoid extending warranties for more than 24 months. When necessary to extend beyond the 12 month warranty period provided for in the General Conditions of the contract, use the following wording in Part 1 of the applicable technical sections, under the heading "Warranty":

Based on past performance, extended warranties may be required for defects which are likely to occur after the twelve month warranty period provided for in the General Conditions (i.e. roofing and waterproofing, exterior wood doors, caulking, etc.).

10. Terminology

Use the term "Engineer" instead of PSPC, owner, consultant or architect. Engineer is defined in the contract documents and means the officer or employee of Her Majesty who is designated pursuant to the contract and includes a person specially authorized by the engineer to perform, on the engineer's behalf, any of the engineer's functions under the contract and is so designated in writing to the contractor.

The drawings and specifications are complementary and numeric values are to be in metric only. The consultant should not rely solely on a mandatory site visit to complete the information. Notations such as: "verify on site", "as instructed", "to be determined on site by engineer", should not be indicated in the specifications and/or drawings as this promotes inaccurate bids and inflated tenders. Drawings and specifications must permit tenderers to calculate all quantities and bid accurately. If quantities are impossible to identify (i.e. cracks to be repaired) give an estimated quantity for bid purposes (unit prices). Ensure that the terminology used throughout the drawings and specifications is consistent and does not contradict the applicable standard construction contract documents.

11. Documentation

Consultant shall provide:

PSPC shall provide:

12. Attachments

Appendix 'A': Sample Index for Plans and Specifications

Project No:

Page 1 of

Plans and Specifications


SPEC NOTE: List all Drawings by number and title.

C-1 Civil
L-1 Landscaping
A-1 Architectural
S-1 Structural
M-1 Mechanical
E-1 Electrical


SPEC NOTE: List all Divisions, Sections (by number and title) and number of pages.

Table Summary

This table is a sample index of specifications documents which includes each specification's division, section and number of pages.

Division Section No. of pages
Division 01 01 00 10 - General Requirements xx
01 33 00 - Submittal Procedures xx
01 35 xx - Health and Safety xx
Division 23 23 xx xx  
Division 26 26 xx xx  

Appendix 'B': Sample Addendum Format

Public Services and Procurement Canada
Real Property Contracting
Gatineau, Quebec

Addendum No.
Page 1 of

Project Name:

Project Number:


SPEC NOTE: Add the following sentences at the beginning of each addendum.

The following changes in the tender documents are effective immediately. This addendum will form part of the contract documents


SPEC NOTE: indicate drawing number and title, then list changes or indicate revision number and date, and re-issue drawing with addendum.

  1. A1 Architectural


SPEC NOTE: indicate section number and title.

  1. Section 01 00 10 - General Requirements

    SPEC NOTE: list all changes (i.e. delete, add or change) by article or paragraph

    1. Delete article (xx) entirely.
    2. Refer to paragraph (xx.x) and change …
  2. Section 23 05 00 - Common Work Results - Mechanical
    1. Add new article (x) as follows:

Forms, samples and checklists

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