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Project Specifier: The Unsung Hero of The Building Trade

January 27, 2022 | Roles of the Building Industry

Project Specifier is a term that often goes unnoticed amongst the project team. With vast knowledge and a wealth of experience in the building trade, expert advisers are key to the success of a large project. From selecting specific products to integrating and reviewing construction documents, the Project Specifier weaves together the different components of a building with an intricate understanding of product manufacturing, installation, durability, and maintenance, to name a few. 

As crucial as they may be, the Project Specifier rarely (if ever) gets the credit deserved for the successful completion of a project. Their role is one of details and execution, rather than grand ideas and pretty pictures. Nonetheless, this rare breed of architect is critical to the passing of knowledge to the next generation. 


The Project Specifier, at least in a large architectural office with high-stake projects, is more often senior level because the complexities of a well-built project demand both expertise and experience. These masters of building products are well-versed in everything from wood types and glass installation methods to sound barriers and waterproofing. The internet, and largely how we share information, has changed how these specifiers gather information and perform research but has not diminished their crucial role in developing a well-executed project. 

On the other hand, a Specification Writer can be anyone with access to a product specification. The CSI Master Format was developed as a standard for communication between the product manufacturers and architects/builders. As products become more specialized themselves, manufacturers have started to provide their own set of specifications for the installation and maintenance of their products. A specification writer, then, can be anyone from the manufacturer to the junior designer compiling specifications to be reviewed by the Project Specifier. 

What Is A Project Specifier?

Below is a general description of a Project Specifier’s role. While the importance of these individuals to the success of a project is difficult to capture in words, the following sheds some light on the personal traits required to be a Project Specifier.

Team Advisor

Years of experience across a broad spectrum of projects has uniquely qualified a specifier to understand the building situations that are not necessarily visible to less experienced teams. 

As an advisor, the specifier coaches construction, redesign and renovation teams. They lead teams through the particular materials and product solutions, applications, and integrations to facilitate the successful completion of a project.

  • They work preemptively to ensure proper use of the right materials and follow up to ensure that each aspect of the project has been completed according to specifications.
  • They have a broad scope of knowledge and experience and are called on for advice.
  • They are pragmatists and offer a reality check, challenging decisions to ensure project parameters are well thought out. This ensures optimal outcomes.
  • They implement a proven process in great detail. This includes reviewing, researching and probing for information in order to advise on materials. The specifier documents the fulfillment of these requirements, tracking all changes and ensuring they appear in the building documentation.

Maintaining and Updating Documentation

Project specification goes beyond technical expertise of selecting the correct products. The project specifier role is to make sure the specifications are clear and concise for contractual obligations and the proper execution of the contractor.   

The Core Concentration of A Specifier

The Project Specifier is most likely a licensed architect, or engineer, that has spent their career gathering knowledge about building products. Apart from the Architect Registration Examination® (ARE®), specifiers must receive the CCS (Certified Construction Specifier) and CDT (Certified Document Technologist) certifications.

Beyond just knowing what product to select, the Project Specifier has an intricate understanding of how the product is detailed and integrated into its place in the building. This insight into the parts and pieces of a building makes the Project Specifier an indispensable member of a project team. 

The specification process is also focused on verifying that builds are executed as they are drawn—interpretation, enforcement and management. 

The specifier will be cognizant of local and national building codes. They will also be aware of sustainability standards, especially now that Governance, Social and Compliance Standards (GSC) are increasingly respected as a criteria for commercial real estate investment. 

These would include things like:

  • Product Certifications: Cradle to Cradle
  • Health Product Declarations
  • LEED
  • Energy Star
  • WELL Building Standard
  • National Green Building Standard 

Any changes that occur must appear in the project specification documents. The specifier determines if each of these aspects have been sufficiently carried out. It is ongoing meticulous oversight and it is an integral part of the safety and excellence these professionals bring to the table. 

Excellence in Motion without The Fanfare

Unlike the NFL quarterback or lead singer in a successful band, these craftsmen go uncelebrated. Yet, without their watchful eyes, valuable insight and steady wisdom, tough problems and inconsistencies may be ignored or missed. The success and longevity of countless structures and the building industry as a whole, is a testament to the meticulous execution and care of the Project Specifier.

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