Managing Competing Specifications

by Jul 6, 2020Informative articles, Schedule Related

More often than not, the construction of a component or end-result deliverable requires the integration of multiple individual activities. Each activity is generally governed by a specification unique to it, including providing acceptable tolerances for the work being performed.


In a perfect world, all individual components fit together nicely, and without conflict. In the real world, there are many instances where the introduction of variance in a component, even when within allowable tolerances, creates a situation in which the subsequent activity can’t be constructed within it’s allowable tolerances. In other words, the specifications compete against one another. This can create substantial delays and additional costs to a Project, therefore the ability to manage these competing specifications could determine the relative success of a Project.


An example, with which I’ve had experience on several Projects, is the construction of pile caps. For the purpose of this discussion, we’re building a pile cap with multiple rows of driven piles, each pile having horizontal tolerance of 150mm (OPSS 903.07.01 d). All piles have been placed within allowable tolerance, however there are consecutive piles in each row that are 150mm from intended location in opposite directions, creating a total variance of 300mm from intended design. While all piles are within tolerance, there will be significant impact to the subsequent placement of the reinforcing steel, as the intended location and spacing of the steel has been pushed by 300mm along the row. The clock starts to tick while a solution is developed.


So the question is, how does one best manage the risk of these types of competing specifications. From a Contractor’s perspective, the appropriate time to table these types of issues is prior to the work being performed. If the Owner or Client is provided with reasonable information and logic as to a possible scenario, the responsibility of having a mitigation plan in place should fall to them, as well as the ownership of any impact to schedule and cost. The key is the timely sharing of information so that issues can be quickly resolved once encountered.


What this really boils down to is the upside of collaborative development of a risk matrix related to potentially competing specifications. This type of an undertaking during the pre-construction phase of a Project could provide significant relief during the construction phase, and help ensure that deliverables are met on time, and on budget.


Jesse Noonan

Jesse Noonan


Jesse Noonan has over 25 years of experience in the heavy civil construction industry, with an emphasis in structural and highway works.

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