Young Architect Guide: 5 Ways to Avoid Specification Nightmares

These tips will help make the specifying process for your next project an effortless experience.

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Specifying your first project has to rank amongst the greatest challenges for architects around the globe. The cost and quality of every architectural element in your design can seriously affect your client’s budget and the building itself, and the larger the project is, the greater the impact of your decisions will be. The stakes couldn’t be much higher, but when done right, great building-product specifications can turn good architecture into something truly outstanding.

The trouble is, this is no simple matter: Where do you start if you don’t have a plethora of previous project specs and existing relationships with manufacturers to rely upon? This meticulous selection process can take up a great deal of architects’ precious time, and any tool that helps make specifying more efficient is vital. That’s why Architizer is building an easy-to-use online marketplace for building-products where architects can painlessly select materials and quickly connect with high-quality manufacturers.

Once you’re on the platform, the following tips will help get you up and running. Read on to find out how to make the specifying process for your next project an effortless experience:

1. Be specific

It might sound like a case of stating the obvious, but when it comes to specifications, being specific about what you are looking for is vital — both for finding the right manufacturer and for getting an accurate early estimate of costs. This can prove challenging during the early stages of a project, but thankfully, Architizer makes it so much easier with its bespoke auto-complete functionality. As you begin to type your search title, the search engine now anticipates your needs and offers predefined options in a drop-down menu (see above).

Take advantage of the accurate descriptors that appear as you type, and then select the appropriate category. By doing so, your search will be immediately recognized by the right manufacturers, who can respond to your request with all the information you need to select the perfect products.

2. Do your homework

Doing some research on the material or product you are looking for will allow you to have productive conversations with manufacturers and installers. Architizer is home to a veritable treasure trove of information on building-products, with resources such as our growing series of Product Guides forming a valuable resource to help young architects specifying for the first time.

These informative guides help untangle the specifying process for a huge range of different architectural elements, from windows and doors to acoustic panels and thermal insulation. Important factors to consider are listed for each, including aesthetics, application and performance, each of which can help uncover constraints and opportunities that will fundamentally influence your building-product picks.

Via John Pawson

3. Learn from other architects

While the above information is incredibly useful for building knowledge of the properties of specific building components, nothing beats learning about them within the context of an architect’s project. The stories to be told — often by architects themselves — about the search for perfect architectural elements make for great narratives that go to the core of what makes a good building great. Check out these examples:

COBE Transforms The Silo With a Complete Metal Makeover

How the World’s Largest Curved Windows Were Forged for Apple Park

Olson Kundig’s Most Beautiful Door

Herzog & de Meuron’s Masterful Fiber Cement Warehouse

Home to several Architizer power users, New York–based firm SHoP Architects is perhaps the exemplar. Designers and products specialists there have revealed the potential of smarter search engines in helping them to specify for bespoke projects such as the new Uber Headquarters in San Francisco, recounting the challenges they face in bringing their vision to reality. Emerging architects can learn much from the experiences of established firms, and stories relating to their design development process are increasingly prevalent on Architizer.

4. Build your library

No matter how you go about it, specifying your very first architectural project must rank amongst one of the greatest challenges for young designers. The good news is, once you’ve done one, the learning can really begin: A thorough analysis of the products you used in your opening project will help you to identify which product manufacturers to return to for your next project.

This is another area in which Architizer comes into its own. It works as a digital library, storing every project with its associated building-products so you can look back to inform your latest design. Analyzing building-products in three key areas — cost, lead time and, most importantly, quality — will help you create your own collection of go-to manufacturers for future projects. Ultimately, you’ll increase the efficiency of your design process, and your clients will thank you.

5. Don’t just google it!

While architects have moved on from flicking through hundreds of pages of a catalog or binder for the perfect material finish, there is still a tendency to rely on Google during this crucial decision-making process. Here’s the truth, though: Google’s page rankings often hide some of the best building-product manufacturers beneath dozens of links.

That’s why Architizer should be a permanent bookmark in your browser. Its intelligent search engine is tailored especially towards specifying architects, recognizing the technical vocabulary of designers and matching it up to the manufacturers that can help provide solutions for each project. It’s also your one-stop-shop for a plethora of informative product profiles, inspirational images and direct communication to contact manufacturers. So, whatever you do — don’t just google it!

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge you need, it’s time to make your next search! And if you’re not yet on the platform, get your firm using Architizer by signing up for free.

Top image via iStock, credit: demaerre