Spec Studio on Digital Integration Specifications

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Tell us a little about the creation of SpecStudio

The company started in January 2021 with the goal of building a digital specification consulting service while embracing comprehensive collaboration and information sharing. Craig Brown and Matt Fox have known and worked together for many years and have followed similar professional paths in Manchester, the Middle East and Australia. During the second confinement, they decided to set up an independent specification consulting firm.

Then at the end of last year, Richard Jackson joined as third director, having led the specification consulting team at Davis Langdon and worked with Craig and Matt before.

Our company operates in a niche market. This type of service is traditionally considered quite technical and studious, despite our collaboration with very creative and well-known architects and designers on exciting building projects around the world.

We believe SpecStudio offers a new approach to the consulting industry, using fully digital deliverables and cloud-based technology like NBS Chorus, backed by exemplary consulting for our clients. All administrators have considerable experience, having worked or built teams of people providing the service for many years. We now work with almost 50 practices across the UK and Ireland – great adoption since we started.

Why do you think implementing something like this is important for the industry?

We believe it is important that all architects and designers can have access to independent expert advice that can be counted on and trusted to support them. Having a team dedicated to preparing specifications also helps architects and designers focus on what they need to do. We create a robust document that aligns with their drawings while protecting their designs.

How did you identify a demand for this?

We identified that specification consulting in the modern world has changed. Architects and designers wanted better access to their specifications, but also, in the rapidly expanding BIM environment, drawings and specifications needed to be better aligned and integrated digitally. By combining our experience and working closely with NBS, we have been able to create a company and service that does just that.

2 Trafalgar Way by Apt

Source: Asymmetric

Do you think you provide a service for something in which architects are not sufficiently trained?

Absolutely. The importance of specification is not particularly taught in universities. We want to work with architects to help them train their teams in drafting specifications.

We are discussing with universities the potential content of future courses and will soon launch training programs to help train architects and those training to become architects.

It’s also a time-consuming deliverable, and it makes sense for architects to employ experts to prepare them on their behalf to allow them to focus more on their design.

What are SpecStudio’s ambitions?

We coined the term “the architect’s friend”. We want to create a company recognized for its reliability and support for architects and designers.

We also want to create industry recognition for the importance of specification consulting so that it becomes a recognized profession in the construction industry – just as it is in North America – and help attract the next generation of specification consultants. We hired our first graduate in January and are welcoming our second later this month, so we are already seeing positive uptake.

Our aspiration is to be the go-to consultant for architects and designers and we are creating roles that we believe will be of great support to our clients. We also have a BIM coordinator who will join us later this year and we plan to recruit M&E and sustainability experts to help us expand our experience while maintaining our core service.

What kind of projects have you worked on so far?

We are fortunate to work with a wide range of architects, which allows us to work on many types of projects, ranging from stadiums, hospitals and schools, residential towers to penthouse developments, film studios, office renovations and zoos.

No.1 West Bar Square, Sheffield by 5plus Architects

Tell us about some projects you are currently working on and your role in them

Recently, we have completed projects with firms such as Apt, Morris+Company, HOK, 5Plus Architects, 3DReid, Tim Groom Architects, KSS, Leonard Design and Jo Cowen Architects. All projects vary in sectors and scope, but generally we work alongside the design teams to prepare specifications suitable for their Stage 3 and 4 submissions. These are normally produced in the form of a drawing or of a specification. Our role is to ensure that the specifications reflect the design, but also the supply route and the design stage. Specification sections and clauses must align with the design responsibility and contractual requirements of all parties, and we help ensure this is accurately documented.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the studio and the profession in general?

As with our architect clients, one of the main issues is the commercial availability of professional indemnity insurance and the level of cover required by their lawyers. With fewer options and a more restrictive coverage offer, it will be necessary to take stock of what is realistic for small and medium-sized practices.

Sheldon Square by Morris+Company

Source: Studio Secchi

How do you integrate sustainability into your services?

As a company, we try to implement as many sustainability initiatives as possible. We are nearly paperless in the way we operate (I don’t think any of us have a printer).

We are currently working on a specialist refurbishment and renovation service, as we have seen the number of these types of projects increase significantly, and we want to support our clients in these markets with bespoke specifications. It is important to understand a project’s and client’s sustainability requirements, such as zero carbon aspirations and formal accreditations, so that we can build them into the specification to ensure they are costed and properly purchased.

How do you market yourself?

Usually it’s by word of mouth. Clients and contacts we haven’t worked with for several years come to us, which is fantastic. We have a new website which has attracted new customers, and working closely with NBS has also opened doors to support its Chorus users with a variety of specification requirements.

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