The importance of specification
Why, and how, does a supplier choose do go down the specification route? And what are the benefits for a project? Dave Dickson of Conex Bänninger gives a perspective.
The specification stage is arguably the most important aspect of any building project. A thorough, well planned and well researched specification strategy is vital to ensure that a building is fit-for-purpose and functions as it should.
From a manufacturer’s point of view, being specified is key for various reasons. Firstly it helps to give the product gravitas, as it shows that it is valued highly enough to be chosen over and above competitor products. Secondly, it puts in place assurances for others involved in the building process that your product is trusted and reliable.
The choice of which products to specify will usually fall under either a prescriptive specification (closed specification) where the building design has already been completed or a performance specification (open specification) where further work is required to complete the design.
A prescriptive specification tends to give the client more certainty about the quality of the end product, as it is usually integral to the overall design.
Performance specifications are written on projects that are well-known building types, whereas prescriptive specifications tend to be written for more complex buildings or those where the client has specific requirements that might not be familiar to the suppliers.
For most building projects, the specification stage will be a mixture of prescriptive and performance-based specification. Items critical to the design, such as a particular façade or external finish, will usually fall under prescriptive specification, whereas items like boilers or chilling systems, for example, would be based on performance and, as such, down to the will of the client or contractor to choose.
All manufacturers will want their product to be considered critical to the overall design, regardless of what role the product plays. Items such as pipes and fittings, which help service a building’s heating, drinking, cooling and waste-water systems, are just as vital as the big ticket items, so specification is equally as important.
Achieving specification, or making sure that your products continue to be specified, isn’t a decision based on product quality alone. Reviewing the specification strategy regularly is essential to continued success — to ensure that you are providing the right information at the right time and to the right people.
A good specification strategy is one based on continued market research and a regular assessment of what specifiers want. It is key that manufacturers also develop a strong technical team that understands the specifier’s issues and can propose solutions to meet evolving needs.
With the overall aim of being able to develop and maintain relationships with specifiers, Conex Bänninger has placed specification high up on the agenda this year and beyond, investing in the growth of our team as we seeks to grow this area of the business.
We are one of a number of manufacturers which recognise the value of specification. A key part of our approach is partnership with clients, not one purely based on cost. Negotiations on price alone may get results in the short term, but in the longer term it’s bad for business and can ultimately devalue the product.
Clients increasingly take a long-term view, and as a result are generally more sophisticated in their outlook — recognising that the cheapest products are not always the best option, which can potentially have long-term operational-cost implications.
Specifiers also consider how the products they specify can deliver lasting value, how easy they are to install, their green credentials and overall functionality. Knowing the value of a product in relation to what specifiers want will help develop a compelling argument for specification, using best practice, case studies and technical papers to support the use of products.
In addition, it is important for specification teams to position themselves as partners and advisors. To be successful in specification it is important to be someone that a specifier can trust to provide sound and reliable advice.
This partnership approach will serve to have a positive impact on the product and the long-term success of a specification strategy. This, coupled with positioning the brand in a strong light with large developers and building firms, will lead to installers growing familiar with our fittings so they will continue to be advocates of the brand.
Dave Dickson is UK specification and major accounts director for Conex Bänninger.