The Importance of Specifications

March 18, 2024

Say you’re in the kitchen, it’s a beautiful morning and you’re going to whip together your favorite family French toast recipe. That recipe is your blueprint for success. The ingredients are the heart of a successful recipe. In the building world, the ‘ingredients’ are called specifications. The two work together to create the perfect meal. “If you’re trying to figure out what you need as you’re cooking you might have too much sugar, not enough salt and entirely too much cayenne pepper. It ultimately doesn’t work,” said Brandon Bryant, owner of Red Tree Builders in Asheville, N.C.

For nearly two decades, Bryant has been whipping together custom homes in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. While his time has been spent in the field, and clearly not in the kitchen, he’s concocted his own technique of planning and defining specifications in advance to create a well-organized recipe for a successful construction project.

Having clear specifications early on in a project can prevent misunderstandings, rework and delays, leading to a smoother construction process. This not only benefits the team by allowing for better planning and resource allocation but also enhances the overall experience for the client.

“As a custom home builder, being able to review the specs allows the client to have the right expectations of what they’re getting, what things are costing, is vital in this market,” explains Bryant. “In the past, before we had specs selected prior to signing the contract, we’d end up having to redo work in a brand new house. We had to redo wiring, rerun plumbing, all because we just didn’t know exactly what the client expectations were. It would end up with change orders, rework and delayed schedules. That’s just not mindful of budgets, the experience, the resources we have or the earth.”

In the current market, where efficiency and clear communication are crucial, the planning approach aligns with the best practices advocated by other builders and industry associations. The proactive involvement of interior designers and the emphasis on finalizing specifications early on contribute to a more streamlined and predictable construction process.

“Talking with other builders, being involved in the Builder 20 group, and being a part of the North Carolina Home Builders Association Board, I’ve seen that this is a moment that builders want,” said Bryant. “They want to have interior designers involved. They want to have interior finishes ahead of time. They want to know what they’re building. Project managers will go out there – ‘let me know what I’m building, give me the information way ahead of time so I can plan on it, and we can order it’. Because of all the uncertainty and delays surrounding COVID, we had to order way ahead of time. We’ve not seen any real negatives to ordering early because it allows you to have a full understanding of what you’re building well in advance.”

Taking the time to get to know the client, understanding how they want to live in a home, understanding their expectations and having a clear picture of what their financial expectations or allowances provide a starting point to help them create their dream home.

“What we’ve implemented in the last four years is a process that involves really sitting down with clients. Not making it to the point where they get so stressed out that they feel they’ve got to make every decision before we build. Really reviewing the specs so that we’re 80-90% where we need to be,” explained Bryant. “We do give them the ability to have some time to make their decisions while we focus on things we need to secure on our end. But in the end, knowing that everything has been reviewed and decisions have been made, so I understand their expectations, so everyone on the team knows their expectations, it allows us to increase productivity all around.”

—By Kristy Kepley-Steward, director of communication, Red Tree Builders

Photo credit: Stephen Coburn/AdobeStock