According to a newly released survey by the AIA, The Architect’s Journey to Specification, a large number of architects are disappointed with current resources available to them in the specifying process. In the digital age, firms are increasingly calling for better web-based tools to provide more nuanced ways to compare products by performance, criteria and price.
The AIA’s report reveals four key findings that highlight the need for better specification tools:
1. Architects are the key decision-makers.
Even though multiple stakeholders — including clients, engineers, contractors and manufacturers — are involved in the specification process, the AIA survey confirmed that architects typically make the ultimate product selection, due to their role of both agent and trusted advisor to the owner. The 2016 AIA Client Insights Data That Drives Business report notes that most owners share their product preferences with their architects and that a majority of clients defer to their architect if the architect presents an alternative.
2. Traditional specification resources are no longer being used.
Architects are not getting what they need from the tools and resources that they have used traditionally. Hard-copy catalogs, magazines and journals become quickly outdated, and less than 13 percent of architects reported using them during the specification process. While many architects rely on manufacturers to get the technical information they require, according to the AIA, only 6 percent of architects want to meet face-to-face with salespeople.
3. Poor resources and product knowledge leads to shortcuts.
As an industry, architects are overworked, under strict pressure from project schedules and don’t have the means to get the information necessary to make thoughtful design decisions. Because of these constraints, 75 percent of architects reuse specs from previous projects. Interestingly, though, only 37 percent of architects below the age of 35 have a particular product in mind when they specify.
4. Architects need more user-friendly specification tools today.
Architects report needing detailed information about product options in an easy-to-manage format. Key information includes technical details, easily comparable specs, transparent pricing information, lead times, installation instructions, warranty information and examples of the product used in the context of other projects.
The good news is, these in-demand tools are now emerging, and are set to transform the construction industry in the process. Newly developed online platforms are now seamlessly connecting specifying architects with the building product manufacturers they need to design their buildings, offering the ability to submit decision criteria and receive timely responses to their queries. Within these specialist websites and mobile apps, key information on price, lead time, cut sheets and images are all delivered in a structured format so that the architect can quickly evaluate product options.
The AIA’s report communicates the urgent need for improved tools for selecting building products and materials for all parties involved in the construction industry. The development of these new tools is a timely boost for architects and product manufacturers alike, but the list of benefactors is wider still: A smoother specification process will lead to better architecture for everyone.