In late summer of 2021, Wilmington Office Leader Laura Miller approached LS3P’s Specification Writers about filming a series of training videos for Cape Fear Community College, one of the firm’s legacy clients. Despite a busy workload, we realized that the time invested in this work would be well worth the effort. We wanted architecture students to know there is more to starting a career in the industry than drawing and creating 3-D models for a building. Specifications are a critical part of translating the design into a well-constructed building, and this role is pivotal to project success. If you’re a technical geek, we have a job for you!

Learning to write a Project Manual is not a typical subject on the curriculum at most colleges and universities that have an architectural degree program.  Students need to learn about materials that go into the building they’re designing, why we may or may not specify certain products and the research that is involved in the product selection process.

We wanted to demonstrate the role of a Specification Writer within a firm like LS3P; a firm that values the contributions of in-house Specifiers in lieu of outsourcing to a consultant who doesn’t have a vested interest in the end result.  The Specifiers at LS3P take as much pride in the projects we work on as the rest of the project team.

One of the most interesting and challenging parts of our job is the opportunity to work on almost every project within our firm.  Each specifications writer works on a wide variety of project types with multiple offices and design teams across various sectors.  We wanted to relay to the students how the ability to stay organized is critical.

With the help of our talented marketing specialists, Ellie Dawson and Ashley Roberts, we started with brainstorming sessions to outline topics of each video shoot.  Some video shoot sessions lasted about two hours; however, our marketing specialists had their work cut out for them as each session had to be edited down to about 15 minutes.

Topics we discussed:

The importance of specifications:

Specifications are Contract Documents, complementary to drawings.  There is no hierarchy of importance.

What’s included in specifications:

Specifications include administrative requirements, qualitative requirements, performance requirements, standards of workmanship, and quality assurance/quality control.

The structure of the Project Manual and specification section:

The organization is based on CSI’s MasterFormat system, and a specification section has a three-part structure including Part 1 – General, Part 2 – Products, and Part 3 – Execution.

The importance of Division 00 and 01:

Division 00 includes bidding and procurement documents; General Conditions and Supplementary Conditions; AIA forms vs. Owner’s front-end documents and requirements. Division 01 includes administrative requirements; alternates, unit prices, and allowances; procedures for substitution requests, changes to the contract, pay applications, construction schedules, and submittals; quality control requirements, industry standard references, product requirements, and mockups; and temporary facilities, execution, and closeout requirements.

Modes of specifying:

These modes include descriptive, performance, reference standard, and proprietary.

How to engage with your Specifications Writer:

Your Specifications Writer is a critical team member, and keeping us in the loop at every stage will yield a better process and a better project. It’s helpful to fill out a specifications work order and initiate ongoing conversations with us about your project. It’s also helpful to invite us to project-related meetings, including kick-off meetings, and inform us of deadlines as they are set. Do let us know when deadlines move; we realize project schedules shift, and we are juggling projects for the entire firm. Keeping us informed helps us to manage workload schedules firmwide so that we can meet all deadlines. If you have a question about products, materials, reference standards, or need a product rep, there’s a pretty good chance we can assist with any of that. A specification writer can also assist in decisions on products and material types. We are a resource for the design team.

In developing this curriculum and video series describing the importance of our role and the detailed expertise we provide, we felt even more confident about our value to project teams, and we were excited to share this information with a new generation of professionals. Some who view the videos may ultimately choose to become Specifications Writers, and others may not; however, even those who pursue other opportunities in the industry will have a better knowledge of and appreciation for the work we do.

About Carlota and Renee

Associate Carlota Longo CSI, CDT, LEED AP BD+C

As a Senior Specifications Writer, Carlota Longo collaborates with project teams across LS3P’s nine offices to provide the technical specifications that help translate the firm’s designs a three-dimensional reality. She enjoys the challenge of working on a broad range of projects at all scales. Carlota’s previous professional experience as a Retail Facilities Coordinator for Ralph Lauren led to her interest in architecture and construction; she joined LS3P in 2006.

Carlota served as a member of the firm’s JEDI Group in 2021, working for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the firm, the profession, and our wider communities. She is also a member of the Construction Specifications Institute at the local and national level where she was recently appointed to be a member of the organization’s D+I Task Force.  Carlota is an accredited a certified Construction Documents Technologist and LEED AP.


Senior Associate Renee Wells, CCS, CCCA, LEED AP

Senior Associate and Senior Specifications Writer Renee Wells joined the firm in 2006, and brings significant experience in all aspects of the specifications process as a firmwide resource for nine offices. Renee is an active member of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). She is also a Certified Construction Specifier (CCS), Certified Construction Contracts Administrator (CCCA), Certified Documents Technologist (CCT),  and  LEED AP.

Renee has a passion for detail, and enjoys the process of seeing a design come to life through carefully selected materials. She recently joined LS3P’s Ignite Knowledge Team dedicated to advancing innovation in the firm, in the community, and in the industry.