“Well, If It’s Not on the Drawings…”

Recently, I was preparing a masonry spec section for a remodel project.  The project has an existing CMU wall which is to receive a small area of new CMU infill.  It’s an exterior structural wall, and the architectural drawings indicate that the infill CMU is to be grouted solid. 

I asked the structural engineer if we need reinforcing bars (rebar) in the cores of the CMU, and I told him that I would delete rebar from the spec section if we don’t need rebar, so that the Contractor knows he doesn’t need to provide it. 

The engineer said, “You can just leave it in the specs.  If the rebar isn’t on the Drawings, they’ll know they don’t need it.” 


“Drawings and Specifications are complementary and what is called for by one shall be as binding as if called for by both.”  This is according to the General Conditions of the Contract for this project.  This is a typical provision in construction contracts.1 

So, if rebar isn’t required for that wall, there should be no rebar in the spec or on the drawings.  If rebar is in the specs, even if it’s not on the drawings, rebar is required by the contract.  If rebar is on the drawings, even if it’s not in the specs, rebar is required by the contract. 

Design professionals need to completely comprehend this concept, and for some unknown reason, many don’t.  Contractors need to completely comprehend this requirement, and for an understandable reason (it’s not in their best interest at times) they don’t always seem to grasp this.

The lead design professional on the project, the entity who is performing construction contract administration, is the party who must enforce the contract documents, including the specifications.  This party has to understand the relationships among contract documents before he or she can properly enforce them.  If the specifications and drawings have been prepared to be complementary, and are clear, concise, correct, and complete, they will be easy to understand (for all parties) and easy to enforce.

I’ve said this before, on my informational website, www.specificationsdenver.com :

“Unless the design team intends for something to be included by the contractor in the project, it shouldn’t be in the specs (or drawings).  There shouldn’t be a bunch of things in the specs ‘in case we need them’ if we don’t actually intend for them to be in the project, because by doing that, we’ve taken the first step to our documents’ not being taken seriously by the contractor.  If there is extra information in the specifications, the contractor will assume that the specifications are boilerplate specifications that are reused on all projects, and are not specific to the project, and will ignore all the specifications. 

“Also, the architect should enforce the provisions of the specs and the agreement and the conditions of the contract, or else these documents won’t be taken seriously.  We have to say what we mean, and prove that we mean what we say.”

If the contractor starts ignoring the specifications, the architect or engineer who’s doing construction contract administration will have a much harder time trying to enforce the specs.  When the specs include a lot of inapplicable things, the contractor will start ignoring the specs, because guessing at the intention of the specs, or constantly asking about the intention of the specs, will be a waste of the contractor’s essential time.  (Of course, the contractor is usually contractually obligated to ask for clarification in the case of conflicts in the documents, but it’s not fair for design professionals to knowingly issue documents with conflicts.) 

So, architects and engineers, remember that the drawings and specifications are complementary and what is called for by one is as binding as if called for by both.  Enforce this during construction! 

And, architects and engineers, don’t put extra stuff in the specs!  It wastes your time and the contractor’s time during construction, and it may waste the owner’s money.



  1. AIA A201, The General Conditions of the Contract for Construction, indicates that the Contract Documents consist of “the Agreement, Conditions of the Contract, Drawings, Specifications, Addendaet cetera.  AIA A201 goes on to say “The Contract Documents are complementary, and what is required by one shall be as binding as if required by all…”  (AIA A201 is used on most of the projects I work on.) 

9 thoughts on ““Well, If It’s Not on the Drawings…”

  1. While I am an adherent to the CSI way of contract documents, I do recognize there are other systems. In public works projects like highways and sewer lines, their is usually a standardized specification describing all types of work. The drawings indicate the requirements for the project by cross referencing the standard specifications.

    As specifiers, we have to be humble enough to realize that some owners “do it wrong”, but the owner’s set of construction contracts conditions govern how we coordinate drawings and specs.

    • Thanks for commenting, Michael. Good point.

      Your comment reminds me that everyone writing specifications for a project needs to know what the general conditions indicate about the relationship between specs and drawings. (In this case, the structural engineer didn’t know what the owner’s general conditions said, even though we’ve used the same general conditions for a number of projects together.)

      Engineers, when the architect sends you Division 1 of the project manual, please read it!

    • My experience with “other systems” such at state DOT specs is that they are intented to be used with a “unit prices” schedule and the general conditions of the contract would state that the bidders are to bid on only on the unit prices (usually fixed quantity and fixed price). Furthermore, the unit prices would be referenced directly to the applicable DOT specification provisions; not to all the specification provisions contained in the applicable DOT specification manual (DOT specs vary state by state). CSI recognizes this in their manual of practice(s), so to state that a client DOT entity (for example) is wrong is not correct in my humble opinion.

  2. Hmmm,

    The overall idealistic approach of this article is quite bang-on.

    Why not simply have the contractor carry a cash allowance, unit pricing, or a separate price, in the bid documents for such contentious issues? The carried amounts could then be applied to (or deducted from) any extra items or articles as they come into play.

    We are not being “clear”, consise, consistent, or correct in producing ambiguous documents. Emphasis on CLEAR.

  3. Liz,

    I don’t want to seem picky here, but your 16-Division history is showing.

    If the Architect sends a copy of Division 1, send it back and tell the Architect to get with the times and send you Division 01 instead.

  4. A thoroughly refreshing read from you guys at the Drawing Table. Liz, you are so right! When we get the Specs and CD’s in the field the objective is to complete the project beyond all expectations. Having to waste valuable time and effort to figure out what is ‘clear, concise, correct, and complete’, can be easily avoided by simply saying what you mean!;etc.
    …and F Y I Stephen, In my arena which is the ‘Sacred Triangle’ of Time, Money, and Quality; I cannot find it in the Master CSI Format?
    Am I incorrect in saying the General Requirements are actually under Division 01 00 00?

  5. We have a CCDC2 contract with the GC. It clearly states …doc’s are complimentary , what is req in any one shall be as binding as if req by all. There are new louvers shown on elev where ex. ones are to be replaced. Oh no he says, there was no div in the spec, so they are simply going to reuse the old ones. Similarly, we are using acoustic wooden slats in the Gym, but it’s not in the specs’ – he did n’t comment on that one yet but – I will (*@^!$ insist on enforcing the ….what is req in any one shall be as binding as if req by all. The bottomline about clear consistency is – who are we kidding ? We hardly get time to draw or even think about the building envelope thouroughly – not in the Ponzi Scheme System we live in (LOL). Also, a bill of materials would be the BEST way to go. If All tenders are based on the same quantity, than it’s really competative. Further, if a QS remeasures at the end, architect’s could actually focus on technical construction issues instead of playing QS with all the CO/CCO’s – LOL The N.American system favours the contractors/bankster.

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