LIABILITIES -11 -Design Implementation Processes

Post 29 -by Gautam Shah


In any venture risks of under-performance, non-performance exists. These are due to mis-match with the expectations, circumstances and inadequate foresight and care during planning, execution and operations of projects.

Abandoned factory > Wikipedia image by Degrootelulu

 The liabilities in ventures manifest, at many different levels:

Designers’ Liabilities: Project conceiver, planner or designer, are all liable for the inadequacies of conception resulting in poor definition of performance requirements, for having inadequate processes of verification for the offerings of the contractor or vendor and for establishment of operations mechanisms that is ineffective and lacks coordination. Designer’s take-on liabilities of sub-consultants, by agreeing to work with under-qualified experts.

Contractor or Vendor’s Liabilities: Contractors’ or Vendors’ liabilities are more defined and so always restricted, in spite of all-inclusive clauses that may have been integrated in the terms of contract. The liabilities of the contractor generally relate to correcting the defects or complete replacement. The liabilities may also include making good the loss of profit and loss of opportunity during the period of inadequate working. In some conditions it may include the cost of misuse of materials, site facilities and loss of life and damage to other properties.

Operations’ Liabilities: Liabilities arise from the operations of the project or system. Designers and Contractors usually preempt such situations with appropriate provisions in the contractual relationship with the client. Operations specifications, in recognition of such situations provide for setting up of appropriate Risk Management Systems. A risk management system recognizes the role of regular maintenance. Guarantees and warranties help in diluting the level of apparent risks and thereby reduce the Cost of Risk-Management (insurance premium).

Circumstantial Liabilities are mainly from external conditions like, disasters, calamities, political situations, changes in law, rules, perceptions, trends, fashions, etc. Some of these are natural and involve designers for inadequate perception and provisions. But other external liabilities depend on political, economic and social changes, and so many not attach a designer.

Mississippi river bridge USA > Wikipedia image by Kevin Rofidal US Coast guard

Liabilities for designers arise from what they professionally deliver. These include specifications, observations and supervision of a job. The specifications include 1 Drawings, Graphical representations, 2 Literary or oral explanations, 3 Models, samples, surrogate representations 4 Formal or tacit acceptance of happenings related to design.

Land lease contract Sumerian clay tablet 2600 BC > Wikipedia image from Louvre

Quality of Expression in Specification Writing: Writing Specifications is the most important way of facilitating a product or service. Specifications writing is an extended activity of contracting, so here too all the contract fundamentals are strictly followed. As per the natural law ‘a contract has to be enforceable, and whatever is specified must be doable. Specifications cover all valid and essential requirements of the job. A major danger in writing specifications is to include unnecessary information. So choosing, what to exclude is as important, as choosing what to include. Specifiers (Designers) must eliminate any requirement that adds no value to the Product or Service being acquired. The Specifier (Designer) must state clear conditions in a complete language, and yet remain brief.


Defects in Specifications and Liabilities: Very few specifications are totally free from defects. As a fundamental principle of law, a specifier (Designer) is responsible for the consequences of the specifications. Designers usually put in a disclaimer (in the contract with their client) for errors found in their work. The Insurance companies that cover the designers for Professional Liability (Professional Indemnity Insurance) insist upon it.

Most of the specification writers (Designers) incorrectly presume that their text of specifications is read and interpreted by comrade technocrats only, with whom they share similar experience and mind-set. During a dispute specifications are, however, more attended by non technocrats like the administrators, lawyers, jurors and judges. A contractor interprets the specifications, as long as the interpretation is commercially reasonable (an earning proposition).


The Notion of Deconstructionism: A French philosopher, Jacques Derrida originated the Notions of Deconstructionism. It is a whim of finding alternate interpretations of text. He contended that the meaning of a text is dependent on the context in which it is interpreted. All writings in some degree can be interpreted differently from what was intended. Deconstructionism doctrines, from Jacques Derrida and his colleague Michel Foucault, were a rage in many universities during the 1980’s. A quotation from Thoreau, ‘The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation’ was attacked by a feminist deconstructionist in words like: ‘….. real intention was to say that most women lead lives of noisy elation.’ Here the writer’s unintentional gender-specific wording was interpreted differently.


Faulty Specifications and a Contractor’s Attitude: A contractor works with sheer sense of profit, and so deals with faulty specifications in any one of these ways:

1 A contractor charges by doing the prescribed work according to the personal interpretation.

demand extra for undoing what was done

charge for redoing the job according to the corrected interpretation.


1  a Contractor may refuse to execute the work causing delay, or

2 take a legal recourse on the grounds of impossibility of performance or commercial impracticability.

Specifications and Enforcement: A neat contract is one where things are delivered for consideration, but strictly in a one-way transaction. However, contracts are very complex. Certain jobs require clients to provide information, materials, equipments, facilities or services to the contractor (as per the terms of a contract or job specifications), and an obligation is incurred. Even if such things are offered with or without a return consideration, the contracting parties get tied up in the Reverse Transaction. A client, failing to deliver as promised, takes the blame for missed schedules and cost overruns. Specifications causing such Reverse Transactions are prone to enforcement difficulties.

Specifications and Liabilities > Wikipedia image by Kebabknight

Accuracy and completeness of Contract Specifications: A Contract is in force the moment it is signed, or dated to be effective. Once a contract comes into force, any thing has been left-out, or not properly defined, can be only corrected through a Negotiated Supplementary Agreement. A Contract and Specifications must not leave out any aspect, as something to be agreed or determined later on (e.g. a clause like: plastic paint of x quality, but colour shade to be approved later).

In design offices specification-writing is a last moment compilation, and as a result it is common to see specifications of items that do not exist, or have been eliminated from the project. Specifications of only intended items and required quantities of work should be provided to the contractor. Otherwise, the bids will reflect the necessity of being prepared to handle Intended items and Quantified work.

Multi vendor assembled system > Wikipedia image by Daderot

Holistic Products and Site Assembled Systems: Job assignments for Structures, Architecture, Interior Design, etc. consist of both, Holistic Products and Site Assembled Systems. It is often easier to handle Holistic Products, fully or substantially through Performance Specifications. However, Site Assembled Systems inevitably have some form of Design Specifications.

Merchant-ability and Fair practices > permission for image use >

Specifications and Fair Trade Practices: Avoid specifying a particular product, agency, tool, equipment, or a patent process. Favouring one, to the exclusion of others would mean Unfair Trade Practice. It is a good business sense to encourage competition to achieve better prices and quality. Competition also provides optional and reliable sources of supply. Mentioning a particular product, provides an unintentional warranty of its suitability for the purpose. It is better to confine Specifications to Requirement Statements.

Property Disposal: When Writing Statements of Work, the Contractor must be told How to dispose of residual materials, garbage, sewage, emissions, etc. Such Disposal Procedures have to follow the local regulations, often at cost. The liabilities arising out of compliance and the cost operations need to be specified. If the residual materials are to be handed back to the client, then handling and storage must be specified. If disposal of such items is likely generate an income, who takes the money must be mentioned. The Tax liabilities of expenditure, income generated, or sales done for disposal, also requires clarification.

Valid Claims: A Designer and Client realize shortcomings of the work being executed, and request alterations or corrections. Such changes are not executed unless formally requested. The cost of such constructive changes is to be paid by the client and is considered a Valid Claim. Contractors also make mistakes. A contract specifies modalities for notifying mistakes and what is considered to be improper communication of information or reportage by the contractor. Contracts also list modalities for corrective action and settlement of costs.

Contracts need not be a trap > Pixabay image by geralt, Gerd Altmann, Freiburg/Deutschland

Language: Contract language must be simple and for that reason sentences should be short. Long sentences do not provide any sensible meaning. Throughout the document for the sake consistency and even at the cost of creating dull and a simplistic write-up, use the same words, phrases (rather than exploiting a thesaurus). Use category numbering system and avoid inter-document referencing such as ‘see xxx page, ref to yyy sub item, see above-below’, etc. Avoid acronyms, If must, use the commercially known abbreviations, and provide a reference index with expanded meanings. Avoid ambiguous words, or phrases that reflect more than one meaning. Refrain from phrase constructions that due to their sequence of placement, context or grammatical relationship could be interpreted differently. Conflicting Requirements often result from using totality words (such as: all, always, never, every, and, none, etc.) in statements, when something else in another sentence makes an exception to the totality.

Writing in Passive Voice is always superior. The object of an action gets precedence and thereby the required special attention. In specifications the emphasis must rest on the product being described. It also removes the mention of the actor. Government servants favour passive voice because it does not require the mention of the actor, and thus avoid the responsibility. Avoid using gender nominating words like he, she, his, her, him, man, men, woman, women, etc.

Grammatical Errors: There are three levels of grammatical errors. At primary level such errors do not affect the meaning being conveyed. (X ate less apples than Y vs. X ate fewer apples then Y). At next level the grammatical mistake renders the sentence totally meaningless. Such errors can be corrected through meticulous proofreading. But the most dangerous grammatical blunders are those that alter the intended meaning of the expression, to something different. These get passed over by most literary proofreaders and software like word processors’ grammar checks. Such mistakes can only be checked by an expert Specification Writer, or a Seasoned Contractor. The last levels of errors are most exploited by a lawyer in case of a dispute.






Post 6 -by Gautam Shah


Standards emerge from empathy or as a strategic understanding between two or more persons. Standards are commonly accepted specifications for making, maintaining, using and disposing objects, and mechanics of creation, handling, operations and management. Formation of standards‘ is the raison d’etre for being a member of clan or society. Governments gain political power and patronage by administering standards. Regional blocks and International communities achieve efficiency by preventing conflict and duplication of effort through standards. Standards, very effectively and economically raise the levels of quality, safety, reliability, efficiency and commutability.

A community develops its own bet practices or standards as commonly accepted specifications for exploiting materials, refining product making and finishes > Wikipedia image by Wrote from Goteborg Sweden 

Standards emerge at many different levels. At basic level these are very widely acceptable strategies. But at higher level, a person, an organization or a government department must strive for greater universal participation. Such an active role in the society occurs as a quest for quality for all aspects of being. The quest for quality is reflected through: desire to excel, readiness for improvisation, steadfastness to good practices, transparency in dealings, persistence for consistency, wider application.

Personal standards for excellence in Music by A R Rahman > Wikipedia image by Essaar

Personal Standards : Standards at a very primary level are compiled by a Person, as a ‘collection of bests’, ‘most favoured or representative items’ or ‘my suggestion’. Since these are carefully picked out items, represent a Quality Conscience of the Author, and so, are personal standards. Personal Standards are valued for the author’s mastery over the subject, rather, then the absolute quality of the included material. Personal standards combined with personal norms of enforcement are often tyrannical. Specifications that establish personal standards describe entities’ physical characteristics, but rarely provide the ways and means (processes) of achieving or even testing it. Typical examples of personal standards are: Time saver standards for architecture and interior design, Furniture or item catalogues, Special issues of periodicals, etc.

Bamboo products making unit in Dumka Jharkhand Wikipedia image by > Jaimoen87

Standards can be a strategic understanding, among the competitors or associates to manage a situation such as: reduce the rivalry, rationalize the methods of production, reduce the costs, enhance the image of the product, form a cartel to ward off the nonmembers etc. Such standards also emerge without any distinct effort, as ‘followers of the same path’, empathetically sustain similar actions. A work-culture or faith comradery develops among the practitioners.

St Eligius workshop for Gold 1450


Standards of Clan or Cast : Members of clan or cast can have a tacit or formal understanding for acting in unison. Such understandings are of usually negative dictates and are very restrictive. These understandings or standards sustain the livelihood by protecting the exclusive or patent know-how, and by regulating the competition among the members. The standards are more of the norms for behavioural and less of technological specifications. Clans and casts flourish by acting in consonance with the Rulers or Government. Which, in turn enhances their governance by politically acknowledging such practices. Over a period of time the divergent policies and directives of the clans get rationalized as the Code of Conduct. Such Codes relate to personal behaviour, formation and conduct of commercial activities, use of resources including the environment, safety measures, risks management, manufacturing, handling and disposing of the materials, and trade practices relating to the weights, measures, economic transactions, employment, etc.

‘A code of Conduct is basically a personal standard of ethical behaviour. If well expressed and conducted, it will be emulated by others in the organization or society.’It is an ever evolving process with learning and technological achievements.

Medical standards are best practices adopted through professional interactions > Flickr image by Stephan

Virtual standards : Some major Consumers, Government departments like defence, because of their vast scales of operations, are prolific creators of specifications, and their needs become virtual standards. These agencies can afford to operate testing facilities for the purchases, and have enough supervision expertise for rationalizing the work procedures. In India, Railways and Public Works Departments are some of the agencies that dominate the realm of commercial activities. Whatever is consumed by them become the commercially the most viable item.

First macadam road in the USA 1823 with broken stones not exceeding 6 ounces in weight or to pass a two inch ring > Wikipedia image

National standards : Specifications have strong indigenous origin, as materials and human skills, both have strong local character and advantage. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in India, and National Standards agencies in many countries of the world, operate as a Standards Formulating, Licensing, and Enforcing-agency. Some governments like USA, though, act only as a Facilitating agency, encouraging the trade organizations and technical associations to take the lead in not only developing standards, but for enforcement. Governments during the later part of 20th C. found it easier to frame laws that are parallel to standards. In many small countries, standards for very urgent and acute requirements are prepared, as integral part of the legislation. ‘Formulation of Standards’ and Legislation is often considered to be the same.

Stacked containers of 2×20′, 40′, 45’48’ and 53′ > Wikipedia image


Wikipedia image > attribution: Kcida10 at en Wikipedia

International Standards : National standards are very indigenous, designed to serve the national interests. The national protectionist interests are served by restrictive or negative specifications. National standards cover only the exigent needs of the nation, so do not serve the interests of regional economic activities. When materials and human resources are transected across nations, a need for a wider application of specifications makes Nations come together to create a Charter of Regional or International Conduct.

Examples of ISO/IEC 7810 Identity Cards sizes > Wikipedia image by Someone’s Moving Castle


Credit Card of ISO/IEC 7810 size ID-1 > Wikipedia image by Lotus Head from Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa

A world level Organization was needed to coordinate the standards’ activities of many Nations and Commercial Organizations. International Standards Organization (ISO -1947), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC -1906) and the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA -1926-1942), are some such International agencies. International Standards have no Legislative Support or Enforcement backing of a Government. International Standards work on Voluntary Corroboration. Such standards flourish on the realization that greater advantages are earned by following it, rather then not being part of it. Success of International Standards depends on the Rational Confirmation and Wider Acceptance.

Safety footwear complying to European EN ISO 20345:2004 > Wikipedia image by Francis Flinch

Levels of Relevance of Standards are expected to achieve intended results, by voluntary concurrence, obligation, or through enforcement. Standards are very powerful means to cause a change or even maintain status quo. The nature of Application of Standards takes many different forms with varying levels of credibility. Acceptance of standards if voluntary ensues a social respect or some form of elite status. The enforcement also may occur with social boycott, penalty or punishment.

SPN Purposes
Purposes Standards serve

Process of Standardization : Standardization is a process of identifying common features among the various Versions of Specifications (personal, clan, trade, etc.) and assimilating them into a common and rational form. A standard emerges from equalization of divergent views, beliefs or concepts, as a consensus with intentions of efficiency and commercial advantage. ‘A Standard is that level of performance or accomplishment which has been selected as an Ideal to which actions or objects may be equated‘.

Cheese making has many regional variants, all developing from individual pursuit for quality > Wikipedia image

Standardization allows for clear communication between User and Suppliers, at a relatively low cost and with efficiency. Standards allow for interchangeable parts, replaceable systems and inter polarity of systems by encouraging concepts like: ‘Open-Ended-Architecture’, ‘Modulated Plug-in Systems’, ‘Networking’, ‘Shareware’, ‘Systems thinking’.

Dyeing of wool has as many specifications as there are material resources, but few equalized processes have emerged > Wikipedia image

Forms of Standards : Standards for industry may be Qualitative Parameters for constituent raw materials, which can provide a reasonable output. It could be Capabilities of machines and other equipments, which combined with specific human skills help efficient handling of tasks. Standards also specify Tactics and Strategies of securing assured results. It could be devices, instruments and methodologies to verify the performance. Standards could also include mechanisms to connect, operate, maintain and replace systems. Standards invariably incorporate Time management through scheduling, sequencing, acceleration, retardation, etc.

Medical services > Standards manifest for products, processes, services, public and other organizations > Wikipedia image by Giuseppe Bollanti

Standards that are applied in an Industrial setting include Engineering Standards, such as properties of materials, fits and tolerances, terminology, and drafting practices. Product Standards describe attributes and ingredients of manufactured items as embodied in drawings, formulas, material lists, descriptions, or models.

Standards Implications > Wikipedia image

Updating of Standards : Specifications continuously evolve and so do the Standards. Standards cannot remain purposeful for very long, unless continuously improvised, and their domain enlarged. Some Commercial Standards, as for example, in the fields of Information Technology, Communication protocols and Data Processing are replaced by emergent technologies even before being implemented. ISO (International Standards Organization) and BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) revise their standards, optimally every five years, but often more frequently. Improvisation, updates the specifications included as standards, and enlarges the domain by including many more facets of human activities.




SPECIFICATIONS -Fast Track Learning Slideshow

Post 5 -by Gautam Shah

Slideshow on Measures covered following sections (see here earlier post-2)

2.01    Design Organizations
2.02    Measures and Modulation
2.03    Modular Coordination
2.04    Measurement : Modes and Modules

This Slideshow relates to following sections
2.05    Specifications
2.06    Categories of Specifications
2.07    Placement of Specifications
2.08    Specifications for Whom
2.09    Writing Specifications

2.10    Standards
2.11    Bureau of Indian Standards : BIS
2.12    ISO : International Standards Organization
2.13    ISO 9000 and other Standards




Post 4 -by Gautam Shah


Measures were the first standards to emerge. The first measures were based on body sizes or capacities but had many racial and regional variations. These local variations were ironed out through barter trading. But, for trade with far-off regions, the same process proved to be very difficult. Intermediaries like, brokers, caravan masters and shippers were making large profits through Conversion of Measures. The inconsistencies of the measure conversions were partly solved with monetary pricing system. Trading blocks had to concur to a common set of Nominal measurements.

At the church door on Sunday 16 random men were asked to place left feet behind the right, and the average unit of Land measurement > Wikipedia image by Jakob Kobel 

Early measure systems such as weights, lengths, volumes, though natural were mutually incompatible, as each had a different scale of sub fractioning. The problem multiplied when equated with equally varied units and sub fractions of monetary units. This was sought to be solved during the French Revolution. During the French Revolution (1870) the National Assembly of France asked French Academy of Sciences to formulate a Scientific and Rational Measure System. Such a system was expected to be: Neutral and universal, Replicable anytime and anywhere, Have decimal multiples, Follow common prefixes and Practical and simple to use. The rationale for such a system forced many countries of Europe to think on similar strategies.

Imperial Measurement Standards at Greenwich > Wikipedia image by Rept0n1x

Industrial Revolution period saw faster means of transport and better communication systems. It fostered trade between far off regions and different political domains. The producer and the consumer were very distanced. British, Spanish, French and Dutch empires established trading outposts and their colonies, to control the international trade. These colonial nations maintained their own measurement system. Yet for inter-empire trade there was an acute need for a common, logical, definable, replicable and comparable system of measurements. As nations became free of colonial controls (such as USA) the International trade needed a fair measurement policy.

Woodcut of 1800 illustrating New Decimal Units which became legal in France from 4 November 1800 > Wikipedia image


Six +Base decimal prefixes initially used in Metric system / me-ki-he-de-#-de-ce-mi

Metre Convention or Convention du Mètre: Metric System was rational but had too many sub fractions, each of the nations, regions, and trade groups favoured different sub fractions, creating confusion. First International effort to develop a worldwide policy for weights and measures was made during May 1875. Some 17 countries signed a Metre Convention or Convention du Mètre, an international treaty to create a ‘permanent mechanism to recommend and adopt further refinements in the metric system’. This was directed towards defining what constitutes a Standard Measure Units, and means to replicate it in great accuracy anywhere and anytime.

Signatories of the Treaty, were: USA, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Brazil, Argentina, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Venezuela.

First Metre Measurement, Vaugirard Pris > Wikipedia image by Ken Eckert

Confèence gènvrale des poids et mesures CGPM : After the Convention du Mètre in France in 1875 a Confèence gènvrale des poids et mesures CGPM (General Conference on weights and measures) was organized in 1889. Eight CGPM, at rough intervals of four years, were held till 1933, followed by an inactive period due to world war II. These meetings gradually evolved a worldwide policy on the advice of scientists and metrologists (Metrology is science of measurements). Bureau international des poids et mesures (BIPM), is a permanent laboratory and world centre of scientific metrology, for establishment of the basic standards and scales of the principal physical quantities and maintenance of the international prototype standards.

^ bottles og Glass for Liquid Capacity from Pompeii > Wikipedia image by Claus Ableiter

Formation of ISO (Organisation internationale de normalisation): Soon after WW II, hectic reconstruction activities began everywhere in the world, but major impediments to this were the differing National Standards. To allow free flow of raw materials, equipments and technology a platform of common Standards and Specifications were required. In 1946, delegates from 25 countries met in London to create a new organization, to facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards. The new organization, Organisation internationale de normalisation, ISO, officially began operations on 23 February 1947, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The word ISO was selected to represent the organization in all languages, because it is derived from the Greek isos, meaning equal.


Systeme International d’Unites (SI units) : 9th CGPM in 1948, meeting after 15 years gap due to WW II formally adopted a recommendation for writing and printing of measure unit symbols and numbers. The name Systeme International d’Unites (International System of Units), with the international abbreviation SI, was adopted for this New Metric System. In 1960, the CGPM revised and simplified the measure system. Seven Base Units, such as: meter (Length), kilogram (Mass), second (Time), ampere (Electric current), kelvin (Temperature), mole (Substance), and candela (Luminous intensity), were established.

Hand derived units of Measurements > Wikipedia image by Unitfreak

 Hand Based Units

SI Measurements: As a designer, we are concerned with formulating or creating new entities, and also using ready parts and components. For both the purposes, we need to specify the Measures. ISO has formulated rules for Writing and Specifying Measures in drawings, documents, specifications and other forms of communication. This is done to avoid any ambiguities in interpretation of information.

Writing and Specifying Measures: These are rules per ISO, and also better methods of writing measurements on DESIGN RELATED DRAWINGS. These apply to manual drawings and also CAD representations.

◆ All decimal numbers must be preceded by a zero, if no other digit exists. e.g. 0.121 (and not as .121 )

◆ No thousand or hundred markers are to be used, e.g. 1000 (and not 1,000), but where large number of digits are involved, a blank or space (equal to 1 digit or not less than ½ digit in width) may be used as a separator, in place of a marker. However, where only four digits are used no space as a separator need be provided. e.g. 100 000, 10 000 or 1000 (but not 1 00 000 or 1 000).

◆ For Length units recognized measures are km / m / mm which may if required must be in small letters. For example architectural plans have nearly all measures in mm, so the mention of mm should be avoided. However, in the same drawing if weight or volume or such other measures are to be indicated, then identifiers for such units may be indicated.

◆ Architectural drawings nominally have dimensions of maximum 5 digits (for mm) unless a detail requires indicating a fraction of a millimetre, signifying measures up to 99999 mm or 99.999 mts (-but unit identifiers are not to be used). Plans larger then 99mts sizes are considered of Map Category.

◆ Full names of units even when these are named after a person, are written in small letters: ampere, volts etc., with the exception W for watt and J for Joule.

◆ For liquid measure (Litre) however lt may be written as Lt (to differentiate between 1 and l ).

◆ Plurals of measures need not be used. (kms, mts, kgs).

◆ Point or Full stop for abbreviation may not be used, for example as in m.g. or ml.

◆ Where cubic or square measures are to be shown: 3m3 = will mean three cubic metres and not 33 i.e. 3 x 3 x 3 = 27cmt.

◆ Where traditionally only one unit is accepted, and if there are no chances of ambiguity, the measure nomenclature (mm, km, gm etc.) may not be mentioned (e.g. cloth width = 1.200). If in one sheet of drawing (or a document) only one scale and one mode of measure are used, the nomenclature may be mentioned as a general instruction for the drawing.

◆ Where drawings or details are likely to be graphically reduced or enlarged in processing / copying, a graphical scale preferably showing 100 mm bar may be shown. If 100 mm size is not suitable due to micro reduction or macro enlargement, suitable multiples of 100 mm for upwards scaling and 10x fractions of 100 mm for downwards scaling maybe used.

Measurements on Drawings: When both mt & mm are used on drawings, it will be less confusing if the dimension is always written to three places of decimals, i.e. 3.450. No unit symbol need be shown unless a lesser number of decimal places are used; i.e. 3.450 or 3.45 m and under some circumstances 3.5 m, are all correct. Of the options, 3450 and 3.450 both are preferred. Where no ambiguity can arise, symbols may be discarded, according to following rules:

  • Whole numbers indicate mm
  • Decimated fractions to three palaces of decimals indicate m (and also by implication, mm)
  • All other dimensions must be followed by the unit symbol.
  • Where dimensions refer to different types of measures (lengths, weights, temperature etc.), preferably all units should be indicated or all units other than the major one should be indicated.
  • Main dimensions and the tolerance (fitments, limits, margins etc.) etc. should be in the same unit system.
  • Where main dimensions are accompanied by + or – range, both should be in the same unit.
Danzig port of 17 C ART by Wojciech Gerson 1831-1901 

Need for a Coordinated Measure System: Consistency of dimensions allows use of standard tools, equipments, plants and technologies. The dimensional consistency can rationalize the conversion processes, storage, handling, and waste management.Raw materials or Finished product‘s are transient terms for goods. A finished product is a raw material for some other process. Raw materials procured in a linear, square, volumetric, weight or liquid measures get processed into a different ‘measure’ entity. And so for products transiting from one measure phase to another, a persistent dimensioning system is very advantageous.

ISO Modular Preferences

The SI recognized that widely spaced (1000 factored) measurements were either too large or small and not amenable to unit formation for processes like planning, design, production, transportation, fabrication or execution, etc. ISO (International Standards Organization) as a result devised a practical modular system of dimensions known as ISO Modular Preferences. Most National Standards (including Indian Standards) are enforcing the same. It accommodates traditional modular systems, such as foot-Inch and earlier versions of the metric systems. This was done for wider acceptance and to achieve a gradual changeover.

A size paper
ISO Paper Size Modulation (Similar B & C series also available)

 ISO’s Four Preferences for Modular Coordination

  • First Preference      300 mm = 12″
  • Second Preference 100 mm = 4″
  • Third Preference       50 mm = 2″
  • Fourth Preference    25 mm = 1″

▪ First Preference is favoured by the building materials’ industry. Plywoods and other wood products are available in modules of 300 such as 600, 900, 1200, 1800, 2400 etc. Large buildings are designed with 300 as the modular measure. But, for smaller spaces such as Bedrooms, toilets, second preference of 100 is used as a module.

▪ Second Preference is considered to be the most appropriate one for Building components and Planning. Glazed Tiles are available in multiples of 100 mm, with sizes like 100 x 200, 200 x 200, 200 x 300 etc., and also in sizes such as 150 x 150, 150 x 200 etc. as a carry over from the old system. Fabrics have widths of 600, 900, 1000, 1200, 1800 etc. For Windows or Doors width x height are measured in 100 mm increments.

▪ Third and Fourth Preferences are not to be used for basic object sizes of more than 300, unless there are strong economic or functional reasons for doing differently.

Hearst Building NYC > Wikipedia image by Billy Hathorn

Implications of Modular Coordination of Dimensions : There are many products where smaller modulation or variations are desirable such as Garments and Shoes. ISO Modular Preferences, also do not consider variations in naturally available materials. Furniture, fittings and fixtures designed with ergonomic profile or serving anthropometric, inconsistencies have no specific accommodation in this system. ISO is a modular system to form a grid or matrix for macro planning and in that sense takes a superior position. Components and parts are expected to fit in the system and as a result, work-sizes of components and assemblies should be determined by taking account of space for joint and allowance for tolerances.

The ISO Modular Coordination of Dimensions, is unnatural and does not relate to human body. It creates an ‘order that lacks beauty‘. ISO Modular system has predictable progression-digression, unlike many mathematical orders and systems like Corbusier’s Modulor system.

Mill Owners Association -ATMA Building Ahmedabad India by Le Corbusier > Wikipedia image by Sanyam Bahga

ISO Modular Preferences, as a universally agreed system of preferred measures, disciplines design, procurement, production, conveyance, handling, storage, distribution, usage, wastage and reuse or recycling of materials. The system provides a level ground to compare standards of various countries, and evolve world standards (ISO) for various products, services and work or operational procedures. It has made the writing of specification lucid and logical. It simplifies taxation procedures, costing, estimating, and valuation. It also rationalizes deployment of human and energy resources. It has made quality control procedures very objective.

An Abstract Dimension Modulating System like ISO stifles the creative instincts but has universal acceptance. The Dimensioning system defies all localized traditions, cultural variations, anthropometric distinctions, racial biases and geographical peculiarities.





Post 3 -by Gautam Shah


Specifications help to recollect or reenact a happening. Specification formation is also a process of improvisation and rationalization. Specifications are likened to a cookery recipe, a set of instructions for materials and methods to generate a product or initiate an action. A specification is the ‘best possible definition or explanation at a given time, for a given situation’, a continuously evolving experience, where familiarity reveals greater details.

From Description to Specification

Specifications at a very basic level could be a description listing the physical qualities such as size, weight, shape, colour, feel, etc. of a thing. These also cover changes profiled in ‘time‘, in the thing itself and the surroundings. One needs to define the process for occurrence. When a description consists of both, the physical characteristics and the processes, sequenced in time, it becomes a Specification.

Trying to deal with Cannon early Experience 1326 > Wikipedia image by Walter de Millimeter

Negative Specifications

When goods and materials are comparatively new and their effects are not fully known, ignorance and fear dominate. Negative specifications, therefore mention, undesirable aspects that must be avoided. Negative specifications relate to things that are harmful, unpredictable and debilitative for life. All specifications initially tend to be Negative, but gradually become Affirmative. Negative specification may, however, remain ‘independent statements with insufficient corroboration’. Negative specifications are eliminating, and so allow a vast degree of openness. Results or creations, through negative specifications may prove to be unexpected and even detrimental. Gradually, with realization of all causes and effects, the initial Negative Specifications become elaborate and affirmative statement or Positive Specifications.

Affirmative or Positive Specifications

When things are familiar and their effects are well documented, affirmative Specifications come into being. A specification becomes affirmative on being corroborated through detailing of all sub aspects or parts. Affirmative specifications gain their clarity through cross references or dependency on similar other specifications. Affirmative specifications are very rigid, complete and positive, so allow little variations, alterations or improvisations. For these reasons these do not seem very innovative, however, results are better guaranteed. Negative specifications are too thin, whereas the affirmative specifications are too elaborate and technically complex. A reliable and secure way out of such a dilemma is to look for a Comparative Condition somewhere, and relate to it.

Gillette safety Razor Patent Specifications > Wikipedia image

Comparative Specifications

Comparative Specifications are dependent specifications. Here an item is imitated or referenced because it offers an assurance. People, who are technically incompetent to define a problem or its context, tend to seek a known product. An original thing may be perfect in its own, but the same in a different context or environment may precipitate unseen problems. It is very difficult to search for a root cause of a fault, or a deficiency through such specifications. Comparative specifications are usually non-innovative or creative.

Commercial illumination products > Image attribution: Geoffrey.landis at English Wikipedia

Forms of Specifications ● Messages or Documents

Oral instructions or messages are the simplest way of conveying details. These are ordered or delivered in chronological order, or at least have some cause-effect arrangement, and so seem action-oriented.

Written or recorded documents are substantial means of conveying the specifications. Documents are complex and bulky as these also include methods for access, reference, and interpretation.

Memo to w.en.J. Edgar Hoover regarding a request by CIA director > Wikipedia image

 Forms of Specifications ● Traditional Specifications

Traditional Specifications define constituents and production processes. Primary way of specifying a thing is through the measures, sensorial aspects and physical qualities. Time definitions like, rate and quantum of change are required. Items flourishing for their Performance (output-input, yield rate, productivity, etc.) require checks and evaluation processes and operational assurances through guarantees and warrantees.

Example of Material safety data sheet > Wikipedia image by Jeffrey M Vinocur

 Forms of Specifications ● Specifications of Technical Nature

Specifications of Technical Nature depend on drawings and flow charts (scaled representations and surrogates using symbols, metaphors, etc.). Drawings show size, shape, scale and such other physical details, but require a written backup to show the sensorial aspects like weight, speed, odour, warmth, etc. Drawings are sometimes backed with scaled models (art cartoons, mock-ups, dummies, samples, pilots, etc.), or full-size replicas.

Architectural drawing cum specification > Wikipedia image by user:Gaf.arq (CC-By-SA 2.0)

 Specifications Formats ■ Brand-name Specifications

Brand-name Specifications are restrictive, and limit the bidding to a single product. The only competition will be between various suppliers of the same product.

Brand-name or its Equivalent Specifications cite one or more brand-names, model identity or other details to identify certain category of products. The vendor is asked to show that offered product is indeed identical. The procuring agency reserves the right to determine equivalency. Brand-name or its equivalents have perhaps a legitimate ground, but very limited place in public purchases.

Specifications Formats ■ Lists of Qualified or eligible products

Lists of Qualified or eligible products are maintained and periodically updated by Government’s agencies, for purchase of commonly used items by various departments. A vendor quotes + or – over the quoted price. In India, DGS&D (Directorate General of Supplies & Disposals) creates such lists. The term goods used in this manual apply to articles, materials, commodities, livestock, furniture, fixtures, raw material, spares, instruments, machinery, equipment, plants but excluding books, publications, periodicals, etc.

Specifications Formats ■ Design Specifications

Design Specifications also called Item Specifications. This is a traditional scheme of creating an item, or prescription of what an entity should be in its completed form. Here the manufacturer or supplier is emphatically told what and how to produce or deliver, leaving no chance for technologically or economically a superior item.

Ammunition by India’s OFB > Wikipedia image by BharatRakshak

Specifications Formats ■ Performance Specifications

Performance Specifications are the expectations how an entity should function or what performance it offers. The specifier communicate the requirements as to, What will be an acceptable product, and How the adequacy of the product will be judged. The vendor gets substantial freedom in offering the most appropriate technology. There is a tendency to demand performance requirements that are very high in comparison to actual projections, which leads to cost escalation. Problems arise when test methods for judging adequacy of a product could require a ‘Destructive Testing’ or a ‘Laboratory or Plant-based facility’. Full activation or critical testing of an atomic reactor may not be feasible, or a long term performance of material cannot be checked in any setup.

Operations – Servicing Specifications > Wikipedia image by Sustainable Sanitation Alliance (SuSanA)

 Specifications Formats ■ Operational Specifications

Operational specifications relate to the functioning of the item. Operational specifications are not performance specifications, but details about mitigating risks arising out of operation of a system.

Dependent and Independent Specifications

Dependent and independent specifications have a web of dependencies. These specifications are variously linked to use of parts, components, tasks, materials, equipments, costs and operational charges, and so once included, any alterations need to be carefully monitored. Such specifications cannot be changed without any consequent repercussions. Though, rationalization of a sub-aspect helps in rationalization of the larger object or job, yet restrain is necessary.

Open-ended system Specifications of ADSL Modem/Router > Wikipedia image by Mike1024 on en.wikipedia

Specifications for Open-ended and Closed-ended Products

◆ Some creators wish to protect their creations from marauders, so intentionally design an inaccessible or closed system. Such closed ended products or ‘close ended architecture‘ lose the favour when equivalent open-ended objects are available.

◆ Products in public (domain) have specifications that are ‘open-ended Architecture‘, and always preferred by the users. Such products allow greater degree of customization.

Specification writers such as designers, aspire to conceive parts and tasks which are independent, or at least have a designed or controlled inter-dependency. Plug in micro chips of modern electronics and other add-on systems are examples of such purposive design.

Design Specifications

Design Specifications are aimed at creating or procuring a product or assembling them to form an invoice-able item. These are substantially whole, and similarly identified in Estimate schedules. So often variants of design specifications also appear as brief description on drawings and estimate schedules, each contradicting the other.

Performance Specifications

Performance Specifications are holistic, and so, ideally should not include a separate or single item of work. Design if any relates to the exterior (such as fitment, size and shape parameters, etc.) rather then its interior (its constituents, method of working, etc.). But these set of specifications are distinctly stratified. 3 & 4 state Requirements and Verification and so most important ones.

Strata of Performance Specifications

  1. This Level offers the scope and background information of the project. No requirements are stated here, and even if implied, are not binding.
  2. This lists all the documents that form the set.
  3.  Performance requirements are stated here, and these are binding.
  4. Testing and Verification requirements are stated here matching to the performance requirements.
  5. This lists all peripheral aspects of work, such as handling, packaging, shipping, delivery, precautions, etc.
  6. This section contains information (such as method of submission, bid evaluation, etc.) and other data.

Statements of Work (SOW)

Statements of Work (SOW) are unique to each acquisition or proposition document. It documents details of the work to be performed. It consists of first three tiers (see previous para) only. A Specifier (Designer) must prepare on own, or alternatively can seek it from the bidders. There are three types of SOWFunction based, Performance based, and a combination of the two. Selecting the type of SOW depends on how User wants to govern Specific Contract Requirements.

Lettering stencil per DIN standards > Wikipedia image by Breitschrift, CC BY-SA 3.0

Citing Specifications and Standards

By citing published Specifications and Standards one can make a specification document very compact, extremely reliable, and automatically updating. On the wrong side, citing an incompatible or a cancelled version is unprofessional. When a Specification or Standard is cited, one may actually be citing a lengthy and voluminous chain of documents, many sections of which may not be relevant or impossible to understand. Some of the cited documents could be obsolete or cancelled.

Specifying a wheel chair for performance by early-Oing (1680) artist for Confucius > Wikipedia image

 Strategies for Creating Performance Specifications

It is very difficult to conceive a fresh set of exclusive performance specifications. But one can gradually and consciously reformat the traditional specifications with inclusion of performance parameters for standard parts and components. Many resources are available to form performance specifications such as, Government departments and large corporate groups which prepare indexed descriptions of commercial items for frequently or routinely required products, Performance oriented descriptions as available in public domain purchase bids, Trade associations, commercial organizations, or technical societies often develop coordinated standard specifications, for the warranted performance of items produced by their members, Government Departments design and publishes Model Specifications for use by their own sub departments and agencies. Specifications of well-organized departments like defence, telecommunications, etc. can be used for further understanding of the methodology and Market analysis as available in technical journals can show the ranges of performance that are currently possible.