Credit: Source: PUBLIC WORKS

I am issuing a “request for information.” As we developed this issue — our annual look at how you balance in- with out-of-house design, engineering, and construction resources — a question came up that I hope you'll help me answer.

You write requests for proposals and pre-bid meeting invitations. You publish (or cause to be published) such information on your Web site or in the local newspaper or on something like “The Blue Book Building and Construction Network.”

As a professional jack-of-all-trades, you must be able to quickly educate yourself on what exactly to ask for. So when faced with writing specifications for a one-of-a-kind project, where do you begin? Beyond finding out what the state has to say about it, that is. And let's assume you have no one —a colleague or consultant — to ask for help.

In May, our article “Rewriting the book” (page 41) explained how San Diego adapts The Standard Specifications for Public Works Construction — a.k.a. “The Greenbook” — to incorporate California state and local requirements.

Developed in 1967 and updated by members of the American Public Works Association and Engineering Contractors Association (among others), this reference manual is designed to foster uniform project designs and promote competitive bidding by standardizing construction codes, regulations, and policies. Though initially a Southern California phenomenon, it's been adopted by at least 200 cities and counties.

Or do you start with the Construction Specification Institute? That, too, was launched by government agencies seeking uniformity.

Since 1948, the association has expanded to encompass all parties involved in a project: engineers, designers, builders, material suppliers. MasterFormat — a.k.a. the "Dewey Decimal System" of building construction — also is designed to foster uniform project designs by standardizing the presentation of project requirements.

If you prefer one of these over the other, why? Cost? Relevance? Ease of use?

Or do you begin somewhere else entirely? If so, where and why?

Comments are not mandatory in order to continue receiving this magazine, but you are invited to submit your thoughts directly to me at or 773-824-2507 by Aug. 1, 2011.

They won't be published; I'm just curious and would appreciate your insight.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

- Stephanie Johnston,
Editor in Chief

Reader comments:

  • The investment is more than appropriate for the benefit they provide.
  • Where are these children — in the adjacent homes? Backyards? Traffic signs are meant to convey positive guidance to drivers. These signs serve no safety enhancement purpose.
  • They work best on wider streets or boulevards. On tree-lined, narrow residential streets, drivers may not notice them or have time to react.
  • These signs create a false sense of safety.

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