Specifying Freedom (an excerpt)

A conversation between Bill DuBois, CSI, CCS
Certified Construction Specifier and Architect, Gensler

Amb. (ret.) Luis C.deBaca
Sr. Justice Initiative Advisor, Grace Farms Foundation

Bill:  As a construction specifier, I communicate the design intent by way of the words that accompany the drawings. The drawings are the graphical means to communicate the arrangement, quantities, relationships, and extents of materials that become the form of a facility.  However, that only represents a piece of the story needed to get a project constructed. The specifications are part of the project manual that complement the drawings and provide all the necessary information about the quality and procedures needed to transform a design concept into reality.

Lou:  So, the project manual is where you can bring it all together?

Bill: Yes, and it is where we can get a little humanitarian focused.  We have all become very aware of sustainability issues in the past few decades. With substantial effort and public awareness, our designs have become much more aligned with best practices to protect the health of our planet, and therefore the health, safety and welfare of its inhabitants. But are we holistically protecting everyone? It has taken us centuries to recover from slavery within our own country and there is still inequality to this day that we must address.  Furthermore, modern slavery and human trafficking still thrive, representing a global problem.

Lou:  How does that global problem come into a local project? 

Bill: When we incorporate materials in today’s construction that have the embodied energy of mistreated humans, we are enabling those practices to continue and have that karma embedded in our built environment. So, what can I do as a construction specifier?   I certainly cannot do it alone. When I assemble a set of contract documents for every project that goes out for construction, I prepare the project manual containing procurement requirements along with specifications. This book of documents establishes the contractor’s contractual requirements for purchasing the materials and products for construction. This is where I believe the construction industry must become vigilant to abolish slavery and human trafficking. 

Lou:  When you are specifying, how do you ensure that the diverse cast of characters speaks the same language? 

Bill:  To become a contractual requirement that can be identified and enforced, there has to be a set of industry recognized definitions and standards, similar to building codes, that establish achievable methods of assuring the ethical treatment of all lives involved in the production of a material or product. Once an accepted standard has been established, we need a means to verify that the standard has been met by a qualified third-party. When there is an established standard by which manufacturers and suppliers can verify compliance, they can use that standard as a competitive edge to become more desirable as a specified product in construction. 

Lou:  And do you feel like those “humane” products are identifiable for these needs? 

Bill:  The next step for me as a specifier is to become aware of which “humane” products are on the market and available to specify in my project manuals. Going forward, as an architect/specifier, my hope is that all participants in the construction process will become more aware and concerned about building a better environment in our world. Architects cannot do it alone. It will take the action of all owners, designers, contractors, and suppliers. As an architect/specifier seeking to incorporate a freedom ethos, my part is concerned with making sure that the environment we design into reality doesn’t embody the negative karma or spiritual energy that manifests in practices like modern slavery. 

Lou:  Do you think that slave-free specifications will make it understood that it is a requirement in the construction process? Are there any ways around it after it gets specified?

Bill:   The project manual that accompanies the drawings created in Building Information Modeling (BIM) will clearly identify that slave-free requirements are included in the contract documents. These requirements can be incorporated into standard parts of the manual, such as Division 00 – Conditions of the Contract or Division 01- General Requirements; and further elaborated in specific product specifications. When these requirements are a part of the signed agreement between the owner and the contractor, the contractor has legally agreed to abide by the requirements.