Buildings cannot be constructed from drawings alone, because there is a great deal of information that cannot be included in the drawings. For instance, the drawings will give the locations of columns, their dimensions, and the material used (such as reinforced concrete), but the quality of materials, their properties (the strength of concrete, for example), and the test methods required to confirm compliance cannot be furnished on the drawings. This information is included in the document called   specifications. 

Specifications are written technical descriptions of the design intent, whereas the drawings provide the graphic description. The two components of the construction documents—the specifications and the construction drawings—complement each other and generally deal with different aspects of the project. Because they are complementary, they  are supposed to be used in conjunction with each other. There is no order of precedence between the construction drawings and the specifications. Thus, if an item is described in  only one place—either the specification or the drawings—it is part of the project, as if  described in the other.

For instance, if the construction drawings do not show the door hardware (hinges, locks, handles, and other components) but the hardware is described in the specifications, the owner will get the doors with the stated hardware. If the drawings had precedence over the specifications, the owner would receive doors without hinges and handles.

Generally, there is little overlap between the drawings and the specifications. More importantly, there should be no conflict between them. If a conflict between the two documents is identified, the contractor must bring it to the attention of the architect promptly. In fact, construction contracts generally require that before starting any portion of the project, the contractor must carefully study and compare the drawings and the specifications and report inconsistencies to the architect.

If the conflict between the specifications and the construction drawings goes unnoticed initially but later results in a dispute, the courts have in most cases resolved it in favor of the specifications—implying that the specifications, not the drawings, govern the project. However, if the owner or the design team wishes to reverse the order, it may be so stated in the owner-contractor agreement.

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