The final design package has two major parts. There are the drawings, or blueprints, illustrating the park in technical terms, and there are the specifications, or specs.
Specifications are critical and define precisely how the skatepark will be built. The specs outline all of the materials needed for the skatepark construction, and how those materials are treated. All of those details that the blueprints can’t cover are in the specs. For example, the smoothness of the concrete’s surface won’t be visible in the blueprints, but you can certainly find it in the specs.
The specifications are an important part of the bidding process. Let’s say the specs are very loose and don’t define very much of the skatepark. This happens with inexperienced designers sometimes. A construction company with no skatepark experience might review those specs and realize that they can build the skatepark for a fraction of the cost if they use low-grade concrete. They make their bid, and win the project, and proceed to build a skatepark that is rough and unfinished. When the city intervenes and wants to clarify the specifications, the contractor then can submit a cost overrun bill. (After all, it wasn’t the company’s fault that the project had higher standards than what was originally expressed.) So now the builder makes the changes, the community ends up spending the same amount of money that they were intending, but the skatepark is far from excellent.
The skatepark designer must have enough experience to appreciate the risk associated with a poor set of specifications. Many skateparks are forever compromised because the specifications were too loose. (Either the designer mistakenly thought that the project would naturally go to a qualified builder that could interpret the intent of the design, or they were simply trying to cut corners and save a few bucks.) When the construction bid is won by an unqualified builder, it’s not just the local community that will lose. The designer will forever be associated with a skatepark that doesn’t work very well.
Good, tight specifications are a terrific way of ensuring that only qualified companies will be bidding on your skatepark project.
Competitively Restrictive Specs
Sometimes tight specifications can be TOO narrow. In these cases, only one company can possibly meet the requirements. This is a method that some designers will use to endorse their business partners (or even personal friends). The fact is, some skatepark designers prefer to see their designs built by certain companies and will create specs that favor those companies.
When this practice is done in the interest of creating the highest quality facility, the community wins. When it’s done to drive business to a different division of the same company, it’s corrupt. Vendors that don’t qualify due to over-restrictive specifications can appeal the decision. This happens occasionally and cities are careful to avoid these kinds of lawsuits. When a vendor contests a bid award, a review board assembles all of the specifications and reviews the process to determine if there was fair market competition or (instead) if the specifications were so strict that they prevented reasonably qualified companies from bidding on the project.