What Specifiers Want – a guide for the Building Product Manufacturer

In their 2023 report What Specifiers Want NBS have provided a useful quantitative confirmation of many qualitative issues that product manufacturers and those, like Competitive Advantage who observe and comment on the specification process, have observed. The report reconfirms many of the approaches that we promote in our courses such as Creating Demand through Specification. Here is a summary of some of the findings from the report which interviewed Architects, Technicians, Engineers, Surveyors and BIM/CAD specialists. It is available to download and is necessary reading for all building product manufacturer marketing teams.

While 78% of respondents say they write prescriptive specifications, 70% also say that they write performance specifications. For complex systems 35% said they would write a descriptive specification and leave it to the manufacturer or specialist contractor to propose a solution. In all cases 35% say product substitution often happens and 46% say it sometimes happens. Usually this is for a cheaper alternative (68%). Despite these high incidents only a small proportion always verify the installed solution (23% with Traditional Contracts and 17% for Contractor-lead projects). Of course all of these are aggregated responses and it is well worth while conducting market research to understand how your product is specified, and what features are key. A service which Competitive Advantage can provide.

All of this confirms the need to monitor projects from start to finish, maintaining a dialogue with the specifier and installer. The good news is that 63% of respondents say they look to the manufacturer’s technical representative for advice on product selection.

When it comes to selecting building products, 60% will undertake their own research with 92% using online searches and 87% going to manufacturers’ websites. Online product libraries remain popular (60%) but there is increased usage (41%) of specification platforms like NBS. Once the manufacturer website is accessed the most valued information is the Product Data Sheet (78%) followed by Specification Clauses (44%), CAD details (41%), BIM files (31%) and third party certification (32%). Note that 90% said that certification is essential for safety critical products and 33% see it as essential for all products. It is important to make this information available on your website, that it is easily found and ensure it is accurate and up-to-date.

Easy access to Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) is also considered important by 87%. 14% say they almost always specify the most sustainable product and 48% prefer to specify sustainable products, but will compromise if the alternative offers better value. It is important for the manufacturer to make this information readily available, having recently conducted a sustainability review of over 30 manufacturer website we found that was often not the case.

To summarise the report, what specifiers want is advice and technical support from the manufacturer. But with more complex systems they are also relying on the specialist contractor to make product selections. To succeed the manufacturer needs to provide readily available quality information. And as the Building Safety Act starts to be implemented it will become increasingly important for manufacturers to do this.

Further Information:

Resource Review

Checklist for Specifier Engagement

Specifier Engagement overview

Implementing a Construction Strategy