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How Architects Select the Products They Specify

Specified Building Products PlanHub

How Architects Select the Products They Specify

For building product manufacturers, getting listed in a project’s specifications is the first step towards landing a sale. When architects or designers specify a product or material, they give their endorsement, encouraging or mandating that it be used in the project. Contractors are contractually obligated to follow the specifications, ensuring that those products specified are purchased.

The question for many BPMs is, “How do I get specified?” The answer is multilayered, as there are many ways that designers learn about products and stay up to date. This article will help suppliers learn how architects research and select the products they specify.

How Do Architects and Specifiers Choose Materials?

Architects and specifiers choose materials for construction projects through a meticulous and multifaceted process. This process involves considering various factors to ensure that the selected materials meet the project’s aesthetic, functional, and structural requirements. Here’s an overview of how they typically choose materials:

  • Project Requirements and Goals: Understanding the project’s specific needs, goals, and constraints is the first step. This includes considering the building’s purpose, location, and the client’s vision and budget.
  • Aesthetic Considerations: Architects often start with the visual impact of materials. They consider color, texture, finish, and overall style to ensure the materials align with the desired architectural design and aesthetic appeal.
  • Durability and Performance: The longevity and performance of materials under specific environmental conditions are crucial. This includes resistance to weather, wear and tear, and other stress factors.
  • Sustainability and Environmental Impact: With growing emphasis on sustainable architecture, materials are often chosen based on their environmental footprint. This includes considering the energy efficiency, recyclability, and sourcing of materials.
  • Cost and Budget Constraints: Budget plays a significant role in material selection. Architects and specifiers must balance cost with quality, often seeking cost-effective solutions that do not compromise the project’s integrity.
  • Compliance with Building Codes and Regulations: Materials must comply with local building codes and regulations, including fire safety, structural integrity, and accessibility standards.
  • Technical Specifications and Performance Data: Architects rely on technical data, such as strength, flexibility, thermal performance, and acoustics, to ensure materials will perform as required.
  • Supplier and Manufacturer Reputation: The reliability and reputation of suppliers and manufacturers are considered to ensure quality and consistency in the materials supplied.
  • Maintenance and Lifecycle Costs: Materials are evaluated for their maintenance requirements and lifecycle costs, including the cost of repairs, replacements, and upkeep over time.
  • Innovation and Technology: Architects and specifiers often explore new materials and technologies to find innovative solutions that can enhance the project’s value and functionality.
  • Client Preferences and Feedback: Client preferences are taken into account, especially in terms of aesthetics, functionality, and any specific requests or concerns they might have.
  • Sample Analysis and Mock-ups: Before finalizing materials, architects often review samples or create mock-ups to better understand how the materials will look and perform in the actual project.

By carefully considering these factors, architects and specifiers can select materials that not only meet the project’s requirements but also contribute to the creation of functional, sustainable, and aesthetically pleasing architectural designs.

What is a specification in construction?

First, we need to define a specification in architecture and construction. A specification provides a detailed description of the materials, products, and equipment to be provided on a project, including how a material or product is to be installed and how the work is to be performed. Specifications may be written by an architect, engineer, interior designer, or a specification writer.

Contractors use specifications as instructions for how to perform the work on a project. The drawings tell them what to do, the specifications tell them how to do it and what materials they should use.

Architects and designers can specify that a single product be used on a project or provide a list of acceptable manufacturers and products. Obviously, being selected as the sole source for a project makes a sale more probable, although the contractor may ask for permission to substitute another manufacturer’s product. However, the reverse is true, in that even if your product isn’t specified on a project, you can appeal to the designer even after the specifications have been published.

How architects find building products

More and more architects and designers are looking online for information about building products. This should come as no surprise, as many people make the internet their first stop before making a purchase. Often architects are looking for products that solve a problem or fit a specific design style. According to research performed by ArchDaily and Venveo, the top sources of information architects use in their initial research are architectural websites, search engines, and trade publications. Ensuring that your website is informative and provides the information architects are looking for and getting featured in trade publications are two top strategies for getting your products found.

Many architects and designers still rely on sales representatives to get information on the latest and greatest products on the market. In the ArchDaily research, 78% of architects in the US cited sales reps as their number one way to stay updated on the latest product developments. It’s very important that these reps have a deep and thorough understanding of each product and that they can translate that knowledge to help architects and designers find what they want and need when selecting materials.

Trade publications are still a viable way to inform designers about your products. Getting featured in one can reach a broad audience. Providing information about your products and detailed descriptions of how they solved a problem or were used in a special case can help educate architects and raise awareness.

Factors that affect the selection of a building material

What do architects and designers look at when selecting a building material or product for a project?

  • Cost – Although this may not be the primary factor in their decision, it is often high on the list. Products that don’t fit in a customer’s budget have an almost zero percent chance of being selected. Providing products that fit a wide range of budgets is a great way to appeal to a wider customer base.
  • Availability – As we’ve all seen in the last few years, product and material availability has a lot to do with whether it gets used in a project or not. Lumber shortages led to more projects using steel framing, simply because it was available sooner. 
  • Source location –Many designers are looking for materials sourced and/or manufactured locally to cut down on shipping costs and potential delays, and to help cut greenhouse gas emissions. The more source locations you have, the wider your appeal.
  • Customer preferences – Architects need to find materials that meet their customers’ needs and wants. While they can make recommendations to their clients, the final decision is often up to the client. This means you need to provide information that appeals to product end users as well as specifiers.
  • Sustainability – More and more project owners are concerned about the sustainability of their buildings and projects. Providing information that highlights the environmental benefits of your products can help them appeal to this sector of the market.
  • Appearance – Designers like to emphasize a certain style in their work, and they are also concerned about the color and texture of the materials they select. Their customers often have the final say on these selections, so providing a variety of options can make your products more attractive.
  • Durability – Designers look at the durability of each product, including the maintenance requirements and available warranties. The longer your products last and the easier they are to maintain, the greater the chance they’ll get selected.
  • Use in past projects – When a designer has experience using a product or material in a past project, they are more likely to specify it in the future. Giving designers a chance to see and experience the product in use before they purchase it can go a long way. Make samples available, provide a display at trade shows, and invite designers to see your products in action, whether in a showroom or a current installation.
  • Performance – Architects often base their selections on the performance of a product. This can include its energy efficiency, speed, etc. Make sure that performance data is easily accessible on your website and in the product documentation.

Tips to help get your product noticed by architects

There are some things you can do to help architects and designers find and specify your products.

  1. Have a robust online presence. Everyone is using the internet these days to research products and materials before they buy. Architects and engineers are no exception. Make sure your website is easily searchable and provides all the information architects and designers may need to help sell your products or materials to their clients. Include photos, videos, technical data and specifications, testing results, etc.
  2. Provide product data and information in a variety of formats. Everyone is looking for different information depending on their role in a project. Architects may want performance data, specification writers technical data, and end users photos or videos of the product in action. On your website, provide a variety of media and file types (for example, .doc, .pdf, .jpg) to help interested parties find and share the information they need.
  3. Invest in documenting case studies of your product or material. Show how the finished product appears through photos or videos. Provide a description of how your product helped a client solve a problem or meet a specific need.  
  4. The real key to getting your product or material specified is to develop relationships with architects and designers. One way to do this is to provide as much information as possible on your website, making it easy for end users, architects, and designers to find the information they need to make an informed decision about using your product or material. You can also reach out to designers directly through a bidding website, like PlanHub. Communicating the benefits of your product direct to designers can help improve the chance that your product will be specified on current projects, as well as upcoming ones.
About PlanHub:

PlanHub is a leading provider of comprehensive bid management solutions for the construction industry. Our platform simplifies and streamlines the bidding process, connecting subcontractors and general contractors to facilitate collaboration and drive project success. With a commitment
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