Design Criteria

The Design Criteria sections of BSD SpecLink-E are used to define the expected performance of a whole building and its parts early in the project, before the facility has been designed.

The Design Criteria documents use performance-based and prescriptive statements as applicable to the subject matter, for buildings of many types. The 32 sections are organized by building element, in a manner similar to Uniformat. These specs are often referred to as "whole-building" performance specs because they describe the performance of built elements (including the building as a whole) rather than the performance of individual materials or equipment. The Design Criteria would be used by design professionals to document design criteria, by owners to prepare requests for proposal for design-build projects, and by design-builders to prepare proposals.


Who uses it?

Design Criteria are used by architects, engineers, owners, and design-builders to:

  • Establish design criteria before the design is begun.
  • Prepare RFPs and proposals for design-build projects.
  • Facilitate early decision-making; obtain consensus or agreement.
  • Communicate material and equipment decisions before beginning construction documents.
  • Avoid prematurely detailed drawings.
  • Transmit information to other members of the team -- owners, design-builders, estimators, construction managers, lenders, etc.
  • Document design criteria in writing for later commissioning activities.
  • Create a Preliminary Project Description as defined by CSI or for a Schematic Phase design narrative.

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What does it cover?

The Design Criteria are designed for early-design documents rather than for construction documents. As such, they:

  • Define the performance of the entire building and parts of the building without assuming any specific design solution.
  • Assume that no drawings exist beyond schematic sketches, but do require a Space Program.
  • Include optional "Use/Do Not Use" lists for all significant construction elements (e.g. roofing, HVAC systems, etc.).
  • Organize the design criteria according to UniFormat, rather than MasterFormat.
  • For Design-Build projects, substantiation criteria are included for all significant elements — activities, documentation, and submittals used to predict or prove success — of which the completed project is the final proof!
  • Define an "outline of the project scope" within each section to create a Preliminary Project Description as defined by CSI or for a Schematic Phase design narrative.

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When is it used?

What the master database of Design Criteria covers:

The Design Criteria sections make it easy to specify "whole-building" functional performance, using the best available voluntary performance standards and references to all major US building codes and provides alternative methods of non-restrictive specifying where performance standards are not available. The text thoroughly addresses commercial and multi-family projects and can be adapted for most other types of buildings. Projects will require a separately prepared space program defining dimensional requirements, space utilization criteria, project mission and goals, aesthetic needs, environment, and similar criteria. Some types of criteria it includes are:

  • Building fabric, weather resistance, physical security, longevity.
  • Interior construction, space efficiency, acoustics, and indoor air quality.
  • Common equipment and fittings found in many occupancies.
  • Energy efficiency, HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and telecommunications.
  • Environmentally responsible design, including LEED certification.
  • Landscaping, paving, fencing, and other site construction.
  • ICC International Codes as Owner's design criteria.
  • Many more aspects of common building types.

Because the Design Criteria do not specify particular products, they can be used for projects anywhere in the world that the criteria are understood. The standards referenced to establish criteria are primarily U.S. standards, like ASTM, ANSI, ASHRAE, ASME, NFPA, and IEEE.

The Design Criteria can also be used in any building code jurisdiction. To establish fundamental criteria reference to a code is required. The user has the option of entering a specific code or selecting from the list of codes available. If no code is required by law, the user can select the ICC International Codes as base criteria, along with the NFPA National Electrical Code.

For design-build projects, the Design Criteria Catalog includes provisions for conducting a "competitive" design-build request for proposal process and model contracting requirements -- the design-build equivalent of Division 0 and 1, with contractual considerations based on DBIA MOP principles, but allowing DBIA, AIA, EJCDC, ConsensusDOCS, or other external documents to be referenced.

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What types of facilities?

Types of facilities the Design Criteria are suited for:

The Design Criteria contain criteria for buildings, interior fittings and services, demolition, and sitework related to buildings. The occupancies for which the most complete requirements are included are:

  • Office Buildings: Commercial, professional, governmental, institutional.
  • Residential/Hospitality: Dormitories, barracks, hotels, motels, boarding houses, multi-family residential, nursing homes.
  • No- and Low-Tech Commercial: Retail shops and stores, theaters and movie houses, barber/beauty shops, bars and restaurants, banks, dry-cleaning delivery stations, florists and plant nurseries, laundries (self-service), motor vehicle showrooms, print shops, low-hazard warehouses.
  • Low-Tech Institutional: Schools and colleges, places of worship, police and fire stations, post offices, animal clinics, kennels, pounds, child and elder day care facilities, community centers, convention halls, exhibition spaces, galleries, museums, libraries, outpatient clinics.

Besides the occupancies listed above, the Design Criteria can be used to effectively specify the performance of the basic fabric of virtually any type of building. Fittings, fixtures, equipment and services that would not normally be found in the occupancies listed above would have to be added by the user. For example, for industrial projects the process elements are not included, but the buildings involved can effectively be described using the Design Criteria. Some occupancies that fall in this category are:

  • Single family residential.
  • Health Care: Hospitals, mental hospitals, research laboratories.
  • Detention: Prisons, jails.
  • Stadia and other very large audience facilities.
  • Recreational: Ice rinks, natatoria.
  • Automotive service, car washes.
  • Utility Facilities: Water and waste treatment, telecommunications, power generation, trash incinerators.
  • Industrial and Factories: Warehouses housing high-hazard materials, clean rooms, film studios, food-processing facilities, paint shops, canneries, tanneries, fisheries, boat-building.
  • Mortuary and funerary facilities.

The Design Criteria are not particularly well suited for non-building types of projects, some of which include: Highways, bridges, and other transportation facilities; pipelines and transmission lines; flood control and marine facilities; very large tanks and towers; special industrial storage, such as silos.

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What kind of information does it include?

A Space Program is generally needed to accompany performance requirements:

The Design Criteria describe the built elements of a building - the walls, floors, plumbing, pavements, etc. - not the rooms those built elements form. A Space Program defines which rooms and spaces are required, how big they must be, and any specific requirements for the spaces like how many people will occupy them, what furnishings must be accommodated, electrical power requirements, telephone outlets, environmental controls, special finishes. Some requirements related to spaces are included in certain Design Criteria sections, stated like this: "...where a room is identified as such-and-such do this..."

In a way, the Design Criteria can be likened to specifications and the Space Program to drawings. Another way to look at it is: The Space Program defines the quantity and the Design Criteria define the quality. So a Space Program is a necessary companion to any document prepared using the Design Criteria. Space Programs can be developed using word processing or spreadsheets and are often arranged in a tabular fashion for ease of review. Some Space Programs include layouts of particular rooms or bubble diagrams showing the relationships between the spaces. Just as construction drawings are unique to a particular project, so is the Space Program.

Establish credible building performance levels:

  • Performance specifications help satisfy owners' quality concerns without committing projects to particular material and system choices at the proposal stage.
  • Get early agreement on design criteria by using the Design Criteria sections as a "checklist" of performance requirements.
  • Accurately define the owner's expectations while providing design-builders and their architects and engineers the greatest possible flexibility to devise the most cost effective solutions to the owner's needs.
  • Allow innovation without compromising the owner's performance and quality requirements, especially when on a tight budget.

Facility owners and design-build consultants can:

  • Better define quality for important elements without limiting the design solution, prescribing details only when necessary.
  • Obtain a fixed price on an enforceable scope.
  • Avoid low-quality results without specifying too much detail.
  • Compare multiple proposals easily.
  • Forestall mistakes before they are built, using detailed substantiation submittals.

Design-builders can:

  • Preserve design flexibility by specifying required performance rather than specific products.
  • Offer a more accurate fixed price very early in the design process.
  • Avoid mission creep -- losing control of the budget -- without specifying too much detail.
  • Minimize disputes by having contract scope in writing.
  • Establish credible performance criteria by referencing accepted industry standards.
  • Avoid committing to specific materials and systems while design is still in flux.

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