A building specification systematically describes the physical qualities of every aspect of a building. It methodically outlines the materials and their composition, standards to adhere to (including references to the relevant documents), quality of workmanship, and any other requirements such as colours, structural or chemical testing, dimensions, performance etc. The National Building Specification (NBS) is a standard format for this document. It is organised into sections that reflect the plan of work and within each section are a number of standard clauses as well as room to create bespoke ones. The NBS is a shared language, understood by those working in the construction industry.
A building’s specification can be seen as a kind of fiction, a descriptive aspiration of a building in a specific format. When designing through writing, the specification can be directly derived from the story. This is a kind of translation: from prose into the shared language of the construction industry. As with all translation, the contents are filtered through a new set of conventions, associations, and cultures that offer a particular quality to the outcome. No translation is a mechanical process of substituting corresponding parts, but a process of interpretation.