Why Specifications and Schedules are not the end of design

Recently a client of a fellow architect said that the documentation stage was not complete until the schedule of finishes was complete. This raised questions about expectations.

For a start design never finishes until the builder leaves the site.

The construction documentation stage finishes, but documentation continues during construction itself. The schedules and specifications at this stage are only, at best, a guide. Why?

Firstly: In the time from tender to when the builder places and order the products specified may be no longer available, even better the architect or builder may have found a more suitable product.

Two examples:
In less than a month from the time of putting together a recent tender to the plumber tendering, a tap that was specified became unavailable. Quite simply Australia had updated its standard for taps and the tap, instead of being updated, was withdrawn from manufacture. There was not even old stock.

In the time from tendering to the time a builder placed an order for cabinet knobs the knobs were all sold out. The knobs were Italian made. When tendering the supply was assured in Australia with a reasonable stock. In the interim the stockist in Australia changed location and did not keep their orders up to date, and for some reason the handle became popular and was sold out.

Secondly: The site may reveal issues forcing re-design.

An example: For a retail fitout they found for some reason the air-conditioning design did not work around the existing structure as revealed by demolition, and they re-designed the duct locations. This mean new drop bulkheads, and a new round of design and even the addition of extra decorative bits. This was within a month of the final hand over.

Thirdly: The finishes selected may be revised by budget cutting

An example: In a recent job, the budget was cut and timber was replaced with MDF, brass work with found re-cycled objects and some detailing was simplified. This caused every drawing, the specification and the schedules to be superceded.

Fourthly: Any colours, fabrics or finishes selected may be revised on site due to lighting conditions or reflections from adjacent colours. In fact on site is the best place to "test" colours and finishes to change them, for the final lighting can never be predicted! The sunlight reflecting off a red brick building opposite may change the look of the colour! But surprisingly on site re-evaluation of colours can also cause a change in the lighting schedule.

An example: A colour was selected for the doors of cabinets. When the light was installed it was found to look a particularly horrible greeny colour. The light was also large so it was changed to another light fitting with a low voltage lamp. In this light the cabinet colour looked a soft bluey green colour and was beautiful.