Print this page Print this page

Writing Special Provisions

Jack Schmitt, P.E., AVS

Course Outline

This course covers the general format, content and purpose of a Special Provision that could be used in a set of contract documents for an infrastructure project such as a roadway, drainage or utility improvement.  The course describes the basic format of a Special Provision by defining its purpose, identifies the various types of Special Provisions, and explains the importance of proper grammar for the communication of the intent of any design team faced with the task of writing a Special Provision.

Completion of this course will provide the student with an understanding of the issues to be covered by a Special Provision in a typical set of contract documents.  This will provide the student with a basis for discussion with the team or project manager on each assignment.  This in turn can reduce false starts, provide specific direction to the various disciplines involved and prepare questions for the client from a pro-active position.  The result is intended to be a savings in labor spent on corrections and re-typing of text, which will result in the completion of a project within the budget.

This course draws on the author's extensive experience with contract documents to provide valuable project execution tips that can save your project cost and schedule. Several minutes of discussion during the kick-off of a project can prevent costly last minute changes.

This course is a "How To" for preparing the format and text of Special Provisions for a project.  Any engineer involved in preparing the contract documents for infrastructure / roadway plans will benefit from the lessons learned by the course author from a career that has spanned three decades and has seen hundreds of sets of plans and special provisions.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

Learning Objective

This course teaches the following specific knowledge and skills:

Intended Audience

The intended audience for this course is Engineers, Architects and Contractors.

Benefit to Attendees

Attendee of this course will be able to learn a technique to write their own Special Provisions, to avoid spending time searching in other project files or searching for someone to write the text for them.  It is presented as a tutorial, similar to the manner in which the author was taught by a construction engineer decades ago.

Course Introduction

Most clients, whether they are public agencies, public-owned utilities, private corporations or private-owned toll roads, will have a published, adopted, legal document containing the specifications by which their facilities are to be designed, constructed and maintained.  These are typically called Standard Specifications, and may cover ninety percent of the work anticipated to be performed or encountered by the client during the service life of their facility.  As new technology emerges, as advanced methods of construction are developed, or as materials become available to replace traditional substances, the Standard Specifications are updated, amended, appended or re-issued as a new edition.  The initial phase of a revision or adaptation often takes place as a Special Provision, written for an initial use of a material or a construction technique that is being introduced.  The Special Provision might be adopted as a Supplemental or Interim Standard Specification until the next edition of the Standard is published.  However, many projects present the designer with a situation that does not comply with or can be defined by the current Standard Specifications, and therefore must be defined in precise terminology in order to convey the intent of the designer to the bidder and the construction team.

The following process will guide the designer in writing a Special Provision to accomplish the intended outcome.

Course Content

The course content is in the following PDF file:

Writing Special Provisions

Please click on the above underlined hypertext to view, download or print the document for your study. Because of the large file size, we recommend that you first save the file to your computer by right clicking the mouse and choosing "Save Target As ...", and then open the file in Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Course Summary

Special Provisions are written for many projects to supplement or revise a Standard Specification.  A design situation may present the engineer or architect with a condition that does not comply with or can be defined by the current Standard Specifications, and therefore must be defined in precise terminology in order to convey the intent of the designer to the bidder and the construction team.  This course will identify the types of Special Provisions, the steps to be taken to draft the text, and the importance of precision in the conveyance of design intent.

Related Links

For additional information related to this subject, please visit the following websites or web pages:

Plans, Special Provisions and Contract Plan Reviews at



Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.