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  • Vivian Volz

Specifying in a Pandemic

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

What's VVAS doing during the COVID-19 pandemic? We're writing specs, that's what!

As a business owner, it's my job to keep my team safe, so we are working apart. We work mostly from our homes, but we also work in the office one at a time. I have Hamilton's "I Wrote My Way Out" running through my head, but with "I cleaned my way out" as the new words, because today it's my turn to use the office and leave it clean for the next person. There's a Marin County Site-Specific Protection Plan on the wall, a sign on the door that reminds us to do a symptom self-check, and a hope that someday we'll revise it to say how we're working together in person again. And that sign includes a little pep talk that says, "I am essential."

As a manager and a teammate, I'm doing lots of instant messages and tracking tasks in the cloud. We were already using shared spreadsheets and an online task manager, but now there's an always-open chat window and the occasional video chat. We're settling in for a long haul of this work style, so we find ourselves having more meta-conversations about making our work work better.

As a consultant, I do a lot of video conferences now. I find myself thanking my colleagues for showing their faces. Even though I'm an introvert and I can thrive for days without needing to go see people, it's been a lot of days! I miss the ritual of visiting in person, the opportunity to see people's faces as they tell their design story, and handshakes. A little visit face-to-face before we start sharing screens means a lot, and I make a point of putting my colleagues' faces right below my webcam and engaging. It's the new visiting ritual.

And as a specifier, really, not much has changed. We are writing minor supplements to the construction specs themselves, but leaving site safety in the contractor's court. We specify how the GC should make the safety protocols available to the design team and owner team before each individual's first site visit. And we distinguish the contractor's final cleaning from the owner's first disease-control cleaning. We hear that lots of bathroom designs are being reconsidered. Since most of our projects these days are apartment buildings, and housing is just as much of a concern as ever, we have been just as busy as ever.

I know we're lucky to be able to continue so much as we were before March of 2020. I'm grateful that we can "be there" for our teams and each other, while staying apart. 'Til we meet again!

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