Best Practices and Specifications: What's the Difference?
A Best Practices document is a manual that incorporates the collective experience of a broad range of experts who have knowledge of the topic being written about. The document is meant to assist the user in designing or building a project with the most up-to-date and effective technology and construction methods.
Best practices documents are prepared by a variety of groups, including owners such as DOTs and municipalities, to assist their employees in carrying out their work in an efficient and effective manner. Trade associations also document best practices to ensure their product is constructed in the most appropriate manner for longterm durability.
A Specification, on the other hand, is an explicit set of requirements that must be satisfied during the construction of a project or the production of a material. A specification is a type of a standard, which is often referenced by a contract or procurement document and provides the necessary details about the specific requirements for the project. Specifications can be "prescriptive", and state exactly what to do while carrying out a project. Or they can be "performance-based", when they list the criteria that the end result has to meet. It is important for everyone involved in a project to understand and agree on all the specifications.
Specifications may be written by government departments, standards organizations (CSA, AASHTO, ASTM, etc), trade associations, corporations, and others.