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Performance Specifications Strategic Roadmap: A Vision for the Future

Chapter 3. Defining the Future

"There is no road map without a vision, a mission, goals, tasks, and a timeline."


Performance specifications improve the performance of highway facilities through better translation of design intent and performance requirements into construction specifications.


Establish performance specifications as a viable contract option for highway construction.

Goal 1

Identify relationships that link design and construction with product performance.

Goal 2

Develop and implement performance specifications.

Goal 3

Conduct a communications and training effort.

Goal 4

Provide organization support for the Performance Specification program.


The first goal will lead to identification of performance relationships and new tests. The second goal will lead to effective contractual language and delineation of roles and responsibilities. The third will focus on telling everybody what they need to know about performance specifications. And the final goal acknowledges that structure, accountability, and administrative support are needed to do the work effectively.

Four to six tasks have been identified to accomplish each goal, but the Technical Working Group and expert task groups will want to consider many additional subtasks. Due dates for accomplishing the goals are shown in Table 1. The Technical Working Group and expert task groups will establish more detailed timelines once a budget for the overall mission is established formally.

Goal 1. Identify relationships that link design and construction with product performance

This is the most important and most difficult element of the road map. A lot of work has been done over the past several decades on some products-pavements, for example. Little has been done on a host of other products, such as pavement preservation modeling. While progress on this goal could be slow and incremental, it needs to move forward.

Task 1.1. Identify products that are viable candidates for performance specifications. Examine European functional specifications in these key areas.

Task 1.2. Organize and prioritize the in-service performance requirements for each product.

Task 1.3. Develop mechanistic-empirical models and/or organize actual performance data that clearly link design factors to performance. Identify factors that are under the direct control of the designer and those that are under the direct control of the contractor.

Task 1.4. Develop and implement non-destructive tests that link more directly to performance and focus on 100 percent sampling and/or continuous sampling of the in situ product.

Task 1.5. Develop and implement a program in which high-speed, continuous, real-time, non intrusive testing is applied directly to construction equipment.

Task 1.6. Support advancements in life cycle cost analysis procedures and maintenance decision trees that encourage a more thorough understanding of performance and its relationship to costs.

Goal 2. Develop and implement performance specifications

As relationships are developed under Goal 1, critical elements of a specification, such as the specification language, roles and responsibilities, and risk can proceed. Tracking systems, risk manuals, trials and evaluations, and administrative mechanisms are suggested.

Task 2.1. Develop guide specification language for those products that have performance clearly identified under Goal 1, building on the specification matrix approach. Task 2.2. Evaluate the relationship between method specifications and performance specifications with the goal of minimizing prescriptive specifications wherever possible.

Task 2.3. Develop a national website and tracking system for performance specifications and quantify improvements in quality and/or contract management.

Task 2.4. Develop a risk management manual that clearly quantifies the transfer of risk and responsibility between contractor and agency based on the responsibilities for determining and providing products and services.

Task 2.5. Implement continuous national evaluation of incentives and disincentive clauses as they relate to performance.

Task 2.6. Develop and implement a national experimental and evaluation program for innovative performance specifications applied to active projects.

Goal 3. Conduct a communications and training effort

It matters little what is accomplished in the laboratory or in the conference room unless the message is delivered. Without a knowledgeable and trained workforce, developing performance specifications becomes simply an academic exercise.

Task 3.1. Prepare and distribute a brochure that clearly defines performance specifications for both managers and practitioners in easy-to-understand language. Provide clarity on the definitions of quality and different specification types.

Task 3.2. Continuously inform managers and practitioners about ongoing developments in performance specifications through effective use of newsletters, Web sites, magazine articles, demonstration and experimental projects, flyers, etc.

Task 3.3. Develop a detailed training and outreach program that covers both performance specification principles and specific product performance requirements. The first priority is to develop a short course that presents performance specification principles. All training should work within the framework of the Transportation Construction Curriculum Council (TCCC).

Task 3.4. Develop and support a speakers' bureau of knowledgeable and available practitioners.

Goal 4. Provide organizational support for the Performance Specification Program

Nobody really likes bureaucracies and it would be nice to say the performance specification movement could be successful without some structure, but that would be unrealistic. The proposed structure aims at creating energy and synergy, establishing and managing funds dedicated to the effort, and keeping everyone moving in the same direction.

Task 4.1. Develop, maintain, and update the Performance Specifications Strategic Road Map.

Task 4.2. Establish a flexible performance specification operational structure that can respond to change, participant interest, and funds availability. The structure should deal with a movement, not a requirement.

Task 4.3. Identify those product areas for which an expert task group should be established. Provide Technical Working Group assistance to the various expert task groups to develop and execute tasks in support of the strategic road map.

Task 4.4. Provide budget and timeline for performance specification program efforts.

Task 4.5. Support the development of comprehensive technical research programs for each of the specific expert task group product areas.

Task 4.6. Identify groups, committees, and organizations with interest in performance specifications and promote cooperative efforts.

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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