Policy 5208 – Specifications

Revision Date: 11/2002

Responsible Office: Purchasing Officer

To provide a common basis for bidding, specifications should set out the essential characteristics of the items being purchased, so that all bidders know exactly what is wanted and can accurately compute their bids. If some essential requirement is left out, the award may be made without determining whether the successful bid meets the needs. The unsuitability of the product purchased may not become apparent until much later. Requiring unnecessary features can also result in restrictive specifications, which is illegal. It can also be defeating. Select wording carefully. Use “shall” when specifications express a requirement binding on either the contractor or the purchaser. Use “should” and/or “may” to express non-mandatory provision.

Three types of specifications:

  1. Material Specification – (also referred to as design or descriptive specifications)

    It specifies what the product must be. (i.e., all of the physical characteristics of the product; height, weight, surface texture, voltage, etc.)

  2. Performance Specification – (also referred to as a functional specification)

    It specifies what the product must do. (i.e., all of the performance characteristics of the product without regard to how it is constructed, what size it is, etc.)

  3. Combination of Material and Performance Specifications

    In many cases, a bid specification falls somewhere in between the performance related and design oriented.

All Specifications Must:

  1. Identify the minimum requirements.
  2. Allow for competitive bidding.
  3. Provide for a just and fair award at the lowest possible cost.


Forms are available from the Purchasing Office.

These forms are used to request Purchasing to procure materials or services and to request payment for invoices and services.