Gordian LogoA Scope of Work must be clear and complete for a construction project to succeed, and that means gathering a lot of data. But from where? Let’s explore a few sources of information that can help build a strong scope.

Plans and Specs

Existing plans and specifications for identical or similar buildings should be a go-to resource for your next SOW. These documents (which include the scope) are a treasure trove of information including drawings, the materials and products used, installation methods and quality of work. Plans and specs are instrumental in writing the AE scope.


Unexpected things happen on a job site, and contractors must stray from even the best plans and specs from time to time. Studying as-built documents can explain why plans were deviated from and how, so owners can prepare for changes or, better yet, prevent them.

Site Visits

For the Context Scope, there is no substitute for visiting a project site. A site visit will help inform challenges to equipment and material delivery, the conditions and operations of the existing facility and even a look at potential security concerns. Walking the project area reveals ground-level knowledge owners can use to “build it before they build it.”


When developing a scope, it’s best to think like a contractor, so why not consult an actual contractor? There is nothing wrong with searching out help and advice from trusted vendors. These professionals have a wealth of experience and see projects through the lens of that experience. This sort of expertise can help ensure scope is useful and complete.

Third-Party Data

A construction cost database is typically associated with estimating, but access to verified, impartial data is invaluable for scope development as well. A robust cost database can fill in knowledge gaps and account for details owners may not consider. RSMeans data from Gordian, for example, includes assembly models where construction tasks are grouped together and square foot models that provide an early idea of overall costs. This sort of data includes all the components and labor associated with complex jobs and is invaluable in the early planning stages and for validating estimates.

A scope sets the tone for the whole project, so no stone should be left unturned and no question should go un-asked. There is no such thing as too much data.