Substitutions on a construction project — a Specification Writer responds

In response to the post about Substitute Materials on a construction project, Phil Kabza explains how his company, SpecGuy, handles tracking of all such materials on a project.specguy

Phil writes:

Excellent and important topic, about which there is much confusion among design professionals and contractors. We try to maintain definitions for:

  • Pre-bid requests for prior approval of proposed comparable products where products are named in the specifications
  • True pre-bid substitution requests that present an alternate type of product from that specified (ie., not “comparable” but perhaps suitable)
  • Post-award requests for approval of proposed comparable products “for convenience” of the contractor with or without credit to the owner
  • Post-award requests for approval of proposed comparable products “forcause” due to unavailability, failure to meet specified warranty, etc.
  • Submittal of non-complying products “to see if we can get away with it.”

Public agencies, owners, and design firms all have different approaches to each of the above, which requires the specifier to carefully define their terms in Division 00 Document “Procurement Substitution Procedures” and “Division 01 Section “Substitution Procedures,” as well as establishing consistency across the several hundred specification sections.

Thanks, Phil, for your boots on the ground perspective of how to consistently handle the specifications when handling substitute materials or products.

Your turn.  Thoughts or Phil or me?  Share below, or shoot me an email.

Substitute Materials — what are your duties? what are your risks? (law note)

In managing a project as the design professional, you are called upon to wear many hats.  One of those hats is that of material specifier and, at times, substitute material approver.  What are your duties in looking at substitute materials?many hard hats

As always, the legal answer is “it depends”.  In part, it will depend on your role on the project and what, specifically, the contract says.  However, at its most basic, you can be sued for accepting an out of spec substitute material.  This is so even if you believed the spec met requirements based on information that the contractor gave you.  So, tread carefully in this area.

Do not assume any information that the contractor presents to you– take the time to research for yourself, call the manufacturer, and otherwise ensure that the product will work.

If the substitute is okay but will mean the Owner will get something a little different, make sure the Owner knows that and has approved the change.  Needless to say, get this consent in writing, as it could be evidence one day.

While you may not ultimately be held responsible for approving a substitute that is inferior, you don’t need the headache of finding that out from a Court.  Save your time, and your stomach lining, and make sure it’s correct and documented on the front end.

Have you been called upon to approve questionable substitute materials?  How did you research whether they would work or not?  Share in the comments below or drop me an email.