A lot of industry time and money has been wasted on interpreting the ‘or equal’ clause. Imagine dealing with several manufacturers trying to prove that their product “meets or exceeds standards”—another catchphrase–the standards for each product (up to hundreds of products). That’s unfortunately what any construction project today must deal with.
Sometimes the ‘or equal’ designation is not accompanied by any standards or ideas about how a product could be the equal of another. The ‘equal’ criteria, even when set forth, can different for each project. A lot of confusion can arise from assuming that ‘or equal’ means the same thing to everyone.
Why Or Equal Exists in Architectural Specifications.
The architect has to make the building that fits his vision, budget and timetable.
Spec writers have to produce specs for hundreds of products, amounting to hundreds or thousands of pages of specifications per project. They can’t always be up on the latest product information.
The product manufacturers want their product to be used in the building process so they will fight to be considered as an or equal.
The contractor team has to be able to build in sequence and on time so he needs options in case there is a problem.
In addition to this, outside circumstances can dictate specifications.
Public building regulations often have a state definition of ‘or equal’ that everyone must accept.
Some projects cannot be bid on without a minimum number of manufacturers for each item.
Specifications can be cited in legal proceedings in the case that something goes horribly wrong, or as an accountability mechanism in the workplace when results don’t happen as planned. Failure to comply to ‘or equal’ can have disastrous consequences. The specifications are part of the contract and should be treated as such.
So How Can You Play the Or Equal Game in Architectural Specification
1) Recognize that specifications should be detailed, concise, current, and easy to understand. Don’t work with, hire, or support firms with lousy spec writers or with little regard for specs. You shouldn’t be held responsible for someone else’s failures.
2) Set, or find out, what ‘or equal’ means for this specific project. Don’t assume it means the same thing as it did on the last project. If the building is subject to state regulations, find out if the state is in charge of defining ‘or equal.’
3) If you’re a product manufacturer, realize that playing nice, providing industry information, and building relationships will get you farther than bashing the competition. Make sure that your product gets the look it deserves, but remember that architects are dealing with lots of products and lots of other aspects of their jobs. You also might be interested in my recent post on selling to architects. One of the easiest ways to help is to make sure your product reps can provide insight on your product’s specifications and understand the role of an architect in the building process.
4) Listing a suitable spread of products prevents confusion and heinous building errors. It might be in your best interest as a manufacturer to pinpoint the competition and the differences between your product and others so that the project does not use an inappropriate product.
5) Communicate! If there are problems or concerns, don’t assume. If someone is annoying you by asking too many questions, remember that a few minutes of annoyance now could be worth a lot of time and money later. Coordination and communication are vital at every stage of a construction project.
6) Try to sort out everything in the specs before the construction begins.
In conclusion, every bit of due diligence adds value for the owner by ensuring that his budget, schedule, and needs are met. Following these tips will make everyone involved look good, will ensure a successful final product, and guarantee a happy customer.
Thanks for the following comments. I’d like to hear your feedback and suggestions on how to sell architects.
“Great article Mark….always good to position yourself as the industry expert not just your company’s product rep!”