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John Hunter
Senior Member
Username: johnhunter

Post Number: 57
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Thursday, May 22, 2008 - 06:22 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I'm having difficulty providing a simple pair of definitions differentiating a "substitution" from a "comparable product." Any help will be appreciated.
Wayne Yancey
Senior Member
Username: wayne_yancey

Post Number: 53
Registered: 01-2008
Posted on Thursday, May 22, 2008 - 06:33 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

In making request for substitution, or in using an approved substitute item, the Undersigned certifies:
• Proposed substitution has been fully investigated and determined to be equal or superior in all respects to specified product;
• Proposed substitutions in full compliance with applicable code requirements;
• Same warranty will be furnished for proposed substitution as for specified product;
• Same maintenance service and source of replacement parts, as applicable, is available;
• Proposed substitution will have no adverse effect on other trades and will not affect or delay progress schedule;
• Cost data as stated above is complete. Claims for additional costs related to accepted substitution which may subsequently become apparent are to be waived;.
• Proposed substitution does not affect dimensions and functional clearances;
• Payment will be made for changes to building design, including Architect’s design, detailing, and construction costs caused by the substitution;
• Will pay special inspections costs, and other costs caused by substitution;
• Will pay additional costs to other contractors caused by substitution;
• Coordination, installation, and changes in the Work as necessary for accepted substitution will be complete in all respects.


Substitutions: Changes in products, materials, equipment, and methods of construction from those required by the Contract Documents and proposed by Contractor.

Comparable Product: Product that is demonstrated and approved through submittal process, or where indicated as a product substitution, to have the indicated qualities related to type, function, dimension, in-service performance, physical properties, appearance, and other characteristics that equal or exceed those of specified product.
Don Harris CSI, CCS, CCCA, AIA
Senior Member
Username: don_harris

Post Number: 187
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Friday, May 23, 2008 - 08:56 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

This post raised some questions, so I looked in MasterSpec's Div 01 to try to clear my confusion. It seems that the two are in many ways very similar. The main difference, that I can find, is that comparable products seem to be substitutions that are allowed by careful editing of 016000. One has the option of using restricted lists or non restrictive lists of manufacturers and products.

Using the restrictive list, one has the option of allowing or not allowing comparable products. Using the nonrestrictive list, comparable products are always allowed.

The issue does not seem to be in the definitions of the terms, but how they are used in Division 01. They are similar in definition, but the substitution is the manufacturer or product that is submitted when the author of the specs does not allow comparable products under the restricted lists. See MasterSpec evaluations for Section 016000 for a chart that explains this in a much clearer fashion than I just did.
Ronald L. Geren, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA, SCIP
Senior Member
Username: specman

Post Number: 650
Registered: 03-2003
Posted on Friday, May 23, 2008 - 11:36 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

The use of "comparable product" is a better substitution for the "or equal" statement used in many specifications. When you get right down to it, not many products are equal; however, they may be very similiar, or "comparable," which makes it easier for the architect to evaluate and compare products (how much information do you need to make sure a product is "equal"?).

If a specification lists specific products, then any product not listed must be submitted first as a substitution request, provided the request complies with the conditions in which they will be accepted, or if substitutions are even permitted.

If a specification uses a basis-of-design product, or lists available products/manufacturers, then the use of comparable products submitted through the submittal process is permitted.
John Hunter
Senior Member
Username: johnhunter

Post Number: 58
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Friday, May 23, 2008 - 01:35 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Thanks to all. I work on public projects in California, where, under the Public Contract Code, the "or equal" is required except for very specific circumstances. A client had raised this question and I explained that a "comparable product" was the equivalent of "or equal." He then asked "So how's that different from a substitution?" and I got a bit bogged down. Seems like I've got some more work to do on 016000
John Regener, AIA, CCS, CCCA, CSI, SCIP
Senior Member
Username: john_regener

Post Number: 393
Registered: 04-2002
Posted on Saturday, May 24, 2008 - 03:19 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

John Hunter:

I also routinely work on projects governed by California Public Contract Code Section 3400 which has the infamous "or equal" term. In Section 01600 - Product Requirements (16 60 00 - Product Requirements or 01 62 00 - Product Options, if you must), I address the shortcomings of the term "or equal" by defining what "or equal" means. I prefer the term "equivalent" to "comparable."

As a sidenote, check AIA A201 for its provisions for substitutions. They won't be found. The big idea behind submittals and quality control under A201 is to demonstrate compliance with contract requirements rather than provide for deviations from the requirements.

I also define in Section 01600 (or whatever) what is a "substitution."
David J. Wyatt
Senior Member
Username: david_j_wyatt_csi_ccs_ccca

Post Number: 109
Registered: 07-2005
Posted on Sunday, May 25, 2008 - 12:49 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

It is also a good idea to define in Division 01 the circumstances under which a substitution will be considered. For example:

Specified product is no longer in production at the time the purchase is to be made.

Specified product is found to be defective, hazardous, re-called, etc.

Specified manufacturer goes out of business.

Specified product, through no fault of the contractor, cannot be provided on time.

New law prohibits the use of the product.

I would be interested to hear other circumstances.
Phil Kabza
Senior Member
Username: phil_kabza

Post Number: 315
Registered: 12-2002
Posted on Monday, May 26, 2008 - 10:58 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

MASTERSPEC uses the term "comparable product" to refer to products by manufacturers listed as acceptable in the specification sections that use a "basis of design" product to identify requirements. Proposed products by other than listed manufacturers are considered substitutions.

Substitutions under the A201-1997 and A201-2007 require owner approval via a contract modification; approval of a comparable product by a listed manufacturer does not.
Tom Heineman RA, FCSI, SCIP
Senior Member
Username: tom_heineman

Post Number: 91
Registered: 06-2002
Posted on Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - 01:49 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Add a 3rd term that needs clarification: "deviation". A201 3.12.8.

It sounds as though an architect-approved deviation (in a submittal) can result in a comparable product.

A201 3.4.2 sets a higher bar for substitutions.
Posted on Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - 02:27 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

"Or Equal"; fight over who determines this, how and what it really is [clash of opinions]

"Comparable"; similar and like in nature, BUT not an exact match [in the great American way of production what does match exactly???]

"Acceptable"; we recognize there are differences, but this product will perform very closely to that specified and satisfactorily to what what the project requires.
John Hunter
Senior Member
Username: johnhunter

Post Number: 59
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Tuesday, May 27, 2008 - 03:27 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

When I began this thread, I was trying to work on my “Product Requirements” and “Substitution Procedures” Sections to draw a clear distinction between a comparable product and its associated procedural requirements and a substitution and its associated procedural requirements, with the intent that Comparable Products would be submitted within the constraints of the typical Submittal Procedures, but that Substitutions have special requirements as defined in the “Substitution Procedures” Section.

As I’ve been working on the Sections, I discovered that the California Public Contract Code Section 3400 uses the following phrase in its text: ". . . request for a substitution of 'an equal' item." My sense has been to define the California "or equal" (per the Public Contract Code) to be equivalent to "Comparable Product" as defined in 0166000 and then define the procedure for substitution of an "or equal" as defined in the Public Contract Code to be the same as the procedure for a comparable product request as defined by MASTERSPEC in 0166000, as I believe that is consistent with the intent of the Public Contract Code.

There has been a concern, particularly in light of the extremely aggressive and competitive bidding environment that currently exists in Northern California, that lack of clarity in these definitions and procedures could be exploited to the Owner’s disadvantage.

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