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July 2 - July 6, 2018

When a specification requires Manufacturer X’s system “or equivalent,” what does “or equivalent” mean, and who decides what’s equivalent?


Selected Answers

From Michael Halliwell of Thurber Engineering Ltd. on August 1, 2018:
Unfortunately, in contract-ese / legalese, trying to use "Approved Equal" can get you into trouble, too. The approved part is critical, but if you limit it to equal (vs. something equivalent) then if the specs don't match perfectly, you can have an issue. If the spec says 200% elongation at break and 30 N/m strength, but the product used is 205% and 31 N/m, they are not equal, but you get equivalent (potentially slightly better) performance.

From Tom Schwerdt of Texas Department of Transportation on August 1, 2018:
Steve, good point.

From Steve Levengood of City of Seattle on July 27, 2018:
"Or Approved Equal" is better wording for a materials specification.

From Tom Schwerdt of Texas Department of Transportation on July 23, 2018:
Saying "bad specification" is overly simplistic. It could be the specifier simply doesn't have the time, expertise and resources to develop and maintain a full technical specification. Is "or equivalent" ideal? Nope. Significant drawbacks. But it could be the best that could be achieved with the constraints in place at the time.

From Michael Halliwell of Thurber Engineering Ltd. on July 18, 2018:
I think both previous answers are right. If you're going to have "or equivalent" in the spec, then the owner (or usually its representative, the one who wrote the spec) needs to have final say over the substitution. If you're open to alternatives to a particular product, then you do need to provide the technical requirements that must be met. Otherwise, how will the bidder know what may be equivalent?

From Anna Rabinowitz of kline engineering on July 16, 2018:
The architect or engineer who wrote the specifications must approve and accept the proposed substitute after review of its equivalency.

From R.A. Luersen of Luersen Architects Inc. on July 11, 2018:
Bad specification. It should be either proprietary or with full technical requirements.

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Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Good Technical Practice; Latin America; North America; Specification; Specification writing


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