Tips for Engineers On Writing A Proprietary Spec
“I’m gonna need at least two other manufacturers to include this in the spec.” Those are the dreaded words of a dedicated salesperson. The truth is that you don’t have to provide equivalent manufacturers if you truly believe a given product provides the best all around outcome for the owner AND you have the conviction to stand behind your reasoning.
It’s important to remember that a client hires an engineer for more than just plans and specs. They expect that the engineer’s expertise is part of the package. In the rare occasion that there is one product is the perfect all-around solution, here are some ways to write that product into the specs to make sure that it is used on the project.
Write A Performance Based Spec
Be a little careful with this one because it does open you up to some liability based on the performance aspects you include. If you include a specific density and thickness of insulation for example it could open you up to liability. Just double check that the performance aspects are sufficient for your application, and work with the manufacturer to see that the criteria is unique enough to that manufacturer that similar or lesser products won’t be able to qualify. A good place to start for insulation specifications is the mechanical insulation design guide.
Seek Equivalent Manufacturers From Other Markets
Maybe you really like the value a product offers because of a certain feature that other local manufacturers lack. See if there are manufacturers overseas or in other markets that include that feature. It’s often possible to find suitable alternates from foreign manufacturers. Most often, it will be too costly to source the materials from overseas and the contractor will use the available option you wanted. If they can source the materials from a foreign manufacturer, you are still realizing the intended value.
Write In “Or Approved Equal” And Stand Behind It
Including the words “or approved equal” is only the first step. You must be ready to back up those words when cheaper alternatives are submitted. The hardest part of this method is having the conviction to deny cheaper alternatives or traditional methods. If you have done the proper research, you should feel confident in your decision and stand behind it. Owners will respect that and enjoy the chance for you to share your expertise.
Innovative products increase labor risk for contractors. Even if the long term savings and material cost is less, “new” means risk for a contractor. They don’t yet have a handle on the labor to prepare a comfortable estimate of what it will cost them. Therefore, you can always expect new products to get balked at by contractors. They are just doing their job.
The reality is that the buck stops or starts with you as the specifier. Writing an innovative product into a spec with traditional products is not going to trigger change. Contractors will go with what they know, and that’s just a fact. Change is going to come when informed engineers make strategic decisions for the better of their clients in the long term and stand behind them with conviction.
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