Another aspect of T.B. Penick’s specifications is a qualification clause. “Owners and architects are tired of deciding on design intent, having a project go out for bid, and getting contractors who have never seeded aggregate or stained concrete,” she explains.
Klemaske describes how the qualification clause has been especially helpful on pervious concrete jobs: “We were seeing many pervious concrete failures because the specs would call for a ‘certified person,’ not someone who has ever installed pervious concrete, or installed it correctly, just someone who took a class. Our pervious concrete specification has a qualification attached — the contractor has to have installed at least 50,000 square feet of pervious concrete on at least six successful projects and must submit names and contact information of clients with the bid.”
Reed agrees that offering education and better solutions helps build trust with clients. “My belief is our willingness to suggest changes when they are beneficial to the overall project is what makes us successful. I see it as a business development tool and it helps us build relationships. It’s one of the best tools we have for marketing,” he says.
When you identify a better way of building and make those suggestions, you position yourself as a concrete expert. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions. Get educated, get involved in the industry, and whether you’re at a level where you can talk concrete with engineers directly or do so through a consultant, let your voice be heard.
The 'Approved Equal' Clause
Engineers and sepcifiers include preferred products in specifications, like a recommended densifier or sealer, color system, or vapor barrier. Along with these recommended products you will often see “or approved equivalent.” That gives the contractor the option to use an alternative but equal product with the engineer’s approval.
There are a few reasons why a contractor might recommend an equivalent:
- Familiarity. The contractor had a positive experience with a different but similar product.
- Failure experience. The contractor had a known failure with the specified product.
- Cost. The specified product cost is higher than other equals on the market.
- Availability. A specified product may not be available locally, and freight costs to get it on site might make the specified product unnecessarily costly.
In order to get an approved equal approved, you need to ensure the product you are recommending is truly an equivalent. Use a product MSDS (material data and safety sheet) to match up ratings, classifications, ASTM standards, etc., or ask your construction materials supplier to create a list of the equivalents it carries. If you submit an alternative that doesn’t line up with the product in the specification, don’t expect to get it approved.