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Decoding “Or Equal” in a Bid Specification

Have you ever wondered what "or equal" means in a bid specification? This term can be confusing, but it's actually pretty straightforward. Let's clarify the meaning behind this often misunderstood terminology.

For example, when a construction company is trying to find a fastener that will work for their project, they may search for a product that is "or equal" to the one they originally specified. In many cases, an "or equal" product will be just as good as the original, but it may be cheaper or easier to find. Sometimes, an "or equal" product may not be exactly the same as the original, but it will still get the job done, however it will still need to be approved by a project engineer or architect.

Definition of "Or Equal"

When it comes to bid specifications, the definition of "or equal" can often be misunderstood. To ensure that all bidders are on the same playing field, it's important to understand what this term actually means.

In short, "or equal" means that the bidder must provide a product or service comparable to the specified product or service in terms of quality and function. The specs of the specified product or service must be met for the bid to be considered valid.

There are some instances where bidders may not be able to meet the specs of the specified product or service. In these cases, the bidder can still submit a bid as long as they can demonstrate that their product or service is equivalent in terms of quality and function.

It's important to note that the term "or equal" does not mean that bidders must provide the exact same product or service as the one specified in the bid. In fact, bidders are often encouraged to provide innovative solutions that may be better than the specified product or service. The key is to make sure that the proposed solution is equivalent in terms of quality and function.

If you're not sure what constitutes an equivalent or an "or equal" product, ask your supplier representative for clarification. Bear in mind that when implementing an "or equal" product, it must be approved by an architect or engineer.

How To Compare Products and Their Equivalents

When it comes to comparing products and their equivalents for bid specification, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First, product data sheets (PDS) can be a helpful tool for making comparisons. However, it's important to remember that not all PDSs are created equal. Some manufacturers may use ASTM test methods that are not related to the industry to achieve higher values. This is something to be aware of when reviewing a PDS.

Another challenge in comparing "or equals" is that some manufacturers will use different terminology than what is typically used in the industry. This can make it difficult to understand what is being compared.

When looking at two products side-by-side, there are several key factors to consider so you can make an apples-to-apples comparison. These include:

Erosion Control - Decoding or Equal

Material composition: what materials make up the product? What is the ratio of those materials?

Manufacturing process: how was the product made? What steps were involved in its production?

Dimensions: what are the physical dimensions of the product?

Performance: how does the product perform under various conditions? What test   methods were used to determine this performance?

Longevity: how long will the product last?

American-made: is the product made in the USA or not?

An important factor to consider when comparing products and their equivalents is the intended use of the product. Some products may meet all of the above criteria, but if they are not meant for the same application, then they are not truly equivalent. For example, a product may be designed for indoor use only, while its equivalent is meant for both indoor and outdoor use. In this case, the two products would not be considered equivalent.

Unacceptable Product Equivalents

It is incumbent upon the specifier to understand all the performance attributes required for their project and to clearly state those requirements in the specifications. The following are examples of unacceptable product equivalents that have been submitted on bids:

The specified brand of High-Performance Turf Reinforcement Mat (HPTRM) has a published UV Resistance of 90% strength retention at 6,000 hours per ASTM D4355.
An "or equal" may state 100% UV resistance but omit the number of testing hours. At face value, 100% seems better than 90%, but without the contextual hours, the "or equal's" design life may be much shorter.

The same specified HPTRM also has a high puncture resistance. It is frequently used in areas where heavy foot traffic or vehicular traffic is expected. The "or equal" product says it has a puncture resistance of XX lbs. However, it does not mention what type of test was performed or how many mat layers were used in the test. Without that context, the specifier cannot know if the "or equal" will perform as required.

Anytime you’re writing specifications, whether it pertains to erosion control, fasteners, air barriers, or any other specified product, all performance requirements must be clear and concise, with no room for misinterpretation. Any "or equal" that does not meet the performance requirements laid out in the specifications should be rejected.

"Or Equal" Rules Can Vary

When it comes to bid specifications, the "or equal" rules can vary. In some cases, the rule may state that the bidder must provide a product that is equal in all respects to the specified product. In other cases, the rule may allow for substitutions of products that are equivalent in function or performance to the specified product.

When evaluating bids that include "or equal" products, it is important to carefully review the rules of the solicitation to determine what is required. In some cases, requesting clarification from the contracting agency may be necessary before making a determination.

If you are considering using an "or equal" product in your bid, thoroughly research the specification and any potential substitutions to ensure that you are providing a product that meets the requirements of the solicitation. Also make sure to run these substitutions by the architect or engineer to get full approval.

The definition of "or equal" in a bid specification can vary from agency to agency. To compare products and their equivalents, contractors need to understand the specific meaning of this term as used in their particular bid.

A value engineer change proposal, or VECP, is a type of construction bid that allows the bidder to offer an "or equal" product in lieu of the specified product. The VECP provisions state that the bidder may propose a substitution of an "or equal" product which meets or exceeds the performance requirements set forth in the specification.

By understanding these concepts, you can put your best foot forward in response to solicitations and increase your chances of being awarded the contract.

Check out these links for more information on Erosion Control and Geosynthetic Solutions

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