Practice Group Survey - Acceptable Product Submittals

This month the CSI Specifying Practice Group discussed the results of a group survey about product submittals. The intent was to learn how the group processed contractor submittals for products that are not specified by name.

A five-question survey was sent to more than 600 members and 96 responded - a fabulous response rate. So, thank you to all those that participated. See the survey summary results here: Survey Summary.

Louis Medcalf and I are not professional pollsters. We tried to write the survey questions without inserting our bias. We also tried to word the questions to apply generally to all master spec systems.

The results were a bit surprising. Most people treat unnamed product submittals as substitutions. Most people agree that approval of products that are not specified should be documented as a contract modification. Yet, the majority does not process the submittal as a Change Order.

AIA A101 the Standard Form of Agreement between the Owner and the Contractor requires substitutions to be processed as a construction modification. Only two methods of documenting changes are permitted: a Change Order and an Architect's Supplemental Instruction (ASI). Change Orders must be used when the Contract Time and the Contract Sum are modified. Otherwise ASIs can be used to authorize minor changes to the Work not affecting time or cost, such ass accepting non-specified products.

Change Orders require the Owner's signature; ASIs do not. There are incentives to minimize the number of Change Orders on projects. Often Change Orders are used as a method to judge the quality of the documents. Writing Change Orders to accept non-specified products may skew the Owner's perception of the documents, just by the number of Change Orders that may be required.

The majority agreed that separate procedures should be specified for accepting products that are not specified. The survey and discussion did not attempt to identify what those procedures should be.

The only firm conclusion from the discussion seemed to be that additional discussion of substitutions is probably needed.

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