It is important to remember that if you are going to substitute materials from those specified, you need to make sure there is proper approval in doing so–make sure to comply with the contractual requirements to substitute materials. Otherwise, you could be in a situation where you are contractually required to remove the installed substituted materials and replace with the correct specified materials. This is not the situation you want to find yourself in because this is oftentimes a costly endeavor. This was the situation in Appeal-of-Sauer, Inc., discussed below, on a federal project. The best thing that you can do is comply with the contractual requirements if you want to substitute materials. If you are in the situation where it is too late, i.e., you already installed incorrect materials, you want to demonstrate the substituted materials are functionally equivalent to the specified materials and/or come up with an engineering solution, as required, that could be less costly then ripping out the installed material and replacing with the correct material. Even doing so, however, is not a “get out of jail free card” and does not necessarily mean there is not a strong basis to require you to install the correct specified material.
In Appeal of- Sauer, Inc., ASBCA 61847, 2021 WL 4888192 (ASBCA September 29, 2021), a federal project’s engineering requirements required cast iron piping for the above ground sanitary system. However, the prime contractor installed PVC piping instead of cast iron piping. The prime contractor believed it had the appropriate approval through its submittal. The government, through its contracting officer, directed the prime contractor to remove installed PVC piping to replace with cast iron. The government did not believe PVC piping was the functional equivalent of cast iron piping for the above ground sanitary system due to its concern with the noise level of waste materials flowing through the piping. The prime contractor submitted a claim for its removal and replacement costs which was denied by the contracting officer. On appeal with the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, the Board agreed with the contracting officer explaining: “While we agree that a design change could be approved by the designer of record and brought to the attention of the government before being incorporated into the design documents, the [prime contractor’s] task order required that such a design change meet the minimum requirements of the solicitation and accepted proposal. The plumbing submittal [the prime contractor] issued here, showing the use of PVC instead of cast iron for the above ground waste piping, did not meet the minimum requirements of the solicitation.” Appeal of-Sauer, Inc., supra.