Construction product substitution rife

4 November 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Construction product substitution has been witnessed by more than two thirds of users and providers over the past 12 months, suggesting the practice is rife across the industry, a new survey has showed.

The Construction Product Information Survey, commissioned by Construction Products Association (CPA), found that 39% of all respondents had often witnessed a product being substituted out of or into a specification, or the substitution of a product originally specified at an earlier stage of the project within the last 12 months. Another 30% said they had seen it at least sometimes.

Source: Construction Products Association

The overwhelming reason for the substitution was a cheaper alternative being available, according to 77% of the respondents who said they were aware of substitutions taking place. A total of 30% said an alternative product better meeting the required performance criteria was the main reason, with 24% citing a client request.

The CPA said it hoped the survey would lay the foundations for reform to the way construction product information is provided by manufacturers and communicated to those that use it.

It added that insights from the survey could help form recommendations for manufacturers to improve the consistency and clarity of product marketing information, which was a key issue highlighted in the Hackitt Review following the Grenfell Tower fire.

There was a total of 524 respondents to the survey, all of whom use product and performance data as part of their jobs, including manufacturers, merchants, architects, engineers, surveyors, contractors, local authorities and FM providers. 

The CPA said the survey revealed the current difficulties of accessing the relevant information required to assess the performance of a product and make informed decisions. Among its findings was a preference for the digital provision of product information as well as a desire for standardised and more complete information, including highlighting applications where the product may or may not be suitable for use.

Source: Construction Products Association

It also made clear that there was “strong industry support” for the introduction of competence levels for those specifying, installing or maintaining products and the systems they make up, as well as an industry code of conduct for manufacturers to ensure that product information has been properly verified before publication.

CPA’s interim chief executive, Peter Caplehorn, said: “The importance of this survey will not be lost to those working in construction post-Grenfell. It was spearheaded by the CPA’s Marketing Integrity Group – a group of marketing professionals within the manufacturing industry – and represents a proactive and collaborative industry drive to improve the performance of construction products. I have no doubt it will prove a useful contribution as the industry embraces new regulatory reforms in the coming years.”

Marketing Integrity Group chair, Adam Turk, from Baxi, commented: “I am especially grateful to all those who responded to our survey and to NBS who compiled the report. I believe the result of this survey will be significant in moving our industry towards agreeing new standards which improve the availability of product information whilst also allowing firms to maintain their competitive position. It is vital that everyone in the supply chain can be confident that the information they are using to select construction products is clear, unambiguous, accurate and up to date.”


Who'd have thought, eh?

Peter Wilson, 5 November 2019

In the industry its called "Value Engineering" !

John Porter, 5 November 2019

The most abused term in the construction industry in over 45 years of working in construction.
I do not know why any construction professional be it designer, consultant, client, contractor and subcontractor should be surprised at that, it is has been going on for over 30 years predominantly and very main contractor led in these last 20 years.
Main Contractors have led this for their own financial gain following below cost tendering and sometimes the client in view of the project being over budget. I doubt, indeed I`m very sure that the client does not receive the full financial saving offered by `equal and approved` cost savings, some or large chunks being secretly kept by the main contractor, its the very opportunity they want to recover more profit.
So many local authorities, institutions, educational establishments have been ripped off by system changes based on `equal and approved` with most of the benefit going to the contractor?
I have rarely known an evaluation to take place with product substitutions, I personally always wished to retain the original specification as that was generally what the client specified and wanted and would first see whether the specified manufacturer would give a reduced cost for the same product. After that it would be same manufacturer but with a change to the performance specification to meet the clients budget.
I am glad I was prepared to walk away from so many instances when we would not change manufacturer just to suit the main contractor. So often one got the chance to go back to the same building years later and see the change in specified system only to see the failures of an inappropriate material substitutions and usually coupled with poor workmanship and main contractors builders poor coordination and site management of other trades.
I could go on forever on this subject with great in depth knowledge of the `before` and `after` situation?

Neilan Symondson, 5 November 2019

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