Two of the most misleading words in the world of construction, appearing on nearly every plan for every new development, are “or equal.” The purpose of the “or equal” designation is to ensure that the competitive environment is fair for all product manufacturers and installers so long as they can prove that their system is truly an equal to the specified product. When it comes to deep stormwater infiltration in Arizona, specifically drywells, we often see an “or equal” being used that is anything but equal.
The biggest issue in the “or equal” process involves what was proposed on paper versus what gets installed in the field. It’s easy for any product manufacturer/installer to put down on paper what they intend to do, ensuring that their proposal closely mirrors the specified system. Where the issue arises is in the field when the product is installed. If a Contractor is weighing the merits of a specified product versus an “or equal” the Contractor is naturally going to go with the specified product if the costs are similar*. To win the bid as an “or equal,” it’s going to come down to price. The most obvious way to win the price struggle is to find a way to value engineer the final installation, cutting small costs here and there that allow for a price lower than the specified product.
In the Arizona drywell market, the MaxWell Type IV and MaxWell Plus drywell systems are specified by more design engineers and municipalities than any other stormwater BMP. 43 years of successful installations has led to that reputation and specification. Systems attempting to prove they are an “equal” may very well be able to do so on paper, but in the field it’s a different story. Using a 36″ diameter auger rather than the specified 48″ is one of the most common shortcuts taken. It presents a huge savings to the installer but ultimately cheats the owner out of 77.8% volume and 33.5% surface area, let alone the reduction in drill time and rock needed for backfill. The use of less than premium components and less skilled labor are other common cost cutting strategies.
In 2015, not far removed from a devasting recession, price is important. But price and value are two different things. At the end of the day, when it comes to using an “or equal” product, be certain you are getting what you paid for. The expense down the road to the owner in reduced drainage and costly repairs won’t make the few dollars saved on the front end seem so significant.
To learn more about how a MaxWell drywell can fit into your drainage plan, schedule a lunch and learn with a Technical Marketing Engineer from Torrent Resources by clicking here.
*Most contractors will use the specified product even if more expensive as they know premium products simply cost more due to the use of better parts and more competent labor.