Article #042 Monitoring and Tracking Material and Equipment Alternative or Substitution Requests on Construction Projects


For construction projects that the specifications permit “or equal” alternatives or substitutions after contract award, the contractor is entitled to make an alternative or substitution of materials or equipment which is equivalent or equal to the equipment or materials specified in the contract. For those proposed alternatives or substitutions, the contractor is required to submit a substitution request form following the contract provisions for substitution procedures which is usually outlined under section “01 25 00” of the project’s specifications.

Using Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb, project owners can formalize the “Request for Alternative or Substitution” process by creating the needed form and workflow to ensure the needed reviews and approvals are formally secured. PMWeb custom form builder will be used to create the “Request for Alternative or Substitution” form capturing all the fields needed for the contractor to detail the reasons for the alternative or substitution request along with the proposed cost and time savings. The form will also include the fields for capturing the review and approval comments made by the engineering consultant and project management consultant.

To ensure a comprehensive and faster review and approval process for the proposed material or equipment substitution or alternative, the form will include fields with predefined values for the reasons why the Contractor is submitting the request. Those requirements will be usually part of the section “01 25 00 SUBSTITUTION PROCEDURES”.

Since the form will be submitted by the contractor, the form will include a field to capture the acceptance by the contractor for the certification and undertaking that the alternative or substitution material or equipment shall perform the function for which it is intended among others as shown below. The form will also include a field to capture the contractor’s acknowledgment that the approval for the alternative or substation does not waive the Contractor’s obligations to the Employer to fulfill the project’s specification requirements as set in the contract agreement.

To ensure a comprehensive and auditable review by the engineering consultant, it is highly recommended to have a predefined checklist of items that need to be reviewed and responded to. The checklist will have three categories for review, Product Equivalence, Effect on the Project, and Effect on the Warranty. The “Request for Alternative or Substitution” form will include a table that will list all items to be checked and the response to those items. Access to this table will be limited to the engineering consultant.

The “Request for Alternative or Substitution” attachment tab will be used to upload and attach the specification of the originally specified material or equipment and the specification for the proposed alternative or substitution. The attachment will include the alternative or substation material or equipment brochure, details of the proposed method of fabrication, and the proposed method of installation.

The workflow assigned to the “Request for Alternative or Substitution” form will detail the different steps needed for the review, approval, and final approval steps that will be performed by the project management consultant and engineering consultant team members. The form will include fields to capture the comments of the project management consultant and engineering consultant for which access rights will be aligned with the workflow steps.

Using PMWeb report writer, the “Request for Alternative or Substitution” output form can be designed in any desired form and format to meet the project’s communication requirements. As this form is considered formal project communication, the form needs to be “wet-signed” and stamped by the authorized project entities’ representatives who are involved in this process.

Request for Alternative or Substitution Register will provide a real-time register of all submitted requests and their current status. The register will include visuals to summarize the requests by the type of the proposed alternative or substitution, requests by specification section, requests by status, and a summary of total cost savings associated with those proposed material or equipment alternatives or substitutions.

About the Authorfounder

Bassam Samman, PMP, PSP, EVP, GPM is a Senior Project Management Consultant with more than 35-year service record providing project management and controls services to over 100 projects with a total value of over US $5 Billion. Those projects included Commercial, Residential, Education and Healthcare Buildings and Infrastructure, Entertainment and Shopping Malls, Oil and Gas Plants and Refineries, and Telecommunication and Information Technology projects. He is thoroughly experienced in complete project management including project management control systems, computerized project control software, claims analysis/prevention, risk analysis/management (contingency planning), design, supervision, training, and business development.

Bassam is a frequent speaker on topics relating to Project Management, Strategic Project Management, and Project Management Personal Skills. Over the past 35 years, he has lectured at more than 350 events and courses at different locations in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and South America. He has written more than 250 articles on project management and project management information systems that were featured in international and regional magazines and newspapers. He is a co-founder of the Project Management Institute- Arabian Gulf Chapter (PMI-AGC) and has served on its board of directors for more than 6 years. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI), a certified Planning and Scheduling Professional (PSP), and Earned Value Professional (EVP) from the American Association of Cost Engineers (AACE) and Green Project Management (GPM).

Bassam holds a Masters in Engineering Administration (Construction Management) with Faculty Commendation, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., USA, Bachelor in Civil Engineering – Kuwait University, Kuwait and has attended many executive management programs at Harvard Business School, Boston, USA and London Business School, London, UK.


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