The four types of specifying are: descriptive, performance, reference standard, and proprietary. Proprietary specifying is when construction specifications indicate product requirements by naming specific manufacturers and, perhaps, products. Often more than one specifying method—sometimes all four—are used in the same specifications section.
The specifier should always request of their client direction on whether open, closed, or sole-sourced specifications are allowable and the ground rules for each. For public work, some jurisdictions, such as North Carolina and New Jersey, discourage or prohibit proprietary specifying of any sort for public work.
Where competition among suppliers is desired, any type of proprietary specifying tends to reduce competition, but also helps to ensure the desired quality or product features. Closed proprietary and sole-source specifying greatly limit competition.
When a public owner requests either closed proprietary or sole-source specifying, the specifier should advise the public owner that guidance from the owner’s legal counsel should be sought by the owner, because overtly limiting competition may be counter to the spirit and intent of public contracting statutes.
In his introductory guest blog on the CSI website, Kevin O’Beirne, PE, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, explains the basic rules of proprietary specifying, especially in public work.
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