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  • Writer's pictureRAN FPE


Updated: Jun 26, 2020

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Why settle for performance specs when you can follow three simple steps and get the satisfaction you deserve, and the compliance you need?

The Pros and Cons of Performance Specs


  • Biggest Pro: Performance specifications give the contractor freedom to install the sprinkler system in the manner which they see as most cost effective.


  • Biggest Con: Performance specifications give the contractor freedom to install the sprinkler system in the manner which they see as most cost effective.

  • Most times, you are not bidding apples-to-apples

  • Greater margin of error, from either the engineering or installation standpoint

  • Higher probability of promoting illegal and unethical engineering practices

  • The architect or engineer who produces the performance specification does NOT have reduced liability, even if your Bid Drawings required the contractor to hire the Engineer of Record

Why is the biggest pro also the biggest con? Because performance specifications can take away the ability of the owner, architect, and engineer to control the manner in which the sprinkler systems are installed, especially when the project follows a design-build process.

On top of that, a second con to performance specifications is that you likely are not bidding apples to apples. For example one contractor may bid on concealed piping and concealed pendent sprinklers which are more expensive while another contractor bids on exposed pipe with upright sprinklers. These systems are completely different, one looks nice in your building and the other may not, and the unattractive installation is probably much cheaper to install. Will this be what your building owner wants?

Another con to performance specifications is that your liability may not be reduced, even if the bid drawings require the contractor to hire an engineer of record.

Let’s think this one through for a minute. How can you be held liable if you are not considered the "Engineer of Record”? The easiest answer is because your performance specification is the bid document which provided all project design criteria, and therefore if that design criteria is incorrect, you can be held professionally liable for having developed that incorrect design criteria.

In most cases, even if you bid out a performance specification and require the contractor to hire an “Engineer of Record”, it is likely that you are still required to stamp, sign, and submit those performance specification drawings to the AHJ for the permit, correct? Once you stamp those drawings, you are effectively taking 100% liability for that design criteria, whether it is right or wrong.

This all goes back to the biggest con of performance specifications, you lose the ability to control the installation of the building system, and once you start losing control as to how something gets installed, you start losing the ability to make sure it is installed in a code compliant manner. So, what is the solution to the problem? Design. Bid. Build. The design-bid-build process, also known as a complete sprinkler design, provides the same level of design criteria as a performance specification. The major difference? This design method includes a complete NFPA-13 compliant sprinkler, piping layout, and hydraulic calculations to prove that the system will meet minimum code requirements before the system goes out to bid. The advantages to a complete design bid package for sprinkler systems is that you will get an apples to apples bid and you will know the system works before it goes out to bid. Not to mention, a complete, correct design actually cost less to install!

Marketing Corner

Part One

Coffee. Most of you cannot start your day without a cup. It is on every corner, it is easy to purchase, make, and drink. In other words, coffee is a commodity. You can get black coffee anywhere for any price, but what about those premium lattes with the extra shot of espresso? You aren't going to find all of that extra goodness at your local gas station, or make it in a jiffy at home. You have to go to a "premium" coffee maker, like Starbucks. The Starbucks brand sets itself apart because it has premium coffee beans, extra offerings such as double shots of espresso and flavored add ins. So what is the point of all this?

RAN is Expanding!

That's right, we are growing and expanding in 2017. RAN will be moving into a new office space this month. We will be located in the same building, now on Floor 2. Be sure to check out photos from our new abode in the next Newsletter!

Halfmoon Seminars

Want to learn more from Doug and Chris?

Join them at the Halfmoon Seminars across the Northeast. To see the schedule, follow us on Twitter @RANfpe, or click below to see a full list of dates and cities. The next seminar will be held on May 18th in Natick, MA. We hope to see you there!

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