May 2007 Newsletter

How Are Construction Products Categorized?

**** The 4specs Perspective

Different categories of construction products are specified differently. Being aware of the categories helps you develop a better strategy to get specified. These categories are taken from the CSI PRM - Project Resource Manual with my thoughts added.

Commodities - These products are typically produced to ASTM Standards, frequently by local or regional manufacturers. Good examples of commodity products are concrete, steel beams, gravel, etc. Most likely these are specified without a manufacturer name and specified by ASTM or other reference standard. Sometimes local producers might be named in the specification but typically not. Commodity products make up a substantial percentage of the value of the building.

Standard Product Lines - These products would be the manufacturer's standard products and may be stocked in sufficient quantity by the manufacturer or local distribution. Typically these products would be named by manufacturer name or brand name in the specification. Probably submittals would be at a minimum for products in this category as the products would be as expected and no additional approvals would be required. This category makes up a significant percentage of the value of the building.

Custom Products - The PRM describes these as products with non-standard characteristics and generally custom fabricated for a specific project. While correct, I see that many standard products are custom fabricated for projects due to the number of units and finishes that are used on the specific project.

It would be impossible for many products to be in stock on a large project. For example in a large hotel, the design may use a standard HVAC system for each room, and the HVAC unit would be specifically built for a project and not from stock. I would classify special ceilings and carpets in this category. Windows on a large project would probably be a manufacturer's standard with a few modifications, and custom produced for the project.

Using my tighter definition with only custom products and not including standard products produced for the project, the percentage of products in this category may be fairly small. They would be specified by manufacturer and brand name and perhaps have no known equals and no substitutions permitted.

Proprietary Products and Systems - The PRM describes these products as so unique that they are only available from one source. They may still be under patent protection, or otherwise have production restrictions that eliminate alternate suppliers. In many cases these products will be selected by the project's Designer (with a capital D to show that they do the overall project design and set key features) as essential for the project. They will usually be specified by manufacturer and brand name and may not permit any alternate substitutions.

I see the marketing and promotion strategy of each classification of product to be different. For example:

Proprietary and Custom Products - Typically the designer or project architect is the key for these products to be selected. Architectural Record, Architectural Products and Product News are great magazines to get visibility with the designer or project architect making the design-related product decisions. Products in these groups would also be good to exhibit at AIA Convention and related design shows - NAHB, ASLA, PCBC and Neocon depending on the type of product. If you are an established manufacturer, exhibit what is new to attract the eye of the user who may already be including your older products in their designs.

Standard Product Lines and Commodities - Typically the specifer is the key to getting these products specified. The CSI Specifier and CSI Shows are often the best ways to reach the specifier at a national level. Several specifiers have commented to me about manufacturers that no longer exhibit at the CSI Show. Consider having your local reps be active in their CSI chapter and exhibit at their local or regional shows. Exhibit new items at the CSI Show to catch the attention of the specifier who may be very familiar with your products and may have used your products over a 20+ year period on many projects.

Future newsletters will focus more on the process of product selection and specifying.


Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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