Base Bids and Specifications

Building Section Vignette and Multiple Choice

Base Bids and Specifications

Postby Lindalou84 » Thu Jul 16, 2015 2:15 pm

I have a question regarding this sample question from Ballast:

Which of the following types of specifications would probably NOT be used to specify asphalt roofing shingles?
A. descriptive
B. base bid with "approved equal" language
C. reference standard
D. base bid with alternates

The answer is D. With the explanation "A base bid with alternates type of specification for asphalt shingles is not appropriate because this type of specification would leave too much to the discretion of the contractor without provision for review by the architect."

I haven't come across anything in my studies about a specification type called "base bid with alternates" or "base bid with 'approved equal' language". I eliminated those options because a base bid is not a type of specification, it's a type of bid...

Can anyone help me understand how these two terms apply to specs?
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Re: Base Bids and Specifications

Postby Archit3ct-2015 » Tue Jul 21, 2015 12:17 pm

The Difference between a Basebid with Alternate or basebid with approved equal.

is that with a basebid alternate the contractor can replace the product with which ever product he likes and no consulting the architect on the spec.

Basebid with approved equal - is that what ever product the GC wants to substitute he needs to provide all the tech material to the architect and the architect can either approve or disapprove the substitution. (and I am not 100% sure but I think the Arch can bill for the time spent approving the substitution)
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Re: Base Bids and Specifications

Postby Lindalou84 » Wed Jul 22, 2015 8:06 pm

Oh. Okay. I thought there were four types of specifications:
Reference standard

Are 'base bids with alternates/approved equal' types of proprietary specifications, then? Or are they other types? Sorry if this is elementary, I just haven't seen a base bid referred as a type of spec so I was a little confused.

Thank you.
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Re: Base Bids and Specifications

Postby PeekaBoo » Thu Jul 23, 2015 8:42 pm


From what I've read in Ballast, essentially there are two main categories: Performance and Prescriptive

Within those categories there are "types", so to speak...

Performance: (open, performance based - results driven)
Descriptive spec
Reference spec
Pure performance spec
True performance spec

Prescriptive: (closed, product/material specific)
Proprietary spec
Base Bid with
- Approved manufacturers OR approved equal OR alternates
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Re: Base Bids and Specifications

Postby Lindalou84 » Sat Jul 25, 2015 1:51 pm

That helps a lot. Thanks PeekaBoo!
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Re: Base Bids and Specifications

Postby jlu1985 » Sun Jul 26, 2015 6:35 pm

I believe the explanation proposed is actually a 'substitution' explanation which is different than an alternate. If substitutions are allowed, they do need architect approval. But base bid with alternate means there are alternative options still being weighed by the owner and architect so the drawings, specifications, and instructions to bidders clearly state that the contractor is to bid the main item as indicated in the cd's but also have an alternate (usually numbered to keep clear) bid for the alternate item that could be chosen if the owner decides to do so between the time bids are accepted and the time a contractor is awarded the project. When the bids are reviewed by the owner and calculated, it is at that time the owner and architect must have a choice made. If they go with one of the alternates, addition or deduction (additive or deductive are types of alternate bids) then that is the bid number used instead of the original item with original bid line item associated.

I'm not sure how to analyze Kaplan's response - it does not sync with all other alternate bid explanations I've seen.
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Re: Base Bids and Specifications

Postby 212tbh » Mon Dec 25, 2017 7:45 pm

Does the answer provided by Peekaboo seem incorrect? If a Descriptive Spec is the most stringent of specs listing the exact material and method, this would be a closed spec correct and not a Performance based specification?

Are all specs really categorized as Performance and Proprietary?

Performance Spec
Reference Spec


Proprietary Closed/Prescriptive Spec (I believe this is the same?)
Proprietary Open
Descriptive Spec
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Re: Base Bids and Specifications

Postby jabutler » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:11 am

Ballast describes "base bid with alts" and "base bid with approved equal" as variants of Proprietary specs.

Descriptive (excerpting AEP + Ballast literature) - Ballast lists this under Performance (open) specifications. Describes all the components, materials and products, their arrangement and method of assembly, physical and chemical properties, arrangement and relationship of parts, and numerous other details and requirements. Descriptive specs are very difficult to write and as a result not often used. Descriptive specs do not mention trade names.

I actually think this is a really bad question from Ballast. IMO the answer should be (A) because I can't ever imagine writing a descriptive spec for something like asphalt shingles. On the other hand, their "correct" answer "D) Base bid with alternates" -- yes, it does give discretion to the contractor without the possibility of arch review, but in the case of asphalt shingles that is perhaps not a bad thing as the contractor has to warranty the work, thus would not specify an unsuitably poor quality product. It seems like this is a case where the "real world" doesn't match the test question!

This is a major grey area for me, despite feeling that I know the "textbook answers" I still somehow consistently miss these on the practice exams. :(
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