Part II: A Design Professional’s Perspective in Drafting Specifications
This is the second in a series of posts that address the issues that arise when design specifications are inconsistent with or contradictory to warranty requirements on a typical design-bid-build (“DBB”) project. This series will briefly discuss best practices to avoid the potential consequences of voiding a manufacturer warranty.
In the DBB context, an architect or engineer issuing a design specification (i.e., one that specifies particular building materials or equipment to be used) is communicating to the owner and the contractor that the specified material or equipment is appropriate for the application indicated in the contract documents. In purchasing the product as part of the project, the owner rightfully expects to receive the benefit of the manufacturer warranty. However, manufacturers often void the warranty in instances where the product was not installed or handled per the manufacturer’s instructions. It is within the design professional’s standard of care to thoroughly understand a product’s limitations and warranty requirements when calling for its use in a design specification. Proper installation and handling should be consistent with and reflected in drawings and specifications. A failure to do so can result in significant costs with no warranty recourse. For example, if the design presents dimensional conflicts with the installation instructions that make adherence to the warranty requirements impossible, a contractor that strictly follows the design documents will inadvertently void the warranty. If the product later fails, the manufacturer will likely not honor its warranty as a result of the contractor’s failure to follow the manufacturer’s instruction. This result could have been avoided if the design professional conformed its design to the warranty requirements. The design professional may be held liable for the design failure that resulted in the warranty being rendered void.
Specification writers must also clearly identify the warranty that is required to be delivered as part of the completed project. All warranties are not created equal, varying in length and scope. An owner expecting a manufacturer warranty from a respected and reputable source will be disappointed to learn that the manufacturer warranty is voided by the contractor’s means and methods, but the contractor’s parts and labor warranty meets the requirements of a vague and ill-defined warranty specification.
This post written by Tim Berkebile