What Are Side-by-Side Comparisons for Architectural Product Substitutions?

As a contractor who bids on architecturally-specified projects, it’s important to know the process of submitting product substitutions. Learn about the side-by-side comparison service that Sheffield Metals offers to our customers.

For those involved in the architecturally-specified metal roofing industry, there are many processes and procedures related to submitting bids for projects. Plus, bidding on architectural projects can already be complicated and stressful for some contractors.

This is especially true if you’re a contractor who wants or needs to submit a product substitution, whether it’s a different manufacturer’s product or one that meets the specified project requirements.

Luckily, some manufacturers offer services to help ease some of these stresses, including the side-by-side comparison for product substitutions.

At Sheffield Metals, we’ve put an emphasis on assisting contractors with bidding on architectural projects, which is why we have a full-time, in-house Architectural Department dedicated to helping our customers with their project needs. One such service we offer is a comprehensive side-by-side comparison.

So, what is a side-by-side? Who uses them? What does one look like? Let’s discuss.


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What is a “Side-By-Side” For a Project Substitution?

Before we get into what information is needed to complete a side-by-side and some examples, let’s start by simply defining the phrase “side-by-side.” A side-by-side is a chart comparing the product in an architectural specification with a manufacturer’s comparable product that is not in the specification.

For architects, spec writers, and other design community members, project specifications define or act as the basis of design, which is used to set the performance and quality requirements to be achieved with the design.

This means that when an architect puts out a spec, any contractor or business bidding on the project (which occurs before the contract is awarded) needs to include products that meet the minimum basis of design. For a standing seam metal roof, the spec might call for a product that has a specific:

  • Profile
  • Seam height
  • Material and/or gauge
  • Slope requirement
  • Color/finish type
  • Testing requirement (uplift resistance, SRI value, air infiltration, etc.)
  • Warranty (weathertight, paint, substrate, or beyond)

All of this is contingent on the specification allowing product substitutions, as some specs will flat out say that no substitutions are permitted. Always make sure to verify that product substitutions are allowed by reading the specification section Division 01 and Substitution Procedures in the project manual.

The ultimate goal of a side-by-side is to get a manufacturer’s product accepted by the architect for use on the project. Plus, it’s not intended to be a replacement for the product(s) specified; it’s more of an “as equal or equal to” product that adds or enhances the project.

Sheffield Metals & Side-by-Side Comparisons for Project Substitutions

For a little bit of background on how a side-by-side works at Sheffield Metals, let’s start with who is involved in the process:

  • Architect – An architect puts out a specification with all of the project requirements or products that should be included in the bid. They also are the ones who review the proposals and ultimately choose what business is awarded the contract.
  • Contractor – The contractor is the one who is bidding on the project AND is the one who incorporates the side-by-side as part of the substitution request.
  • Sheffield Metals Architectural Department – We lend our support free-of-charge to the contractor (who is typically our customer) by providing them with the side-by-side to include in their bid. The substitution request must be submitted by the contractor for consideration by the design team.

Two Types of Side-by-Sides in Standing Seam Metal Roofing

While the term “side-by-side” is used as an all-encompassing term for product comparisons, we use two different types at Sheffield Metals.

Type #1: Product vs. Product

The first type of side-by-side for a product substitution is utilized when a manufacturer’s product (non-Sheffield Metals) or brand is named in the specification. If Sheffield Metals is named in the specification, we don’t need to provide a substitution.

The side-by-side comes into play when proposing to substitute the specified product with a Sheffield Metals product that has similar and often better characteristics and performance standards. The side-by-side will help to show how the Sheffield Metals product substitution compares in terms of warranties, paint type, color, testing standards, and more.

Type #2: Product vs. Project Requirements

The second type of side-by-side is used when the architect puts out a specification that doesn’t name a manufacturer and instead specifies what requirements products have to meet. Like the previous side-by-side type, the architect will specify all of the project requirements that have to be met with the products included in the bid, including profile type, slope requirement, gauge, color, testing, warranties, etc.

What Information is Needed to Complete a Substitution Request at Sheffield Metals?

One of the first questions we get from contractors who are bidding on architectural projects is how the process of requesting and receiving a side-by-side from our Architectural Department works.

For us to put together a comprehensive side-by-side that covers every aspect of the project requirements, we’ll need the following items from the project manual:

  • Typical Division 01 general requirements (which should define the substitution process)
  • Division 07  specs for the roof system 
  • The roof plans, elevations, and all structural notes

Once we have this information, we’ll first determine if Sheffield Metals can meet the project requirements specified. If so, then we will work with the contractor to draw up the side-by-side comparison chart. Once we’re finished, we’ll send the chart, special notes, and any supporting documents (if needed) back to the bidding contractor so they can add them to their bid.

Example of a Side-by-Side Comparison for a Product Substitution

The following photo is an actual product vs. project requirements side-by-side comparison that was completed by our Architectural Department, which was then used in the bid for the project:

Final Thoughts on Side-by-Side Comparison Substitutions

A side-by-side comparison is a powerfully visual and insightful tool that could make your bid stand out in the crowd.

Here are some key considerations to keep in mind during this process:

  • While Sheffield Metals can help you by putting together the side-by-side document/chart, it must be submitted in the bid by the contractor.
  • The best way to ensure that you get the side-by-side comparison back in a timely manner is to provide as much information as possible about the project/specification to our Architectural Department.
  • Make sure you’re not waiting until less than 24 hours before a bid deadline to request a side-by-side. 
  • Submitting a product substitution request doesn’t mean that it will be approved.

The Sheffield Metals Architectural Department consists of professionals who have extensive backgrounds (50+ years) in the installation, design, bidding, and technical side of the architectural metals industry. They know our products inside and out — and can seamlessly help you bid with the right profile, color, engineering, and beyond.

If you’re a contractor who needs a side-by-side comparison to bid on a project or have any questions about the variety of design and architectural assistance Sheffield Metals can provide, contact our Architectural Department today!


Contact Sheffield Metals today!