What Information Governs: Order of Precedence

Mar 12, 2020 | Contracts

Executive summary. As a construction professional in the field, when information conflicts between plans and specifications, you should immediately seek the order of precedence section of your contract for guidance.

What is order of precedenceIn a construction project, the contractor is directed on the makeup of the final product by two main documents: the drawings and the specifications. However, for any number of reasons there are conflicts within these documents. If there is conflicting information, and there is no RFI (request for information) submitted to clarify the matter, how does one determine which source governs?

The answer: the order of precedence section within your Contract.

Give me a specific example from the field. Say that an addendum was issued at bid time stating that all door hardware shall be stainless steel. But, the hardware schedule in the drawings states that all hardware shall be chrome. This is conflicting information because the constructor has been told to procure the same hardware package comprised of two different finishes. You can RFI this, but there’s really no need because if the order of precedence of the documents established in your contract is as shown on the next page, the answer is already provided. The answer is that you will install the stainless steel because that’s what your contract, via the order of precedence section, tells you to do.

What is a typical order of precedence? There is no “typical” order of precedence, but the next page shows an example of one from a large municipality in the United States. I simply mapped out what was written in their General Conditions in the section called Order of Precedence.

What are other items I may see? The example on the next page doesn’t include the relationship between plans and details (usually details override the plans). It’s also an unwritten rule that dimensions govern over measurements made using your scale, and that’s not on the next page either. My favorite is the language which says that the more expensive or more stringent requirement governs – this one is actually pretty common.

My story. I’ve used order of precedence many times in resolution of conflicting information but be advised it can help or hurt. And, before you start tangling with the owner, you better know what information governs. See the next page for a sample order of precedence.

If you go to your Project Specifications, or into the Owner’s General Conditions, just search for “order of precedence”. It will likely be there and then you can map it out like I did here:


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