What does ‘Or Equivalent’ mean in a tender proposal for an LED lighting project?

Possibly two of the most dangerous words you can use.

How often do tenders get written with those two words? Or equivalent!  This appears to open up a tender and make it fair to everyone to quote for a project however, for that to work it relies on two things

  • The full specification of what is required and
  • An understanding of the alternative being offered

In reality it is often an opportunity to supply a cheaper product to win a contract.  The secret is to write the proposal precisely with the important parameters clearly spelt out. This limits the opportunity to get a non-equivalent product.

So, as an example, let’s use an office and a couple of basic parameters; how much light you need and the uniformity.  This can easily be found in guidelines such as CIBSE, LG7.

The guideline suggests you require 300 lux at 0.5 uniformity.  This should be in the tender document and allows potential suppliers to show they can achieve it using appropriate simulations or models.  One supplier may then offer a panel at £45, whilst another supplier offers you a panel at only £39. On the face of it both panels are “equivalent “ – both achieve 300 lux.

Maybe the £39 panel really is a good offer.  However, if the £45 one is rated at 100lm/watt to reach your target light level and the £39 one is only 80lm/W then it will be using far more power – 25% more power.

The same light level, yes, but not exactly equivalent!

And what about all the other parameters that need to be considered? –  Ambient temperature, colour rendering, glare, and so the list goes on.

Purchasing managers know a lot about purchasing but cannot be expected to know everything about an LED light fitting.  This allows the unscrupulous, or simply unknowledgeable, supplier to provide a product that doesn’t do all that is claimed.

It’s certainly worth speaking to someone who understands lighting to make sure equivalent really means equivalent!


Earlsmann is a UK based manufacturer of commercial LED lighting and other illuminated products.

Call 08456 434 740 or email sales@earlsmann.co.uk for help with your tender and lighting requirements.

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