Abortive work in building design and construction
Abortive work (or abortive costs or abortive fees) refers to work that has been started or carried out, but is not needed, or is no longer needed, and will not form part of the final development. The work will be wasted.
Abortive work can arise because of:
- Cancellation of a project or an element of a project.
- Failed or abortive tendering.
- A change of circumstances (for example a change in legislative requirements).
- Clarification of circumstances (for example the opening up of existing works, or below ground works).
- Refusal of planning permission or other approvals.
- Changes in requirements, such as; budget, location, size, technical requirements and so on.
- Unauthorised work being carried out.
- Work that has not been properly authorised.
- Mistakes or misunderstandings.
- Clashes resulting from poor co-ordination.
- Design changes during manufacturing or construction.
- Changes required once the completed works have been seen.
- Procurement of redundant goods, materials, plant or personnel.
The occurrence of abortive work can be reduced by:
- Undertaking thorough site investigations and condition surveys.
- Ensuring that the project brief is comprehensive and is supported by all stakeholders (including end users).
- Ensuring that legislative requirements are properly integrated into the project.
- Ensuring that risks are properly identified.
- Introducing change control procedures at key stages, with progressive gateways at which the project is defined, agreed, a decision taken to proceed to the next stage and some aspects frozen.
- Applying for permissions as early as is practicable.
- Ensuring that designs are properly co-ordinated before tender.
- Limiting the number of tenderers and the extent of the tender process (particularly for procurement routes such as the private finance initiative, or prime contracting for which tender costs can be very high) .
- Only tendering for work where the chance of success is high.
- Adopting quality assurance systems.
- Adopting assistive technologies such as building information modelling to improve co-ordination.
- Frequent site inspections.
- Suspending the works while potential changes are assessed in order to minimise potential abortive works.
Very broadly, the costs may be borne by the client if the conditions set out in the contract have been met (sometimes referred to as abortive terms), if the client has accepted the risk for unknown items (such as ground conditions) or if there has been a breach of contract by the client.
Where a change has been instructed by the client in accordance with the contract that might result in abortive work, this may give rise to additions or deductions from the contract sum and may also (but not necessarily) require adjustment of the completion date.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Change control procedure
- Cost control.
- Remedial work.
- Scope creep.
- Value engineering.
- Value management.
 External references
- Herbert Smith Freehills, Claims arising from delays and scope changes. 2013.
LPOC notes ‘...it is perverse that repairs should be subject to VAT when new development is not'.
Loyd Grossman recently appeared on a BBC radio programme to discuss NIMBYism in heritage and development, the programme is currently available on BBC iPlayer.