Last edited 12 Aug 2019


A benchmark is a pre-determined standard or point of reference against which other things, people, costs, time or activities can be measured. It is regarded as a minimum achievable standard which a failure to achieve could deem the work in question to be unsatisfactory, inferior, outdated or wrong.

In any industry, a benchmark can constitute a method of instigating best practice and is usually designed to lead to increased efficiency and higher standards.

On the construction site, a physical benchmark can be represented by a mark, whether on a concrete post set into the ground or some other permanent marker indicating a site datum to which all vertical levels and elevations will relate to. It is the point of reference that surveyors use for levelling and on which drawings by architects, engineers, contractors and subcontractors are based.

The Ordnance Bench Mark is an officially established mark that links back to the Ordnance Datum – a theoretical level zero which is assumed to be the mean sea level at Newlyn, Cornwall. From this base point, all Ordnance Survey heights above sea level (such as contours) are related, as are geologic surveys and tidal observations. The term benchmark also lends it name to ‘project benchmarking’.

[edit] Project benchmarking

Benchmarking is a process by which the estimated performance (often cost) of a project is compared to other similar projects. This can highlight areas of design that are not offering good value for money and can help in the assessment of tenders from suppliers and contractors.

Some websites allow construction professionals to benchmark their projectsperformance against construction industry standards generally. This system uses the nationally-recognised Constructing Excellence construction KPIs – a system of benchmarks used for performance measurement and productivity. By measuring and comparing a project and organisational performance it is possible to improve productivity and demonstrate excellence.

Benchmarking is increasingly being carried out on public projects, where the government has access to large amounts of cost data for similar projects. For example, when analysis of the recent schools’ programme was carried out, it was found that it '... exposed variations in costs that could not be justified by project differences' (ref. Cabinet Office: Government Construction Strategy, May 2011).

Proposals are being considered that will see cost benchmarking carried out across all government capital programmes to create baselines for a cost/value-led approach to procurement.

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