Last edited 18 Apr 2019

Cash flow in construction

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[edit] Client cash flow

In very general terms, 'cash flow' is the movement of income into and expenditure out of a business (or other entity) over time. If more money is coming into the business than is going out of it, cash flow is said to be 'positive'. If more money is going out, this is negative cash flow.

In construction, however, the term 'cash flow' typically refers to an analysis of when costs will be incurred and how much they will amount to during the life of a project.

Predicting cash flow is important in order to ensure that an appropriate level of funding is in place and that suitable draw-down facilities are available.

Until the main contractor has been appointed, cash flow projections are likely to be based only on agreed fee payment schedules for consultants and a simple division of the construction cost over the likely construction period (or perhaps an allocation of construction cost over an s-curve distribution). It is only when the main contractor is appointed, a master programme prepared and some form of payment schedule agreed that cash flow projections become reliable.

Cash flow projections may be affected by the need for the early purchase of long-lead time items or by items that the client may wish to purchase that are outside of the main contract (such as furniture or equipment).

[edit] Contractor cash flow

Contractors have to have money coming in to pay suppliers and subcontractors and for the day-to-day running of the business.

Carillion's cash flow was very low, leading to their liquidation in January 2018. At the start of any contract, a payment scheme or table is drawn and agreed with the client or their quantity surveyor, e.g.:Value drawdown payments chart agreed with client.PNG

[Brook, M., 2016. Estimating and Tendering for Construction Work. 5th Edition. ed. Taylor & Francis.]

[edit] Supply chain cash flow

Cash flow is also an issue for the construction supply chain, and is a common reason for contractors and sub-contractors becoming insolvent. This can be catastrophic for a project in terms of time and money. It is in the client's interest therefore to ensure that the supply chain is paid promptly.

The government suggest that, 'Historically, it is has not been unusual for lower tier supply chain members to have to wait for up to 100 days to receive payment, which damages their cash flow and can harm their business.' (Ref. Cabinet Office, Project Bank Accounts – Briefing document.)

A number of measures can be adopted to improve payment and so cash flow in the supply chain, including:

In addition, there are a number of remedies for late payment.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki


What is the procedure for payment s where extras at incurred due to design change or how is this documented and agreed between parties and does it have to be agreed before the work commences is the a procedure for agreeing the terms after the work is compleatedo

Have a look at the article about variations - hopefully that should help.