Last edited 19 Jan 2021

Commencement of construction works

In very broad terms, the word ‘commencement’ means beginning something. In the construction industry this generally refers to the contractor beginning the construction works, ie the point at which site clearance, demolition, excavation or construction begins. For more information see: Construction operations definition.

Commencement of construction works will be proceeded by activities such as design, procurement and mobilisation, and there may be legal requirements that need to be satisfied, such as obtaining planning permission, satisfying planning conditions or planning obligations, obtaining building regulations approval, obtaining a party wall agreement, notifying the Health and Safety Executive and so on. For more information see: What approvals are needed before construction begins.

In addition, commencement may be required before a certain point, for example, within 3 years of the date planning permission was granted, or within three years from the date of deposit of plans for building regulations approval.

Commencement may also have contractual implications, as the date for possession of the site by the contractor may be set out in the contract. If the client fails to give possession of the site to the contractor, and there are no provisions for delay in the contract, then they will be in breach of contract. Even if the contract does provide for delay in giving possession of the site to the contractor, the contractor may still be able to claim for an extension of time and perhaps loss and expense.

If no date for possession is included in the contract, then the site must be handed over to the contractor within a reasonable time after signing of the contract.

On commencement of the works, the contractor may become responsible for insurance, security of the site and so on, and may be obliged to progress regularly and diligently with the works, or to achieve certain key dates.

The term ‘commencement’ might also be used to refer to the commencement of an appointment, the commencement of a contract, commencement of legal proceedings and so on.

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