- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 27 Mar 2020
In very broad terms, contractors are the organisations appointed by clients to carry out construction works. However, this apparently simple relationship is complicated by the fact that contractors tend not to have all the trades required to construct a building in their direct employment.
Civil Engineering Procedure, 7th edition, published by the Institution of Civil Engineers defines a 'general contractor' as '...a contractor who undertakes the whole of the construction of a project, but usually in turn sub-letting parts of his work to specialist or trades contractors and others as sub-contractors'.
NRM2, RICS new rules of measurement, Detailed measurement for building work, defines the main contractor (or prime contractor) as '...the contractor responsible for the total construction and completion process of the building project. The term ‘prime contractor’ is often used in central civil government and the defence sector to mean ‘main contractor’.' (see also Prime contractor below).
The construction manager manages trade contractors, but the trade contracts themselves are placed with the client. This generally requires an experienced client. A construction manager is generally appointed early in the design process so that their experience can be used to improve the buildability and packaging of proposals as they develop.
A construction manager may also programme construction to begin before the design is completed. This requires careful planning of information release so that the construction process is not delayed by lack of production information.
The client enters into a long-term multi-project relationship with a contractor in which competition is introduced at the sub-contract level. Prime contracting is generally only appropriate for very large clients such as the Ministry of Defence which is continually commissioning new buildings and refurbishment work.
NB: NRM2: Detailed measurement for building works suggest that; 'The term ‘prime contractor’ is often used in central civil government and the defence sector to mean ‘main contractor’', that is; 'the contractor responsible for the total construction and completion process of the building project.'
 Design, build and manage contractors
The contractor is appointed not only to design and build the works, but also to manage them during operation, sometimes providing operational services over and above building maintenance, such as supplying prison staff or sterilisation of hospital instruments.
- Specialist contractors.
- Domestic sub-contractors.
- Nominated sub-contractors.
- Named sub-contractors.
- Trade contractors.
- Trades contractors.
- Work package contractor.
- Works contractors.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Approved contractor.
- CIS contractors and CIS sub-contractors.
- Commercial manager.
- Construction Industry Scheme.
- Construction manager.
- Construction contract.
- Construction strategy.
- Contractor vs supplier.
- Contractor's working schedule.
- Due diligence when selecting contractors or subcontractors.
- Job order contracting.
- Management contractor.
- Master builder.
- Principal contractor.
- Procurement route.
- Subcontract procurement.
- Tender documents.
- Top seven trends that will dominate the future of the construction industry
- Trade contractor.
- Trades contractor.
- Traditional procurement method.
- Work package contractor.
- Works contractor.
 External references
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