- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 05 Sep 2018
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.
For more information, see Construction manager.
For more information, see Management contractor.
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.
For more information, see Prime contract.
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.'
For more information, see Integrated supply team.
 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.
For more information, see Principal contractor.
- Specialist contractors.
- Domestic sub-contractors.
- Nominated sub-contractors.
- Named sub-contractors.
- Trade contractors.
- Trades contractors.
- Work package contractor.
- Works contractors.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Approved contractor.
- CIS contractors and CIS sub-contractors.
- Commercial manager.
- Construction Industry Scheme.
- Construction manager.
- Construction contract.
- Contractor vs supplier.
- Contractor's working schedule.
- Due diligence when selecting contractors or subcontractors.
- Management contractor.
- Principal contractor.
- Procurement route.
- Tender documents.
- Trade contractor.
- Trades contractor.
- Work package contractor.
- Works contractor.
 External references
Featured articles and news
What should be evaluated to assess building performance?
BIM standards BS 1192:2007+A2:2016 and PAS 1192-2:2013 have been superceded.
What is biophilic design and how can it increase wellbeing?
80 experts come up with the top 7 mistakes the industry makes with BREEAM.
Compliance cannot be verified by inspection on delivery.
Some electric cars have batteries that give a range of over 350 miles.
Assembling, curating, caring for, and designing the future.
A sensitive approach to renovating a building of historic stature.
UK energy policy uncertainty as Welsh project put on hold
What collaborative working achieves and how it can be put in place.
BSRIA publishes the 2019 edition of its small but concise annual databook.
Using QSAND to measure the performance of disaster response.
What U-values are, why they matter and how they are calculated.