Last edited 06 Jan 2021

Contract programme

Constructing a building is a complex process which involves the co-ordination of many multifaceted resources. To ensure the project achieves the requisite time and budgetary constraints, detailed programmes are devised to eliminate.

There are several areas of work that require detailed planning, one of which is the contract programme. Typically, the successful contractor will start planning the project in great detail as soon as they have signed the construction contract. It is usually the contractor’s responsibility to specify the order in which the work will be undertaken. This will require a close examination of what resources are available, assessing the time that may be required and the impact that subcontractors, suppliers and other third parties will have on the programme.

Using the information in the contract documents, the contractor usually prepares a method statement in the form of a schedule that divides the intended construction work into operations; this will encompass the labour and plant requirements – and their availability – associated with each work element. This information is then converted into a draft programme and circulated to all management personnel associated with the project. Once they have had enough time to consider the proposals, they can discuss the contents so that working methods and amendments can be agreed.

Time overruns are common in construction projects and contractors will try to avoid this happening by ensuring the work is completed earlier than the target completion date. This will be particularly pertinent if the contract involves the imposition of liquidated and ascertained damages after the agreed completion date.

The nature of the construction process means that a planned programme can also become unrealistic due to factors beyond the contractor’s control, such as inclement weather, materials delivered later than agreed, the client or designers giving late instructions and so on. If such circumstances occur, the contract programme should be updated to reflect the situation and include a revised action plan.

The co-ordination of material and component deliveries, subcontractor and trade work can be portrayed in visual representations based on the critical path method (CPM) and produced by complex software programmes. The CPM can provide an accurate reflection of site operations and the interrelationships between activities.

For more information see: Critical path and Programme for building design and construction.

Some forms of construction contract will require the prepartion of a programme by the contractor. For example NEC requires that the contractor prepares a programme for the works which is then submitted to the project manager for their approval. If it is approved, this becomes the 'accepted programme'. The programme should be practicable and realistic, showing when the contractor intends to carry out each part of the works and identifying the resource they intend to use.

For more information see: Accepted programme.

Other forms of contract may require that the contractor provides a master programme for the construction of the works as soon as possible after the execution of the contract, if it has not been previously provided. However, as it is produced after the execution of the contract, the programme does not impose any obligation on the contractor beyond those obligations imposed by the contract documents.

For more information see: Contractor's master programme.

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