Last edited 13 Jul 2018

Preliminaries in construction

Preliminaries (or 'prelims') may appear in tender documents, providing a description of a project that allows the contractor to assess costs which, whilst they do not form a part of any of the package of works required by the contract, are required by the method and circumstances of the works.

NBS suggest that 'the purpose of preliminaries is to describe the works as a whole, and to specify general conditions and requirements for their execution, including such things as subcontracting, approvals, testing and completion.' Preliminaries and work sections together describe what is required to complete the works required by the contract.

The costs attached to preliminaries may also be referred to as 'preliminaries' or 'prelims', or as 'site overheads', or general cost items or expenses. The Code of Estimating Practice published by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) describes preliminaries as:

'...the cost of administering a project and providing general plant, site staff, facilities, and site based services and other items not included in the rates.'

Preliminaries in tender documents may include:

NB: Preliminaries should not be confused with 'preambles' which set out things such as tendering procedures, that will not affect the contractor's price. For more information, see Difference between preliminaries and preambles.

According to NRM1: Order of cost estimating and cost planning for capital building work, main contractor’s preliminaries are; '...items which cannot be allocated to a specific element, sub-element or component. Main contractor’s preliminaries include the main contractor’s costs associated with management and staff, site establishment, temporary services, security, safety and environmental protection, control and protection, common user mechanical plant, common user temporary works, the maintenance of site records, completion and post-completion requirements, cleaning, fees and charges, sites services and insurances, bonds, guarantees and warranties. Main contractor’s preliminaries exclude costs associated with subcontractor’s preliminaries, which are to be included in the unit rates applied to building works.'

According to ‘Elemental Standard Form of Cost Analysis, Principles, Instructions, Elements and Definitions, 4th (NRM) Edition’ written by RICS in 2012 and published by BCIS, ‘The cost of preliminaries for the building being analysed should be stated and expressed as a percentage of the contract sum excluding preliminaries, contingencies and, where appropriate, contractor’s design fees.’

NRM1 defines ‘subcontractor’s preliminaries’ as; ‘…preliminaries that relate specifically to building work which is to be carried out by a subcontractor. Costs associated with subcontractor’s preliminaries are to be included in the unit rates applied to sub-elements and individual components.’

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Comments

This can look like a different language to lots of the people who are not in the construction field. I think the only preliminary should be to get the right contractor. If you find the right one, and can trust them, all of this stuff will be taken care of correctly.