Prime cost contract
Prime cost contracts are used where an early or immediate start on site is required even though design information is not complete.
This method of procurement is not generally recommended, but it can be useful under particular circumstances where an immediate start on site is necessary (for example for urgent alteration or repair work, or if there has been a building failure or a fire, requiring immediate reconstruction or replacement of a building so that the client can continue to operate their business).
Tendering proceeds based on an outline specification, any drawings and an estimate of costs. The Contractor is paid the prime cost (the actual cost of labour, plant and materials) and a fee for overheads and profit. The fee can be agreed by negotiation or by competition, and may be a lump sum (which it may be possible to adjust if the actual cost is different from the estimate), or a percentage of the prime cost (which it may be possible to revise if the client changes the nature of the works).
Other basis for payment are possible, including combinations of lump sum and percentage fees. For example, it might be possible to fix some elements of overheads whilst applying a percentage to other elements and to profit.
This is a high risk form of procurement for the client as they are reliant on the contractor working efficiently and procuring sub-contracts economically. Sub contracts may be procured competitively, but there may be little incentive for the contractor to secure or select economic bids. Some of these difficulties can be mitigated if a partnering relationship has been established between the client and the contractor.
NB Some people consider that a cost reimbursable contract or cost plus contract is one in which the client takes all the risk, whereas a prime cost contract is one in which the cost of the works packages (the prime cost) are reimbursed but the main contractor takes a risk on staffing, overhead costs and profit which might be tendered on a fixed price.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
We review a book aiming to unpick the complexities of building physics.
An introduction to the categories, procedures and types of listed buildings.
This Australian robotics firm have developed a bricklaying machine capable of building a house in 3 days.
20bn devices will be online by 2020, generating huge volumes of information. Is society making the most of this rich data?
Built over a period of 632 years, Cologne Cathedral is considered one of the world's finest examples of Gothic architecture.
UandI adds £1.5bn to development pipeline.
Here are 5 things leaders can do to create a truly circular economy.
Find out about the different types of delays on construction projects.
Researchers at Wien university have developed new system to create an inflatable concrete structure.
Take a look at this newly-opened tower in Chicago with a remarkable 20:1 height-to-base ratio.
The principles, practice and formwork of one of the most important components of modern architecture.