Preliminaries In Construction - Updated

28 May 2023


Preliminaries in Construction (continued) 


In the simplest form, Preliminaries are items of works which assist the actual construction work and do not form any part of the works but impact the cost of the entire construction cost. Hence, they include a wide range of equipment, material and labour items. 

As per the code of Estimating Practice as published by CIOB (Chartered Institute of Building), Preliminaries are  ”The cost of administering a project and providing general plant, site staff, facilities, site-based services and other items not included in the rates


Therefore, the rates charged by the construction contractor per work item in a Bill of Quantity, all the equipment, material and labour required to carry out that work item that have not been charged in the rates are then what we refer to as Preliminaries.


In every construction work, preliminaries are required from the inception to the completion of a construction contract. Furthermore, preliminaries can be measured by;

-       Time related costs – Time related preliminaries are those costs which reoccur throughout the construction period such as – monthly cost for data and credit for telephone, purchase of diesel/petrol to power tools & equipment.

-       Fixed Related costs – Fixed related preliminaries are those costs that occur once through the construction period such as – Hoarding cost, temporary road development cost, purchase of ladder/ scaffold etc. However, if there are maintenance charges to be allocated to these items, hence a cost may be apportioned and be categorised under time related.


Also, further Sub-categorised into.

-       Initial Cost – The initial cost expended at the inception of a construction contract.

-       Running Cost – Expended frequently throughout the contract duration.

-       Final Cost – At the end of a construction contract.


To put into context, for example in a Bill of Quantities Document, you will typically have a description like this,






Rate ($)

Amount ($)


Concrete Grade 25






Say this concrete is required on the 1st floor of a building area. 

The rate as included above would include the cement, sand, granite, labour, overhead and profit for the works. However, to carry out this work item, tools and equipment will be needed to achieve it such as head pans, shovels, wheelbarrows, maybe a hoist, concrete mixer, water for mixing purposes, platform to stand or move items which the costs have not been incorporated into these rates. 

These add-on items are what are referred to as Preliminaries / Prelims.


Adjusting Preliminaries during cases of variations


This causes a lot of disagreements between parties in a construction contract as some surveyors have argued that if the value and size of a contract is increased, so should the preliminaries be treated whether significantly or not. 

However, in the ideal situation, the standard form of contract used as the basis of the construction contract is what will form how the preliminaries for the project will be treated. 

For example, “The 1980 Edition and subsequent editions of the JCT Form do provide specific advice on the matter (see clause This requires that, when valuing additional, omitted or substituted work, allowance is to be made for any addition to or reduction of preliminary items. It should be noted, however, that the provision relates only to work ‘which can properly be valued by measurement’ and so excludes other work, such as day- work. Also excluded is work pursuant to an AI for expenditure of a provisional sum for ‘defined work’, as long as the description for the defined provisional sum was accurate (see clause 2.14.1) “ – (Contract Practice for Surveyors, 2006)

Therefore, it cannot be overemphasised how important it is to cater for preliminaries during the lifespan of a project. Just like the human body needs food and water to keep it going so does every construction project which is unique in nature may require borehole to provide water to mix for concrete or water, electricity/ light to power tools, scaffolds/ ladders to access work location etc. for other examples of preliminary items, you may visit our earlier blogpost on preliminaries in construction




Contract Practice for Surveyors - Jack Ramus, Simon Birchall, Phil Griffiths (2015)

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