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There exist five Types of Construction Contracts: fixed price (or lump sum), time and materials (T&M), unit price, guaranteed maximum price (GMP), and cost-plus. Each of these contract variations is appropriate for certain projects but not universally applicable. Additionally, each type presents both advantages and disadvantages for the diverse stakeholders participating in a construction endeavor.

Overview of Types of Construction Contracts

Types of Construction Contracts
Types of Construction Contracts

Each construction project presents distinct challenges, and various Types of Construction Contracts are suited to different scenarios.

Fixed Price Contracts (Lump Sum Contracts)

Fixed price contracts, commonly known as lump sum contracts, establish a predetermined cost covering all materials and labor necessary for project completion.

This represents the most fundamental and prevalent form of construction contract. Lump sum contracts are particularly effective for projects with a clearly defined scope of work, allowing contractors to provide an accurate cost estimate for the project. While advantageous for property owners during the bidding phase, it is crucial for them to be vigilant during construction, as general contractors have an incentive to stay under budget. Consequently, many owners opt to engage a construction manager to act as their representative on the job site.

Fixed price contracts also prove beneficial for general contractors, especially those capable of creating precise estimates and bids. With a set total project cost, general contractors who effectively manage costs throughout construction can realize a substantial profit margin.

Time and Materials Contracts

Time and materials contracts, also known as Types of Construction Contracts, reimburse contractors for material costs and pay a fixed daily or hourly wage for labor costs.

This contract type provides added security for contractors, as it ensures their costs are covered throughout the project. Notably, material and labor costs encompass various additional factors within the contract:

– Materials costs comprise the expenses for the materials, freight charges, and a markup fee (typically ranging between 10 and 30 percent).

– Labor costs encompass base pay, overhead and administrative costs, along with a profit margin, collectively referred to as the loaded labor rate.

While time and materials contracts can prove advantageous in many scenarios, it’s crucial to understand the associated risks.

For many property owners, a T&M contract may be less preferable than a fixed-price contract due to the unknown total cost at the project’s outset. However, numerous time and materials contracts include “not-to-exceed” clauses, setting a maximum price or labor hours. These clauses incentivize the general contractor to complete work promptly and under budget, as exceeding these limits would impact their profit margin.

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For contractors, a T&M contract alleviates the pressure of creating a flawless estimate. Since construction projects involve inherent risks, unknown variables, delays, and changes, a time and materials contract allows contractors to mitigate risk with the assurance that the project remains profitable despite obstacles. Nevertheless, the profit potential for this contract type may be more constrained.

Unit Price Contracts

Unit price contracts establish a fixed price for a specific, repeatable aspect of a project, referred to as a “unit.”

For instance, a contractor tasked with building 10 miles of highway might enter into a unit price contract, where each mile represents a unit. The same labor and materials are utilized for each mile, and the contractor bills for each unit at a predetermined price. If the project’s scope changes, such as the need to construct additional sections of highway, the contractor simply bills for the additional units upon completion.

Unit price contracts are particularly useful in situations where the quantity of work units needed is uncertain. For example, during site preparation, a contractor might remove dirt and bill for each yard of soil removed as a unit with a fixed cost.

Crucially, the unit price encompasses all of the contractor’s costs—labor, materials, overhead—and includes a markup for profit.

For property owners, unit pricing streamlines overall contract negotiations, although it can obscure the complete project scope. Owners must be aware of estimating roughly how many units are likely to be billed.

Contractors benefit from unit pricing as it reduces administrative overhead by billing for units rather than labor hours or materials. However, contractors using unit pricing must ensure their prices cover all costs, including overhead, while still allowing for a profit.

Types of Construction Contracts: Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) Contracts

Guaranteed Maximum Price
Guaranteed Maximum Price

A guaranteed maximum price (GMP) contract establishes an upper limit for the project cost, placing responsibility on the general contractor for any expenses exceeding this cap, leading to a reduction in their profit margin.

Under a GMP contract, the general contractor utilizes a schedule of values to estimate the overall project cost. In addition to direct costs, the contractor factors in overhead costs and profit. In this contractual arrangement, the general contractor assumes the role of a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR), overseeing the project from initiation to completion and facing the risk of personal expenditure for exceeding the budget.

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For property owners, GMP projects offer assurance against budget overruns as the maximum price is predetermined before construction commences. Furthermore, most GMP contracts grant owners the right to scrutinize the contractor’s financial records, allowing them to audit project costs for fairness.

For contractors, GMP projects often simplify matters as many project details are resolved in advance, reducing the need for change orders. However, contractors encounter two significant risks with GMP contracts: potential cost overruns and an increased administrative burden.

Cost-Plus Contracts

A cost-plus contract reimburses contractors for construction expenses, covering labor, materials, and equipment, along with a predetermined markup rate or fixed fee.

In cost-plus contracts, both direct and indirect costs are encompassed, with the markup typically calculated as a specific percentage of the total costs. Direct costs pertain specifically to the project (e.g., labor, materials, or equipment dedicated to that job), while indirect costs constitute the overhead necessary to sustain the business (such as insurance, office space, and software subscriptions).

While all direct costs are covered in a cost-plus contract, indirect costs are usually reimbursed on a percentage basis, with the exact amount varying based on the project’s duration and scope. Notably, contractors cannot invoice costs without justification. Before project commencement, the contractor furnishes the owner with a cost estimate, and the contract may establish a maximum threshold beyond which costs will not be reimbursed.

For property owners, cost-plus contracts introduce some uncertainty regarding the total project cost, mitigated by placing a cap on cost reimbursement. Additionally, certain cost-plus contracts incorporate performance bonuses or incentives to motivate contractors to complete the project ahead of schedule and under budget.

For contractors, cost-plus contracts diminish risk and uncertainty as they are reimbursed even if material or labor prices rise. However, contractors must meticulously calculate their indirect costs to ensure that their profit isn’t ultimately utilized to cover overhead.

Determining the Right Types of Construction Contracts for Your Project

There isn’t a universal construction contract that fits every situation perfectly; each project requires careful consideration to select the most suitable contract type. Nevertheless, there are guidelines to aid in choosing a contract that aligns well with a given project.

Here are key considerations:

  1. Lump Sum Contract for Well-Defined Projects:

   – Opt for a lump sum contract when your project has a clearly defined scope of work. This straightforward solution allows contractors to provide accurate cost estimates.

  1. Time and Materials Contracts for Uncertain Project Scopes:
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   – When the project scope is unclear, consider time and materials contracts. Contractors can bid using this approach to mitigate risks associated with uncertain project parameters.

  1. Unit Price Contracts for Repetitive Work:

   – For projects involving repeated tasks, unit price contracts provide simplified pricing and flexibility in expanding the project scope.

  1. Guaranteed Maximum Price Contracts for Fixed Budgets:

   – If your project operates on a fixed budget, opt for guaranteed maximum price contracts. These contracts help reduce the owner’s financial risk.

  1. Cost-Plus Contracts for Projects with Estimating Uncertainty:

   – For projects with uncertainties in estimating, consider a cost-plus contract. This contract type enables a swift project start with limited risk for contractors.

It’s also possible to employ different Types of Construction Contracts for various phases or aspects of a larger project, with many contracts featuring overlapping elements. For example, cost-plus projects often incorporate a maximum price clause.

Regardless of the chosen contract type, carefully review the conditions outlined in the agreement. Understanding the contract terms is a crucial step in mitigating financial risks associated with the project.

Determining the Right Types of Construction Contracts for Your Project
Determining the Right Types of Construction Contracts for Your Project

Asia Pacific Projects – Your Expert in Construction Management Services

Asia Pacific Projects, a leading company specializing in comprehensive construction management services. At Asia Pacific Projects, we pride ourselves on our expertise in navigating the intricacies of various construction contract types, ensuring that your projects are executed seamlessly and efficiently.

Our commitment to excellence is evident in our ability to manage several Types of Construction Contracts, each tailored to suit the unique demands of different projects. As outlined in our comprehensive services, we adeptly handle Lump Sum Contracts, Time and Materials Contracts, Unit Price Contracts, Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) Contracts, and Cost-Plus Contracts.

To understand the diverse landscape of construction contracts and the nuanced management required, we encourage you to explore our dedicated page on Construction Management at This resource delves into the specifics of each contract type, providing insights into when and how they are best applied in the construction industry.

With Asia Pacific Projects, you can trust that your construction projects are in capable hands. Our experienced team is equipped to guide you through the complexities of construction contracts, ensuring successful project outcomes. Thank you for considering APPMVN as your partner in construction management excellence.

Please send information or requests that you need to consult for Asia Pacific Projects via:

NGUYEN THI HIEU | Local Relations

Mobile phone: +84 918 331 489


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