The online resource for the historic environment

5.05 Contracts and procurement

“Only certain forms of contract will be appropriate for use under some specific conditions, according to the goals of the works that are to be procured.”
Cox, A & Thompson, I (1998) Contracting for Business Success Thomas Telford

“…what is best will always be that which is the most appropriate under the particular circumstances facing us.”
Cox & Townsend (1998) Strategic Procurement in Construction Thomas Telford.


The choice of ‘appropriate’ contractual forms relates directly to the need for the arrangements between client and supplier of services to be ‘fit for purpose’
(Cox & Townsend).

In simple terms it might be said that there are four types of contractual methods as follows:

  • Sequential contracting (traditional method)
  • Design & Build Contracting
  • Minor works contracting
  • Other contracting arrangements such as: Partnering, Management Contracting, Construction Management, etc.

Within these four main categories defined above there are many standard contractual forms available.

By reference to Cox & Thompson’s book referred to above (or other sources), define the standard forms available within the four categories of contractual arrangements listed above.

You may wish to refer to Chapter 15 Fit-for-Purpose Contractual Relations.

The ability to decide upon the most appropriate form of contract to adopt is referred to by Cox & Thompson as ‘contracting or procurement competence’.

“Procurement competence is the ability to know, not just one, but the full range of relationship management approaches available… and when it is appropriate to use these under specific circumstances.”
Cox, A & Townsend, M. (1998) Strategic Procurement in Construction Thomas Telford

Contract strategy might be defined as deciding upon an optimum contractual arrangement to best facilitate procurement of services, measured against client requirements and project aims. Procurement might be defined as: the careful appraisal of the client’s needs and identifying and acquiring the necessary resources needed to carryout the whole or part of a project and the integration of these services with the internal resources of the client. (after Wallace, W. A.)

“The construction business is usually very adversarial by nature. Once you hit a problem, if you are in bad contractual relationship with your contractor or your sub-contractor, they see that as a potential commercial gain.”
Jones, S. Project Manager at Windsor Castle (St. Georges Hall)

The relationship between client and supplier of services might be defined as a power construct between the contracting parties. Choosing the appropriate form of contract in order to retain optimum control over the way that work is to be carried out is an essential skill of the conservation practitioner. This skill is paramount if the influence necessary to control the works on an historic asset project is to remain firmly with the client and his contractual advisers.

Consider where a fixed term, form of contract will be of use when undertaking work to the historic environment.

Maintenance work undertaken as part of long and short term management of the historic built environment covers works of preservation against decay and for rectification of defects created by on-going use of the asset – normal wear and tear. Continuity of work force used to maintain the fabric and structure is a preferred component of conservation and provides for improvement of understanding through continual contact with the asset and its needs. It also facilitates an attachment to the asset and its requirements both long and short term. Knowledge gained through continuity of work on and within a particular asset cannot be bettered. Directly employed labour force is an ideal situation facilitating an optimum relationship between an asset and its maintenance team. Not all historical assets can afford to employ full time maintenance teams; many assets are not sufficiently large to warrant such staffing arrangements.

‘Partnering’ as a form of procurement might offer a possible solution providing a ‘halfway house’ arrangement between directly employed labour and the use of outside contractors. Commitment to partnering requires the establishment of mutuality of interest where both parties (employer and contractor) work together for joint interest (user/supplier) with an, ‘open book’ arrangement as regards costs. This form of arrangement on large and small assets presents a potential for a symbiosis that benefits both parties as well as the asset.

‘Partnering’ as a form of service supply is somewhat different to the normally ‘adversarial’ relationships that are defined by more ‘usual’ contractual interactions. The use of ‘partnering’ as a supply/use arrangement requires an approach that is more philosophical than contractual; nonetheless, the industry has responded by formulating a form of contract to cover such arrangements – PPC 2000 & PPP 2003

The fact that interventive work is to be carried out on a site of significance imposes a responsibility to procure service and implement a contractual form that permits client and advisers to have optimum control over how, and by what means, work is implemented and controlled.

The opening quotation by Stirling, S. Bolling, C. (Unit Overview) emphasises the need to understand the differences that pertain when working on or within the historic environment. It is essential in those circumstances to clarify the methods and manner of working and clearly define, via accurate drawn and written work description documentation, how the works shall be executed and the historic fabric protected during their undertaking. It is critical to ensure that there are no ambiguities in the terms, conditions and associated contract documentation. The historic environment is sensitive in ways that ‘normal’ buildings are not and you need to be aware of this fact and implement arrangements that present minimum threat and risk.

The use of ‘standard’ specification clauses should be avoided; each project involving intervention work to the historic environment must adopt a bespoke approach to the preparation of contract documentation. Some standardisation of descriptions might be appropriate where experience has shown that such descriptions can be used to good effect.

“Careful thought should be given to protection from weather, fire and mechanical damage, vandalism and theft. The additional cost of temporary roofs, good ventilation, hot work procedure, the special protection of vulnerable areas, and the maintenance of security will often be justified.”
Historic Scotland The Care of Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments by Government Departments in Scotland

It is not always sensible to adopt normal working practices, as might be observed at St. George’s Hall Windsor and at Uppark where both structures were severely damaged by fire occurring during building works, possibly resulting from insufficient control over work execution: hot work during roof lead work in the case of Uppark, and proximity of temporary lighting to curtains and drapes in the case of Windsor. It may be necessary therefore to limit certain operations that may present as risk to the historic environment and contractual arrangements and work definitions must clearly define how hazardous operations are to be executed and significant fabric protected.

Special measures to be adopted in respect of a project involving the historic environment are far too complex and faceted a subject to be covered by this unit; suffice to say that you will need to be aware of the sensitive nature of the historic environment and the need for special measures and consideration of this sensitivity when planning, defining and designing interventive works associated with the historic environment.

As examples the following is offered as typical of some of the special considerations involved.

Special measures will be necessary to ensure that historic fabric is not damaged by working methods adopted: scaffolding may not be secured in the normal way by contact or connection to historic structures. Careful thought will therefore need to given to scaffolding measures and safety. See also www.buildingconservation.com/articles Scaffolding and Temporary Works for Historic Buildings.

Dust protection, use of hand operated tools, avoidance of power tools, implementation of authority to work procedure, humidity control and temporary weathering structures and measures are also examples where special consideration is necessary.

From your own experiences identify at least 10 examples of situations where special measures might become necessary.

At Uppark temporary scaffolding and roofing was severely damaged in high winds and resulted in collapse, loss of life and injury to work persons. The ability to specify or even design, temporary structure methodologies must form part of you knowledge when working within the historic environment.

Protection against dust and potential for weathering damage to exposed fabric during work will have an effect on methods and manner of working and need clear and concise definition within any work description documentation. Temporary protection measures may be a contractual arrangement in them selves, separate from the principle contractual arrangements for interventive work. During post 1986 fire at Hampton Court the scaffolding and temporary weather protection measures were in place for a period of four years and was purchased by the estates department as it offered a less expensive solution to provision because of its likely period of use. The scaffolding was commenced only 18 days after the fire was put out and offered temporary support to the unstable structure. It was not until the scaffolding was in place that salvage work could be safely commenced. The scaffolding was later sold back to the main contractors, providing additional (reclamation) funds. The temporary structure and its covering allowed the fabric of the building to dry-out for a period of two years before main works were commenced in 1988.

The amount of water used during fire dousing operation at a major fire site will involve introducing millions of gallons of water into a structure; that water will need time to properly dry out if fungal infection is to be avoided.

Using these example it is hoped to demonstrate the need for a bespoke response to intervention taking account of situation, circumstance and individual project requirements. The integration of an holistic package of measures will require project management skills that are comprehensive and tailored to each project.

Using the strategy implemented at Hampton Court the following description is offered as a way of demonstrating the bespoke nature of the contractual arrangements adopted.

The works, in accordance with PSA standing orders, had to be subject to tender action.

The working Party structured their initial contractor investigation thus and detailed by Fishlock, M:
An advertisement placed in EEC Journal (in order to comply with EU directive on competitive tendering within the EU, see also European Procurement Guidelines: Public Procurement in the European Union. Guide to the Community Rules on Public Supply Contracts and EU Directive 93/36/EEC 14th July 1993). In response to their advertisement only British companies responded; the PSA received 31 replies.
From this, and following a detailed assessment of the capabilities of the 31 respondents, a short list of 8 or 10 was prepared, and to whom were sent details of the PSA’s Essential Brief which document defined:
“…requirements and restrictions within which the project was to be carried out. Each of the firms [was] asked to submit a methodology statement setting out their detailed proposals for carrying out the work. From this a selection of firms would be asked to tender."

Six companies progressed through to the interview stage from which the PSA selected three to go forward to the full tender stage. At tender James Langley and Co. Ltd were the lowest tender received and a contract with them was signed 30th August 1988 (Fishlock, M. 1992, page 69). The contract was initially to be divided into two halves, which process permitted further design work to be undertaken with the help of the contractor, in order to resolve uncertainties within the design and construction detailing process where such processes were interlinked.

This process, as opposed to sequential contracting, might be identified as fast tracking or phasing:
“Fast tracking a project means that activities that are normally done in series are done in parallel.”(Kerzner, H. 1998, pages 587 - 588)

Phasing as defined by the Association of Project Management :

“…phasing is more concerned with the strategic pacing of the project and the overlapping between different activities or blocks of activities...Properly done it can have a major impact on the performance of the project.”
(Body of Knowledge 2000, page 27)

(See also Cost Planning and Cost Control section following this section).

Project Management
The role of the project manager within the historic environment should not be a barrier to effective communications between project team members. The remit of the project manager should always be to facilitate best response and the protection of significance. The project manager must always ensure that authenticity is preserved within an environment of protection of significance as a primary response with other issues being secondary, particularly if cost control and project programme is seen as the primary function of the project manager. These two criteria, whilst being part of the normal project manager’s remit must not overrule the principles, philosophies and ethics of conservation.

The ability to manage a project either in house or via external consultants will be an essential skill of you the conservation practitioner.

“Effective project management requires a command of organisational, time, cost and quality management. …The object of project management may be defined as the successful completion of the project, on time, within cost and to the required standard of performance. …All project managers have to be good leaders. They have to be able to build a team and make it work.”
Wallace, W. A.

The effective management of a project will involve the following areas of expertise:

  • Good communication skills
  • Project planning and control
  • Cost planning and control
  • Quality management and control of works

Normal sequential contracting methods might not always be appropriate for use within the historic environment. There may be a need for a greater number of specialists to be employed directly by client where the normal contractor/sub-contractor arrangements may not be relevant or applicable. Specialists and artist may need to be used and cannot be subject to the usual sub-contractor/contractor relationships. Investigative work may need to be undertaken before finalised scope of work documentation is prepared. Some works may need to be subject to two stage contracting – investigation followed by preparation of work description documentation and then eventual implementation of work.

Insurance cover and liability may need to be looked at as a special case and the normal interaction between employer and contractor may need to be modified to accommodate the peculiarities of working on and within the historic environment.

From your own experience identify where directly employed specialists had to be used on a project for which you were responsible, how these specialists were used and how their work was facilitated. Consider how arrangements might have been modified to cover risk and liability especially in respect of insurance and performance compliance.

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You should be able to provide examples of the choice criteria that you have adopted in determining the contractual and procurement methods when working on and within the historic environment.

See also Hughers, N (1996) Tenders for Conservation Work