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What Types of Construction Contracts Are There?

Thursday, September 28, 2023

The construction industry involves complex projects that require clear understanding and agreements between the parties involved. An essential component ensuring smooth execution and understanding of roles and responsibilities is the use of construction contracts. These documents define the scope of work, project cost, responsibilities of the general contractor, and the project owner. In this article, we’ll explore various contract types commonly used in the construction industry.

Lump-Sum Contract

A lump sum contract, also known as a fixed price contract, is the simplest form of agreement between the contractor and owner. The general contractor agrees to complete the construction project for a total price set at the beginning. This total price remains unchanged unless the scope of work is altered. It gives the project owner a clear understanding of the project cost upfront, making budgeting straightforward. However, if any changes are required, they can complicate the contract.

Time and Materials Contract

Time and materials contracts are used when it’s difficult to estimate the total project cost at the outset. In this type of contract, the owner agrees to pay the contractor based on the time spent and materials used. While this offers flexibility, it can also lead to uncertainties in final project costs.

Unit Price Contract

In a unit price contract, the contractor agrees to perform specific tasks at a set price per unit. This is often used for projects where the quantity of materials or the scope of work might change. It gives flexibility to the contractor and owner but requires meticulous tracking to ensure accurate billing.

Cost-Plus Contract

Under a cost-plus contract, the owner agrees to cover the actual costs of construction, plus a set fee or percentage markup. This fee compensates the contractor for their services. This contract type ensures the contractor isn’t left out of pocket but can lead to higher overall costs for the project owner if not monitored closely.

Design-Build Contract

In a design-build contract, the contractor takes on both the design and construction phases of a project. This offers the owner a single point of responsibility, potentially streamlining the process. It can lead to quicker project completion but requires trust and clear communication between the parties involved.

Guaranteed Maximum Price Contract

The guaranteed maximum price (GMP) contract sets a cap on the project cost. The contractor agrees to bear any costs that exceed this maximum price, ensuring the project owner doesn’t face unexpected financial burdens. This agreement combines elements of both lump-sum and cost-plus contracts, offering flexibility while also providing a safety net for the owner.

Incentive Construction Contracts

Incentive construction contracts are designed to motivate contractors to complete projects under budget or ahead of schedule. If the contractor achieves these goals, they receive a bonus. Conversely, if they exceed the budget or deadline, they might face penalties. This type of contract can expedite project timelines but requires clear terms to prevent disputes.

Integrated Project Delivery Contract

Integrated project delivery (IPD) contracts are collaborative agreements that involve the owner, contractor, and other key participants. The primary goal is to align interests and optimize results. Risks, rewards, and responsibilities are shared, fostering a collaborative environment. This approach can lead to increased efficiency and innovation but demands trust and transparency among all parties involved.


Understanding the different types of construction contracts is crucial for both contractors and project owners. It ensures that the right agreement is in place for the specific needs of the project, minimizing potential disputes and clarifying roles. From the traditional lump sum contract to the more collaborative IPD, each offers its advantages and challenges. By understanding these nuances, parties involved can navigate the complexities of the construction industry with confidence.

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.