What Constitutes the Contract Documents?

Generally, plans and specifications for a project are completed before issuance to contractors. This, however, is not always the case. For example, during the course of design, the architect may distribute progress plans and specifications for review by government agencies or for pricing by contractors. Sometimes, the owner may be anxious to enter into a contract or start a job before the plans and specifications have been totally completed or approved. Therefore, to the general contractor, the most important thing to be alert to regarding plans and specifications is: What constitutes the agreed-upon plans and specifications and other contract documents that pertain to the project?
It is surprising how often this question is neglected by those entering into construction contracts and by attorneys and others concerned with signing of contracts.
A clear understanding of what constitutes the contract documents and the revisions, if any, is one of the most urgent aspects of construction contracting. Furthermore, a precise list of what constitutes the contractors obligation under the contract is essential to proper performance of the contract by the contractor.
In general, the contract documents should be identified and agreed to by both parties. A listing of the contract documents should be included as part of every contract. Contract documents generally include the following:
Plans (list each plan and revision date of each plan, together with title) Specifications, properly identified, a copy initialed by each party and in the possession of each party
The agreement, or contract (Art. 17.8)
General conditions
Soil borings
Existing site plan
Special conditions
Original proposal (if it contains alternatives and unit prices, and these are not repeated in the contract)
Invitation (if it contains data on completion dates or other information that is not repeated in the contract)
Addenda (if any)
The contractor should repeat and list the contract documents in each subcontract and purchase order (Arts. 17.10.1 and 17.11).
It is essential to have a properly drawn and understood list of the contract documents agreed to by all parties if construction management is to proceed smoothly and if changes and disputes are to be handled in an orderly manner (Art. 17.14).
To prevent misunderstandings and doubts as to which documents are in the possession of various subcontractors and suppliers for estimating, a properly drafted transmittal form should accompany each transmission of such documents (Fig. 17.2).

Scroll to Top