Understanding The Importance Of Preliminaries Documents In UK Construction Projects


Preliminaries are an essential part of UK construction projects. They provide important details about the project requirements and contract terms which are not covered in the design documents and BoQ. It is vital that contractors understand the preliminaries of a project before submitting their tender.

In this article, we will take a look at the purpose, content, and structure of a preliminaries document, as well as how it relates to the JCT family of contracts. We will also give an overview of the writing process utilising NBS Chorus service.

Preliminaries Document

Preliminaries are important documents in UK construction projects, as they serve to clarify all project requirements and contract terms which are not covered in the other design documents and Bills of Quantities (BoQ). It is essential that these documents are completed at the tender stage, as they help ensure that contractors fully understand the project before they submit their bids.

A preliminaries document should contain all the contract terms and specific project requirements that have been agreed upon. This includes any special requirements for the project, such as specific safety regulations, environmental considerations, and any conditions that the contractor must meet in order to bid on the project. It should also include any details about the payment terms, the duration of the project, and the time limits for the completion of the project. While there is no singular standard format universally embraced, the National Building Specification (NBS) is widely acknowledged as the most popular and extensively employed system for generating Preliminaries.

The structure of a preliminaries document will depend on the particular project, but it should generally include details about the project description, the contractor’s responsibilities, and any additional information that is pertinent to the project. Additionally, certain types of information should always be included, such as the scope of the project, the project schedule, and the payment terms.

The standard NBS Preliminaries usually contains following sections:

  1. General Information: Overview of the project, including title, location, and team members.
  2. Contract Information: Details about the contract type, involved parties, and specific clauses.
  3. Health and Safety: Requirements and regulations for ensuring a safe working environment.
  4. Project Management: Procedures, responsibilities, and coordination for effective project management.
  5. Quality Assurance: Standards and procedures for maintaining quality control and documentation.
  6. Site Operations: Logistics, coordination, and site-specific considerations.
  7. Preliminary Works: Preparatory activities before main construction begins.
  8. Temporary Works: Temporary structures or arrangements during construction.
  9. Statutory Approvals: Necessary permits and approvals required for construction.
  10. Utilities and Services: Requirements for essential services like electricity, water, and telecommunications.
  11. Contract Documents and Drawings: Specification of contract documents and their distribution.

How Preliminaries integrate onto the JCT Family of Contracts

When it comes to construction contract documents in the UK, the JCT family of contracts is widely used. The JCT family of contracts are a set of standard agreements which can be adapted and used for different types of construction projects. This family of contracts is seen as the industry standard and it allows the parties involved in the project to quickly agree on the terms and conditions of the contract.

The JCT family of contracts provide a framework for the project, but there may be certain requirements and conditions which are not covered in the standard JCT forms. This is where the preliminaries document comes in. The preliminaries document provides additional contract terms and project requirements which are not covered in the design documents and Bill of Quantities. It is essential for contractors to have a detailed understanding of the project requirements at the tender stage, and the preliminaries document helps to clarify all the project requirements which are not found in the main contract documents.

The preliminaries document can be integrated into the JCT family of contracts by referencing the document in the main contract. This allows the parties involved in the project to incorporate the requirements and conditions within the preliminaries document into the main contract. The preliminaries document does not replace the main contract, but rather adds additional requirements which are not covered in the main contract.

The JCT family of contracts and the preliminaries document work together to provide a comprehensive and detailed set of agreements which govern the rights and obligations of the parties involved in the project. The main contract provides the framework for the project, while the preliminaries document clarifies the essential project requirements and contract terms which are not covered in the main contract.

NBS Chorus

The process of writing a preliminaries document has significantly changed in recent years with an increased focus on streamlining the task. Traditionally, the drafting of a preliminaries document was done manually. However, this process was inefficient, time-consuming and prone to errors.

Enter NBS Chorus, an innovative online service developed by the National Building Specification (NBS). It provides a platform for users to quickly and accurately write their own preliminaries document. The service is also available to use alongside the JCT family of contracts.

NBS Chorus is a web-based service that allows contractors to create and edit documents with a few clicks of the mouse. It is an intuitive and user-friendly platform that can be used by anyone, regardless of their technical skill level. The platform provides access to a comprehensive library of templates that are designed to simplify the writing of a preliminaries document. It also supports advanced features such as version control, collaboration tools, text comparison and automated formatting.

The service is very cost-effective and can dramatically reduce the time and effort required to write a preliminaries document. It also ensures that everyone involved in the project is on the same page with regards to the project’s requirements and contract terms. This allows for a smoother transition from the tender stage to the construction stage.

In addition, NBS Chorus provides users with a variety of helpful resources such as a guide to writing a preliminaries document, sample documents and an extensive library of clauses. These resources are designed to help users understand how to write a preliminaries document and ensure that all the relevant contract terms and requirements are included.

Writing the Preliminaries Document

When it comes to writing the preliminaries document for a construction project in the UK, it is essential to ensure that all the relevant information is included. This document can be a complex one and it is vital that it is written correctly.

The process of writing a preliminaries document begins with gathering the information that needs to be included. This could include the specific project requirements, the contract terms and the design documents and bill of quantities. It is important to ensure that all the relevant information is gathered before writing the document.

Once all the information has been gathered, it is time to write the preliminaries document. This document is usually structured in the same way. It should include an introduction, the terms of the contract, the specific project requirements and the design documents and bill of quantities. It is important to ensure that the document is well-structured and that all the relevant information is included.

The next step in the process is to write the document itself. It is important to ensure that all the information is clearly laid out and that the document is easy to read, if using the NBS Chorus service the document is automatically formatted in accordance with the NBS standard. The document should be written in a professional style and should be free from any errors or typos. It is important to remember that this document is legally binding and should therefore be written in a precise and clear manner.

Finally, when the preliminaries document is complete, it is important to review it and make any necessary changes. This will ensure that all the relevant information is included and that the document is written in a professional manner. Once the document is deemed to be ready, it can then be sent to the relevant parties for approval.


Understanding the importance of preliminaries in UK construction projects is paramount. They are essential elements that define project requirements, contract terms, and more, which are not typically covered in design documents and Bill of Quantities. From identifying project specifics to covering health, safety, and site operations, they provide a robust and comprehensive view of the project’s expectations.

The integration of preliminaries with JCT family of contracts enriches the main contract with specific requirements, providing a more precise and holistic framework for construction projects. They act as complementary elements, ensuring all project demands are well outlined and understood.

Writing these preliminaries, although intricate, has been made easier with digital tools like NBS Chorus. By offering templates, collaboration tools, and a simplified drafting process, it revolutionizes the traditional manual method, making it more efficient and less error-prone. Therefore, for anyone involved in a UK construction project, understanding, drafting, and incorporating preliminaries is a critical success factor.

Ultimately, the art of compiling preliminaries is about precision, clarity, and thoroughness. When done correctly, it forms the backbone of a construction project, reducing ambiguity, and paving the way for a smooth transition from the tender stage to the construction stage. Therefore, whether you’re a contractor, consultant, or stakeholder, understanding the role and importance of preliminaries in a construction project should never be underestimated.