Best Practices for General Contractors

  • Manage and coordinate subcontractors proactively.

  • Maintain project continuity by (1) involving the project manager in bid preparation and (2) avoiding staff reassignments before substantial completion.

  • Avoid frivolous changes by carefully screening subcontractors’ proposed changes and their costs; establish a minimum change value; control indirect costs (general conditions, home office overhead, cumulative markups).

  • Offer solutions, not just descriptions, when unexpected problems arise on the critical path.

  • Hold separate meetings to discuss solutions and “who pays” when resolving issues on the critical path.

Best Practices for Project Owners

  • Develop concise specifications and drawings based on national codes.

  • Use commercial standards to the extent possible; unique requirements discourage firms from bidding on the project.

  • Pay invoices in a timely manner to avoid friction at the job site.

  • Provide adequate authority at the job site so that decisions can be made quickly when something unexpected happens.

  • Speak with one voice.

  • Safeguard the critical path by (1) providing clear and timely direction to the general contractor, (2) providing timely responses to requests for information, and (3) clearly acknowledging changes in the contract scope in writing.

  • Hold separate meetings to discuss solutions and “who pays” when resolving issues on the critical path.

Finally, contract clauses that allow contractors to “match existing” or to use a brand name “or equal” product have proven to be one of the leading causes of claims and disputes. If you are the owner and you have no intention of accepting other than the cited product, just say so. And general contractors should resolve any questions they have about matching existing materials when preparing their bids.


Pentagon Renovation and Construction. Available online at

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement