A Guide to Standard Construction Contracts

Standard contracts in construction: ABIC (Australian Institute of Architects and Master Builders Australia) and Australian Standards.

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Standard contracts are widely used in the construction industry. They are designed by experts in the field and provide detailed provisions covering the most common issues arising in the industry. Most commonly, standard contracts are used as a base, and are then further amended to reflect the individual needs of the parties. The following article provides a guide to two of the most widely used standardised contracts in Australia: ABIC and Australian Standards.

ABIC Contracts

The Australian Building Industry Contracts (ABIC) are standardised contracts designed to increase the efficiency of dealings between architects and builders. These contracts are jointly published by the Australian Institute of Architects and Master Builders Australia; and are suitable where an architect administers the contract. There are several kinds of contracts, varying by the extent of work and by state.

  • Commercial Cost Plus: This contract is designed for use in projects where the final fee cannot be calculated at the time of commencing work. This contract contains options for the fee to be either a percentage of the cost of the works or a fixed fee.
  • Major Works: There are two contracts available for this category: housing and non-housing. The housing contract contains the necessary provisions to comply with the various state housing laws. For housing projects in Western Australia over $500,000, only the non-housing contract should be used. Neither the housing nor non-housing contract is to be used in Queensland (see next section).
  • Major Works – Queensland: Queensland has unique construction legislation, and there are ABIC contracts designed with that in mind. There were originally two contracts available for Queensland major works: commercial and housing. The housing contract is no longer updated, and for all housing projects use the Queensland Simple Works – Housing contract.
  • Simple Works: Like the Major Works contract, there are two versions: housing and non-housing. For housing projects in Western Australia over $500,000, only the non-housing contract should be used. Neither the housing nor non-housing contract is to be used in Queensland (see next section).
  • Simple Works Queensland: There are two such contracts to be used in Queensland: commercial and housing. The housing contracts is designed for domestic and small housing projects covered by the various Queensland legislation. For all other projects, use the commercial contract.
  • Early Works: This is intended for early work such us groundwork, demolition, and other temporary work. Note that different states (particularly Queensland) prescribe particular conditions which are available to be included in the contract. However, this kind of contract is rarely required in Queensland.
  • Basic Works: This is designed for single trade activities, small commercial building projects, or residential projects.

The contract includes special provisions that make it suitable for use in any state aside from Queensland.

Australian Standards Contracts

Australian Standards publishes standard contracts and has a number of contracts for use in the building industry. The most commonly used contract is the AS 4000-1997; however, they require heavy amendments to conform with current building and taxation laws (including adding GST). Below are some of the most used contracts published by Standards Australia.

  • AS 2124-1992: For major works. Suitable for a wide range of electrical, civil and mechanical engineering, as well as building, contracts.
  • AS 2545-1993: Accompanies AS 2124 as a subcontract document.
  • AS 4000-1997: For major works. Updates AS 2124, however, some prefer to use the old version.
  • AS 4901-1998: Accompanies AS 4000 as a subcontract document.
  • AS 4905-2002: Similar to AS 4000 but intended for minor works.

In 2015, Standards Australia announced that it would begin work on a new AS 11000. However, the project was abandoned in April 2017 due to lack of support from some stakeholder interests. If you have any queries regarding any building and construction disputes, please do not hesitate to contact our construction team.

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