Schedule of Works


Dean Suttling

August 19th, 2019
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What is a Schedule of Works?

A Schedule of Works is a contract document that lists the works required on a project. The Schedule references the requirements included in the specifications and contract drawings plus any additional ‘builders work’ or ‘fixing schedule’ type items, this is commonly referred to as a specified schedule of work.

JCT Standard Building Contracts have the option to be with quantities, without quantities, and with approximate quantities. JCT Design and Build Contracts priced on a lump sum basis will typically use a contract sum analysis. A Schedule of Work is therefore best suited to a Standard Building Contract without quantities and ideally on projects where the works are small value or simple in terms of complexity as this will aid contractual administration.

Schedule of Works differ from traditional bills of quantities as each description in the list of the works required is priced as an ‘item’ rather than a quantity. By producing a pricing schedule in this way, the contractor is deemed to have allowed for the quantity required to fulfil the contract requirements. Therefore, a Schedule of Work is a means of transferring the liability for accurately taking off the works to the Contractor.

It’s important that the Schedule of Works refers to all relevant documents as if the contractor makes a claim that an item was unclear or ambiguous at a later date, you can refer back to the Schedule. Planning applications or conditions attached to the planning approval, the structural engineer’s calculations, any pre-information pack, any constraints along with any other relevant information for the intended works should be referenced in the Schedule of Work. You should also allow for an entry that makes it clear the contractor has been given the opportunity to visit the site beforehand.

In terms of the individual descriptions of the works required, they should be set out in way that will allow the tenderers to clearly identify the works and materials required. It is likely they the contractor will need to produce a take off in order to price the works, which they will do by reference to the drawings, but the schedules should accurately describe the work. Issues are likely to arise after the contract has been awarded if important items are missed. For example, the contractor could argue that these items were assumed as provided by others and therefore were not included in their price.

If broken down to a suitable level and arranged on an elemental basis, for example sub-structure, super-structure, fit out etc. the Schedule of Works can be used as a sequence for the programme of works.

When should a Schedule of Works be used?

A Schedule of Works can have different uses through the stages of a project’s development. For example, it will be included in the tender pack for tenderers to price the works and for the successful bidder it will then form part of the contract. The Schedule can be converted into, or form the basis of, a works programme. As the works progress it can inform funders as to the progress of the works or simply be a measure of progress on site to aid the contract administrator.

Tender Pack

The schedule of works at tender stage is for those bidding to understand the works required by way of the descriptions listed and by reference back to drawings and specifications in order to provide a tender return. The contractor’s Quantity Surveyor will normally produce their own take off which they price before converting this price back into the Schedule of Works.

Bound into the Contract

After the first stage above and having decided on a successful bidder, the Schedule of Works will be bound into and form part of the final contract documents between the parties.

Programme Formation

If the Schedule of Works is laid out in a logical sequenced way that reflects the construction process, it can form the basis of the programme of works. The programme can then be broken down to a weekly or even daily schedule of works required.

If the Schedule of Works forms the basis of a programme it can also be used to derive the materials required and when they are needed.

Progress of the works

A schedule of works can be used to inform the value of works completed to date and those which are currently in progress. This type of contract administration is typically performed by an Architect, Building Surveyor or Quantity Surveyor.

Rolling Final Account

If the works are subject to variation these can be agreed and added to the Schedule of Works, thereby creating a rolling forecast final account. As the works progress and are completed there should be no outstanding items, enabling a timely resolution of the final amount payable.

Who creates them?

Typically, the Quantity Surveyor produces the Bill of Quantities. However, for the Schedule of works the incumbent designer normally prepares them along with their obligation to produce the drawings and specifications and are best placed to ensure the schedule covers all the works required. There are also various options available to use software that produces the Schedule of Works, such as the NBS Scheduler.

Upon production by the designer, the Client and their Quantity Surveyor should review the Schedule of Works before issue to the tenderers as the schedule will form an important part of the contract documents.

What is best practice when making one?

A Schedules of Work can be used for a variety of different construction types, but there are commonly two themes: new work and maintenance work, which can also include alterations. The Schedule of Work doesn’t have to be overly descriptive if the work required is covered in detail on the contract drawings or adequately described in the specification, but time should be taken to ensure adequate cross referencing is in place.

As an introduction see below for typical wording at the start of the Schedule of Works:

“The schedule of works is used as a summary of the works to be undertaken and is to be read in conjunction with the full and completed Specification of Works inclusive of attached drawings, Pre-Information Pack and any other information relevant to the intended works.

The contractor should review all tender documentation in full, as well as attending site to ensure that their tender submission incorporates all the works and costs required to successfully complete the Employers proposals.

This schedule of works is to be read in conjunction with the tender drawings:

The contractor is to allow for taking into account any restrictions and sequence of works raised within the Preliminaries and Material & Workmanship clauses.

The contractor is to price each item within the schedule of works and summary page. A copy of the priced schedule of works and completed tender form is to be submitted by the contractor at the time of tendering.” 

A logical format for the Schedule of Work is to reflect the phasing of construction work i.e. the list of items will be arranged under headings such as mobilisation, then clearance, then foundations, walls etc. Laying the works out in this format is not only helpful for measuring progress but also for the tenderers to satisfy themselves that all works have been priced for and, once into construction, it will also aid the contractors in planning out what resources they need, when they need them and for how long.

Dependent on the size of the project it may be appropriate to roll up sections of work in the descriptions. For a relatively small value, which is simplistic in nature, you may have one description for items such as roofing. Whereas, on a higher value project it’s best to list all the types of roofing and even the location where appropriate. This will aid better valuation assessments later down the line.

If a project is part new work and part alteration, it also makes sense to have clear identification between the two types of work in the schedule to avoid any ambiguity.

When is a Schedule of Works not needed?

Dependent on how far the design has progressed on your project and whether the intention is for a design and build route or construction only approach, this should affect the decision to use a Schedule of Works, Bill of Quantities or Contract Sum Analysis.

For example, if the design is progressed to only preliminary status, RIBA Stage 3, then a full design and build for Stages 4 and 5 may be preferred using the JCT Design and Build Contract. A JCT Standard Building Contract can also include discrete pieces of design work, but in either case the Employer will usually request a lump sum price in the form of a Contract Sum Analysis. If a more detailed design is complete, for example to RIBA stage 4: Technical Design, the Employer can provide bills of quantity for the Contractor to price.

Guidance notes from JCT about using a Standard Building Contract Without Quantities, where a Work Schedule is to be provided, recommend its use “for larger works designed and/or detailed by or on behalf of the Employer, where detailed contract provisions are necessary and the Employer is to provide the Contractor with drawings; and with either a specification or work schedules to define adequately the scope and quality of the work and where the degree of complexity is not such as to require bills of quantities”.

Schedule of Works: Developers & Funders

If you are a developer whose project development is dependent on third-party funding, funding is usually provided after you demonstrate that works have been completed, which is where a Schedule of Works is important.

The lender may also appoint a valuation agent who will sign off the works that have been completed, at which point the funding is released. A Schedule of Works that reflects the construction phasing is imperative here if the funding is required to cover the entirety of the project’s development.

Schedule of Works & Bill of Quantities

Bills of quantity are important to define the works required and to have a standard set of measurement criteria with item coverage supporting this measurement. The aim here is to avoid ambiguity that could lead to disputes as the works are either measured or they are not. For example, the JCT Standard Building Contract Clause 4.11 states “The quality and quantity of the work included in the Contract Sum shall be that set out in the Contract Bills”.

However, from the Employer’s perspective, if they have prepared the bills they could be responsible for errors and omissions, which is why using a Schedule of Works could be more advantageous. If a Schedule of Works is used, the Contractor will be deemed to have included for all works required detailed in the specification, drawings and other documents referenced.

Contractors may prepare bills of quantity themselves in order to price the works more accurately before transposing these priced quantities back into the Schedule of Works ‘Item’ format. In such cases, the risk of quantification errors reside solely with the Contractor. In the event of an error there is still an obligation to “carry out and complete the Works in accordance with the Contract Documents” as stated in JCT SBC Article 1 and 2.

Regardless of the above, whilst the Schedule of Works may transfer quantification risk to the supply chain, if the schedule does not adequately describe the works required, the Contractor may still have a case in contesting that all works have been allowed for in their price.


Schedules of Work are a way to transfer the risk of errors in quantifying the work to the supply chain, but conversely it can be difficult to properly assess tender returns if you wish to understand why there are large price variances on certain items between suppliers. Also, by pricing in this way it is possible for contractors to front load their price in order to provide positive cashflow.

Factors to be considered before deciding on this type of pricing mechanism should be the status of design, either preliminary or detailed, design and build or construct only, plus the appetite for risk transference from the supply chain.

If the Schedule of Works is prepared correctly and valued accordingly, it can form the basis of a fair relationship between the Employer and Contractor to successfully deliver projects on time.

About Dean Suttling

A member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Dean has twenty years of experience in commercial management and quantity surveying, undertaking roles for contractors, clients, and consultants.

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