Construction Tuts

Provisional Sums

Provisional sums are included in bills of quantities for items of work which cannot be fully described or measured in accordance with the rules of the method of measurement at the time of tender. For work measured under the rules of SMM7. where these details cannot be supplied, the work is classified as undefined and the contractor will be deemed not to have made any allowance in programming, planning and pricing preliminaries.

The following information must be provided with the provisional sum.

Provisional Sum Definition

“Provisional Sum” means a sum (if any) which is specified in the Contract as a provisional sum, for the execution of any part of the Works or for the supply of Plant, Materials or services under the Clause “Provisional Sums”.
(FIDIC Conditions of Contract Definition)

“Provisional Sum” means a sum included and so designated in the Contract as a specific contingency for the execution of work or the supply of goods materials or services which may be used in whole or in part or not at all at the direction and discretion of the Engineer.
(ICE Conditions of Contract Definition)

Provisional Sum: includes a sum provided for work whether or not identified as being for defined or undefined work and a provisional sum for Performance Specified Work.
(JCT Conditions of Contract Definition)

Example of provisional sum for works.


Practical approach

Where there is a genuine necessity to include provisional sums within the contract, it pays to be clear as to its precise effect by amending the contractual provisions to reflect the parties’ intentions, removing any potential confusion as to how the provisions are to operate.

Particular attention should be given to the provisions relating to the effect on programme and how and when the price should be adjusted to reflect the actual work done.


[1] Paragraph of the RICS New Rules of Measurement – Detailed Measurement for Building Works (NRM2).
[2] Paragraph of the RICS New Rules of Measurement – Detailed Measurement for Building Works (NRM2).

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