General Conditions in Construction: Definitions & Best Practices

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The general contractor is responsible for all the construction contracting activities that occur on a construction site. These professional services range from supervising the site and the work being done to ensuring that work is carried out safely. These general conditions in construction are varied and costly.

If you’re a general contractor working in construction project management, you’ll need to know about general conditions. To understand what general conditions are, we’ll define the term as it relates to construction and why the term is important. We’ll go further, explaining how to estimate general condition costs and how general conditions compare to construction specifications and general requirements.

What Are General Conditions In Construction?

General conditions in construction mean something a bit different depending on where you look. You’ll find general conditions in the project contract, the specifications and the project costs. To understand general conditions in construction, we need to define them as it applies to each place in the construction project. But first, general conditions are more common in commercial construction because residential hasn’t adopted the same standards used in commercial construction.

General conditions in a construction project contract are the terms decided between the owner, the constructor, and, in some cases, the architect. But it also includes dates, such as when the project is set to start and the date on which it’ll be finished. General conditions also apply to how delays will be handled, the terms for payment, change orders and how contractual disputes will be resolved.

Regarding specifications, general conditions are the information regarding the project administration roles, responsibilities and processes. That is, setting up meetings, how change orders are handled, etc. The general conditions in this place are specific to the project. This differs from general requirements, which also deal with specifications. We’ll get to that later.

Then there are the project costs, in which general conditions offer infrastructure and resources for the general contractor and trade subcontractors to complete all project phases. These are temporary costs or soft costs that are necessary for the construction site and for the construction to be done correctly. General conditions are an important part of the construction project contract; it defines what’s needed for the project to be completed to the satisfaction of the owner when it’s turned over to them.

Project management software can help ensure that all general conditions in your commercial construction project are included in the project plan. ProjectManager is award-winning project management software with powerful Gantt charts that help you plan, manage and track your construction project in real time. You can include all the activities related to the construction general conditions on the Gantt chart, linking dependencies to avoid delays and filtering for the critical path to identify essential tasks to help you deliver the contracted project to the owner to their satisfaction. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

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ProjectManager has Gantt charts to plan your general conditions and track them in real time. Learn more

Why Are General Conditions Important In Construction?

General conditions are those resources and items that won’t be part of the completed project, but that doesn’t mean they’re unimportant. General conditions can include everything from fencing to signage. Imagine a construction project without either. It’d be impossible to run a safe construction site if you couldn’t keep people out of harm’s way.

There’s also the fact that the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the construction project are defined in the general conditions. Without general conditions, contracting parties would have no clear duties or privileges. The project would have no governance and work would be slow and expensive if it was able to be done.

The costs related to the infrastructure that allows the project to be constructed are outlined in the general conditions. The scaffolding and other temporary structures cost money. There are also supervisors and dumpsters employed to oversee the work and remove garbage; all these things cost money. The general conditions estimate the cost of the infrastructure.

How to Estimate General Conditions Costs

Let’s take a moment to understand how general condition costs are estimated. When trying to accurately estimate general condition costs, you’ll first want to look at historical data. Look at past projects and what the general conditions costs were then. If the new construction project is similar, then you’ll have a decent idea of what the costs will be, though you should factor in inflation.

But general contractors don’t always have a previous construction project by which to measure the one they’re about to initiate. Or sometimes, the new project is so different from previous projects that any comparison between the two is impossible and misleading. In these cases, you’ll want to look at every general condition item and estimate their cost. This also means you’ll have to know the duration of the project. If a site supervisor makes a certain amount an hour, that’ll then have to be multiplied by the hours they’ll work. However, some general conditions, like dumpster costs, are by the load, so they’ll be estimated more broadly.

Related: Best Construction Estimating Software of 2023 for Managing Projects

Therefore, historical data, scheduling and individual general condition costs (service, equipment and materials used by general contractors to ensure the project meets the contract and schedule agreement) are all important factors in making an accurate estimate. Again, it’s ideal to base your estimates on previous projects and the general conditions cost for them, but if that data isn’t available, you’ll need to list the items that are general conditions and determine their cost and duration to develop an accurate estimate.

General Conditions vs. Construction Specifications

General conditions are often confused with other construction project management terms such as construction specifications. It’s understandable why this might happen, but it’s important to be clear in the distinction between the two to avoid confusion and miscommunication.

Construction specifications detail the work and workmanship in a construction project. These are defined during the design phase and they’re part of the formal process. They’re collected on a written document that describes the scope of the work, including the materials that’ll be used, how the construction will be installed and the quality of that work. This will be included in the construction contract, with drawings to visualize the work.

This differs from general conditions, which are the services, equipment and materials that are used to make sure the work specified in the construction specifications is done correctly and on schedule. Construction specifications direct the work done on a construction site, while general conditions are what’s related to that work, such as site management, project management, track removal, etc.

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General Conditions vs. General Requirements

Again, general conditions and general requirements are another set of construction terms that are often confused or misunderstood. To reiterate, those involved in the management of the project, such as project executives, superintendents, project managers, engineers and field office staff are considered general conditions. This also includes all items that are required to support the management staff, such as supplies, telecommunications, the field office, etc.

General requirements are specific protocols for the administrative programs that are associated with the project. This includes submittals, scheduling requirements, LEED, payment apps, permitting, inspection, daily logs, RFIs, progress meetings and meeting minutes. You can say that general requirements collect those items that don’t apply directly to construction. Their costs are spread over the entire project.

Both general conditions and general requirements are part of a bid in which the general contractor has the most control when they put together a proposal. Getting the whole team involved in these two areas will set up the project for success.

Free Construction Templates

If you need help with your project proposal, you can download a free template from our site. In fact, we have dozens of project management templates for Excel and Word that cover every phase of a project. Here are a few that focus on construction.

Construction Proposal Template

General conditions will play into your construction project proposal. You can make your bid competitive and profitable by outlining the details that’ll allow your client to achieve their goals with our free construction proposal template for Word.

Construction Estimate Template

Our free construction estimate template for Excel ensures that you make a profit by having an accurate estimate of the project’s costs. With our free template, you can forecast your labor costs, material costs and profit margin to make sure your bid is financially sound.

Construction Schedule Template

You made accurate estimates of the construction costs and your bid was accepted. Now you need our free construction schedule template to get your ducks in a row. Organize your tasks on a Gantt chart, link dependencies, filter for the critical path and set a baseline to track your progress in real time.

ProjectManager Helps Track Construction General Conditions

Templates are great, but they’re static documents. A construction project is anything but static. ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that helps general contractors plan, manage and track their construction work in real time. You can plan your general conditions, use our unlimited file storage to keep your documents in one place and utilize collaborative features to share files and connect teams on the job site, in the office and everywhere in between.

Track General Conditions With Real-Time Dashboards

To make sure you don’t suffer cost overruns during the project, you need to closely monitor your costs, time and more. Our real-time dashboards automatically collect project data and then display them in easy-to-read graphs and charts showing metrics for live costs, time, workload and much more. Unlike lightweight software, there’s no time-consuming configuration required. Just toggle over to the dashboard whenever you want a high-level view of the project.

ProjectManager's dashboard
Use Customizable Reports to Get Deeper Into the Data

Dashboards are a great tool, but when you need more information, use our reporting features. There are reports on timesheets, variance and, of course, project status. All the reports can be filtered to show only the data you want to see. You can also share the reports in a variety of formats to keep the project owner updated on progress, whether they want to get a PDF attachment by email or a printout for a one-on-one presentation.

ProjectManager's timesheet report filter

Construction is a collaborative effort. Our software keeps you connected with construction project owners, architects, managers, general contractors and subcontractors with real-time communications. There are even email and in-app alerts to keep you notified of comments and shared files. You’ll always know the status of your general conditions with our tool.

ProjectManager is online project management software that allows construction professionals to plan, manage and track their projects in real time. Get the risk management, task management and resource management tools you need to stay productive and complete your projects on time and within budget. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.