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By Johan van der Wath (Senior Associate) and Khonzinkosi Zondi (Candidate Attorney)


Construction contracts can be categorized as bespoke contracts or standard form agreements. Bespoke contracts are contracts which are uniquely tailored for a specific project whereas standard form agreements are those which are standardized and leave little room for alterations. They are pre-printed or in a digital form, which some have labeled as the ‘take it or leave it agreement’. The GCC, FIDIC, JBCC and NEC form part of standardized contracts used in South Africa. These contracts prescribe their own procedures and processes on contractors and employers alike. In this article we will discuss which standard form contracts can be utilized in specific circumstances in the South African context.

Different Forms of Construction Works

The different types of construction works refer to the actual facility being constructed. The different construction works, but to name a few are the Civil Engineering Works and the Building Works.  The civil engineering works comprises of the construction of roads, railways, bridges, harbours, water and sewerage systems, power plants, and dams. For this type of Construction works, typically the GCC, the NEC ECC or the FIDIC agreements are used in South Africa.

The Building Works on the other hand comprises of architectural work (including drafting and design), assembly, installation or erection of prefabricated houses, block laying/bricklaying building of room components (for example, kitchens, bathroom components, laundry components, cupboards, and similar components). For the Building Works the JBCC is commonly used in South Africa.

Appropriate Form of Agreement

When deciding on which standard form contract to utilise, the employer needs to look at inter alia, the complexity of the works, the management capacity, capabilities and expectations of the parties and their agents, and the training requirements for the administration of the chosen standard form agreement.  Thus, choosing the right form of agreement is essential to the success of the project.

Firstly, the General Conditions of Contract for Construction Works, which is commonly referred to as the GCC, is recommended for use in works where the contractor normally performs full design as directed by the employer. The GCC is typically used in civil engineering works, however it is important to note that the GCC is suitable for use in civil as well as building works.

Secondly, the FIDIC Red Book is the recommended agreement for use in building works and the FIDIC Yellow book can be utilised for civil engineering works. The FIDIC short form contract is then the recommended agreement to be utilised in instances where the building and engineering works are of a small financial value, are short term work or work of a repetitive nature that does not require the specialist subcontracts.

Thirdly, the NEC ECC 3 & 4 suite of contracts can be used for both building and civil engineering works. The NEC provides for fair dealing and good project management which is essential to the success of a project. The NEC enables the parties to complete projects on time and within budget. The NEC however requires adequate management from both the employer and contractor. This is usually a struggling block in the South African context.

Lastly, the JBCC agreement is recommended for use in building works. This agreement is suitable for building works where the works are designed and administered by agents of the employer, and where the works is organised by a principal agent.


An employer and/or his agents have the responsibility of analysing the complexity of the works, the management capacity, capabilities and expectation of the parties and their agents, and the training requirements for the administration of the standard form agreements when deciding on which standard form contract to utilise. It is important to note that both the obligations of the parties and the nature of the works must be taken into account when determining which standard form agreement is to be utilised by the parties for a project.

Therefore, in South Africa the JBCC is recommended as the most suitable contract for building works and the GCC, NEC ECC 3 & 4 and the FIDIC Yellow Book standard form agreements are the most suitable contracts for civil engineering works.