Variation instructions on a construction project
Variation instructions on a construction project

The following Construction guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Variation instructions on a construction project
  • Types of instructions and related documents
  • An instruction will not always amount to a variation
  • Procedural requirements for variation instructions
  • Oral instructions to vary
  • Duty to instruct variations
  • What if an employer refuses to pay for work that has been carried out?
  • Practical tips for variation claims

A variation (also known as a change) under a construction contract involves an instruction for an alteration to the scope of work originally specified in the contract. For more detail on what a variation is, see Practice Note: What is a variation on a construction project? which examines what variations are, why they are needed and the scope of what does and does not constitute a variation. It also looks at the different types of variations, including omissions. See also Practice Note: Valuing variations in construction contracts for guidance on the procedure for assessing and valuing variations, including omissions, as well as the impact on the completion date.

Standard forms of contract normally contain express provisions for an employer or contract administrator to instruct variations, along with the associated procedural requirements. Without a valid variation instruction, a contractor is not generally able to claim the costs or time incurred in carrying out the additional work.

Types of instructions and related documents

There are a number of commonly used documents in the construction industry, particularly on large projects, for raising, clarifying and resolving issues which relate to variations. These include variation requests or orders, change requests or orders and requests for information (RFIs), although RFIs can also be raised on matters unrelated to variations.

Change or variation requests generally come from the contractor