NEC’s innovative ‘Early contractor involvement’ contract clauses help improve project collaboration

In an effort to boost project collaboration and efficiency across the built environment sector a new standard Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) clause has been introduced to the NEC suite of contracts.

NEC's innovative 'Early contractor involvement'

NEC3 is a family of contracts that help apply good project management principles and practices, and define legal relationships.

The ECI apply to contractors taking part in the design development and construction planning stage of a project and recognise the growing recent trend of early project collaboration across the industry. Modern construction processes such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) place make it essential to start collaborating early.

Until now the design development and construction planning stage on NEC projects has often been contracted separately from the main detailed design and construction stage. NEC has now published a standard additional clause to enable a single NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) to be used for both stages. The clauses are available as a free download now from

The move was unveiled at the Alliancing Code of Practice Launch at the ICE's headquarters on Friday, November 27 demonstrating NEC's determination to ensure its suite reflects the ever-evolving needs of this high-pace industry.

ECI is now widely recognised as beneficial across the industry and project team leaders schemes such as HS2 agree, stating that that it 'supports improved team working, innovation and planning to deliver value for money'.

Peter Higgins, NEC consultant and leader of the drafting team for the clauses, commented: "This will allow the contractor to be appointed under a two-stage Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) before details of what is to be constructed have been fully developed and priced.

"Two approaches to ECI are covered by the new clauses. The employer can engage the contractor to assist their consultant in designing the project, as well as to design specific elements. Following agreement of prices for the construction stage, the employer then instructs the contractor to deliver the works, including any outstanding design, under standard ECC Option C (target contract with activity schedule) terms.

"Alternatively, the employer can appoint the contractor to carry out the design with assistance from their consultant. The employer then instructs the contractor to deliver the works under standard ECC Option C or E (cost reimbursable contract) terms. If using Option E, the contractor can also be incentivised to provide a cost-effective design by sharing in the savings on the employer's budget, which includes other relevant costs incurred by the employer."

The NEC will be releasing an advisory 'How To' guide to the clauses and hosting a programme of training courses in the New Year.