Structural engineering projects are complex, with stringent requirements for quality and safety for the people who will be using the structures. That’s why a contract for a project requiring structural engineering services has to be not only detailed, but clear and accurate.

Here are just a few of the elements you should make sure are part of your contract for structural engineering services.

The basics of structural engineering contracts

Structural engineering contractYou already know the fundamentals that are included in any contract for service: the nature of the service, timelines and costs. The contract must include key details, with specific, concrete language that makes the entire project clear to all parties involved.

When it comes to structural engineering, there are key details to look for.


While it seems elementary, costing should be as detailed as possible in a structural engineering contract. It should include details on every material, service, sub-contract, consultant, assembly and other element required for the structural engineering project.

The contract should address the dates for project milestones and when payments are due, penalties for late payment including interest and collection costs, and clear language setting out the conditions that would justify the client withholding or delaying payment.

The basics should also include:

  • a description of the process from concept, approval, design and tendering of contractors, consultants and sub-contractors required to put the design into effect.
  • a clear description of the requirements for handover of the complete project to the client, including what constitutes completion.
  • language about ownership of structural engineering designs, plans, files, software and other intellectual property.
  • all contractors, subcontractors and consultants who will be used, the scope of their work, expectations, costs and timelines.
  • provisions for delays and cost overruns beyond the control of the contractor, subcontractor or client.
  • contingency plans for delays, shortages of materials or labor, withdrawals or failures of subcontractors, strikes and other delays.
  • dates or milestones when the client will be able to inspect progress in the project, specifying who will do the inspection, which parts of the project and the range of consequences possible.
  • documentation at the completion of the project, such as a description of work completed, list of materials, operational manuals and instructions, maintenance manuals and more.
  • warranties or guarantees of timelines, costs and quality, clearly laying out responsibility for each of these.

Don’t leave these out

A complete contract for an engineering consulting firm should also have provisions for the following.

  • Confidentiality clauses: These prevent a consultant from sharing sensitive information with your competitors, such as your client lists, marketing plans and strategies.
  • Non-competition provisions to prevent consultants and contractors from working for a competitor of your company for a specific period, protecting your trade and operational confidence.
  • Non-solicitation provisions prevent the contractors and consultants you are paying from soliciting business from your clients.
  • Materials: Do products or services belong to the contractor or consultant, or to the customer, during the project and after completion?
  • Termination clause: This allows either party to get out of the contract without penalty if specific conditions are met. Putting this in writing at the outset of the contract allows you to fire the contractor or consultant, or any subcontractor, if they fail to meet the terms of the contract or fulfill the work as set out. It also allows the consultant or contracting firm to terminate if the client fails to meet the payment terms set out in the contract.
  • Conflict resolution: No matter how much negotiation you do and how detailed the contract, there is always a possibility of changing circumstances leading to a conflict or disagreement between client and contractor, or subcontractors. The contract should lay out the terms for resolving the conflicts, such as formal mediation or arbitration.

At McNeil Engineering, we see structural engineering contracts, and all agreements with clients, as our commitment. That’s why we are careful to ensure that the language is clear and complete. It’s our word to you.