Importance of Variation Clauses

Variation clauses are essential in construction contracts as they provide a structured process for managing changes. These clauses outline the procedures for requesting, approving, and implementing variations, ensuring that all parties are aware of their responsibilities and the impact of changes on the project.

Key Benefits of Variation Clauses:

  1. Clarity and Transparency:
    • Benefit: Clear procedures for managing changes reduce misunderstandings and disputes.
    • Example: A defined process for submitting variation requests ensures that all parties are informed and can prepare accordingly.
  2. Financial Control:
    • Benefit: Variation clauses help manage the financial impact of changes, ensuring that additional costs are documented and approved.
    • Example: Detailed cost estimates included in variation requests allow for better budget management.
  3. Project Continuity:
    • Benefit: Well-defined clauses ensure that variations are managed without causing significant delays to the project.
    • Example: Clear timelines for approving and implementing variations help maintain project schedules.

Essential Elements of Variation Clauses

To be effective, variation clauses should include several essential elements that provide a comprehensive framework for managing changes.

1. Definition of Variations:

  • Explanation: Clearly define what constitutes a variation, including changes to the scope of work, materials, design, and timelines.
  • Example: “A variation is any change to the agreed scope of work, including additions, deletions, or modifications.”

2. Procedure for Requesting Variations:

  • Explanation: Outline the steps for submitting a variation request, including necessary documentation and timelines.
  • Example: “Variation requests must be submitted in writing, accompanied by detailed descriptions, cost estimates, and impact assessments.”

3. Approval Process:

  • Explanation: Define the process for reviewing and approving variation requests, including the roles and responsibilities of each party.
  • Example: “All variation requests will be reviewed by the project manager and require approval from the client before implementation.”

4. Cost and Time Impact Assessment:

  • Explanation: Require a detailed assessment of the cost and time impact of each variation, ensuring that all potential implications are considered.
  • Example: “Each variation request must include a detailed cost breakdown and an assessment of the impact on the project schedule.”

5. Implementation Plan:

  • Explanation: Provide guidelines for implementing approved variations, including resource allocation and timeline adjustments.
  • Example: “Approved variations must be implemented according to an updated project plan, with clear roles and responsibilities assigned.”

Examples of Effective Variation Clauses

Examining examples of effective variation clauses can provide valuable insights into drafting your own.

Example 1: Standard Variation Clause

  • Clause: “Any variation to the scope of work must be submitted in writing using the Variation Request Form. The request must include a detailed description of the proposed change, cost estimates, and an assessment of the impact on the project schedule. The contractor must review the request and provide a response within 14 days. No variation work shall commence without written approval from the client.”

Example 2: Cost and Time Impact Clause

  • Clause: “All variation requests must include a comprehensive cost breakdown, detailing labour, materials, and any additional expenses. The request must also assess the impact on the project timeline, including any potential delays. The client must approve the cost and time impact assessment before the variation can proceed.”

Example 3: Approval Process Clause

  • Clause: “Variation requests will be reviewed by the project manager and must be approved by the client in writing. The approval process includes an assessment of the cost and time impact, as well as any potential implications for project quality and safety. Approved variations will be incorporated into the project plan, with updated timelines and resource allocations.”

Tips for Drafting and Implementing Clauses

Drafting and implementing effective variation clauses require careful consideration and attention to detail. Here are some tips to ensure your clauses are comprehensive and enforceable.

Tip 1: Be Specific

  • Explanation: Clearly define the terms and procedures to avoid ambiguity and ensure all parties understand their responsibilities.
  • Example: Specify the format and content required for variation requests, such as detailed descriptions and cost breakdowns.

Tip 2: Include Timelines

  • Explanation: Set clear timelines for submitting, reviewing, and approving variation requests to keep the project on track.
  • Example: “Variation requests must be submitted at least 30 days before the proposed implementation date.”

Tip 3: Consider Legal and Regulatory Requirements

  • Explanation: Ensure your variation clauses comply with relevant legal and regulatory requirements to avoid potential disputes.
  • Example: “All variations must comply with local building codes and regulations. The contractor is responsible for obtaining any necessary permits.”

Tip 4: Facilitate Communication

  • Explanation: Encourage open communication between all parties to ensure variations are managed smoothly and effectively.
  • Example: “Regular progress meetings will be held to discuss potential variations and their impact on the project.”

Best Practices for Contract Management

Adopting best practices for contract management can help ensure variations are managed effectively and projects are completed successfully.

Practice 1: Regular Contract Reviews

  • Implementation: Conduct regular reviews of the contract to ensure all clauses are up-to-date and reflect current project conditions.
  • Benefit: Helps identify potential issues early and allows for timely updates to the contract.

Practice 2: Training and Awareness

  • Implementation: Provide training for all project team members on the importance and implementation of variation clauses.
  • Benefit: Ensures everyone understands their responsibilities and the procedures for managing variations.

Practice 3: Use of Technology

  • Implementation: Utilise contract management software to track variations, update project plans, and communicate with stakeholders.
  • Benefit: Enhances efficiency and ensures all variations are managed systematically.


Including key clauses for variation management in construction contracts is essential for managing changes effectively and avoiding disputes. By understanding the importance of variation clauses, including essential elements, examining examples of effective clauses, and adopting best practices for contract management, project managers can ensure variations are handled smoothly and projects are completed successfully.