General Conditions vs. General Requirements

General Conditions vs. General Requirements

February 19, 2023
General Conditions vs. General Requirements

Though sometimes similar, general requirements and general conditions in a construction environment are very different. General requirements define the overall goals of a construction project — they explain how procedures will occur. On the other hand, general conditions outline the administrative, logistical, and management expectations for carrying out that work.

Both general requirements and general conditions can be found within the project’s internal documents, including contract agreements, project specifications, and the project manual. These documents provide the framework for the construction project, including all the requirements and conditions that contractors and owners must comply with.

General Requirements

General requirements define the scope of work that should be accomplished, describing everything scheduled to be built, installed, renovated, and accomplished overall.

All general requirements are used to ensure that everyone involved in a construction project — including architects, engineers, construction managers, contractors, and subcontractors — has a clear understanding of everything expected from them. These requirements also provide detailed plans and schedules.

Cost estimation is also a key function of a project’s general requirements. General requirements provide the information needed to determine pricing for materials, labor, equipment, and other expenses. Accurate cost estimates are important for project budgeting, bidding, and overall construction takeoff process.

Important Elements

There are several important elements that help define a project’s general requirements. These elements can include the following items:

General requirements might also include additional warranties. Construction managers often need workmanship, materials, or maintenance warranties before beginning a construction project.


General requirements are more than just a “do list”, however, they also serve as a roadmap for project success — from materials pricing to compliance regulations.

General requirements can vary widely, depending on the details of an individual construction project. For example, the general requirements for a residential building might capture the details of a single-family residence with a basement, garage, and landscaping. Project goals could include building a high-quality, energy-efficient structure, with constraints like a limited budget and a strict timeline.

Deliverables are headlined by the completed residential building, but can also include all necessary permits, approvals, and certificates of occupancy. Many residential projects are also subject to environmental and sustainability requirements — including waste minimization policies, use of environmentally friendly building materials, and incorporation of energy-efficient utilities.

By contrast, a commercial office building project may have different requirements. Deliverables for a ten-story office complex, for example, will include the building, parking facilities, and permits. The building must meet performance criteria like applicable building codes and standards. It may also include constraints like minimizing disruptions to existing office operations during work hours.

Included Costs

The following costs are typically included in estimates related to general requirements:

Construction costs can also include contingencies, an amount found in original project estimates intended to cover any unexpected expenses or changes in scope.

Calculating Costs

You can calculate construction costs using historical data, market prices, and details from your current scope of work. Start by outlining the size, type, and location of your project. Add any specific requirements or constraints that might impact overall expenses.

You should also review your cost estimates before and during project completion. You may need to adjust estimates based on changes to your data. For example, available resources, pricing for materials, and schedule shifts might change once the project has begun.

Since this is a lot to consider, many cost estimators end up using takeoff software for anything from planning to materials.

General Conditions

General conditions in construction projects refer to the indirect expenses and overhead costs associated with the project. These expenses are not directly related to the construction work itself. Instead, they include administrative costs, bonds, equipment rental, and temporary utilities.

In many construction projects, general conditions play a critical role in cost estimation. They represent a significant portion of a project’s overall costs. It’s important to accurately estimate all general conditions, to ensure that project budgets are adequate to cover all necessary expenses and avoid any cost overruns.

Important Elements

A general conditions estimate can include several key elements. These elements help provide more context for a construction project’s overall costs, and can include the following items:

Along with any other direct costs, these general conditions are necessary for many construction projects.


General conditions can vary depending on the type of construction project. For example, general conditions for apartment construction might look different than the conditions for a high-rise commercial building.

A construction project for an apartment complex will include a range of general conditions. The project might call for temporary facilities like trailers, offices, storage containers, and large receptacles for waste removal. General liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance represent additional indirect costs. You’ll also need to account for building permits, site plan review fees, zoning fees, and costs associated with any inspections.

Building a high-rise commercial building will also require a series of permits and fees. Along with equipment and tool rental costs, insurance costs, and temporary facility costs, commercial projects often generate transportation costs. Your general conditions should account for expenses related to transportation for both employees and required materials. Project management costs like employee salaries, benefits, and site supervision can further inflate estimates.

Included Costs

General conditions can include expenses related to structures, systems, and personnel that directly support ongoing construction projects. These costs can include:

These costs will vary based on the nature of your project and your available budget for general conditions.

Calculating Costs

Calculating general conditions costs first means estimating the amount of each cost. Reference market surveys, historical data, and other sources to accurately forecast each cost associated with your general conditions. After arriving at a total for each expense, it’s time to aggregate all costs into a collective estimate.

Many construction leaders will generate hypothetical scenarios as part of their cost calculation processes. These estimates can help forecast expenses and results before the construction project takeoff.

Are General Requirements and General Conditions Considered Part of Overhead Costs?

General requirements expenses are typically spread across an entire project. These costs are often considered overhead. General conditions are not considered overhead, since they are costs associated with particular project steps.
Overhead costs can include administrative expenses, rent for office space, equipment rental, and building materials like masonry and drywall. As a necessary component of any construction project, overhead costs should be included in cost estimates to ensure accurate budgeting and cost control.

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