The RICS APC process ensures that candidates undergo a rigorous assessment and that their competence to practice is checked. The process gives confidence to the sector, the public, clients and employers that they have reached an acceptable level of experience before they are admitted into the profession.
We often see candidates falling down in the crucial area of Contract Practice in both their written documentation and at interview. So, let’s start with the basics.
Contract Practice is a core Level 3 competency for those on the Quantity Surveying and Project Management pathways, and an optional competency for those on the Building Surveying and Built Infrastructure pathways.
The competency requires you to have an understanding of all aspects of construction contracts and how they are administered. For example, Quantity Surveying or Project Management candidates might gain experience in this competency when acting as an assistant to, or as the employer’s agent on, a design and build contract or as a project manager on an NEC3 contract. The assessors will ask questions on those contracts that you use on a daily basis but, as you need to provide guidance or advice in this area, you should also be aware of the other types of contract in your area of practice.
The assessors are likely to ask questions across a wide range of subjects, but you should have gained direct experience and provided advice in most of these. You will need to show that you have a clear grasp of the contractual implications of any decisions and advice that you have provided.
It is fairly standard for assessors to ask questions in the following areas.
Establishing a contract:
- basic contract law
- current contract legislation, e.g. the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996, the CDM Regulations 2015 etc.
- common standard forms of contract and subcontract in use, e.g. JCT, NEC3, International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) etc.
- contract documentation
- letters of intent
- third-party rights, e.g. collateral warranties, Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 etc.
- roles of the parties under the contract, e.g. client, contractor, contract administrator, project manager, employer’s agent etc.
- conflict avoidance and dispute resolution, e.g. mediation, adjudication, arbitration etc.
- contractor-designed works, e.g. employer’s requirements, contractor’s proposals etc.
- payment provisions
- change procedures, e.g. variations, compensation events etc.
- bonds/parent company guarantees
- insurance, e.g. public, professional indemnity, employer’s, all risks etc.
- retention, including retention bonds
- liquidated damages
- claims, e.g. extensions of time, acceleration, loss and expense etc.
- early possession and phasing (sectional completion)
- termination of contract and insolvency
- contract completion
- final accounts
This extensive list covers the areas that you should know about, so ensure that you have read all the relevant guidance. A good place to start, if you haven’t already done so, is the Black Book. This is a suite of guidance notes that define good technical standards for quantity surveying and construction professionals. These standards are essential development tools for younger professionals working through their APCs.
There are also numerous books to read and APC courses to attend. RICS runs a number of online APC-related masterclasses and face-to-face training courses. The wider your range of reading and training, the better your understanding of Contract Practice will become.
To summarise, make sure you have read the Black Book, have read widely on contract provisions and have attended a range of seminars on the above subjects. You should also have gained experience in a range of the above areas and provided advice on several of them. The more diverse a range of contract-related areas that you discuss in your Summary of Experience and Case Study the better, because it shows assessors that your experience is not narrow.
Tim Jones is a director of TJMC Ltd, an APC trainer, coach and assessor and a member of the RICS Project Management Professional Group Board.