What Is a Force Account in Construction?

March 21, 2024

The use of force account work can be a useful tool for managing construction projects and keeping them on schedule. However, it’s important to understand what is a force account in construction, how they operate, and the benefits and challenges that they present.

In essence, a force account is a pay item used to address unforeseen work items and changes that aren’t specifically addressed in the project contract pricing. This method can be a cost-effective solution for project owners as it requires only that the contractor cover the actual costs of labor, materials and equipment incurred to carry out the additional work. This is a significant advantage over negotiating new contract terms to cover the additional work, as it can be difficult to achieve a reasonable unit price or lump sum amount.

Before a force account is initiated, the contractor must document the nature and scope of the additional work to be performed. This is done through a revised work plan that’s collaboratively reviewed by the engineer. Once the work plan has been approved, the contractor can begin working on the force account. Generally, the work must be completed within one work day of notification that it is required to do so, or it will be ineligible for reimbursement.

In addition to the standard categories of labor, material and equipment most DOTs reimburse other costs including but not limited to bonding, insurance, transportation, subcontracted or specialty work, etc. It’s crucial to ensure that all of these items are properly documented as a bi-weekly progress payment will not be made for any force account items that haven’t been approved for reimbursement.

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