The Importance of Owner Contingency in Construction Project Budgets

The Importance of Owner Contingency in Construction Project Budgets

Construction projects are complex undertakings that require careful planning, effective budgeting, and proactive risk management. One crucial aspect of project budgeting is the inclusion of owner contingency funds. In this article, we will delve into the significance of owner contingency and its allocation within project budgets. We will explore the various scopes of work that require contingency funds and emphasize the importance of monitoring the Total Anticipated Cost (TAC) throughout the project lifecycle. Additionally, we will discuss the role of an experienced owner's representative in ensuring proper budgeting and contingency management.

Understanding the Project Budget:

A project budget serves as a financial roadmap, outlining the estimated costs and resources required to complete a construction project successfully. It encompasses both direct costs, such as materials and labor, and indirect costs, including permits, design fees, and administrative expenses. However, even the most meticulous budget can encounter unforeseen challenges, making contingency funds a vital component.

Owner Contingency and Contractor Contingency:

Contingency funds are allocated to address "unknown unknowns" – unexpected events that cannot be predicted or accounted for with precision during the budgeting phase. Owner contingency refers to the amount set aside by the project owner to handle these unforeseen costs. It provides a financial safety net and empowers the owner to address issues promptly without impacting the project's progress.

On the other hand, contractor contingency is an amount included in the contractor's bid to account for potential unknowns during construction. It offers flexibility for the contractor to manage unexpected challenges without requesting additional funds from the owner. Both owner and contractor contingency funds play a crucial role in mitigating risks and ensuring the project stays on track.

Scopes of Work and Contingency:

Contingency funds can be allocated across different scopes of work within a project. Soft cost contingency covers expenses such as permit fees, design revisions, and consultant charges that may fluctuate during the project's lifespan. This type of contingency protects against unforeseen administrative or regulatory hurdles that may arise.

Hard cost contingency, on the other hand, accounts for unexpected changes in materials, labor, or additional work required due to unforeseen site conditions or design alterations. It provides the necessary financial cushion to address unanticipated challenges that arise during construction.

Monitoring Total Anticipated Cost (TAC):

The Total Anticipated Cost (TAC) is a crucial metric that represents the overall estimated cost of completing the project, considering both the initial budget and any changes resulting from scope modifications or unforeseen circumstances. It is essential to monitor the TAC throughout the project lifecycle to ensure that adequate funds are available to cover all project expenses, including contingencies.

Assuming all contingency funds will be spent when calculating the TAC is a best practice. This conservative approach helps prevent potential budget shortfalls and ensures that the project remains financially viable, reducing the need for additional financing or delays in completion.

The Role of an Experienced Owner's Representative:

Engaging an experienced owner's representative is highly recommended for effective budgeting and contingency management. These professionals possess historical data and expertise in analyzing project requirements, costs, and potential risks. They can accurately assess the necessary contingency amounts for different scopes of work and recommend appropriate budget allocations.

Dubrow Group, a leading owner's representative firm specializing in high-end single-family residential projects, exemplifies the importance of contingency management. Leveraging advanced software programs typically used by large real estate developers and investment firms, they have a proven track record of successfully completing projects on time and within budget. Dubrow Group's commitment to meticulous budgeting and contingency allocation demonstrates their dedication to ensuring a project's financial success.


Owner contingency funds play a crucial role in construction project budgets, mitigating risks associated with unforeseen challenges. Allocating contingency funds across various

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