The ICE standard method of measurement

The ICE standard method of measurement is not mandatory, but the ICE conditions require the method to be used – ‘unless general or detailed description of the work in the bill of quantities or any other statement shows clearly to the contrary’. The most recent (3rd) edition of the CESMM was published in 1991 with corrections in 1992, and is commonly referred to as CESMM3. The standard method is not a contract document, and thus is not used in interpreting the contract – except in so far as its provisions are repeated in the contract documents (see below). Its use is solely as a recommended method of measurement in conjunction with the ICE Conditions, and is generally on the basis that all the works will be designed by the employer or his engineer.
Problems in the use of the standard method. The use of CESMM over a number of years has indicated several potential problems in the compilation of bills of quantities and measurement. There are seven introductory sections printed in the method and, although these are largely guidance notes for people preparing a bill, some parts need to be included in a contract, such as the parts dealing with adjustment items or method-related items. Other parts of the guidance notes may need exclusion to prevent the parties trying to alter the method of measurement after award of contract.
The parts of the CESMM’s preliminary sections which are needed should be written into the contract documents themselves. Also the measurement rules may not apply, or may not be suitable if the contractor is required to undertake some element of design, such as in providing bearing piles.
However, it is not usual to depart from the units of measurement in CESMM3, or the measurement rules and coverage rules set out in the Work Classification sections of the CESMM. The measurement rules say, for instance, that when measuring concrete volume there is to be no deduction for the volume occupied by reinforcement, rebates, grooves and holes up to a certain size, etc. The coverage rules denote, for instance, that an item for supply of timber components includes their fixing, boring, cutting and jointing. Such rules are useful in making clear what the bill items are intended to include.
The standard method results in lengthy bills and for some types of work may seem to give an unnecessary number of items, or to divide work down into such detail that considerable thought has to be given to billing and pricing.
Modifications to the method must, however, be very clearly put in the contract in order to avoid the possibility of the parties trying to argue for re-measurement or additional measurement where this was not intended.
For instance, instead of itemizing painting of step irons, ladders, etc. separately, a sub-heading can be put at an appropriate position in the bill stating:
‘The following items to include painting after fixing’. The CESMM mentions that a line must be drawn across the description column in the bill below the last item to which the sub-heading is to refer. If, however, there is so much painting to do that a contractor would probably sublet it to a painting subcontractor, a non-CESMM item might be put in the bill of quantities, such as  ‘Painting items N1–N13 after erection…Lump Sum’. Alternatively a provisional sum for painting can be entered. By such procedures the number of items in a bill can be reduced.

Description of items. The standard method states that item descriptions are to avoid unnecessary length, their intention being to – ‘identify the component of the works and not the tasks to be carried out by the contractor’. Nevertheless descriptions according to the CESMM method tend to be lengthy in some cases. Each item has a letter and three-figure code number which identifies the work required according to the CESMM classification; but the code descriptions are not taken as definitive and, to avoid ambiguity, the actual descriptions have to be written out in words.
The bill items have also to be read in conjunction with the specification and the drawings – and it is an essential matter for the drafter of the bills to ensure all these relate. The location of items may need to be specifically stated also, and any additional description rules specified by the CESMM must be followed, in order to ensure that all detail necessary to identify the work is given, as required by the method. This ensures that items can be priced properly and their application to the work on site identified easily.