International Construction Measurement Standards, 2nd edition

Part 1 Context

1.1 Introduction

Research from the World Economic Forum and McKinsey Global Institute have shown that improvements in the design and construction process can be achieved by using international standards like ICMS to gain comparable and consistent data. ICMS provides a structure and format for classifying, defining, measuring, analysing and presenting construction and other life cycle costs. This will promote consistency and transparency across international boundaries. The SSC has focused only on issues directly related to the costs associated with the constructed asset, so that cross-boundary costs can be benchmarked and the causes of differences in costs identified.

The ICMS project followed work on the development of International Property Measurement Standards (IPMS). IPMS established standards for measuring the floor areas of buildings. For ICMS a key element was that ICMS would be compatible and accord with IPMS.

ICMS offer a framework against which construction costs and other life cycle costs can be classified, measured, recorded, analysed and presented. The hierarchical framework has four levels:

  • Level 1: Project or Sub-Project
  • Level 2: Cost Category
  • Level 3: Cost Group
  • Level 4: Cost Sub-Group.

The composition of Levels 2 and 3 is the same for all Projects and Sub-Projects, although discretion is allowed at Level 4. Examples of the contents of Level 4 are given in Appendices A to E.

These Standards provide definitions, scope, attributes and values, units of measurement and explanatory notes for each type of Project. Guidance is given on:

  • how the Standards are to be used
  • the level of detail to be included while presenting costs
  • the method of dealing with Projects comprising different Sub-Projects and
  • the approach for ensuring that like is compared with like, especially considering different currencies and timeframes.

For buildings, the existing cost analysis standards worldwide require the measurement of either gross external floor area (GEFA) or gross internal floor area (GIFA). This permits the representation of overall costs in terms of currency per GEFA or GIFA. Research shows that floor area measurement standards vary considerably between countries. The linking of ICMS with IPMS provides a valuable tool for overcoming these inconsistencies. ICMS require a cost report to include both GEFA (IPMS 1) and GIFA (IPMS 2) measured in accordance with the rules set out in IPMS. These are summarised in Appendix H.

For selected types of civil engineering projects, ICMS also provide units of measurement describing their physical sizes and functional capacities for comparison. The second edition extends the number of civil engineering Projects or Sub-Projects to include 'Dams and reservoirs', and 'Mines and quarries'.

ICMS are high-level standards. The transparent and inclusive standards-setting process described has resulted in a full analysis and appreciation of standards and practices in many more countries than those directly represented by SSC members. ICMS are not a hybrid of those standards but do introduce some concepts that may be new to some markets. Markets that do not have established standards are, however, encouraged to adopt ICMS. Markets that do have established local standards should adopt ICMS to compare cost data prepared using different standards from different markets on a consistent, like-for-like basis. The aim is not to replace existing local standards, but to provide an internationally-accepted consistent framework into which data generated locally can be mapped for the purposes of comparison. In time, it is expected that ICMS will become the primary basis for both global and local construction cost reporting.

In drafting ICMS, the SSC has been conscious of the need for compatibility with other established or emerging standards. It has striven to strike a balance between the need to be compatible with other standards and the need for flexibility to accommodate the different cost classification systems that exist across the world.

Thus, the types of Project are generally compatible with the United Nations International Standard Industrial Classification of all Economic Activities. The Cost Sub-Groups are generally compatible with the elements in ISO 12006-2:2015, Building construction - Organization of information about construction works - Part 2: Framework for classification and can be adapted to be compatible with most other cost classification systems. The Cost Groups and Cost Sub-Groups for Life Cycle Costs are generally compatible with ISO 15686-5:2017 Buildings and constructed assets -- Service life planning -- Part 5: Life-cycle costing.

In addition, it has been recognised that a work breakdown structure (WBS) approach to cost reporting is widely used around the world, particularly in civil engineering. Therefore, examples of mapping to and from various national standards and WBS are included on the Coalition website (

1.2 Aims

ICMS aim to provide global consistency in classifying, defining, measuring, analysing and presenting entire construction and other life cycle costs at a project, regional, state, national or international level. ICMS allow:

  • construction and other life cycle costs to be consistently and transparently benchmarked (comparative benchmarking)
  • the causes of differences in life cycle costs between projects to be identified (option appraisal)
  • properly informed decisions on the design and location of construction projects to be made at the best value for money (investment decision making), and
  • data to be used with confidence for construction project financing and investment, decision-making, and related purposes (certainty).

Part 4 provides definitions of terms commonly used throughout the Standards. Definitions specific to particular types of Projects are provided in Appendices A to E.

1.3 Use of the Standards

The second edition of ICMS can be used to present Acquisition Costs, Construction Costs, Renewal Costs, Operation Costs, Maintenance Costs, and End of Life Costs using the template provided in Appendix G. Those interested in simply presenting the Construction Costs can use the templates entitled 'Construction Costs only'.

Where a cost report has been prepared in compliance with ICMS, this should be stated in the report.

ICMS can be used to report, analyse and compare historic, present and future construction and other life cycle costs of new build and Major Adaptation programmes and projects. This applies throughout the various stages of construction and/or after completion of construction through to the end of life or a shorter Period of Analysis.

Applications include, but are not limited to:

  • global investment decisions
  • international, national, regional or state cost comparisons
  • feasibility studies and development appraisals
  • project work including cost planning and control, cost analysis, cost modelling and the procurement and analysis of tenders
  • dispute resolution work
  • reinstatement costs for insurance and
  • valuation of assets and liabilities.

Process flow charts set out the comprehensive steps for the use of the Standards and are provided in Appendix F.

The cost report should make clear precisely what costs have been included or excluded, to avoid confusion or omissions in comparing alternative project options and to inform decision making. The most appropriate available data sources should be used. These may be in the public domain or not, but the origin should be recorded.